The Australian media ground to a halt in horror as superstorm Sandy hit the US. Blanket storm coverage ensued; continuous television footage, newspapers covering little else, Australians living in NYC penning their breathless stories of when they had to eat tinned food.

More than 60 people died when the storm hit the US. Each one is a tragedy.

But where’s the blanket media coverage of the 71 deaths the storm caused in the Caribbean? Why are those deaths less tragic?

Two years ago, floods in Pakistan killed more than 2000 people and affected 20 million. Remember the saturation media coverage then? No, you wouldn’t.

Floods in southern China last year killed more than 350 people and affected 36 million. Ringing any bells? Just two months ago, more than 80 people died and 20,000 homes were damaged in earthquakes in China’s Yunnan province. Remember that?

There are all sorts of reasons the US storm made for great news — it affected international icons, there was plenty of media on the ground, etc. But it’s hard to escape the conclusion that part of the reason behind Australia’s storm obsession was that the people affected were mostly white, and the country affected is one we gaze up to as an adored big brother.

If Australia really wants to ride the Asian Century, if we want to reorient our gaze northwards and develop a greater affinity for our neighbours, this might be a good place to start.

You shouldn’t have to live in NYC for your life — and death — to matter.

Peter Fray

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