Hours after releasing a controversial policy, the CEO of the Returned and Services League in Western Australia was punched in the head and fell to the ground as he left his workplace on Friday evening.
The assailant ran off.
Any other 65–year old man punched in the head — particularly a 65-year old member of a service and welfare organisation — would have elicited a wave of public sympathy but we live in different times.
Perth has a reputation as a violent city.
RSLWA boss John McCourt went on talkback radio Friday trying to defend the unusual new policy that discouraged the organisation’s 130 branches from holding Welcome to Country services and flying the Aboriginal flag at Anzac Day and Remembrance Day services.
But there was more.
Reciting the Ode – part of a famous poem – in the Noongar language was also discouraged. Along with the English version, it had been recited (without much attention or any controversy) last year at an Anzac Day dawn service in Fremantle by Professor Len Collard who is a Noongar elder and Australian Research Council chief investigator at the School of Indigenous Studies, University of Western Australia.
This had apparently upset some RSLWA members and it was this that sparked the policy.
Apparently the highly controversial policy was discussed and approved by the RSLWA board seven months ago.
The organisation claims it is not racist or anti-Aboriginal and tried to defend its actions by saying that singling out one specific culture at the Anzac Dawn or Remembrance Day services was ‘not inclusive’ of all cultures.
It was a fight that RSLWA unwisely chose to pick which resulted in a deluge of criticism flooding the airwaves.
Every man and his dog had an opinion with tweets, calls and criticism, with the RSLWA position seemingly unravelling by the hour.
Just listening to, and reading, the reactions it was evident something would happen. But to revert from public debate and criticism of an unwise and somewhat anachronistic policy to outright violence? That has never been the Australian way.
The dangers of a one-punch attack have been around a long time now. A few years ago, boxing champion and legendary Western Australian Danny Green spearheaded a campaign to raise awareness of the dangers of what is now properly known as a coward punch.
Perth wrestles with its tag of being a ‘big old country town’ where everyone knows everyone, yet loves being able to play on the international stage too with tourism, hospitality and exports.
But this action of punching the CEO in the head knocking him to the ground begs the question of who will be next?
Everyone has the right to disagree with anything — that is why we live in a democracy.
Resorting to violence seems to now be someone’s first reaction and just shows how far our society has come.
Daubing a building in graffiti used to be the activists’ crime of choice. Unsightly and illegal but it doesn’t cause physical damage or death to fellow humans.
But bashing someone you have never met for holding an opinion that is different to yours?
What happens next time when a controversial bill doesn’t go the way that a riled–up member of the public prefers? Will they lie in wait outside an MP’s house? Only the premier has bodyguards.
We already hear that school principals and teachers have to deal with levels of violence that just never used to happen with the frequency that they do now.
These perpetrators of violence seem to want us all to live in a dictatorship, but only their form of a dictatorship.
In other words, no one is allowed to hold an opinion anymore, no matter how ill-informed or out–of–step the person may be. What’s worse, they won’t just be howled down – they might even be knocked down by a coward punch.
Common sense has prevailed and the RSLWA has scrapped the ban this afternoon.
But the broader issue remains unresolved — have we lost the ability to actually discuss anything without resorting to violence?
What country are we living in?
What on earth has happened to Australia?
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