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Australia's toxic racist politics

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Racism doesn’t have to be open and evident, says 17-year-old Ethiopian immigrant Ben Kroone, it can be harbored inside and manifested through actions and words.

(Image courtesy: NSW Reconciliation Council)


AS THE ELECTION year draws closer, we have to ponder at the state of Australia’s politics and politicians. The ideological divide of Labor and Liberal Parties is eradicating at an alarming rate. Factional warfare within the Labor Party seems largely to blame for Labor revisiting John Howard’s policies on such things as asylum seekers and single parent-benefits.

Last week, Labor had a change of heart on some asylum seekers and is planning on issuing “bridging visas” which includes no working rights. According to some in Labor’s Left faction, this is too familiar to opposition leader Tony Abbott’s and Shadow Minister for Immigration Scott Morrison’s ‘Temporary Protection Visas’ (TPVs) policy.

Once again, this proposed policy is a mere regurgitation of a former Howard-era policy. How long will it take this Government to realise these policies aren’t deterring people getting on boats? The policy, however, is a very small step forward towards a viable and humane policy on refugees, who in turn haven’t committed a crime.

Julia Gillard, her cabinet and, apparently, a large majority of politicians, have failed to remember that Australia has signed the United Nations 1951 Refugee Convention. This binding Convention clearly states:
[The Convention] recognizes the right of persons to seek asylum from persecution in other countries."

So, if it’s refugees' right – therefore perfectly legal – to seek asylum in other countries, why are they being treated worse than criminals?

Humanitarian watchdog Amnesty International has described Nauru as a ‘human rights catastrophe’ and have notified the public that many of the male detainees have attempted suicide and their mental welfare is deteriorating.



The Amnesty ambassadors who were given full access to Nauru were denied from taking photos of the so-called ‘facility’. Is this an admission of guilt on behalf of the government? But while the Government is bickering with itself and with the Opposition, there seems no end sight for the detainees in Nauru, Christmas Island and other detention centres.

As Opposition leader , Tony Abbott should hold the government accountable for their actions and offer more humane solutions. But he and his Deputy Julie Bishop rather spend the last week of parliament to harass the Prime Minister into the corner for some of her allegedly dubious actions as a lawyer well before she entered Parliament. Does Tony Abbot really think that questioning Gillard on her actions some 20 years ago is currently more important than the important issues at hand?

During this whole debacle, one has to wonder if the issue wouldn’t be as heated if the asylum seekers weren’t seen as “potential terrorists” by the ignorant and the racists within Australia’s media. Would the policies by the Government and Opposition be different if it was Caucasian Christians risking their lives to get to Australia? This debate will open up a bigger can of worms, but its one we – the public – need to have.

While I’m not claiming politicians are racist or have any particular racial prejudice, we need to understand that racism doesn’t have to be open and evident — it can be harbored inside and only manifested through small and seemingly minute actions and words.

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Australia's toxic racist politics

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