UnAustralian? Well, that's unAustralian!


‘It’s un-Australian.’

Really? That’s what the campaign against the government’s proposed gambling reforms hinges on? ClubsAustralia shells out the big bucks and someone serves them up a word long ago beaten flatter than a boarding school schnitzel?

It’s time to strike back against this wilful lack of imagination. In protest, I shall be cutting my annual $5 pokie spend to a sum of NOT MORE THAN $3. Yes, read that and weep, ClubsAustralia. (Apologies to the Caloundra Powerboat Club, which is likely to be the specific victim in this case, though I will be back more than once to bag a member’s discount on the Sunday roast.)

The government is looking at a series of changes to attempt to address problem gambling. Those changes might include mandatory pre-commitment for people using pokies (which, as I understand it, means people nominate the maximum they’re prepared to lose, and then have to walk away once they’ve lost it). Australia has more than 100,000 people whose gambling adversely affects their lives. ClubsAustralia says the proposed reforms would cost jobs and threaten important community centres (though you have to look harder to find that bit of their argument).

This seems to have all the ingredients for an important debate, and now someone’s sidelined that by dragging out the ultimate blunt instrument: ‘It’s un-Australian’.

‘It’s un-Australian’ is about shutting down debate. It’s about clubbing debate over the head. It’s about saying an opposing view isn’t eligible to be heard. And what, exactly, is Australian about a tactic like that?


Don Watson called for a moratorium on the use of the term more than ten years ago. It’s old, ClubsAustralia, and we’re sick of it, as well as sick of it telling us nothing but that you think we’re somehow less Australian than you if we don’t agree with you. If you’ve got a case, make it. And make that case your campaign.


But ‘Un-Australian’ got old well before ClubsAustralia bought it and re-tooled it for this campaign, and splashed out for a green-and-gold website, with Chinese, Vietnamese and Korean language options. Not sure why they’d need those, frankly, since Joe Lyons declared people of non-British origin un-Australian in the 1930s.

So, what else has been called un-Australian over the years?
– hogging the right lane
– flying the Holden blimp near the MCG
– local Indigenous leaders wanting visitors not to climb Uluru during a mourning period
– being dumped as a political candidate for texting your mates a joke about sex with goats
– buying from overseas websites because it’s cheaper
– not looking around for the best deal
– conformity
– dissent
– marriage rights for same-sex couples
– denying same-sex couples equal rights
– applying a special tax to resources when companies make massive profits
– mining companies making massive profits

That’s just the start. Put ‘un-Australian’ into Google and you get close to ten million hits. We’ve worn out any useful meaning of this word. It’s been applied to practically everything. At least twelve of my own views are un-Australian, and that’s just from a five-minute scan through the Google hits. ‘Un-Australian’ is what we’ve come to say when we disagree with something but have run out of steam and just want the other side to shut up.

The time has come to say enough. I would say let’s ban the use of the term, except that’d be un- … un- … I’m going to settle for ‘unreasonable’. So let’s limit it to its one acceptable use: the Australia Day lamb campaigns of Sam Kekovich, where it’s served up in the shadow of a massive side order of irony. Irony. There’s something that feels very Australian about that.

How do you feel about the term un-Australian? What IS Australian ?