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What if Barnaby had been Black?

Reece Harley -

The former Deputy Prime Minister of Australia was filmed lying flat on his back, muttering obscenities into his phone in Braddon, a suburb of Canberra, last Wednesday night. He has since acknowledged that his behaviour was the result of mixing prescription medication with alcohol.

For the last few days, I've been wondering - what if Mr Joyce had been a young Aboriginal man in the same situation?

In all likelihood, the police would have been called. He'd have probably ended up in the back of a paddy wagon.

Instead, prominent figures from across the political spectrum have come to Mr Joyce's defence. The focus has been on the behaviour of the passerby who chose to film the incident rather than offer assistance. A discussion has ensued for days around the morality of the witness.

Would a young Aboriginal man in the same predicament receive similar concern and empathy? I highly doubt it. The conversation around Mr Joyce's actions, marked by calls for understanding and concern for his welfare, stands in stark contrast to the often harsh treatment of Indigenous Australians in similar situations.

It's a selective application of empathy; where wealthy, influential, well-dressed white men are given the benefit of the doubt, and their actions are viewed through the lense of a medical episode. Judgement is reserved for the passerby who didn't render assistance. It's a profound double standard.

Image: Nine News.

Mr Joyce's recent critique of the Albanese government's approach to alcohol-related issues in Alice Springs, accusing it of increasing crime by "letting the grog back in," rings of hypocrisy.

His public drunkenness (not his first rodeo in this regard) undermines his credibility on these issues, and underscores the selective indignation that often surrounds discussions on alcohol, crime, and Indigenous communities in Australia.

The behaviour of an Indigenous person under the influence is criminalised, whereas the same behaviour by a non-Indigenous Australian, especially a high-ranking politician, are considered within the context of privacy, care, and concern for his welfare.

This episode should prompt a thorough examination of the systemic biases ingrained in Australian society. It's a clear reminder of the significant strides we all still need to make in ensuring all people are treated equally, irrespective of their background or status in society. We've got a long way to go.


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