While I wasn't really following the news in Australia, it was difficult to avoid hearing about the Sydney riots. I'm not sure what the New Zealand coverage has been like, but from reading The Age, one thing is crystal clear: this is Howard's Australia, the endpoint of his policy of xenophobia towards immigrants. It's a point powerfully made by Bill Leak in a cartoon in The Australian on Tuesday, depicting "Howard's battlers" echoing his words on refugees - but applying them to Australians:
And its a point made in The Age, which pointed the finger at Bali, 9/11, and the Tampa, the boatload of helpless refugees the Australian government refused to let ashore, and instead sent to its own offshore gulag on Nauru.
John Howard claims that Australia is not a racist nation. He's wrong. When even casual visitors are confronted with newspaper headlines about "blacks", and overhear people in the train station talking about "wogs" and "Lebbos" and how great it was that they got a bashing, you know that there is something deeply wrong with Australian society.