Australia marred by underlying racism: Poll
CANBERRA, Tuesday (Reuters) Three-quarters of Australians believe
their country is racist and nearly 60 percent believe racial violence at
beaches in Sydney has damaged the country's international reputation, an
opinion poll showed on Tuesday.
The ACNielsen poll, published in The Sydney Morning Herald, prompted
Prime Minister John Howard to say for the first time that racial
tensions played a hand in the violence, though he denied most
Australians were racist.
"There are some people in the Australian community who are racist,
but I do not believe the average Australian is a racist. I do not
believe the majority of Australians are racist," Howard told Australian
"Clearly there are some tensions which can be defined by race.
Clearly there are some tensions of that type in these particular
clashes," he said.
The southern Sydney beach of Cronulla, a mainly white beachside
community, burst into rioting on Dec. 11 when a large crowd stirred on
by white supremacists, and fuelled with alcohol, turned on anyone of
Middle East appearance.
The crowd said they were defending their beach from ethnic Lebanese
youth whom they blamed for a recent attack on life guards. Lebanese
youths retaliated over two nights, attacking people and vandalising cars
in several suburbs.
Although calm returned to Sydney late last week, mobile-phone text
messages called for more racial violence and police manning seaside
roadblocks seized an array of crude weapons, from petrol bombs to iron
bars, and made dozens of arrests.
Police have warned people to stay away from beaches in three cities -
Sydney, Newcastle and Wollongong.
Until now, Howard had labelled the beachside violence a law and order
problem - not racism - but he warned that Australia should not
over-react and that any harm to the country's international reputation
would be "ridden out".
"The rest of the world forms a judgement on a country over a period
of time," Howard said.
"Australians are not going to stop visiting Britain because of the
July attack on the London underground. Australians are not going to stop
visiting New York or Washington because of the attacks of the 11th of
September. These things come and go."