London-based expatriate Australian journalist John Pilger gave the keynote address at the Byron Bay Writers’ Festival.
London-based expatriate Australian journalist John Pilger gave the keynote address at the Byron Bay Writers’ Festival. Jay Cronan

Pilger takes swipe at leaders

THE world according to London-based expatriate Australian journalist, author and filmmaker John Pilger is a dark place.

Giving the keynote address at the Byron Bay Writers’ Festival on Saturday, Mr Pilger took aim at Australian and world political leaders and claimed Australia had become a satellite state of America.

He also said George W Bush was a “criminal on a magnitude we can’t imagine”, that the military is at the centre of American government, that Barack Obama is nothing more than a brand, and no more than a “cigarette paper” separated the major Australian political parties.

“The rulers of the United States at every level are so far to the right, so extreme from the views of the population, that any kind of formal democracy, that is those elected representing the people, has virtually ended,” he said.

But Mr Pilger saved some of his strongest words for Australian political leaders, and the Australian political system.

“If this is going to be a socially and culturally proud society ... two things have got to happen,” he said.

“First, nationhood has to be given back to the first Australians – second, (we need to) start speaking as a nation, not as a satellite state of the US.”

But what was almost entirely a negative assessment of the state of the world was well received by the full-to-overflowing audience, who gave Mr Pilger a standing ovation and spontaneously applauded many of his statements.

“John Pilger was inspirational, just wonderful,” writers’ festival visitor Julie McFadden of Byron Bay said.

“He expresses my cynicism with the world much better than I could.”



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