Looking back on US President Barack Obama’s two critiques of Australian policy during the G20 meeting in Brisbane, Australians are entitled to be a little ashamed.
An embarrassing kind of shame, like having to witness the expected but unbearably childish bickering between members of the extended family coming together for an unavoidably obligatory Christmas lunch.
This is not an embarrassment about the specifics of Obama’s rebukes, but of being so easily exposed to the world as inadequate, yet obdurately fustian.
There are some harsh truths for Australia attached to the weekend’s Xenophon affair, not least of which is that we have no discernible foreign policy position on Malaysia, one of our nearest neighbours, and another of which is how badly served we are by our news media’s indolence in doing no more than parroting what politicians tell them, which, on this occasion, was almost nothing.
As a nation it seems we are prepared to accept the Xenophon incident as some sort of inevitable consequence of the grotesque overreactions by some airport security goblins we are growing used to, and we appear to be taking the somnolent reaction by our government as a confirmation that there is nothing be concerned about.
A closer look at the attendant issues, however, makes it fairly clear that not only are matters more complex than is evident from woefully uninformed news reports, but also that it is pointless to approach these complexities with a phoney, self-righteous mantle of objectivity. To say anything at all requires adopting some kind of position that is open to critique from all concerned parties.