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NZ shooter: The myth of Australian values

  • 19 March 2019


Matters of value, referring to a country's moral standing and components, are always fraught. They suggest superior understanding, excellent pedigree and a weathered wisdom about what is appropriate for a given society. In Australia and New Zealand, such values are not so much double-edged as sharp, multi-cornered edifices. The moment you start engaging them, you are bound to be wounded by a glance in the mirror.

The horror in Christchurch, with 50 slain individuals across two mosques, was unspeakable, but it was also inflicted by an individual (it is alleged at this point) who showed every feature, characteristic and emotional tendency of a certain type of Australian. His crudely cobbled manifesto — if, indeed, it deserves the gravitas of that term — was filled with rubbery values. The recent apologias for violence against Muslims, notably the various accusations of blame from Australian Senator Fraser Anning, also stem from an obsession with values.

Australian values, in other words, are equally those of the levelling cricket pitch, the anxiety of the White Australia policy (with some residual pangs), and a continual mixture of loathing and confusion over what to do with the Indigenous people of the country. It is also the fabled, mythologised idea of the fair go and hearty egalitarianism, or the notion that Australia's labour movement is as progressive as is thought.

As the debunking efforts of Humphrey McQueen's A New Britannia (1970) showed, racism was 'the most important single component of Australian nationalism'. With that came acquisitiveness and envy. 'It was not accidental', explains McQueen, 'that Australians chose a racehorse and a bushranger as their heroes since both expressed the get-rich quick Tatts syndrome.'

The alleged Christchurch shooter was reared in a certain atmosphere of permissive intolerance. His remarks on invasion and dispossession pit his cause as that of the lost Australian White Man. But such loss would be overcome in New Zealand, where he could demonstrate, in the words of Aurelien Mondon, 'that Muslims weren't safe anywhere'. The alleged perpetrator's views are those of deprivation and emasculation.

His rationale is clear: the followers of Islam had it coming, having generated the basis for extreme reaction. Of similar mind is Anning who, in going on the offensive, declared what he thought self-evident. 'Does anyone still dispute the link between Muslim immigration and violence?' he proposed on Twitter. To claim that the Christchurch killings were the result of poor gun laws or those 'holding nationalist