mnot’s blog

Design depends largely on constraints.” — Charles Eames

Sunday, 10 April 2005

Australia Politics Travel

Tempest in a Teacup, Counterclockwise*

Those who have been preoccupied by Two Funerals and a Wedding may have missed news of a developing diplomatic crisis in Australia.

Sir Michael Somare, the Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea, happened to transit through Brisbane airport on his way back from New Zealand a little while back. When his shoes set off the metal detector, they asked him to take them off; he refused.

When he finally did get home, he complained. A lot. He also demanded an apology; one that the Australian government wasn’t inclined to give, because even John Howard (the Prime Minister there) would gladly acquiesce to a search if he were in the same position. It’s an egalitarian society, after all, not at all like Melanesia’s culture of the “Big Man” who gets special consideration.

Now, in a breathtaking display of cutting-your-nose-off-to-spite-your-face, Mr. Somare is refusing aid from Australia, to the tune of AU$800 million.

Then came Somnath Chatterjee, who canceled his trip to Australia after he and his wife were refused an exception from screening procedures;

“My country’s prestige is at stake and I don’t want to compromise on it. I would prefer not to go,” Mr Chatterjee was quoted as saying by the Press Trust of India news agency.

“As Speaker of the Lok Sabha (lower house of India’s parliament) which represents the world’s largest democracy, if I am not trusted in any of the countries, then I should not go there.”

Please. When politicians start having delusions of grandeur a la the aristocracy — “we’re better than the common man who elected us; no, really” — it’s time for them to go. The point of being the “world’s largest democracy” is that you’re no better than the people who elected you, buddy.

Of course, John Howard (as well as dignitaries from richer countries, like George Bush and Prince Charles) is likely to never have to undergo the same indignities as you and I, because they’ll be traveling via government-owned jets, which are usually exempt from screening procedures. So, it’s very easy for him to say that he’d gladly undergo screening without a complaint, if he knows that a meeting with Latex Glove-Wearing Guy With A Penchant For Feeling Strangers Up isn’t in the cards.

* Actually, either way; see this.

P.S. To airport security personnel everywhere: Just joking with that last comment! I have the utmost respect for your profession. Also, I bruise easily.

One Comment

Richard Veryard said:

Prime Ministers don’t need to carry their own weapons. They can start a war against Afghanistan or Iraq, but we still have to frisk them for nail scissors when they get onto an aeroplane.

More at

Thursday, April 14 2005 at 3:10 AM