Flat White

Australia through Waleed Aly’s distorted lens

9 June 2017

7:35 AM

9 June 2017

7:35 AM

Just how many careers can Melbourne academic and media celebrity Waleed Aly cram into his day?   Waleed, we now know, because his tag line tells us so, is ‘Contributing Op-Ed Writer’ for the New York Times.  And, the Times goes on to say, ‘Waleed Aly is a columnist and broadcaster and politics lecturer at Monash University in Melbourne.’

Goodness, how’d have thought?  But what’s even more interesting is the way Waleed buckets the country he calls home to Yanks. Most recently, on June 6 this year, he writes about ASIO head Duncan Lewis’ response on being questioned about the link between terrorism and refugees How Not to Talk About Terrorism.  Oddly, Tony Abbott shoulders most of the blame. Writes Waleed:

Mr. Abbott is at the center of a small and loud group of populists that includes members of his conservative Liberal Party, the neo-nationalist One Nation Party and a suite of media pundits. For them, Islam is an inherent problem, and asylum seekers are to be treated harshly and with suspicion. 

The real problem, as Waleed explains to the Americans, is that:

In both Australia and the United States we have politicians and commentators whose political posturing rests on their unwavering focus on terrorism but who pay little attention to, and even attack, those who know the most about it. They support policies that have no sound security justification and then excoriate those who point that out. They cheer on every advance of the security state but then suddenly scorch those who run it, simply because the agencies reject the latest populist orthodoxy.

On February 21 this year, Waleed’s story was headed Donald Trump’s Australia and he had this to say about Malcolm Turnbull, the Prime Minister  who hosted Waleed  and his wife Susan Carland so  lavishly at the last iftar dinner at Kirribilli House in Sydney:

MELBOURNE, Australia — In the days after President Trump’s ban on immigrants from several Muslim countries, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull of Australia spent a lot of time saying nothing. He said nothing about the ban itself, enduring days of headlines about his failure to express even the mildest disagreement with the policy. “It is not my job,” [Turnbull] said, “to run a commentary on the domestic policies of other countries.” That’s about as adventurous as he got.”  Well, maybe not so adventurous, but certainly hospitable. 

Last year – October 26 to be exact- Waleed penned an interesting column titled Australia’s Poisonous Refugee Policy:

Successive prime ministers — most recently Mr. Turnbull in his September address to the United Nations — have encouraged the world to follow Australia’s lead. It’s the kind of thing you can say when you’re an island nation far removed from the theaters of human misery producing the current refugee crisis. But it’s not the kind of thing to which the world can afford to listen.


And in May this year, he followed up with a story on How to Stop a Lone Wolf Terrorist – Australia has a Plan.

And Waleed isn’t above lecturing the Americans on what they should be doing and how they could improve their faltering democratic system. On January 19 he advised:

It’s time for democracies to adopt compulsory voting. I say this from Australia one of about a dozen countries where people can be penalized for not voting (about a dozen more have compulsory voting on the books but don’t enforce it). We’ve done so at the federal level since 1924 following a drop in voter turnout. We’re now required by law to enrol at 18 years old (though this isn’t strictly monitored), and we’re fined if we fail to vote. Around three-quarters of Australians have consistently supported compulsory voting, and there is no meaningful movement for change. 

Gosh, don’t you just yearn to be one of Waleed’s students and be able to listen to these gems of political wisdom? That is, if he ever had time for you, what with his television, New York Times and Fairfax commitments. .

But Waleed Aly isn’t the only media personality to write for the New York Times. Here’s Julia Baird, (‘Julia Baird is a journalist and contributing op-ed writer, working on a biography of Queen Victoria’) writing about Australia’s Gulag Archipelago:

‘The conditions of refugee detention centers on remote islands are a national disgrace. But can shame force reform?’ earnestly asks Julia.

‘Gulag’ is usually the term used referencing the Soviet Union’s prison camps. Julia may not approve of Manus as a detention centre but it would, by most, be not considered in the Soviet sense, a ‘gulag’.

Your correspondent supposes we should, in a way, hail this spirit of enterprise from our media personalities, taking the news on Oz to America. It just seems a bit well, un-Australian.

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