This Election saw the revival of white supremacy, nationalism and exclusion

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Cartoon by Mark David/@mdavidcartoons

The plethora of racist, white supremacist and Islamophobic parties and candidates rolling up for the May 2019 Federal Election, all directing their preferences to the Liberal-National Coalition, suggested a yearning amongst very vocal fringe elements for the past certainties of Australian society.

Australia today has First Nations people in parliament, mainly in the ALP and Greens, Muslims, even Muslim women, lots of foreign-born individuals and many who speak English as a second language.

The Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, Penny Wong, is an lesbian Australian Chinese woman who refuses to tolerate racism or sexism from its exponents in the government.

The Senate front bench for the Government is led by an ultra-right Australian Belgian, Mathias Cormann, who speaks English with a heavy accent.

This multicultural face of Australia, still reflected very poorly in the membership of the Federal Parliament, is seen as threatening the very basic values of the reactionaries who view Australia of the 1920s and 1930s as the highpoint of civilisation.

There is very deep division within the ruling Liberal Party, leading to leadership instability for some years, with Abbott succeeded by Turnbull, succeeded by Morrison.

Racist fear has a long history in this country.

Until after World War II, the Labor Party and the United Australia Party, which became the Liberal Party under the leadership of Robert Menzies, believed that maintenance of the White Australia Policy was essential to protect civilisation.

The use of the fear factor

The fear of non-white immigration from Asia, in the years of the Cold War, transformed to fear of the "Red and Yellow Peril", with each election marked by diagrams showing the communists arrows coming down the map from China towards Australia.

One of the most striking features of the reign of Menzies, the founder of the Liberal Party, from 1949 to 1966, was his use of the fear of communism to keep the ALP from power.

Helped by the creation of the Democratic Labor Party (DLP) which split from the ALP in 1955, the Liberal Party remained in office until 1972.

DLP preferences went to the Liberals.

Eventually, the Cold War ended and with it the effectiveness of the fear factor, the domino theory of downward thrusting communism.

The new fear factor

Now a similar tactic is being used to harvest the preference votes of the various extreme right-wing parties, using fear and hatred of refugees and Muslims as political weapons.

 “Islamism” has replaced Communism as the fear factor.

The preference deals of the various white supremacists or pro-fascist parties in this Election show how strongly they oppose the socially inclusive political parties such as the Greens and the ALP.

These splinter parties, all of them supporters of the Liberal-National Coalition, exercised undue influence in the elections, especially in Queensland.

They are taking on the role of the DLP in maintaining conservative rule.

The opening of the detention centre on Christmas Island, which looks as though it was intended as the player in a major “fear the refugees” political campaign, was aborted by the Christchurch Mosque Massacre carried out by an Australian white supremacist.

However, this did not remove the fear factor from political campaigns.

The real danger of the white supremacist fanatics to the Muslim community, stimulated by this exploitation of fear, has not yet been recognised by the authorities.

The New York Times reported that: 

There were five white extremist attacks in Australia from 2011 through 2017, all of which were attacks on mosques and Islamic centers.


Experts say the same broad motives are at play whether the target is a mosque in Perth or an asylum seekers’ shelter in Dresden or a synagogue in Pittsburgh. Attackers who identify as white, Christian and culturally European see an attack on their privileged position in the West by immigrants, Muslims and other religious and racial minorities.

Further, the report comments that 'The challenge for law enforcement will be to buck a sometimes myopic focus on Islamic extremism as the only driver of international terrorism'.

We can only hope this Parliament doesn't foment hatred and rejection against those who are undeserving of it. 

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.

This article was originally published on AMUST titled 'The spoiler: White supremacy harnesses the fear factor' and is republished here with permission.

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