This week saw two vastly contrasting speeches on the Senate floor.
New Labor senator Malarndirri McCarthy, a Yanyuwa woman from the Northern Territory, spoke about welcoming migrants, Constitutional recognition, homelessness and domestic violence. She also shared the heartbreaking story of a young LGBTI relative whom she lost to suicide.
However, Ms McCarthy’s message of inclusion appears to have been drowned out by Pauline Hanson’s inflammatory speech just minutes earlier.
Ms Hanson’s incendiary comments about Muslims were splashed across the nation’s mainstream newspapers. The Greens’ decision to walk out in the middle of her speech added further drama to a story primed for media headlines.
Some argue the walkout was a powerful rejection of Ms Hanson’s views. However, several commentators believe the Greens gave Ms Hanson exactly what she was craving for: conflict and drama leading to more attention.
Even before she was elected as a senator, Ms Hanson’s appearances on Sunrise and other media outlets gave her a regular platform to broadcast her views. It seems those who espouse offensive comments are rewarded with airtime while those who promote harmony continue to fly under the radar.
Waleed Aly wrote in The Age this week that politics in this country is no longer about engaging in constructive debates.
“We’re not so keen to speak with anyone anymore. We’ll speak at, and we’ll speak for – we’ll call out and we’ll represent. But we don’t really engage. It’s confessional. It’s declaratory,” he wrote.
“We’re in a phase of mutual amplification: a race to express pre-determined views as loudly as possible for the thrill of those who share them.”
According to Mr Aly, both One Nation and the Greens benefit from this public display of their own convictions. But dialogue becomes more difficult and those most affected by this toxic debate – the Muslim and migrant communities – are left to deal with the consequences.
On this week’s Friday Forum: should the Greens have walked out on Pauline Hanson’s speech? What is the right response?
Image by Alex Ellinghausen via Twitter.