The Liberal Party needs to be held accountable for its racist attitudes and scandals that largely get brushed aside, writes Dr Victoria Fielding.
AUSTRALIANS WERE SHOCKED last week to discover NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet wore a Nazi costume to his 21st birthday party. As disgraceful as this revelation was, I must admit I was not surprised.
The Liberal Party has always been the natural home of Australians with racist views and continues to attract, endorse and harbour racist, misogynistic, bigoted people.
Liberal Party Leader Peter Dutton worked hard, in concert with his conservative media mates, to whip up racial hatred against African Australians. His attempts to muddy the waters on The Voice referendum, misrepresenting the constitutional change as lacking detail, is on the same slippery bigotted slope as his decision to walk out on the National Apology to survivors of the Stolen Generations. It is on the same dog-whistling theme as his accusation that asylum seekers lie about rape and abortion to get to Australia.
Dutton can do what he likes to try to reinvent his political image, but his history speaks for itself. As does the history of the Liberal Party and its regular links not just to racism, but to Nazism. This history shows Perrottet is not an outlier, but a symptom of a much larger problem in the Liberal Party, a cultural stain the Party refuses to acknowledge and reform.
Last year, former Melbourne University Young Liberal Stefan Eracleous was depicted in a video of three neo-Nazis burning an Aboriginal flag and performing a Nazi salute while reciting a White supremacist manifesto.
The same year, former president of the neo-fascist Tassie Proud Boys, Jarrod Boys, was reported to be a Liberal Party volunteer and council candidate.
In 2019, former Young Liberal Justin Beulah and his wife, former One Nation member Lisa Beulah, admitted they were reformed neo-Nazis who corresponded online with prominent U.S. White supremacists. The Beulahs also admitted they were part of a group of self-declared fascists who tried to infiltrate the Young Nationals.
Two years earlier, the University of Queensland Liberal-National Club president, Kurt Tucker, said in a Facebook post that he would have been a Nazi if he was alive in the 1930s.
A former neo-Nazi, Scott Harrison, who was vice-president of the Deakin University Liberal Club, was reported to be campaigning for a Liberal Party candidate in the 2014 Victorian State Election.
Young Liberals have also been caught out posting racist and misogynistic comments on social media, including calling Muslims degenerates.
In a political culture that took racist behaviour seriously, the people involved in such scandals would be barred from the Liberal Party for life. A zero-tolerance policy would send a clear message to others that the Party finds racist views abhorrent.
This brings me to the case of a young man called Barclay McGain, whose story tells you everything you need to know about the way insidious racism and bigotry is allowed to fester within the Liberal Party.
Let’s start with what should have been McGain’s first racism scandal, but flew under the radar. This Twitter post by @JJKALE2 appears to show McGain as a school student, doing a white power hand signal.
A video of McGain has also been posted on Twitter where he impersonates Donald Trump, saying:
“We're going to build the greatest wall... it is going to be to keep out the Mexicans, not the Mongolians, or the chikedy chongs, Genghis Khan bing bing bong, bing bing bong.”
McGain’s first public racism scandal occurred in 2019 when he was Gold Coast Young Liberal-National Party chairman. He and a fellow Young L-NP member posted a video of themselves interviewing people at Schoolies Week on the Gold Coast.
In the video, McGain smirked at a teenager’s racist statement about Aboriginal culture, which drew widespread condemnation:
"I mean, we've got to stop celebrating a culture that couldn't even invent the bloody wheel for God's sake — we've got to start enjoying and living in Western culture."
McGain was suspended from the Queensland L-NP, along with two others. One was later named to be the person who made the comment — Young L-NP member, Jake Scott. But a suspension is really just a slap on the wrist and soon, Scott was back campaigning for the L-NP at the 2020 Queensland Election.
McGain was also quickly back in the Queensland L-NP fold. You would think one racism scandal would be enough to make a young person rethink, but McGain wasn’t finished. Less than a year later, in June 2020, McGain was supposably sacked by his employer — Federal Liberal MP Andrew Laming, for a racist social media post depicting him smirking next to a racially offensive figurine.
However, in 2021, Sky News reported that McGain had not been fired, just suspended for six months. Laming defended continuing to employ him, saying no one should get a life sentence for their humour falling flat and that he felt McGain’s “impressive knowledge and young networks is something very important for politicians to have”.
Later that year, McGain was involved in a third racism scandal, when in December 2021, he dressed up for a Halloween party as Kyle Rittenhouse, who was controversially acquitted after shooting dead two Black Lives Matter protesters in the U.S.
Posing with a fake gun, McGain captioned the photograph of himself on Facebook:
‘Kyle Rittenhouse on neighbourhood watch duties in Brisbane’s south tonight. #NotGuilty.’
McGain has also remained embedded in the Liberal Party, with his public Facebook profile showing him campaigning in the 2022 Victorian Election for the Liberal candidate who unsuccessfully ran against Premier Daniel Andrews and for the Liberal Party in the 2022 Federal Election. He was also photographed volunteering for One Nation in 2021.
McGain’s public racism scandals don’t seem to have done his career any harm, indeed they seem to have enhanced it. So why would he bother to self-reflect? He has published various conservative opinion pieces for The Spectator. He continues to use his social media profile to promote conservative views tinged by discriminatory undertones, including promoting a “No” vote for The Voice referendum and criticising the link between Aboriginal heritage and “identity politics”.
Just like former-Nazi-costume-wearer Dominic Perrott is a powerful and celebrated person in the Liberal Party, McGain is entrenched as a young conservative rising star — working for an MP, volunteering on election campaigns and joining a range of conservative political groups aimed at raising his public profile.
I wonder if it’s just a matter of time until McGain is the 40-year-old Liberal politician who has risen through the ranks of the Party and has to hold a press conference to regret the racist things he got caught out doing as a young adult. And that’s the thing. These people are not sorry they hold racist views, they’re just sorry they don’t sanitise them enough to hide them better.
Dr Victoria Fielding is an Independent Australia columnist. You can follow Victoria on Twitter @DrVicFielding.
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