I have never been much of a fan of Anthony Mundine and I don't really agree with his call to boycott the national anthem, but I do see where it comes from. Issues of inequality for indigenous Australians are not being addressed with any urgency, despite repeated shocking findings by NGOs, government committees and the UN. And aside from a momentary outcry over youth justice facilities in the Northern Territory, it does seem difficult for these issues to get much cut through with mainstream society.
And whilst I accept that perhaps Australia needs to be shaken out of its complacency, I don’t see this having the desired effect. I have said before that I believe attacking institutions that many Australians treasure, such as the national anthem, the flag or Australia Day, is not going to hasten reconciliation processes. It puts many Australians on the defensive and it is hard to actually change someone’s perspective when they are in this state.
The vitriolic backlash Mundine received from many corners was hardly surprising, with the outspoken boxer described as being ‘unaustralian, racist and attention-seeking alongside many more personal attacks. However, Mundine’s comments were not even close to the stupidest public statement I have heard recently. It is not like he suggested that renewable energy was to blame for the South Australian blackouts for example, but the energy and belligerence of the response to Mundine outweighed the responses to much stupider statements by Malcolm Roberts and government ministers in the same week. This isn’t a surprise though. The Adam Goodes saga showed how aggressively reactive a significant section of the population is to indigenous Australians bringing up the issue of race.
No stranger to polarising opinions and criticism, I doubt it phased Mundine much- perhaps he was happy to have the issue being talked about more widely. He certainly wasn't the first person to suggest boycotting the anthem, but his support for the idea brought it much more publicity.
I would say, some of the criticism of Mundine is certainly valid. I have spoken about freedom of speech and I have said it cuts both ways. He is entitled to state his opinion and others are entitled to critique it. But this situation raises a scenario for some of Mundine's critics that I found interesting.
Only a few months ago, Sonia Kruger came out with a much more inflammatory, factually incorrect statement. Quite rightly, her comments were the subject of much ridicule, but many of her apologists reacted with self-righteous indignation towards this criticism, claiming it somehow was against freedom of speech.
It obviously isn’t, but those who made that argument have made an interesting ideological position for themselves.
How many of the same people who argued Kruger should not be criticised for exercising her freedom of speech, ripped into Mundine's use of freedom of speech without a second thought? Any that did are blatant hypocrites.