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Goward article galling

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Pru Goward's recent AFR article has been criticised for its elitist attitude (Screenshot via YouTube)

If we examine Pru Goward's comments in the Australian Financial Review about our workforce, many Muslim Australians, among others, should be offended, writes Bilal Cleland.

THE NOTION of ethnic or social superiority is absent from Islam, if not from the practice of all Muslims.

There is a notion in western thinking of “blue blood.” Not openly discussed much these days, it originated in Spain in the Ninth Century. The Gothic nobles of the north proved that they were of pure pedigree by displaying the blue veins on their inner wrists, unlike darker-skinned Muslims. Eventually, it came to divide the lower and upper classes throughout Europe, with the original racist religious origins forgotten.

We saw a very clear illustration of the continuation of this elitist attitude towards “the other” in Pru Goward’s recent Australian Financial Review article

Ms Goward, NSW minister for community services and minister for social housing until 2019 (and a former federal sex discrimination commissioner) was appointed as professor of social interventions and policy in August 2019 by Western Sydney University, of all places.

Likening the 'underclass' – which she seems to think is linked to the proletariat – to the stoats and weasels of The Wind in the Willows, Goward wrote:

'They were to be feared and were, to use my mother’s words, not very nice. Government agencies view them with alarm as huge cost centres; they are over-represented in their use of government crisis services and are always the last to give up smoking, get their shots and eat two servings of vegetables a day.'

Echoing English cleric Thomas Robert Malthus, she goes on:

'Their birth rates far outstrip those of professional couples and they are now a significant potential contributor to our workforce.'

They not only breed like rabbits but they are also mentally deficient:

'… their children languish in the growing number of behavioural support classes in general high schools where they learn little.'

They might suffer from mental illness, cognitive disabilities and traumatic childhoods but they can be of service, presumably to the “blue bloods”. We might even help avoid the importation of a large number of workers if the "stoats and weasels" were made more amenable to exploitation with some undefined but “well designed” social policy.

This approach, coming from a Western Sydney University professor of social interventions and policy, is concerning.

According to Goward:

'I am convinced we can do better to harness the force that the people of the underclass represent. We need to make it a focus of social policy, not a by-product of it. We have little choice, or we will continue to import our workforce…'

The report 'A Demographic, Social And Economic Profile Of Muslims In Australia 2015' by Emeritus Professor College of Humanities, Arts and Sciences Flinders University Riaz Hassan, pointed to evidence of social injustice, rather than inferiority, behind such a picture:

Australian Muslims’ level of educational attainment compares favourably with the total population. In general, Australian Muslims are more likely to have completed Year 12 ... Muslim males have a significantly higher proportion of BA/postgraduate qualifications than all Australians ... A larger proportion of Muslims  – male and female – are in full-time education compared with all Australians.

Muslims generally live near employment opportunities, with up to 75% living in Melbourne or Sydney. The Muslim population is young – going on the profile of immigrants coming to this country – with over 60% of our Muslim population being immigrants.

What does not match this well-educated and productive profile is the level of income, unemployment and ease of obtaining employment compared with other Australians. Muslim Australians are significantly underrepresented in the high-status occupational categories and overrepresented in lower socioeconomic categories.

Their rate of unemployment is about double that of all Australians and it appears there is blatant discrimination in employment practices.

According to this article on the subject of job hunting in Australia:

'To get as many interviews as an Anglo applicant with an Anglo-sounding name, an Indigenous person must submit 35% more applications … and a Middle Eastern person 64% more applications'.

Blue-blood-Malthusian mentality – starve the poor to stop them breeding; God favours the good through prosperity – is an anti-human attitude that still exists under the surface, only occasionally vomiting forth.

The Muslim community needs to step up on such issues and defend basic morality.

Bilal Cleland is a retired secondary teacher and was Secretary of the Islamic Council of Victoria, Chairman of the Muslim Welfare Board Victoria and Secretary of the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils. You can follow Bilal on Twitter @BilalCleland.

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