Retiring high commissioner tells Australia to get with the times
Nov28

Retiring high commissioner tells Australia to get with the times

LAST UPDATED // Tuesday, 27 November 2012 17:56

Only a few days away from retiring from the diplomatic world, Australia’s high commissioner to London has slammed the level of political debate back in his home country while also taking aim at sexist and homophobic attitudes which he said are far too often thought to be just part and parcel of public discourse.

John Dauth (pictured) will soon return to Australia after his final four year posting to London’s Australia House and a career which began in 1969 and also involved a stint as Australia’s ambassador to the UN in New York.

The openly gay Dauth is widely believed to have been one of the country’s most effective diplomats for the past few decades following his initial posting to Lagos in Nigeria.

Upon his return back to Australia, the well-travelled diplomat said he had become increasingly concerned about the “coarse, crude and unattractive” debate on important social issues as well as a cultural climate providing support to the “tolerance of the intolerable”.

“Exhibitions of coarseness in public or of intolerance or prejudice in areas which have been more effectively tackled in public life in Britain, surprise Britons, who have such a tremendously positive view of us,” he told The Weekend Australian.

“People in this country are astonished at our tolerance of the intolerable, like sexism or our attitudes towards civil unions/same-sex marriage, for example. It is not to say that there are not intolerant people in Britain; it is just that the public debate in Australia seems somehow to be 20 years behind what has happened here.”

The 65-year-old also pointed to the “utterly relaxed” acceptance in Britain of his relationship with Richard Glynn, a subsea engineering consultant, as a sign that Australia still had a way to go when it came to treating everyone equally.

“I don’t know if I was peeved or surprised to find out we were not the first (same-sex couple), that the ambassador of El Salvador and his partner, an American, were on the list,” Dauth joked.

“This is a society that is very used to a great number of Conservative and other MPs who are gay and many of them are partnered, and nowhere in British society have I found resistance to that idea ... that’s not to say there isn’t intolerance in British society ... but in the UK it is a bit different. They are a stage further on in this country, they have gone a bit further than in Australia.”

Dauth, who will be succeeded in his role by former South Australian Premier Mike Rann, said it was nearing the time for the country to seriously “improve the tone of public exchange”.

“I don’t say (this) because we should worry about what the Brits or the Lithuanians think of us,” he said.

“I say we need to do it for our own sake. We should have in mind that it doesn’t look good internationally but more importantly, it is about making Australia a better place to live for all Australians.”

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