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Bring out the dog whistle

By 2353NM

An unfortunate fact of life in Australian politics since the early 1800s has been the racist dog whistle. Consider the evidence of mass executions of first nations peoples that lived in Australia for thousands of years before Dirk Hartog (the first European to leave an artefact on the Australian continent in 1616) to the ‘White Australia Policy’ and Coalition Prime Minister John Howard’s 2001 election speech where he claimedBut we will decide who comes to this country and the circumstances in which they come,” and continuing today with the policy of both major political parties of not allowing refugees to settle in Australia (but only if they came by boat – not a plane), we really are racist.

Current Coalition Prime Minister Morrison has become an adept player of the racist dog whistle when there is a perceived need to increase his ratings in the political polls. Morrison is the one that proudly shows off the ‘I stopped these’ fishing boat trophy in his office.

Morrison’s latest demonstration of dog whistling is his apparent refusal to accept travellers from India due to the horrific numbers of people diagnosed with COVID-19 and the subsequent death toll. Not only did Morrison shut the gate on people from India (regardless if they are Australian citizens or not), the announcement was apparently the first mention on the penalties for breaching the relevant legislation – despite the legislation being in place for 14 months. Morrison’s claim was the numbers of people with the virus in India was probably under-reported – apparently true – and the infection rate and death toll was horrific – again apparently true – leading to potential quarantine breaches in Australia should travellers from India be quarantined in Australia – certainly a potential outcome.

When the UK and Europe were undergoing a new wave of COVID-19 infections (from a version of the virus that is highly contagious), did Morrison slam the borders shut to those from the UK and Europe? Nope. Neither has he introduced a travel ban for those from South Africa where a different and highly infectious version of COVID-19 has been identified, or Brazil or the US. As The New Daily observes

The US has had more than 590,000 deaths from the coronavirus – the highest in the world and more than double that of India.

But even as wave after wave of fresh cases ravaged the country, the Morrison government never stopped people flying here from the US.
Quite the opposite.

During the pandemic, Australia emerged as a top destination for American celebrities seeking to escape coronavirus restrictions at home.

Among others, Zac Efron and Melissa McCarthy have been spotted in Byron Bay, while Natalie Portman and Idris Elba have spent time in Sydney.

To give Karl Stefanovic from Channel 9’s Today Show his due, he questioned Morrison on the policy to fine and imprison Australians returning from India (but not from the US or UK) on Tuesday 4 May – the day after the policy was announced

“Jailing and fining returning Aussies, I mean, as a sitting prime minister, it is incredibly heartless,” Stefanovic said.

Mr Morrison said the likelihood of those penalties was “pretty much zero.”

“You’re saying no one will go to jail or be fined, is that right?” Stefanovic clarified.

“I think it’s highly unlikely,” Mr Morrison said.

The backdown had started – or as Crikey elegantly put it ‘Panicked PM tries to reverse a dog whistle amid quarantine incompetence’ (paywalled). Don’t believe that the claims of racism are only made by the ‘woke lefties’ who write on this blog site, “Even Andrew Bolt wrote in his column that the travel ban “stinks of racism.”

Which brings us to the two issues here. Racism and quarantine management.

Morrison didn’t impose a ‘no arrival’ policy on the US or UK during the middle and latter half of 2020, while he did criticise Queensland and Western Australia repeatedly (both ALP state governments who were scheduled to face elections) for closing borders in an attempt to stop the spread of COVID-19. Morrison did put out a press release and ‘do the media’ when imposing a ‘no arrival’ policy on people planning to return to Australia from India in May 2021. While the infection and death tolls in India were horrific, they were less than the same tolls in the UK and US. The only real difference in the process here is the colour of people’s skin – and making a decision on that basis is racism.

As Morrison was quick to point out when state governments closed borders, it does interrupt trade and society. While Morrison’s attitude to Tasmania and South Australia closing borders was ‘nothing to see here’ (probably due to being Coalition state governments), he was highly critical of Queensland and Western Australia. However it seems that quarantine is an effective form of management of a viral health crisis which is accepted (if not appreciated) by communities that are ‘protected’ by the measure. For evidence look at the recent state elections around Australia – those that implemented effective controls seem to have been repaid with another term in office.

Despite quarantine being a federal issue, Morrison was quick to handball it to the states in March 2020. The states introduced a number of variations on the theme – some more successful than others and some states chose not to participate at all. Katherine Murphy noted recently in The Guardian

As the former bureaucrat Jane Halton noted months ago in a review of hotel quarantine, “pressure to increase travel to and from Australia is growing.” Furthermore: “Existing models of quarantine are unlikely to be able to expand significantly above current levels and new approaches that manage risk are needed – an ability to add scale through surge capacity should be considered.”

Both Queensland and Victoria even offered to assist in the construction of additional secure quarantine facilities, only to be rebuffed by the Morrison’s Government.

So after months of criticising states for quarantining rather than ‘tracking and tracing’, Morrison is now committing the same ‘crime’ by closing the border selectively. Rather than improving the quarantine system and assisting Australians back into their own country, Morrison is looking for others to blame for his lack of management – he had Jane Halton’s report months ago.

Like his actions on so many other issues, Morrison is sniffing the breeze and working out which way he should jump (after all he has to win an election in the next 12 months to retain power). It seems fence sitting and blaming others is far easier than accepting responsibility or making a decision. And it seems he is convinced that blowing the racist dog whistle regularly doesn’t seem to hurt.

What do you think?

This article was originally published on The Political Sword

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  1. Cool Pete

    It was not just Scomo but Potty Boy Rotten had a role in this, as well. Potty Boy Rotten has heartlessly denied refugees the right to come here for medical treatment and pushed for Medevac to be repealed, and referred to Priya and Nades daughters as “anchor babies” yet had crocodile tears about the Queensland Government supposedly not allowing a woman from interstate to attend her father’s funeral! And Potty Boy Rotten and Scomo were part of a government that refused to allow a refugee’s parents to attend his funeral, or allow a talented young doctor, recognised as a refugee, to join his parents in the UK, where they had refugee status, to make a heartless political point!

  2. pierre wilkinson

    Scomo is a stain on the underpants of politics

  3. Glenn K

    I lived in Australia for 30 years, moving to France 4 years ago. No question that Australia is racist. It most certainly is. Blatantly so. A shame really, because the country has so much potential. Of my friends here who have visited Australia, every one of them take it as understood Australia is very pro-white. To them as visitors it is clearly obvious. I guess it’s harder to see that from inside the white bubble.

  4. Terence Mills

    An odd situation that has generally flown under the radar is the case of former Hong Kong politician, Ted Hui, who was on bail in Hong Kong, awaiting trial for civil disobedience issues and who fled to the UK seeking asylum in January. He gained that asylum but then applied to come to Australia in March and was granted priority travel permission in the middle of the pandemic and was given a visa to stay.

    It has never been explained why he wanted to leave the sanctuary he had sought in the UK or why Australia granted him a visa and, despite many thousands of returning Australians being unable to get flights home, why he was given priority travel to come here.

    It has been suggested that this unusual state of affairs was the Morrison government looking to thumb its nose at China as part of the ‘drums of war’ rhetoric and confrontational position we have been taking to diplomacy with the Chinese.

    Surely it is about time we had some adults in the room when it comes to our relations with China !

  5. GL

    Terence, if Scummo and cronies didn’t have China (amongst other things) to point at and shout, “Look over there.” as a distraction then that attention could well be turned to the LNP and the never ending stuff ups, corruption, and ongoing wrecking of the country by the most blatant bunch of thugs, crooks and religious right wing nut jobs ever put in charge.

    Pessimistically: They will be get back in at the next election and when they do the dictatorship will dock and, well…

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