D uring the 1960s and 1970s Aussies developed a rite of passage. It was a sort of walk-about, a Pied Piper compulsion to explore the world. The curious were beckoned to new horizons beyond the isolated realm of the antipodes that still suffered the stigma of exclusion from the cultures—the affectation of European superiority.
Aussie pilgrims trekking the northern hemisphere soon learned that the word “Australia” invoked admiration and respect in general. “Very brave, very good soldiers,” was the usual epithet respectfully fielded by those nations we went to visit, to observe and to further understand our heritage and that of others.
Travelling Australians were welcomed and respected by the people of other nations. They liked out friendliness, our laid-back attitude, our sense of fun and most of all, our matter of fact straightforwardness.
However, toadyism from our succession of spineless politicians soon destroyed Australia’s international reputation and taught the lesser nations that all they had to do to get their way was yell and scream. We apologise for everything, we write a few cheques, promise more and accept a steady course of abuse into the bargain.
Indonesia has not forgotten Australia’s successful military action in East Timor and many Australians have not forgotten the murdering of five Aussie journalists by Indonesian soldiers and the denials and cover-ups by both governments, disgusting as it was. Australia’s lack of support for its own sent the signal that we were weak.