By ROSIE WATERLAND
“Australia turned out to be a sensational place. Albeit, one of the most comfortably racist I’ve ever been in.”
That was what British comedian and and news correspondent John Oliver had to say about Australia after a recent visit here.
Oliver has been a regular on US nightly news program The Daily Show since 2006. He is even set to take over Jon Stewart’s hosting duties when the show’s famous figurehead takes time off to direct a movie later this year.
Basically, he’s a pretty big deal. Nominated for numerous Emmy and Writer’s Guild awards, he’s extremely influential and highly regarded among the predominately left-wing and educated Americans who watch the show.
And he thinks Australians are racists. Well that’s not very nice.
On his popular weekly podcast called The Bugle: Audio newspaper for a visual world, Oliver spoke to his co-host Andy Zaltzman:
You can say what you like about Australian racism, Andy: it’s undeniably specific. I had a couple of Australians, more than one, complain to me about all the ‘Lebos’ in the country – referring apparently to the Lebanese. Who the f–k is annoyed by Lebanese people?
…You have to admire the attention to detail. Not just ‘all those Arabs’ but, ‘the Lebanese’… How many Lebanese people Andy, can there actually be in Australia? There’s only just over 4 million Lebanese people in f–king Lebanon. And the one thing Australia cannot argue is “There’s no room here, in this country.” Cos that land is f–king gigantic.
That aside, fantastic place Andy, can’t wait to go back.
Yes – it’s kinda funny.
He is an award-winning comedian.
But, are we just laughing uncomfortably because we suspect it might be true? At least… a little bit true?
The Australian media have certainly never been faced with any shortage of awful racist incidences to report on.
In November last year, Mamamia reported on the racist abuse of a French woman on a bus in Melbourne. That
video went viral around the world. In February, Mamamia editor Jamila Rizvi wrote about the racist taunts directed at ABC newsreader Jeremy Fernandez, when he was travelling on a Sydney bus. That incident made national headlines again. Earlier this month, the racial abuse of a group of Asian tourists on a Sydney bus was captured on video. It too went viral.
(Now there is a clear pattern beyond the racism here… KEEP YOUR TEMPER ON PUBLIC TRANSPORT PEOPLE. PASS THE TIME BY READING A BOOK OR PLAYING SUDOKO AND NOT ABUSING FELLOW TRAVELLERS.)
Okay serious face again: Let’s not forget the Cronulla riots of 2005 and the violent attacks on Indian students in Melbourne in 2009. Both incidents that made international headlines and painted a picture of an Australia that demonises foreigners and is struggling to embrace its increasingly multicultural population.