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The world laughed when Biden dissed Australia’s PM as ‘that fella from Down Under,’ but to Aussies like me it’s no joke

Damian Wilson
Damian Wilson
is a UK journalist, ex-Fleet Street editor, financial industry consultant and political communications special advisor in the UK and EU.
is a UK journalist, ex-Fleet Street editor, financial industry consultant and political communications special advisor in the UK and EU.
The world laughed when Biden dissed Australia’s PM as ‘that fella from Down Under,’ but to Aussies like me it’s no joke
When Joe Biden clearly forgot the name of Aussie PM Scott Morrison, many saw it as another hilarious gaffe. For Australians, though, it’s the latest example of the cultural cringe that undermines our efforts to be taken seriously.

Watching US President Joe Biden’s joint press conference to announce the signing of an historic pact alongside flat-screen versions of UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Australian PM Scott Morrison, the sense of being part of something big and important that most of us Aussies felt soon disappeared when Sleepy Joe couldn’t even remember the name of “that fella Down Under.”

So strong was the impression made on the US commander-in-chief by Morrison that, just minutes after high-level, world-leader-to-world-leader global security discussions that will impact on the international geopolitical situation for years to come, Biden said to his Aussie counterpart, “Thank you very much, pal. Appreciate it, Mr Prime Minister.”

He was like one of those old guys at a golf club who pays a reluctant caddy to follow him and his buddies around, to congratulate him after each shot and to assure him he’s still got it, before heading back to the clubhouse and never being spoken to again.

“Thanks pal. Appreciate it. Er, what was that guy’s name?”

Gormless Morrison just wore it, signalling a cheery thumbs-up in acknowledgement, happy he’d won Biden’s attention, if only for a minute. No wonder Australians have an inferiority complex! We don’t even register with the superpowers of which we’re in awe. It was a confirmation from our very own PM that we’ll put up with being treated like yokels, because after all, we’re not as good as the US, or even the British.

This behaviour even has a name: the cultural cringe. It is a widely accepted aspect of the Australian character where we undermine our own achievements by viewing them through a foreign culture’s lens: bands are hailed as ‘Australia’s answer to the Rolling Stones’, writers as ‘the Aussie Dickens’, artists as ‘an Australian Picasso’. Never judged good enough to exist solely under their own flag, or on their own credentials.

So when even our political leaders seem to confirm that the only reason they are at the table in the first place is at the behest of their foreign superiors and we should be grateful for that, while it’s cringeworthy, it’s also our own fault.

We’re just so ready to do America’s bidding that it’s embarrassing – particularly when it comes to China. We piled in when former President Donald Trump suggested a formal independent inquiry into the outbreak of the coronavirus in China, keen to curry favour with our allies and show Europe we had some bite in our own backyard.

Also on rt.com Biden calls Australian PM ‘that fella Down Under,’ prompts ridicule for apparently forgetting Scott Morrison’s name at key event

Up stepped Oz. “We’ll do it! We’ll do it!” yapped the poodle, and China – our biggest trading partner, accounting for 29 percent of trade with the world – hit back immediately, punishing Australian exports in a dozen areas such as wine, beef, barley, and coal. The rift widened in May this year when Beijing announced it was suspending ‘indefinitely’ its key economic dialogues with Oz. And what did Australia have to show for it? There was no independent inquiry, or any likelihood of one, and Trump is long gone. We had caused an upset, no one was supporting us, and it was all our own fault.

The latest decision by Australia to join the three-nation alliance AUKUS is likely neither to go down well in Beijing nor improve the relationship, but this time around we’ve provoked traditional allies alongside the Chinese. We’ve shafted the French without so much as an “Excusez-moi” by scuppering a €50bn eight-submarine deal we’d agreed with them and handing it to the US instead.

Is there no end to the brown-nosing of Washington? No limit to who we’ll give the brush-off, as long as we can please our powerful friends across the Pacific?

Later this month, Australia’s underwhelming PM is due to arrive in the US as part of the so-called Quad summit, also including the leaders of India and Japan, his first face-to-face with Biden since either man landed their current roles.

If Morrison is to make any sort of lasting impression, he must make sure he wears a name badge, maybe even one of those digital versions that flashes. That way, when he shakes the hands of his fellow world leaders, they’ll get the message loud and clear... 

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

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