Concetta Fierravanti-Wells has written an essay in which she acknowledges that Muslims in Australia face prejudice, and that instilling fear and hatred is an easy, but unhelpful, course of action.
She references Robert Menzies who argued that the cultivation of the spirit of hatred against the Japanese was not a proper instrument of war policy.
“He asked himself the question: Are Australians so lacking in the true spirit of citizenship that they need to be artificially filled with the spirit of hatred?
“Seventy-five years on it is a question that still holds true. Today’s war is much more insidious, with atrocities abounding. Terrorism and the hatred it engenders can strike at the very heart of our society, literally as you walk down the street. This makes instilling fear and engendering hatred just as easy as in 1942.”
Yet this seems to be the very deliberate policy chosen by her party.
In 2011, opposition immigration spokesman, Scott Morrison, urged the shadow cabinet to capitalise on the electorate’s growing concerns about “Muslim immigration”, “Muslims in Australia” and the “inability” of Muslim migrants to integrate, telling the shadow cabinet meeting on December 1 at the Ryde Civic Centre that the Coalition should ramp up its questioning of “multiculturalism”.
Fierravanti-Wells says the various waves of immigrants since the early days of European settlement have all been “targeted” – from the Chinese, Irish and Germans, through the postwar cohort of Italians and Greeks, the Vietnamese and Lebanese in the 1970s and, more recently, Muslim groups – but we should not let their positive contribution to Australia be forgotten due to the actions of “a few rotten apples in our community”.
Perhaps she needs to have a word to Peter Dutton who suggested that the former prime minister Malcolm Fraser should not have let people of “Lebanese-Muslim” background into Australia back in the 70s – citing as evidence a handful of individuals of Lebanese descent who have been charged with terrorism offences.
Dutton also infamously claimed that Victorians are “scared to go out to restaurants” because of “African gang violence”.
But as Fierravanti-Wells wrote, “Rather than fostering hatred, deal with the issues head on… the community must safeguard the wellbeing of its young people.”
Australia needs to understand why young people are vulnerable to anti-social overtures, one problem mentioned by the Senator being the difficulty of finding a job, despite the oft-repeated boast of job creation made by her colleagues who, I suspect, never look beyond the numbers to see just who those jobs are going to or how hard it is to find a job when you have no experience let alone if you look different or have a funny name.
Yet George Christensen, when there was an attack on Merrylands police station, immediately took to facebook writing “I wonder how quickly some idiot is going to inanely say this has nothing to do with Islam or talk about a religion of peace or blame those who oppose radical Islam or even Australia as a whole for marginalising some ‘disaffected youth’.”
Turns out it was an older man with mental health problems but, as Queensland Senator Murray Watt tweeted, Mr Christensen’s mistake was “what happens when you desperately seek ‘evidence’ to confirm your prejudices”.
When racial tensions between Aboriginal and Pacific Islander residents erupted in Queensland, in his usual inept way, Andrew Laming tweeted “Mobs tearing up Logan. Did any of them do a day’s work today, or was it business as usual and welfare on tap?”
After widespread condemnation about his ignorant contribution, Laming lamely and belatedly tweeted the next day, “To clarify: Working together to resolve these riots the priority. Training and a chance for jobs are key.”
After actively pursuing trade and investment, willingly accepting political donations, and offering visas that could be bought if you had enough money to invest, we are now also supposed to be scared of the Chinese.
The Coalition have heralded their intention to, once again, stoke the fear that a Labor government would lead to a flood of “illegal” immigrants. This is based on a growing number of Labor MPs who are saying a solution must be found for the detainees on Manus and Nauru.
What is Dutton’s plan for these people? To watch them die, one by one?
Morrison and Dutton have both lied about violent incidents on Manus, wrongly blaming the victims of the violence. They demonise these people who fled war and persecution because it suits their political purpose.
The government is very quick to use fear, to blame whole sections of the community for the actions of a few, to condemn people for their circumstances, and to react punitively.
They are not so good at identifying the causes of problems and offering support to fix them.
All people who live in Australia should help to make this a better place. That will not happen if we alienate and isolate each other. If certain groups are experiencing problems, it is up to the community as a whole to find ways to alleviate them.
Many migrants will need help to settle in. Many kids will need help to find the right path. Many people will need support to find employment. Many of us will struggle with mental health issues.
These are not insurmountable issues in our wealthy country.
But while our politicians continue to deliberately use fear and “othering” as a political tool to further their own ambition, they encourage our suspicions and mistrust rather than empowering our collective endeavour to work together to meet whatever challenges our diverse society faces.
“The people can always be brought to the bidding of their leaders. All you have to do is tell them that they are in danger of being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger.” – Hermann Goering