N-test fallout turns ugly
Sunday 13 August 1995
"I came to Australia 20 years ago," said Mr Francois, who has dual French- Australian citizenship. "I stayed here because we all seemed to be able to succeed together in the melting-pot while the rest of the world was fighting and killing each other. But now I feel like I'm living in a war zone myself. I can't believe this is happening here."
He was echoing the fears of other French Australians over one of the most vitriolic backlashes against another democratic Western country Australia has seen, one not equalled even by the anti-Americanism at the height of the Vietnam war 25 years ago. Some French people in Australian cities describe it as an over-reaction. Others don't mince their words: "It's xenophobia, racism, the lowest form of humanity," said Mr Francois.
As the war of words between Australia and France heightened last week, there were more incidents with disturbing overtones. French-Australians Marc and Murielle Laucher arrived at their Sydney cafe, Le Petit Creme, to find its windows smeared with faeces. Mr Laucher pointed to a headline in a Sydney newspaper: "Pourquoi les Francais sont des canards". He said: "It's quite disgusting. We've been in Australia for seven years. We have nothing to do with the French government's decision on nuclear testing. We oppose it. But the way Australians are protesting by personal abuse against us has gone too far. I'm expecting our cafe will be defaced again."
The personal abuse was returned in kind last week when demonstrators marched on the Australian embassy in Paris shouting "L'Australie aux chiottes", and Le Figaro published an astonishing open letter to Paul Keating, the Australian Prime Minister, accusing Australia of practising "ethnic purification" against Aborigines, and Mr Keating of seeking to "assuage your guilty conscience" by attacking France. Ironically, Mr Keating is one of Australia's greatest devotees of French art and culture. He appears to have only two forms of relaxation: his family, and lovingly maintaining his collection of French Empire clocks.
There has always been an uneasy stand-offishness between Anglo-Saxons and the French in Australia, ever since the British beat them to Botany Bay by only a few days. Drive a few miles through a tangle of suburbs south of Sydney, and you will come to a monument, on the foreshore of Botany Bay, to Jean-Francois de La Perouse, the French explorer who sailed two ships into the bay on 26 January, 1788, just as the British were sailing out of it with the First Fleet of convicts to settle Sydney a few miles up the coast. A fine museum dedicated to La Perouse, the product of French- Australian co-operation, opened at Botany Bay for Australia's bicentenary in 1988. The entente cordiale of that year now lies in ruins.
Two countries with strong streaks of nationalism have become locked in an unprecedented diplomatic showdown. Whereas France regards Australia as an upstart that wants to push it out of the Pacific, Australia accuses France of miscalculating the strength of the region's concerns about the long-term environmental consequences of further nuclear testing on an atoll which has already been subjected to 138 underground explosions.
There were glimmers of a crack in Paris's resolve last week, when a French Foreign Ministry official said that the tests due to start next month would be the last, and that France would close the Mururoa test site when they finish in May and would possibly turn it into a Club Mediterranee resort. The Australian media responded to the latter suggestion with derision. Cartoonists portrayed people returning from a Mururoa holiday with misshapen heads. Advertising agencies invited by the Sydney Morning Herald offered: "The holiday at the Tropic of Cancer", "The hottest holiday in the Pacific", "The tan that radiates" and "Club Merde - have the holiday of your Half- Life".
Canberra has refrained from discouraging such cynicism. Last week Mr Keating pledged A$200,000 (pounds 94,000) towards the hire of a protest ship to carry Australian, Japanese, and European MPs to the vicinity of Mururoa for the tests. The first ships in a New Zealand protest fleet left last weekend.
Franck Francois is not impressed. "I'm scared and disappointed by all this slander," he said "I'm worried that Australia might lose its dignity. Why don't the MPs go to Bosnia instead? I don't like the nuclear tests either, but nuclear technology is here to stay. Once it's invented,it's a bit like trying to get rid of prostitution."
Is your name now 'banned' in Saudi Arabia?
Seth Rogen compiles list of all the celebrities he’s got high with
Oscar Pistorius trial: Photographs of Paralympian splattered in blood after Reeva Steenkamp shooting shown in court
Missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370: Satellite ‘pings sent five hours after contact was lost' the only clue in hunt for £160m plane
Missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370: New radar evidence suggests missing plane may have been hijacked
Katie Hopkins continues campaign to become Britain's most hated talking head with poorly timed Bob Crow tweet
No EU referendum under Labour: Ed Miliband to reveal that vote on membership is ‘unlikely’ in next Parliament if party wins power
Grace Dent: Who cares if she spells it Barraco Barner? Gemma Worrall is more employable than some bookish arts graduate
Europeans have ‘got whiter’ due to natural selection in past 5,000 years, scientists say
Fracking is turning the US into a bigger oil producer than Saudi Arabia
The rise of Ukip: Study warns Labour that Eurosceptic party's electoral base now 'more working class than any of the main parties'
- 1 Is your name now 'banned' in Saudi Arabia?
- 2 Best films on Netflix: 32 movies that will put an end to your scrolling
- 3 Istanbul protesters take 'Ellen selfie' from the back of a police van
- 4 Missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370: Jet ‘hijacking’ began soon after take-off
£50000 - £60000 per annum: Charter Selection: This well respected and exciting...
£40000 - £50000 per annum: Charter Selection: This exciting company and market...
£40000 - £60000 per annum + EXCELLENT SALARY: Austen Lloyd: Senior Private Cli...
£25,000 to £35,000: IT Connections Ltd: Signal Processing Engineer / Acoustics...