It must be with a sense of tearful gratitude that the Coalition regards figures like our Senate’s most prominent Neo-Nazi sympathiser, Oswald Mosley. His grotesque, empty and calculated provocations provide a point in the political discourse so vicious, so far to the lunar right, it would be more or less impossible to avoid appearing compassionate or reasoned by comparison.
Just as his vile holocaust reference in his maiden speech gave the Parliament a chance to pat itself on the back for Australia’s success as a multicultural nation (and, by extension their own tolerance), so too has his response to the horror in Christchurch.
“The remarks by Senator Fraser Anning blaming the murderous attacks by a violent, right-wing, extremist terrorist in New Zealand on immigration are disgusting,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison — who has form in this area — tweeted. “Those views have no place in Australia, let alone the Australian Parliament.”
Mathias Cormann announced the government and Labor would move a censure motion against the Senator, although — despite a petition of over a million signatures asking that he be expelled — as the law stands, they are powerless to do more than that.
But lest we view this as a meaningful and long overdue stand against racism — it might be worth looking at what has happened since their last bout of self congratulation at Anning’s expense.
In the first instance, it’s worth remembering that the day before parliament engaged its theatrical bipartisan condemnation of his speech, the following members of parliament all shook hands with, or hugged, Mosley after his “final solution” speech:
Mathias Cormann, Bridget McKenzie, Nigel Scullion, Conchetta Fierravanti-Wells, Matt Canavan, James McGrath, Anne Ruston, Amanda Stoker, Jonathan Duniam, James Paterson, Dean Smith, David Bushby, Wacka Williams, Barry O’Sullivan, Steve Martin, Cory Bernardi, Derryn Hinch, David Leyonhjelm, Peter Georgiou, Stirling Griff and Rex Patrick.
Within two months of this festival of tolerance, the government had voted in favour of a motion, put forward by One Nation Senator Pauline Hanson, endorsing the white supremacist talking point “it’s ok to be white”, before swearing the whole thing was a fuck up (or “administrative error”) and re-taking the vote.
The government had had a full month to look into the origin of Hanson’s motion. The motion was debated before the vote and Greens leader Richard Di Natale pointed out the white supremacist roots of the phrase.
Footage of the division shows Labor senators shouting “come on!” and “really? really?” as the vote is taken as well as confused government senators double checking their voting advice, and a female voice is heard responding “we’re standing up for western civilisation”.
Immediately after the vote, before settling on the “administrative error” line, the government doubled down — with Cormann and Christian Porter both tweeting that the government’s actions showed they “deplored racism of any kind”.
As the debate around the Medevac bill — which would put the power to transfer sick asylum seekers from offshore processing centers to Australia for treatment in the hands of doctors, not politicians — ramped up, the Coalition once again tried to make fear over asylum seekers a wedge point. Morrison described the risks of the bill in the following terms:
Someone who’s a paedophile, who’s a rapist, who has committed murder — any of these other crimes — can just be moved on the say-so of a couple of doctors on Skype.
Further, Morrison has argued that a Labor government will fail to cancel the visas of “dangerous criminals“, while Liberal party ads have argued increased refugee intake will cost Australia $.2 billion.
Home Affairs minister Peter Dutton, another senior Coalition figure who briefly stopped explicitly race baiting to rail against the “final solution” speech, also weighed in. Updating his previous claim that illiterate refugees would take Australian jobs, he added that the acceptance of sick refugees would “clog” the medical system and mean that Australians would miss out.
Today, asked if he regretted any of his previous rhetoric around race (in response to comments from Muslim Greens Senator Mehreen Faruqi), telling the ABC’s Fran Kelly “I’m hardly going to take moral lectures from the extreme left” adding that they “are just as bad” as the extreme right.
In the lead up to the election, it will be worth watching how comfortable the government are with just the kind of racial sentiment they will this week loudly condemn.