Coalition Senators voted with One Nation yesterday to pass Pauline Hanson’s motion calling for the government to reject critical race theory (CRT) from the national education curriculum.
Hanson’s motion, which passed 30 votes to 28 and was opposed by the Greens and Labor, will have no real effect. But for One Nation, it was a valuable bit of culture war theatrics. CRT, a mix of cultural, legal and social critique which seeks to analyse how structural racism operates in systems of power, has become a recent obsession of Fox News and the Republican right in the US. And like so many of those obsessions, it’s quickly made its way into Australia’s parliament.
Hanson amends for government support
Hanson’s original motion called for the government to “ban” critical race theory from the national curriculum. That was later watered down to “reject” before being brought before the Senate, and Hanson herself teased at a deal cut with the government to assure its passage.
“This was done to give us the motion the best chance of success so we can send a strong message to the government,” Hanson said on Facebook.
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But Hanson’s motion appeared to draw wholehearted support from government senators. Assistant Minister for Forestry and Fisheries Jonathon Duniam said CRT was “predicated on the belief that the laws and institutions of our nation are inherently racist”.
“This theory is patently false, discredited and without any basis in fact,” he said.
Greens anti-racism spokesperson Mehreen Faruqi, who spoke against the motion on the Senate floor, said the motion was “nothing more than a culture war beat-up”.
“The government cannot viably claim to be taking far-right hatred seriously when they fall in line behind crap like this,” she said.
Labor also provided tepid opposition to the motion, on the grounds that it wasn’t a matter for the Senate.
“It is longstanding practice that the Australian curriculum — the national curriculum — is developed by education experts, not by senators and not by motions in the Senate,” Senator Katy Gallagher said.
Another culture war motion passes
While there’s no evidence CRT is threatening Australia’s education system, it’s become an obsession of the transnational culture-war right, ever since former US president Donald Trump started getting enraged about it late last year. Several US red states have passed laws cracking down on CRT.
It also first made it into domestic politics earlier this year, when Assistant Attorney-General Amanda Stoker tried to get the Australian Human Rights Commission to scrap an “anti-racism” campaign on the grounds the term was too closely related to CRT.
Sky News also plays a key role in the Trump-Parliament pipeline. It has published numerous outraged stories about CRT, helping turn the work of relatively obscure academics into an apparent threat to Australian children.
It’s also not the first time the government has gotten behind Hanson’s weird culture motions. Last week, 21 Coalition senators, including ministers Michaelia Cash and Linda Reynolds, backed an unsuccessful One Nation motion condemning medical treatment for transgender children.
In 2018, the Coalition voted up a motion acknowledging that “it’s OK to be white” — a common far-right catchcry. After tweeting their support, the government backed down and claimed it was all an “administrative error”.
There’s been no such admission from the government this time. Instead, Hanson gets a win which achieves nothing, but gets a good run with her Facebook base and on Sky News after dark.
“Thanks to One Nation, the government has been sent a strong message and is now on the record rejecting critical race theory,” she said.