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Dog whistling in the park

By 2353NM

It could be said that Senator Pauline Hanson and the other One Nation senators have ridden the coat tails of racism and bigotry to reach the lofty heights of the Red Chamber on Capital Hill in Canberra. Hanson will tell you that she sincerely holds those views and while it demonstrates her ignorance of how discrimination adversely affects the society we all live in, she and her fellow One Nation members are entitled to their opinion.

There are, however, problems when others such as the political parties that can actually achieve government in Australia adopt the dog whistling policies of fringe parties such as Hanson’s for the political expedience of winning an election over the ‘other guys’.

Like a lot of communities around Australia, the one I live in has a Facebook group that has the usual subject matter that you would expect, dining recommendations, local events, complaints about government services, who has spare moving boxes and other equally life changing issues. The group in my area has around 10,000 members and while it claims to represent a post code, there is considerable overlap to surrounding areas. The local politicians are active members and frequently comment on local issues that are discussed – suggesting that the group is seen as representing a reasonable cross section of the region it claims to support.

Recently on the local Facebook group, a mother posted a comment (in sorrow) reporting that her three year old son was playing in a local park and walked over to some other kids about the same age who were playing together. He asked if he could join the game. Apparently the response from the other kids was ‘we don’t play with Asians’.

As you would hopefully expect, most of the comments on the thread are comprised of various community members decrying the absolute racism and discrimination displayed by the group of young kids. They also rightly question where the parents were, why didn’t they step in or apologise to the mother or her child. All valid questions, and the parents of the other kids have been silent (assuming they are members of the Facebook group). However, there is a bigger issue here. Clearly the ‘jump to the right’ by the major political parties to attempt to win at all costs has made some people feel that teaching their pre-school kids to be racist is perfectly OK.

It’s not OK: and here’s why.

Every person in Australia is either an immigrant to this country or is descended from one. It doesn’t matter that your ancestors walked across a land bridge up to 65,000 years ago, floated in on a boat sometime since 1788 or arrived in more recent times in a plane – you are an immigrant.

According to Stanford University’s Tech Museum of Innovation, there are very few differences in people that are due to DNA

So what is the average amount of difference between people of different ethnic groups? Scientists have found that 85% of all human genetic variation exists within human populations while only 15% exists between all the different ethnic groups.

And most of these differences aren’t what you’d think they’d be. A few are the obvious traits we’ve talked about — hair and eye colour, eye shape, hair texture, etc. And a few we haven’t talked about like lactose intolerance.

Therefore, while there is a good chance that there are genetic variations between you and your next door neighbour, it’s pretty certain that the variations are not due to different ethnic origin or religion.

Racism in Australia seems to be a common topic on Quora – a US domiciled blog site that seeks opinion and factual comment on questions posed by others. There is a ‘Racism in Australia’ subject on the site and frankly there is no consensus to form an opinion as there is a lot of personal opinion. However, this article by Jenna Price in The Sydney Morning Herald from June 2016 would suggest that Shannon Murdoch (apparently no relation to the proprietors of News Corp) has certainly experienced racism on a regular basis

Someone will clutch their shoulder bag more tightly. Or lock their door. Pull their kids away. Ignore her. Walk up to her as she browses in a shop and tell her as she examines something that ‘you know, you have to pay for that’. Ignore her and make sure she knows she is being ignored.

“I don’t understand how you can treat someone as if they are so different to you when it’s just skin. At a systematic level, I understand it; at a historic level, I understand it. There are many levels at which I get it. It’s not as if I am naïve to the stuff that is behind it. But as person-to-person, I don’t know how you walk up to someone and say something so cruel, so demeaning, so dehumanising, that discounts their personhood.”

Shannon Murdoch is an Australian citizen, an African American by birth and the holder of a PhD in Education.

But it shouldn’t be like this. While there was not universal approval, Australia generally has welcomed waves of immigration from various parts of the world for most of the 20th century. It probably isn’t a co-incidence that the majority of immigrants through various decades came from countries that Australia has fought wars against in the decade or two preceding the immigration events. As examples, in the 1950’s and 1960’s a large number of southern Europeans came to call Australia home, followed by refugees from the Vietnam War in the 1970’s and 1980’s. Interestingly, there was support for these programs from both major political parties.

It all changed with the federal election campaign in 2001. In the wake of the airliners being flown into the World Trade Centre in New York during September of that year, then Prime Minister John Howard, faced with an imminent loss, exploited the rescue of a number of refugees en route to Australia from a sinking fishing boat by a Norwegian freighter, the Tampa. Not stopping to contemplate the damage he would cause,

John Howard declared: “We simply cannot allow a situation to develop where Australia is seen around the world as a country of easy destination.” Norway’s Foreign Minister, Thorbjoern Jagland told the United Nations: “Australia’s attitude to the refugee incident is unacceptable and inhumane and contravening international law.”

The ultimate in the hypocrisy was Howard’s Liberal Party, in this ABCTV Lateline story claiming the Tampa had no influence

LYNTON CROSBY [Liberal Campaign Director]: The most important specific reason cited by voters for voting Liberal was our strength of economic and financial management.

SARAH CLARKE [ABC Reporter]: Lies, says the Opposition and the Democrats.

NATASHA STOT DESPOJA, AUSTRALIAN DEMOCRATS LEADER (MELBOURNE): For them to argue that it was simply about economic management or indeed any other broader domestic issues is false.

TIM GARTRELL, LABOR ASSISTANT NATIONAL SECRETARY (CANBERRA): This is quite simply not in line with what happened on election day.

This is post-election rewriting to say it was actually about economic management — it wasn’t.

SARAH CLARKE: In the final days before the election, Labor says polling had Kim Beazley narrowing the gap, gaining ground selling domestic issues. That is, until the asylum seeker debate again came to the fore.

TIM GARTRELL: We turned the corner on domestic issues.We were pretty much getting to a situation of neck-and-neck and I think the Liberal Party decided to hit the button — hit that refugee button — which is what they did.

And the facts speak for themselves.

Former Prime Ministers Rudd, Gillard and Abbott also campaigned against humane treatment of refugees by increasing the severity of Howard’s punitive measures. ‘Stopping the boats’ (AKA demonising refugees) is one of the claimed successes of the Abbott and Turnbull governments, despite the questionable tactic of not allowing refugees being able to claim asylum in a country of their choice. Ironically, NXT Senator Stirling Griff discovered during Senate Estimates Hearings this year there were approximately 65,000 visa overstayers resident in Australia. Overstaying a visa is actually illegal (unlike seeking asylum)

“Given that almost 20,000 illegal overstayers have been in Australia for more than 15 years, it makes a mockery of the border protection focus on so called boat people and their lack of Australian placement,” he said.

“Most of these almost 65,000 would have travelled to Australia by air and the overwhelming majority have settled into Australian life, with little – if any – regard for our laws and responsibilities.

“The department stated that it was a fair estimate that 20,000 were also working illegally. That’s at least 20,000 illegal overstayers taking Australian jobs.”

It seems to be a direct result of ‘winner at all cost’ politics that victimises a small group of people who have attempted to seek asylum in Australia. Boat people are not illegally seeking entry into this (or any other) country, unlike those who overstay visas. However, the ongoing jihad against those that ‘look different’ or pray to a different God as demonstrated by asylum seekers sailing to Australia in unseaworthy fishing boats by elected and wannabe politicians has repercussions to Australian society now and in the future.

For those that couldn’t give a toss about morals and ethics, such as those politicians using refugees for political gain, there is also an economic cost to racism

Dr Amanuel Elias from the Alfred Deakin Institute for Citizenship and Globalisation (ADI) has calculated racial discrimination cost the Australian economy an estimated $44.9 billion, or 3.6 per cent of GDP, each year in the decade from 2001-11.

Dr Elias explained that being able to quantify the cost of racism to Australian society is a crucial step towards addressing racial discrimination.

“Racial discrimination costs society in both a microeconomic sense, such as indirect costs related to the labour market; and a macroeconomic sense, such as intangibles related to negative physical and mental health,” Dr Elias said.

So much for the ‘better economic management’ of the Coalition Governments! The Australian Bureau of Statistics reported the contribution of various industries to the GDP in the 2012 Australian Year Book. The cost of racism in this country exceeded a number of services and took half of the benefit of the mining industry to Australia’s economy. Dr Elias went on to comment:

“In countries like Australia, where subtle interpersonal racism exists along with some forms of institutional discrimination, anti-discrimination interventions require relatively moderate spending.”

According to Dr Elias, the good news is that racial discrimination is a preventable social phenomenon.

The boy in the local playground was born in Australia, as probably were his tormentors. His genetics are similar to yours and mine (as well as those of his tormentors). It is a really strange society that obsesses over refugees who come by fishing boat, claiming they are potentially a risk to the security and well-being of the country and ignoring the elephant in the room presented by the 65,000 visa overstayers who probably received far less scrutiny than asylum seekers when they made their application to visit Australia.

The only good news here is that the local kid’s mum posted her message on Facebook late Saturday morning. By 3pm, an open playdate had been arranged by others to include the tormented boy at a local park, a local business was supplying some ‘party food’, another one provided a decorated cake and a third business provided a gift for the boy and another for his family. Thankfully the majority of my community can see through the blatant racism promoted by the two major political parties. Unfortunately, the actions of the three year old tormentors will continue to be a drain on the morals, ethics and economy of Australia for a considerable period into the future, unless our political leaders start to lead the anti-discrimination conversation.

This article was originally published on The Political Sword

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21 comments

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  1. Carol Taylor

    On, “Someone will clutch their shoulder bag more tightly. Or lock their door. Pull their kids away. Ignore her. Walk up to her as she browses in a shop and tell her as she examines something that ‘you know, you have to pay for that’.” and this being a different Australia compared with pre-Howard, I would beg to differ. The description is exactly the same as that which post-War migrants experienced. 1950/60s Melbourne, you didn’t play with “wogs”, your mother would cross the street if a “wog” was coming in the other direction. Migrants were frequently abused in public, especially elderly woman (why is it always women who cop the brunt of verbal abuse?), and it would be the shame of the family if a daughter dated “a wog”. Wogs could not get jobs, buy houses in certain areas and it would be the scandal of the neighbourhood if a “wog family” moved in next door..think of what it would do to the value of house prices! Australia changed? Unfortunately over the past decades, we have learnt nothing.

  2. Michael

    We all had a choice after 2001 – that choice was made on our behalf and in our name for personal political purposes (by stupid white men) – we are all now living the consequences – but the good news is – we still have a choice – to learn from this high cost self damaging choice – it starts with each one of us…

    Make the pledge to stand above other’s personal political vested interests – be proud to lead.

  3. David Bruce

    When you have Australian prime ministers telling us to “Be afraid, Daesh is coming after you”, it should come as no surprise to see an increase in racial intolerance. Our politicians are just following orders from their masters, who neither Australian Citizens nor local residents. Misery and suffering is part of the Business Model for our society now, so we can expect a future of financial collapse, World War III or an extinction level event. A root cause of the misery and suffering is our ponzi money system and the resulting requirement for “economic growth” to sustain it. A pivotal change in the English-speaking world came with lawful rights to charge interest on lent money. Our banks create money “out of thin air” to write loans. So who creates the money to pay back the Interest on that loan? If we fix our money system, will that reduce the misery and suffering? Probably yes. Will it fix the growing level of racial intolerance? Probably not. Our basic instincts of fear and greed are manipulated by the media and those using political power to control society. I was surprised to hear the Tech Billionaires now have a plan to evolve humanity to a higher level, where perhaps our basic instincts could also evolve.

  4. helvityni

    What is happening today in Australia, makes me think I’m living in the Republic of Gilead, you can almost smell peoples’ fears about where the country is heading for….

  5. Glenn Barry

    So much of the dysfunctional, revolting, deplorable behaviour in federal politics is the aftermath of the Howard years.
    Howard and his cohorts, including the current administration are a truly shameful blight on Australia’s reputation.
    I am ashamed to be Australian these days…

  6. Zathras

    Carol,
    As the Australian born offspring of post -WW2 refugee wogs I have experienced much of what you have written,

    I also remember the old European widows who traditionally wore headscarves and dressed completely in black for the rest of their lives but unlike headscarves today, it wasn’t considered “oppression” back then.

    The real problem was that many wogs worked too hard, were too successful and with strong family support ended up as homeowners faster than their local neighbours but all this did was fuel further resentment and suspicion – like some Asian communities are experiencing today.

    I think (hope) we are witnessing the death throes of that racist generation and hope that the next one will be more tolerant.

  7. Mark Needham

    I grew up in the Stanthorpe district, wogs everywhere. Right up until grade 8, when I left the district for boarding school, ( parents were divorcing ect) any Italian, or whomsoever, were mates.
    Oh we talked about wogs, “Dago Day” was Thursday in Stanthorpe, when the Italians in particular, tended to do their shopping. We said wog and dago, in the same breath as bugger, bastard or mate. There was no thought about giving offence.

    The only time I heard dad, really go crook at an Italian farmer, was when he, the Italian, started to send immature fruit, to the Roma St Markets, ( 1950’s) to get the Top Prices, paid for first of season crop. He was crooked at the man, not an Italian. the fact that he was Italian, didn’t enter the conversation.

    Now days, Dad would be called a Racist, particularly by those who would not see a snake if it bit ’em on the arse. As I once said, I wasn’t fussed on Adam Goodes, I was a called a Racist. No I’m not. I just didn’t like the man. ( Still don’t)
    I don’t like Bill Shorten, Malcolm Turnbull or the young bloke who does donuts outside our place at 3am in the morning.

    Zathras. You have exactly described, my memories. Difference was, I was the whitey. I didn’t know, that perhaps what we were saying and doing, was “hurtfull”, but there was no “feeling of derision or spite” by us. ( Or, so we thought) Point is, none was meant, and should have been accepted as such, because of the social interaction that was ongoing and self evident.

    Now, I speak for myself, and this was my understanding of life, as seen through a 14 year olds eyes.

    Perhaps blind,
    Mark Needham

  8. helvityni

    The much loved sports commentator Les Murray died today. He was born in Hungary but decided to anglicise his name because Lazlo Ürge was difficult for Australians to pronounce and prone to taunts…

  9. Joseph Carli

    Mark Needham..: “…or the young bloke who does donuts outside our place at 3am in the morning.”…This one’s for you!
    The Phantom Turd Flinger of Preston.

  10. Arthur Baker

    At least get the quote and the date right. The words were “we will decide who comes to this country and the circumstances in which they come”. And the date was the 2001 Federal Election Campaign Launch Speech, 28th October 2001.

  11. jimhaz

    [Dr Amanuel Elias from the Alfred Deakin Institute for Citizenship and Globalisation (ADI) has calculated racial discrimination cost the Australian economy an estimated $44.9 billion, or 3.6 per cent of GDP, each year in the decade from 2001-11]

    The research costings are garbage.

    I’d reckon about 4b gross and perhaps 1b on a net basis. Not all of what is bundled into the banner of racism/discrimination is an injustice or wrongly intolerant. There are economic benefits in forcing people to fit into the prevailing cultural standards, by fear of isolation or other difficulties if they do not.

  12. Jack

    Racism is part of our natural animal instincts. Deep down there is a magnetic pull to be amongst your own kind, be it race, religion, gender, even geography. Some just handle it and internalise it better than others, but to think it can be eradicated is just folly.
    As far as rasict countries go, Australia is no way near the top of the list

  13. Maxoz

    In the sixties, In the UK
    I was approaching the checkout and noticed a can of pineapple was South African. Oops, sorry I don’t want that! LOL behind me said: “good onyou dear, that’s touched by those niggers.” Life moves on… not.

  14. Matters Not

    There’s Race and then there’s Culture . Seems to me that there’s some confusion here re those concepts and their usefulness. Judging people on the basis of Race is usually referred to as Racism . Judging people on the basis of Culture is usually referred to as Ethnocentrism .

    Defined as:

    evaluation of other cultures according to preconceptions originating in the standards and customs of one’s own culture.

    Both concepts are useful. Particularly if one wants to understand why one thinks and acts as one does.

    Yes, both are states of mind that are curable. But only if one tries. And wants to.

  15. Banokles

    Greed, racism, fear can all be summed up in one Latin term. “timor mortis omnibus ignotae” Think about it and remeber it and see how deep it goes into your lives, in the parlance of the plebeians “self preservation”.

  16. Banokles

    I would like to submit to your readers that in my opinion One Nation is a “Canary Party”. That is to say in the old days of pick and shovel mining the miners used to take a Canary in a cage down the mine to safe guard against poisonous gases and if the Canary turned up it toes it wasn’t safe to continue mining..Well put that in a modern political sense and you can see that the conservatives use this contrivance to indirectly say and do things that might discombobulate their liberal base and then they simply do preference swaps with the Canary party and perhaps it is enough to win support from the blue collar section of the electorate who may or may not vote liberal and therefore win the election. Damn clever, What!!!!
    What do you reckon!!

  17. helvityni

    It’s the second or the third time that I have come across the word ‘discombobulate’, if I remember right it means ‘confuse’….

  18. Johno

    I looked it up and yes it means confuse. First time I have ever seen it. Banokles, did you make this conclusion recently. Being a political dumbarse I don’t think I am qualified to comment on your theory. The LNP and PHON do seem to have a similar ideology.

  19. Banokles

    First of all the definition of Discombobulate-The meaning in this context is Disconcert- “Disturb the composure of” Synonyms- Agitate ,alarm, perturb, ruffle , unnerve, unsettle. And no, Johno I have held this opinion since the appearance of One Nation, so for many years.
    If I am going to have to defend my self intellectually every time I post I am not going to bother. Strewth!!!!!!

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