If France can have ethnic riots, why not us? At least “our” street
warfare wasn’t started by the police, who acted rather heroically under
the circumstances at Cronulla yesterday. Which may make our suburban
culture more robust than the French.

No, in Sydney it’s the locals making the trouble rather than the cops,
hopelessly outnumbered by the jeering crowds thanks to inadequate
planning by force command.


Thankfully our nation’s leaders were out in force, taking a strong
stand against the hate? Er, no. Neither John Howard (who has
fostered the climate of intolerance that helped simmer the weekend
brew) or Kim Beazley (gone fishing?) said anything yesterday. According
to the SMH they both declined to comment.

The Cronulla violence has its similarities to the most recent Sydney
riots, Macquarie Fields and Redfern. The base issues are clear: poorly
educated young people fuelled by anger, dispossession and booze/drugs,
low incomes and poor job prospects, turning tribal.

Cronulla has always been a clique and hostile to outsiders, and the
surfie culture on display yesterday shouldn’t surprise Sydneysiders.

And yesterday’s events show how the divide in Sydney between the
“skippy” beach culture and the inner west “Lebbo” culture is closer
than both sides care to admit. Anyone who’s read Puberty Blues would have winced with recognition at the surf loonies marching around bleating on television: “they don’t respect our women!”

The response by governments will be watched closely. The State
Government’s reaction to the Redfern riots seems to have been a
decision to raze Redfern – or at least to supplant the place with
apartments.

That approach might seem even more appealing this time around to a
government keen to capitalise on property values, particularly given
that there is a beach involved.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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