Race to the bottom

fraser anning

Senator Fraser Anning.

Last night, Queensland Senator Fraser Anning, formerly of One Nation but now representing Katter’s Australian Party, used his first speech to the Australian Senate to lament the demise of “our predominantly European identity” of the 1950s and ’60s.

He proposed radical changes to Australia’s immigration program, including a “drastic” cut to the annual migrant intake and the resumption of the White Australia-style discrimination based on race.

And he has the audacity to use the words “the final solution” to advocate for a plebiscite on immigration.

Personally, I think his speech is worse than the one that One Nation founder Pauline Hanson gave over 20 years ago when she said that Australia was “being swamped by Asians.”

We are living in dangerous times. We can certainly see a resurgence of far-right nationalistic politics, not just in Australia but also in America and across Europe.

People with ‘extreme’ views feel emboldened to make them known and increasingly they become mainstream.

In his final speech as Race Discrimination Commissioner, Tim Soutphommasane warned us: “Race politics is back. Right now, if feels like there has never been a more exciting time to be a dog-whistling politician or race-baiting commentator in Australia.”

Herald Sun columnist Andrew Bolt wrote earlier this month: “There is no ‘us’ any more, as a tidal wave of immigrants sweeps away what’s left of our national identity. Another 240,000 foreigners joined us last year alone, not just crowding our cities but changing our culture.”

He suggested that Jews, Indians and Chinese were forming ethnic ‘colonies’ across the country.

There is a growing hostility to the very idea of immigration. The belief that immigrants are responsible for much of Australia’s social ills because they don’t integrate, remains immensely strong.

Concerns over the alleged lack of integration by recent migrants have been voiced by former prime minister Tony Abbott, Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton and even the Minister for Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs Alan Tudge.

Last year, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull insisted citizenship must reflect ‘Australian values’ as he unveiled tighter requirements for new applicants.

The talk about integration of migrants sounds very much like the old idea of “assimilation”.

This approach promoted the absorption of minorities into a ‘shared’ value system; its aim was to make minority ethnic groups and their needs and aspirations as invisible as possible.

The very notion of integration presents immigrants as a problem to be solved, and integrating as the solution to that problem.

The dominant culture/group is not expected to integrate. It’s a one-way street. ‘Integration’ is merely a matter for the minorities.

So, we see that multiculturalism in Australia is under attack from politicians, journalists and academics.

For me multiculturalism is not an ideology or public policy. It is simply stating what Australia is today – a multicultural, multiethnic, multilingual, and multi-faith country.

We live in a fractured world where othering, defined as the process of perceiving or portraying someone or something as fundamentally different or alien, is dividing us along racial lines.

We need to speak up against this. Silence is no longer an option.

Silencers like the status quo. They usually lament about those past glorious days.

Senator Anning is a case in point:

“Fifty years ago Australia was a cohesive, predominantly Anglo-Celtic nation,” he told the Senate.

“Most people thought of themselves as Christian of some sort, although most of us didn’t go to church all that often. Everyone, from the cleaners to the captains of industry, had a shared vision of who we were as a people and our place in the world.”

The Senator Annings of this world wish to return to a time when they could shut out anything or anyone that wasn’t like them and threatened their sense of power.

Walter Brueggeman in his latest book, Interrupting Silence: God’s Command to Speak Out, said: “The church has a huge stake in breaking the silence, because the God of the Bible characteristically appears at the margins of established power arrangements, whether theological or socioeconomic and political. The church at its most faithful is allied with artistic expression from the margin that voices alternatives to dominant imagination.”

Let’s unite to speak up against the growing tide of racism, bigotry and othering. Silence is no longer an option!

Swee Ann Koh
Intercultural Community Development

Image: SBS/Twitter


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