Sometime in 2014, journalist Rob Burgess interviewed former Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser and discussed refugee policy. During the discussion, apparently Fraser made a prediction. Burgess recently wrote an opinion piece for The New Daily discussing Minister Dutton’s recent claims about South African farmers and recalled Fraser’s prophecy
The cruelties of the offshore detention system, he said, made it look, “from outside Australia … as if the white Australia policy battles are still raging”.
There was no way, he said, that a boatload of “white South African farmers would be treated that way if they sailed into Fremantle harbour” – a sentiment he also expressed to the ABC in 2012 [during the term of the Rudd/Gillard ALP Government].
They were prophetic words, because this week 2GB’s Ray Hadley asked Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton if he was planning to help “white South African farmers who are facing violence and land seizures at home”.
Mr Dutton replied: “I’ve asked the Department to look at ways in which we can provide some assistance … potentially in the humanitarian program, because if people are being persecuted – regardless of whether it’s because of religion or the colour of their skin or whatever – we need to provide assistance where we can.”
In the past couple of weeks, Dutton has demonstrated the Australian Government’s refugee and immigration practices are racism pure and simple. At the same time as we as a nation hold people who have proven themselves to be refugees in detention centres across the South Pacific in less than humane conditions, the Australian Government’s Minister for Home Affairs (and pretty well everything else) Peter Dutton is openly discussing allowing white farmers from South Africa, who claim they are subject to violence and land seizures at home, to be granted priority help and assistance from a ‘civilised country’ like Australia. As reported on Fairfax news websites
“If you look at the footage and read the stories, you hear the accounts, it’s a horrific circumstance they face,” Mr Dutton told News Corp on Wednesday.
“We have the potential to help some of these people that are being persecuted.”
He has directed the Home Affairs Department to explore whether the farmers can be accepted into Australia through refugee, humanitarian or other visas, including the in-country persecution visa category.
Dutton is quoted as saying
it was clear the farmers in question wanted to work hard and contribute to countries like Australia.
“We want people who want to come here, abide by our laws, integrate into our society, work hard, not lead a life on welfare,” he said.
“And I think these people deserve special attention and we’re certainly applying that special attention now.”
Greg Barnes of the Australian Lawyers Alliance, writing in a South African paper (reported by the ABC in Australia) suggests that
Mr Dutton’s choice of the word was intended to shore up support among the right-wing voter base in Australia, and is an extension of his “African gangs” rhetoric.
Barnes also claims that Dutton
is appealing to the racist element in the Australian body politic that doesn’t mind immigration so long as those landing on Australia’s shores are white and middle class,”
In his The New Daily article, Rob Burgess quotes 2GB radio announcer Ray Hadley as saying there were
“reports that one white farmer is murdered every week”.
That’s a terrible statistic, if true, but there are far worse reports coming from the “crisis on our doorstop”, as the Greens call it.
Medecins Sans Frontieres reports more than 10,000 Rohingya have been killed in the past six months – close to 400 people a week.
They too have been forced from their land, and their homes and villages destroyed.
It seems that in Dutton’s mind at least, one alleged South African murder a week is worse than 400 confirmed Rohingya murders in the same timeframe. There is no other word to describe this than appalling.
Dutton’s justification that South Africans would come here, abide by our laws, integrate into our society, work hard, not lead a life on welfare and others (the implication being refugees from South Asia, the middle east or central Africa) wouldn’t is clearly not confirmed by even a cursory examination of the facts.
Four years ago almost to the day, The Political Sword looked at the contribution refugees and their descendants have made to Australia from the end of World War 2 until now. And you don’t have to be well-known like Tony Abbott, Julia Gillard, Kylie Minogue or Dr Munjed Al Muderis to have made or be making a contribution to this country that we have all adopted at some point in our family trees. The doctors, dentists, shop assistants, cleaners, bus drivers and car sales people you see as well as the office workers, carers, researchers and so on that you don’t can quite easily be people who either were refugees or their descendants. Most if not all of them pay their taxes, purchase goods, educate their kids, aspire to better things regardless of their skin colour, belief systems or country of origin. Just as the South African white farmers would if they did come here or the Rohingya people that Dutton won’t let in to the country would do if given the chance.
While we’re at it, the refugees or their descendants that are driving your bus, looking at your teeth, caring for our sick or reconstructing your skeleton aren’t taking jobs from ‘ordinary Australians’ either. In the first place, Australia has been the adopted home of significant numbers of people from all over the world for all of the last century so the definition of ‘ordinary’ has to be pretty loose. The ‘Asian’ who is selling you a car or checking your teeth may be part of a family that has been here for a lot longer than yours has, as Asians have been immigrating to Australia since the Gold Rushes of the 1850’s. The ‘middle eastern’ cleaner at the shopping centre or deciphering your CT scan might be celebrating the granting of a permanent residency visa next week or they could be mourning the loss of their grandparents who were descended from the famed central Australian Afghans of the 19th Century.
With the headline national unemployment rate approaching the economists theoretical benchmark of ‘full employment’ (which is around 5% unemployed), the argument that someone who ‘looks different’ to your perception of an ‘ordinary Australian’ has always only recently immigrated to this country and will take your job really doesn’t make much logical sense.
While generalisations can be incorrect, a significant number of the alleged dispossessed South African white farmers identify as being Afrikaans, who have a history of practising discrimination within South Africa that goes back over a century.
In the late 19th century, the British governor of the Cape Colony Sir George Grey and imperialist Cecil John Rhodes carried out what they considered to be a “civilising mission” to convert Africans to Christianity, give them a Western education and encourage them to adopt the Western way of life.
A few decades later, the policy of “civilised labour” was used in South Africa to justify policies of preserving certain jobs for whites only.
By the mid-1940s, Professor EP Groenewald of the Dutch Reformed Church argued apartheid was needed for the survival of Afrikaners so that they could take responsibility for acting as guardians towards the less “civilised” people.
“When the apartheid state took over in 1948 the term acquired a racial tone, being used to separate whites [the civilised] from blacks [the uncivilised races],” Mr Ngcukaitobi said.
South African prime minister Hendrik Verwoerd — known as the architect of apartheid — went on to rely on the concept when he responded to UK prime minister Harold Macmillan’s “Wind of Change” speech to the South African parliament in 1960.
“They [white men] are the people … who brought civilisation here, who made possible the present development of black nationalism by bringing the natives education, by showing them the Western way of life, by bringing to Africa industry and development, by inspiring them with the ideals which Western civilisation has developed for itself,” Dr Verwoerd said.
Are Dutton’s claims of persecution of Afrikaners even valid? According to The Guardian
Gareth Newham at the Institute for Security Studies, one of South Africa’s leading authorities on crime statistics, said there was no evidence to support the notion that white farmers were targeted more than anyone else in the country.
“In fact, young black males living in poor urban areas like Khayelitsha and Lange face a far greater risk of being murdered. The murder rate there is between 200 and 300 murders per 100,000 people,” he said. Even the highest estimates of farm murders stand at 133 per 100,000 people, and that includes both black and white murder victims.
Estimates of the rate of white farm murders are fiercely contested. “It’s a difficult question to answer because we don’t really know exactly how many white South Africa farmers there are,” said Newham.
“All these methodologies are hugely flawed because if you start ring-fencing certain people because of their race you are missing out on the bigger context of how violence and murder takes place in South Africa. I wouldn’t say that white farmers are more likely to be murdered than other groups, we don’t have enough evidence of that,” he added
While it is true that South Africa’s Parliament did recently start a process which may allow for the expropriation of land, and if it is ever enforced it is likely that white farmers will be affected to a greater level than others,
no farms have yet been seized, nor is there any immediate plan by the government to do so.
According to the November 2017 Land Audit Report, 72% of agricultural land is owned by white farmers. White people make up 8% of South Africa’s population.
The inequality in land ownership is a legacy of apartheid in South Africa, and all major political parties agree on the need for extensive land reform. The current land reform policy is based on the principle of “willing buyer, willing seller”, and has largely failed to result in meaningful transformation.
Last August when Turnbull’s leadership of the Coalition Government appeared to be on shaky ground, we looked at Dutton and observed that he plays politics [with] hatred and spite rather than equity, equality, morals, ethics, compassion or betterment for all Australians. Dutton, like a number of other politicians, claims to lead a life based on Christian beliefs. In September 2014, The Political Sword published an article entitled Jesus was a refugee where we asked
Who demonstrates the morals and ethics of their chosen religious text better? Is it the conservative political leaders who stand by and watch people starve or suffer ill health or the Sisters of Mercy and other religion-based organisations that actively channel profits from provision of services to help those less fortunate? Is it those conservatives who suggest that ‘stopping the boats’ is a worthy aim or those that suggest that Jesus was a refugee and accordingly we should assist and care for those that have felt the need to make the refugee journey? Is it the conservative people who invade a country and impose a rule of law or those with religious beliefs that go about their daily lives and attempt to help someone in need?
By bending over backwards to offer ‘help’ to potentially dispossessed white Afrikaans farmers while ignoring the plight of others, probably based on skin colour or differing beliefs, demonstrates yet again the warped view of morals, ethics and claimed values shared by conservative politicians such as Dutton.
What do you think?
This article by was originally published on The Political Sword.
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