Monday, October 2, 2017

Today by Sean Kelly


A bright moment in a bleak week
National leadership is coming from surprising places

Der Robert/Flickr

“There are two other extremely mentally distressed people who urgently need assistance,” said Ian Rintoul, of the Refugee Action Coalition.

They are important words, and it is to be hoped that the authorities heard them. Rintoul was speaking in the aftermath of the suspected suicide of a Manus Island refugee. His death was the second such death in two months.

Both men were reportedly suffering from acute mental illness for months before their deaths.

It was just four days ago that the man with responsibility for these men, Peter Dutton, said of conditions in offshore detention that, “We have been taken for a ride, I believe, by a lot of the advocates and people within Labor and the Greens who want you to believe this is a terrible existence.”

Dutton argued that once refugees had left Manus and Nauru “they’ll start to tell a very different story about how it wasn’t that bad”.

Most, I suspect, are unlikely to tell that very different story because it is not true. But some will never tell it because they will never have the chance to leave.

Dutton, when he made his appalling comments, had been speaking to 2GB’s Ray Hadley, who introduced the subject of undeserving refugees into that conversation, and who today was being forced to defend his decision not to play the rendition of ‘Same Love’, a song supporting same-sex marriage, by American rapper Macklemore, during the station’s broadcast of the rugby league grand final.

This, said Hadley, had nothing to do with marriage, and everything to do with wanting an Australian artist to play at the grand final.

Perhaps the most amazing thing about this stupid story is that it meant we got yet another day of national coverage of the NRL’s decision to have Macklemore play in the middle of a national debate on marriage.

Search for a better example of our country’s debased political debate, and you will not find it. For five days now the most important issue in Australia has apparently been whether or not an American pop star should be permitted to sing one of his hit songs at a sporting event.

Until this controversy blew up there was next to no chance of my watching the league grand final, or the lead-in entertainment. I have no love for Macklemore and, while I quite like league, I’ve found it difficult to summon much passion for it since the North Sydney Bears were banished from first grade by the Super League mess.

But I tuned in last night and watching the guy perform ‘Same Love’, which I genuinely don’t remember hearing before, was a genuinely excellent moment. Here was a rugby league crowd – not exactly the latte-sipping lefties the “anti-elitist” No campaign would have us believe their opponents are – cheering on an anthem supporting same-sex marriage and “equality for all”. The Australian said [$] Macklemore was “welcomed by the crowd with a tremendous cheer”. Fairfax reported his performance was met with “thundering applause”. 

Peter FitzSimons, in an account of the performance, said he had asked openly gay former league star Ian Roberts, who had first suggested the NRL support same-sex marriage, what he made of it. Roberts replied, “It will save lives. Simple as that. It will save lives.”

Roberts, the NRL, and an American rapper had come together in a moment of national leadership. Meanwhile, the Coalition continues to concern itself [$] (thanks, Tony Abbott) over that same American rapper, and how suicidal refugees never had it so good. Last night was a bright moment. But it came in the middle of a very bleak week. 


In other news

 


SOCIETY

What should we do with Captain Cook?

The pitfalls of memorialising historical figures

Don Watson

The trouble with the Southern statues is that they are monuments less to the rebels’ sacrifice than to their cause. And their cause is obnoxious, both to African Americans and to the Union from which they broke away. The words inscribed upon them make this clear. They were erected – most of them by the ‘United Daughters of the Confederacy’ between 1900 and 1920 – in memory of the soldiers and the ‘sacred cause for which they contended’. The cause was ‘holy’, ‘sublime’, ‘glorious’ and ‘patriotic’. The rebels were ‘animated by the spirit of 1776’; they died not for the cotton interest and slavery but for ‘state rights guaranteed under the Constitution’.” read on


POLITICS

Of course sports and politics should mix

They can and they do, and politicians only object when it’s a message they don’t like

Mungo MacCallum

“The fact is that politics is an integral part of sport, which is why politicians gouge and grovel to gain free tickets at matches where they can parade their credentials as being in touch with the real Australia. Indeed, Abbott goes even further with his annual Pollie Pedal, a charity event apparently designed largely to enhance his physique in Lycra.” READ ON

Sean Kelly

Sean Kelly is a columnist for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, and was an adviser to Labor prime ministers Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd.

@mrseankelly

 

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