Young Australians call a spade a spade

("Shire" refers to Sydney's Sutherland shire, which, oddly enough, is in Sydney's South, where Cronulla is too)

"They're itching for a blue [fight], these Shire boys. For Shaun Donohoe it's war, pure and simple - and it has been a long time coming. "It's been brewing for years." For another local, a teenager surveying the ocean outside North Cronulla Surf Lifesaving Club, it's time for a showdown - though it's not about race, he says, just manners. "They have no respect for anyone." Angered by what they see as an aggressive invasion by youths of Middle Eastern background, these men say they have had enough. After a week that began with the assault of a lifeguard and was punctuated by another brawl and inflammatory rhetoric, the Shire boys are ready to rumble.....

Mr Donohoe, a chef, 24, takes it a step further. "They look down on our women," he says. "They don't really assimilate to our way of life. I've been at war with them for 10 years." For him it all boils down to race and culture. But the suburb has never been a stranger to bouts of tension, whether ethnic differences were present or not.

Mark Goodwin, the assistant commissioner who has co-ordinated the police response, started surfing at the beach when he was 10. There has always been something to disagree about, he says, even if it was just surfers at odds over their stretch of ocean. "There's been tension between locals and people who come from other suburbs for a long time over various issues," he told the Herald. "We're taking it extremely seriously but there needs to be some perspective."

The Mayor of Sutherland, Kevin Schreiber, and the local federal MP, Bruce Baird, agree there have been minor issues in the past, but believe the present problems are of a different order. Mr Baird, who was born in Cronulla, says: "I haven't seen the kind of problems we've got now." The visitors are aggressive, and come armed with "anti-female attitudes". Mr Schreiber attributes much of the problem to male aggression. "I think it's boys being boys," he says, adding that he understands local frustration..."

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