Is Anyone Really Surprised That Morrison Used Racism for Political Gain?

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Morrison racism

Accounts emerged in the press over the weekend that current PM Scott Morrison used the ethnicity of his opponent in the 2007 Cook preselection, as well as citing the rumour that he was a Muslim, as fuel to tip the balance in his favour to see him ultimately join federal parliament.

The prime minister is currently doing his best to deny the accusations. But, let’s face it, most constituents wouldn’t be surprised that this is how Morrison played his cards in his attempt to gain a seat in the federal lower house, as it’s basically in line with the politicking he’s been up to ever since.

As the Herald tells it, the July 2007 Liberal vote for Cook resulted in candidate Michael Towke garnering 82 votes compared to the 8 that Morrison turned up.

However, following this, Morrison advocated for the result to be changed due to Towke being Lebanese and the rumour he was actually a Muslim, and not a Catholic as he claimed.

Towke and a delegate for the preselection, Scott Chapman, both signed 2016 statutory declarations outlining that this was the series of events that led the party to endorse Morrison for Cook in the end.

Chapman said Morrison told him Towke’s Lebanese heritage, along with the rumours he might be a “Moslem”, would hurt the party, especially as it was just two years after the anti-Muslim Cronulla Riots.

A precedent set

This is hardly the first time the prime minister has stood accused of suggesting anti-Muslim sentiment in the community be used as a means that would enhance his political career.

Although, the next time he was hoping to progress the entire federal Liberal Nationals into government by vilifying Muslims.

This documented occasion happened at a late 2010 Coalition strategising meeting. As shadow immigration minister, Morrison suggested that the Liberal Nationals capitalise on negative public opinions about Muslims, their immigration and their inability to integrate.

The 2011 Herald article that recounts this further suggests that some of Morrison’s colleagues thought he might be pursuing an anti-Muslim strategy, as he’d just made public comments about the cost of asylum seeker funerals, as well as having helped end funding to schools in Indonesia.

Who should be believed?

Morrison suggested on Sunday that he was willing to sign a statutory declaration denying he made any racially vilifying comments about Towke in order to knock his opponent out of the way so he could get on with his own political ambitions.

Yet, that would result in a dilemma: which of the three statutory declarations should be believed?

There are the two written in 2016 that are in agreement, or there’s the other that’s about to be typed up by the guy who has a trophy on his desk bragging about how he stopped refugees arriving in this country by boat.

Indeed, after Morrison suggested fostering anti-Muslim sentiment for profit, he went on to become federal immigration minister and lorded it over one of the most inhumane regimes on Earth, which saw numerous Muslim people locked up indefinitely in offshore prisons for no crime at all.

Over the time when he held the position of immigration minister – between September 2013 to December 2014 – the current PM oversaw the sending of the vast majority of people to these offshore gulags.

Mind you, not all of these defenceless detainees were Muslims. Neither were all of them adults. But it can definitely be said that none of these illegally detained thousands that Morrison subject to indefinite detention and prolonged torture were white people.

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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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