Calling Australia Racist Is Forbidden, Yet Racialised Politicking Is Its Mainstay

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Calling Australia Racist Is Forbidden, Yet Racialised Politicking Is Its Mainstay

“Laura Tingle is one of Australia’s most experienced, knowledgeable and accomplished journalists,” said ABC director Justin Stevens, as he politely publicly reprimanded her on 29 May for making personal comments at a forum, which he claims failed to meet ABC editorial standards.

During a Sydney writers event, Tingle said, “We are a racist country, let’s face it. We always have been”. And it’s safe to say that the real issue Stevens and others had was not that Tingle neglected to footnote her comments, but that she rather spoke the nation’s cardinal forbidden truth.

And let’s face it, Australia is fundamentally racist. Australia was founded by white British people, who claimed the continent for themselves, because the First Nations people didn’t exist, according to official policy, and therefore, these Black people could be exterminated, and their land stolen.

But when Tingle spoke her words on 26 May, she wasn’t referring to these foundational genocidal acts, rather she was alluding to Liberal leader Peter Dutton’s assertion that if he’s elected next year, he will cut migration as a policy solution to the housing crisis in this country.

And Dutton’s absurd policy suggestion is pure racialised dog whistling, and as it’s quintessential Australian politicking, it goes unchecked.

Yet, when one of our most respected journalists speaks an obvious truth triggered by this, she’s dragged over hot coals for speaking the unspeakable.

F*#k off, we’re full

Australia is a wealthy nation with a small population. And yet it’s suffering a housing crisis, which sees prices unaffordable rather than a dearth in places to live. And this has occurred for reasons that include the prioritisation of profiteering from housing and the erosion of publicly owned stock.

But according to Dutton, it’s all down to migrants, or foreigners, who, if you follow his line of thought, must be arriving in this country and then occupying all the available housing, which leaves true blue Aussies without a place to live.

Opposition leader Dutton put it to the press on Thursday that so many people are competing for rental properties, as, over the last two years, the Albanese government has let too many migrants in. And he added that this wasn’t happening five years ago, despite documentation showing that it was.

However, the leader of the Liberal Party hasn’t suddenly blamed migrants or foreigners for the nation’s social woes, as Dutton has built his political career around racial slurs, blaming nonwhite Australians for social issues and demonising and barbarising refugees and asylum seekers.

So, when Dutton stands before the press and promises to cut immigration to solve the housing crisis, his track record and the history of the nation leads the constituency to understand that he’s saying, ‘You can’t get a house because Black and Brown people are coming here and taking all of them.’

I love a racist country, a land of sweeping mistruths

The nation of Australia is 123 years old, and it was established when the six colonies that the British had set up via force around the continent united to form a nation.

The invading of a populated land and resettling of it with people from elsewhere to form a new nation is called settler colonialism.

So, Australia is a settler colonial nation, like the United States, Canada, New Zealand and Israel. And renowned political commentator Noam Chomsky suggested in 2018 that the reason the US, Canada and Australia are in the habit of always supporting Israel at the UN is they share common origins.

In the 1890s, conventions were held here to determine the content of the nation’s Constitution and the suggestion of a bill of rights was knocked back as it was thought such protections might undermine discriminatory laws that applied to First Nations people and the Chinese living here.

The nation of Australia came into existence in 1901. This was midway through the Protection Era, which saw laws passed under the guise of protecting the First Peoples of the continent but really facilitated the stealing of their land, their placement in camps and their children being removed.

The first lawmaking that the new Australian parliament undertook was legislating a series of Acts that became known as the White Australia Policy, which sought to ensure the population remained white and British, despite the First Peoples, many of whom were then being detained in camps.

Prior to federation there were already laws banning Chinese immigration into Victoria and NSW, and the Immigration Restriction Act 1901 (Cth) built upon these prohibitions, as under these laws potential migrants had to pass a dictation test in any language an official decided to conduct it in.

The Pacific Island Labourers Act 1901 (Cth) contained laws to ensure that the over 62,000 South Sea Islanders who’d been brought to the country to work as indentured labourers were deported.

And the last piece of legislation making up the White Australian Policy was the Post and Telegraph Act 1901 (Cth), which ensured that contracts arriving in foreign mail that arranged for labourers to migrate to the country to work were invalid unless they clearly stipulated it applied to whites only.

These laws stood until the passing of the Migration Act 1958 (Cth), although some of the racist edifice wasn’t dismantled until the Whitlam government passed the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 (Cth).

“Let’s face it”

These days, the nation of Australia prides itself on being a bastion of multiculturalism. However, two key events over the last 12 months have reinforced that rather than being a nation that embraces all regardless of cultural background, Australia continues to be a racialised settler colonial state.

The Albanese government has shown the nation of Israel unbridled support since it’s been carrying out a genocide in Gaza, which involves Israeli settlers massacring and starving the Indigenous Palestinian peoples in an attempt to wipe them out, so Tel Aviv can take control of the Gaza Strip.

This ongoing event involves 2 million Palestinians trapped in the walled-in Gaza Strip being slaughtered and starved. And the support that federal Labor has given to this wanton killing of civilians requires it to mirror the racial prejudices held by the Israelis towards the Palestinians.

And another nod to a racist past that makes it our present was the Albanese government’s holding of a referendum to establish an Indigenous voice to parliament, which was a proposed body of First Nations individuals that would have advised government on Indigenous affairs.

And there were reasons not to support the Voice, as it was to establish a body with no real power that could only provide ideas to government, which wasn’t going to be required to act on what it had been presented with, which is a far cry from the self-determination a treaty would deliver.

But that understanding was supressed for the most part, and the issue turned into a nationwide debate about an Indigenous body that would be all too powerful and preference First Peoples, and the majority of the nation voted this idea down.

So, today, as it stands, the polity of Australia doesn’t consider the First Peoples of the continent deserve any assistance or compensation after their Country was stolen. And it’s comfortable to stand by and watch as an ally kills tens of thousands of Indigenous peoples.

And with 100 new asylum seekers stuck on Nauru and a desire to stop migrants coming and stealing our homes, one might be excused for considering that despite the Acts making up the White Australia Policy long being revoked, their structures still hold and indeed, dominate society.

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Paul Gregoire

Paul Gregoire is a Sydney-based journalist and writer. He's the winner of the 2021 NSW Council for Civil Liberties Award For Excellence In Civil Liberties Journalism. Prior to Sydney Criminal Lawyers®, Paul wrote for VICE and was the news editor at Sydney’s City Hub.

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