Human rights

Freedom of speech according to Kruger and Hanson: Racism by any other name

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Craig Thomson discusses Australia's ugly immigration policies – past and present – and how they have allowed modern racism to flourish.

AUSTRALIA has a sorry record of racial vilification of almost everyone coming to this country after British colonisation — and of those already here.

We are one of the few countries in the world that pretended legally that those living in this country before white people arrived didn't exist — paving the way for early colonists to shoot, kill and steal the land of the First Australians.

We then refused to give them citizenship (in their own country) until the mid 1960s. And it is not like these views are relics from the past as (former) Liberal Party member, chiropractor and racist Chris Nelson recently demonstrated, with his attacks on Nova Peris. Indigenous Australians see this happening all the time.

The Chinese during the Gold Rush, immigrants during the White Australia Policy of the Labor Party and, later, the WWII European migrants, have all felt the sting and disadvantage that flows from Australian racism. Australia has a very sorry and intolerant attitude to those of a non-Anglo heritage. This racism seems to be passed on to our latest arrivals, with Muslims the modern target of choice.

In Australia, we have always mainstreamed our racism and while we sing about “our boundless plains to share” and talk about the "great contribution" of those migrating to Australia, we are the country of the White Australia Policy. We detain those fleeing foreign wars and persecution in detention centres and pretend parts of Australia aren't really in Australia for migration purposes.

Our two main political parties know the potency of racism and its embedness in the Australian psyche. It is why they try to outdo each other in who can be more inhuman to those in most need: asylum seekers. It is an unpleasant reality that we all try and ignore, but we have not only institutionalised racism, we have government agencies funded to enforce and promote it.

So, please, don't be surprised or outraged at the success of One Nation or Sonia Kruger’s recent comments. They are reflecting the Australia we have all allowed to flourish.

We need to do something about it.

It is not enough to retweet a criticism of Kruger’s comments or to “like” a Waleed Aly article. Our indifference and acceptance of racism in this country has led to the mainstreaming of racism being defended as “free speech” and, indeed, becoming government and opposition policy. It is time we seek change in politics both from within our parties, if we are members, and from outside if we are not.

It is not acceptable to ban Muslims because they are different, under the guise of being scared about terrorism. Such a rationale would have meant that many times throughout history, we would have to ban Christians. It is not acceptable to allow TV personalities to pretend they are concerned about their kids as they become the mouthpieces of ill-informed racist views.

Remember the Jewish people in Western Europe were once described as a danger to Christian children in outrageous state-sanctioned anti-Semitism. It is not acceptable for political parties to allow a racist One Nation party any platform. We can have laws to ban such views being expressed in our parliament. This is called hate speech.

It is not acceptable to treat those fleeing persecution from foreign lands as criminals and to be locked in jails offshore to “protect” a white, racist society.

It is not acceptable to agree with me and do nothing because doing nothing has allowed these evil and prejudiced views to fester. The challenge is to do something today that can help change and redeem Australia from this vile fog of hate and prejudice that we have all allowed to envelope our communities.

Anything less is simply not acceptable.

Craig Thomson is former federal Labor and Independent MP for Dobell.

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