On Wednesday a frenzy of theatric bipartisanship took over Australian Parliament. A new senator had made a vile, holocaust-referencing provocation in his maiden speech, and much of the day was dedicated to repudiating these remarks.
This gave us some striking, heartfelt moments — Anne Aly’s tearful confession of her exhaustion with this fight, Lucy Gichuhi asking what it would take for her to be considered Australian. The image of Labor’s Ed Husic (of Bosnian Muslim heritage) and Liberal Josh Frydenberg (whose mother was a Hungarian Jew) — descendants of people for whom this kind of rhetoric has a chilling reality — embracing after the former’s speech became the defining image of the day, splashed across the Fairfax front pages. “United against bigotry” ran the headline.
But before we dust our hands and declare the racism business closed, it might be worth reading over some of the rhetoric of those bravely lining up under the “Nazi slogans? NO THANKS” banner.
This week… Our Prime Minister called the speech appalling, and returned to that favorite refrain of his: “Australia is the most successful multicultural country in the world”.
Previously… When was the last time we heard Turnbull proudly declare Australia’s success as a multicultural society? In July, when he contributed to the confected and innumerate outrage over “Sudanese gangs” in Victoria:
There is certainly concern about street crime in Melbourne. There is real concern about Sudanese gangs, I’ve heard people, colleagues from Melbourne say there is real anxiety about crime in Melbourne. You’d have to be walking around with your hands over your ears in Melbourne not to hear it.
This week… The nostalgia for a return to a White Australia Policy and flirtation with Nazi terminology hit the Minister for Multicultural Affairs where he lives. So Tudge leapt to Twitter to type some words in a row with all the passion and fire of left-out porridge: “Fraser Anning’s comments on immigration do not reflect the views of the government nor the views of fair-minded Australians. We will always maintain a non-discriminatory immigration program”.
But … In July, Tudge told a meeting of the Australia/UK Leadership Forum that “ethnic segregation” brought by migrants threatened “Australian values”.
Diversity can be great, but not when it includes those who want sharia law and will use violence to achieve their ends. Tolerance is generally a good principle, but we should not be tolerant of female genital mutilation or child marriage or women being prohibited from learning English, studying or even driving.
This week… Our Home Affairs Minister was fulsome and forthright in his condemnation of racism: “Whether it’s within this place or outside of this place or anywhere around our country. All of us unite together to fight against the scourge of racism.”
Previously… Well, apart from his ongoing preoccupation with 1% of the crimes committed in Victoria, or suggesting that white farmers from South Africa might be shifted to the front of the refugee queue? Dutton really hit the dead centre of the white rights venn diagram when talking to Sky News presenter Paul Murray in 2016 about the Greens proposal to boost the refugee intake to 50,000:
They won’t be numerate or literate in their own language, let alone English. These people would be taking Australian jobs, there’s no question about that. For many of them that would be unemployed, they would languish in unemployment queues and on Medicare and the rest of it so there would be huge cost and there’s no sense in sugar-coating that, that’s the scenario.
This week… Unable to straight-up condemn Anning’s words, Joyce instead spoke fondly of his Nigerian priest, telling Sky News he didn’t “particularly want to go back to Father Arfu and say ‘look I don’t think you should be here’”. He then followed with sentiments one can only presume he thought would comfort migrant communities: “the Filipinos who work in our abattoirs. They’re good citizens, working in the motels, doing jobs that other people don’t want to do. I don’t particularly want to insult them.”
These are people who are basically at the corner of society — they’re poor, in many instances they’re white, their opportunities are not like yours and we’ve got to come up with policies and something to take them ahead.
Still, none of them specifically suggested a refugee work for the dole program called Arbeit macht frei. So, racism is basically solved.