Bartlett's Blog

Andrew Bartlett has been active in politics for over 20 years, including as a Queensland Senator from 1997-2008. This blog started in 2004 and reflects his own views, independent of any political party or organisation.

More shameless hate-mongering from some political ‘leaders’

In yet another example of why paying attention to political commentary can be a nausea inducing activity, some senior federal Liberal MPs are yet again engaging in blatant, deliberate and extreme hate-mongering towards Muslim Australians.

Former frontbencher and serial Muslim-basher Cory Bernardi equated Islam and the practice of halal meat as “an ideology that is mired in sixth century brutality.” I haven’t noticed Senator Bernardi campaigning on animal welfare standards in recent times – if he genuinely believed this he’d be in the front line campaigning against live sheep exports from Australia.

I can only assume he is speaking from a position of deliberate or uncaring ignorance, but his drawn out, confused torrent of abuse against Muslims and multiculturalism has been happily republished on extremist, racist websites.

Mr Kevin Andrews, who rather horrifyingly used to have responsibility for overseeing our immigration laws, has trotted out the old trope about ‘ethnic enclaves’ occurring in Australia and trying to link that to ‘extreme Islam’. No wonder poor Dr Mohamad Haneef got wrongly charged and imprisoned, and had his visa unlawfully cancelled by Mr Andrews – the ‘crime’ of being Muslim is obviously all the ‘evidence’ Mr Andrews needed to decide someone is of poor character.

Amazingly, at the same time another Liberal, Mitch Fifield, has the gall to say Australia needs to guard against ethnic hatred!

Mr Andrews repeats the strange assertion that “we can’t have a discussion about (extreme Islam).” He must be failing to see the regular commentary and debate about this issue, most recently from a number of Muslim leaders in Australia. I think it is very important for us to talk about and examine what ways will maximise the integration and engagement of Muslim Australians – and those from other religions who a relatively small minority – with the wider community.

Working with the majority mainstream Muslim communities and their leaders is the obvious way to do this, which means listening and understanding, not abusing or reinforcing ignorance.

Of course, the most obvious way to create the sort of division, separation and isolation which facilitates extremism is blatant, pig-ignorant hate-mongering from political ‘leaders’.  However, some people clearly think chasing (and trying to expand) the bigot vote is more important than maximising community cohesion and the benefits to be gained from diversity.

The only so-called ‘cultural divide’ which is problematic in Australia is not between Muslims and others, it is between those who promote bigotry, ignorance, fear  & hate versus those who promote Australian values of pluralism, democracy, cooperation and respect.

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34 Comments, Comment or Ping

  1. Andrew, I am 100% on your side against the Andrews-Bernardi axis of racism, but I don’t think there is much “pig-ignorant” about what they are doing. The attempts to play up a “cultural divide” are a calculated attempt to displace justifiable social insecurity (caused by 30 years of neoliberal policies) into insecurity about “the other”.

    It is because of this that mere political debate around the issues they raise cannot be enough to overcome the appeal of extreme nationalist and racist ideologies among a section of ordinary people. Unless we ALSO (not “instead of”) address the growing social distress and inequality in Australia with concrete policies that are designed not merely to soften the negative impact of “reforms” (as the Greens seem to be doing with Gillard’s current budget cuts agenda) but reverse that impact, then we will be trapped arguing at the level of abstract moralism — over “our obligations” or “compassion” or whatever.

    I think raising “Australian values” in this regard is actually downright dangerous. Whose values do we speak of? Our previous and current federal governments have done plenty that is non-pluralistic, anti-democratic, disrespectful and based in division and antagonism rather than cooperation. Their approach fits with the insecurity and brittleness of existence that many feel under neoliberalism, even if their solutions (i.e. scapegoating) are nothing of the sort.

    It’s time we on the Left rediscovered how to talk about the interests of social groups, and arguing to ordinary Australians how and why racism is antithetical to their material interests.

  2. skip

    Salma Yaqoob had a rather brilliant piece in the Guardian touching on a lot of these issues, in response to Cameron’s recent denunciation of multiculturalism:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/feb/07/david-cameron-multiculturalism

    It’s the kind of piece that can only be written by a minority leftist; the argument just isn’t the same when it’s being made by a WASP. It’s a pity that there is as yet no political home in Australia for politicians like Yaqoob. The Anglo domination of the Greens is a real problem.

  3. I understand your point regarding ‘Australian values’, Dr Tad. I was partly wanting to use a term which nationalist hate-mongers like to coopt for themselves – I dislike the way the far right tries to portray themselves as the defenders of ‘our’ values.

    There are positive Australian values – although I don’t mean to imply they are somehow uniquely Australian. They are universally applicable values, but they are ones Australia should consciously promote/adopt, as a counter the negative ones you rightly point out.

  4. Lorikeet

    Just wait until you guys have met a man named Scott Barber, if you haven’t done so already. On his own admission, he has already been dodging bullets overseas for stirring up Muslims.

    He said there are only 2 types of Muslim … agnostics and terrorists. When I tried to correct this troublemaker and his black-and-white philosophy, he became insulting.

    The last thing our country needs is ANY KIND of dangerous extremist.

  5. Andrew, I’ve always appreciated attempts to turn the language of the Right against them, but in the case of racism it is precisely the structuring of the “other” in opposition to the Australian nation that is the problem. It becomes an abstract argument about “what are Australian values” — one which cannot be resolved without a framework that doesn’t refer to nations and races.

    The extremism of Andrews or Bernardi cannot be addressed by “nice” nationalism because they are both premised on exclusion of others (in reality by national borders and migration laws — not just at the level of ideas).

    It’s an important point because for a long time the Left has surrendered to the nationalist discourse, leaving it partly disarmed in the face of the Right’s arguments. I am positing the need for a class policy to oppose the nationalist one. For many Greens (not saying yourself) that is too scary or unthinkable, and so the alternative to race politics is partial and/or inconsistent — as we saw in the population debate last year.

  6. Lori –
    Extremists?
    How extreme does one have to be to collude to lock up a member of parliament and negate their political party?
    What about swinging a coup to remove a prime minister?
    There’s some quote there at the back of my mind about the people not seeing the barbed wire at the commencement of the regime.
    With the greatest respect me old downy bird the great game is being played here as aggressively as anywhere.
    About the only difference between here and, say, Egypt is that mostly our lot of peasants are too –
    A – working their butts off
    B – lay back
    C – damned stupid
    – to notice.

  7. Lorikeet

    Calligula:

    I’m not sure that there is any respect in calling me a “downy old bird”. I may not be as old as you think.

    However, you make an excellent point about Australian people being too tired to participate in politics due to the unreasonable expectations of their employers, too laid back or damned stupid. A lot of people also say that they are just not interested in politics.

    But here is the weirdest concept of all. There are millions of people who believe that the ALP is still a Labor Party, when they are really corporate supporters working successfully towards the financial crucifixion of workers and farmers/graziers.

    I consider that the racists and religionists who are emerging within our society are just giving the government an excellent excuse to outlaw both race and religion altogether, bring in harsh draconian laws, and jail all of those who don’t agree with the government’s stance on ANYTHING.

  8. Calligula

    Hello Lorikeet –
    Disrespect not intended – Queenslanders say things like G’day old mate in the same way my son’s 6ft7ins friend is called ‘Shorty’.

    That disinterest in politics, I reckon, is more about having no politics to be interested with.

    Disenfranchisement I believe it’s called.

    Labor party.
    Funny, isn’t it. They can’t even spell labour properly – but keep getting votes.
    Another two parties can’t count – or pretend that – so form a coalition – for what?
    Parity?

    Hobson’s choice, it’s called.

    Is it any wonder that people have lost interest in an utterly compromised rabble who, for all intents and purposes choose themselves from a shortlist of their mates?

    ‘Incarcerate those who don’t agree with them on anything’
    Yeah. You have it.

    I didn’t much like where Pauline H’s party was going.
    Nor did others.
    Those others had her locked up.
    I didn’t like the way she was locked up.
    By objecting I’d probably get locked up.

    See – Hobson’s choice.

  9. peter piper

    Andrew

    can you please advise when it is acceptable, under islam, to stone a woman to death?

  10. It’s never acceptable to stone anyone to death, Peter. I could of course quote relevant parts of Jewish and Christian scripture which calls for peoole to be stoned or killed, but I’m not very interested in playing juvenile word games. I’ll stick to reality.

  11. Lorikeet

    Speaking of religion, last night I received this revelation from my youngest son, who is studying Psychology/Law at the Australian Catholic University.

    He says half of the students at the ACU are Muslims who came here on boats. Whether or not this is an exaggeration is uncertain. He also says he doesn’t know any practising Catholics who go there.

    I think all people need to respect one another’s religious differences, and thereby avoid giving the government scope to outlaw anyone’s beliefs, religious or otherwise. But I think everyone should be willing to obey Australian law, not bring their own with them from other countries.

    Calligula:

    I’m glad you were only having a bit of a joke. Otherwise I might have retaliated with “me hirsute young stallion”.

    By “disenfranchisement”, I guess you must mean that our politicians have really turned people off to a point where they don’t trust anybody, and therefore cannot “sell” them anything. I have found that to be the case myself.

    Then there are others who feel powerless to do anything about various issues anyway. I don’t think the little people moving in political circles get a fair hearing very often, which makes it easy for the duopoly to rule us.

  12. Lorikeet

    Hobson’s Choice = no real choice at all. No doubt somewhat like choosing between identical twins or clones.

  13. paul walter

    Dowdy? A Lorikeet is surely not much short of an eclectus for colour?
    The newspapers are note a row between Abbott and Bishop on this sort of tactic with Bishop adopting a more, well, “rational”, line than the Barnadi/ Abbott axis might contemplate.

  14. Dear Lori –
    Thanks for adding that def. of Hobson’s choice.

    BTW – a downy bird is a term for a wise owl.
    I’m fond of owls
    They’re damned nice birds.

    You mention your son’s experience.
    If he’s at college he’ll be being ‘hardwired’ in his experience and whatever he perceives he’ll carry through life.
    If that experience is negative his value judgements and decisions will be based on and reflect that.

    How will that fit into present correctness values?

    Let’s be frank.
    We all know polity has reached the stage of locking up dissenters stupid enough to push their luck.
    We all know that we are totally sick of speaking with a person with little command of English whenever we call for the assistance of governance or some utility.
    It strikes me that some oligarchy is using this as a skirt to hide behind rather than do their job.
    It seems contrived.
    It seems organized.
    It seems entrenched.

    Do you agree?

  15. Lorikeet

    Yes, I agree with a lot of that. Telephone and internet service providers use foreign workers as slaves, while ripping everyone off (customers and employees).

    Luckily I am quite used to people with foreign accents, because many are employed in our aged care centres, where all workers are underpaid and overworked. They are victims of corporate greed, the same as the average white Aussie.

    I think the whole society has become relatively hardened. It seems to take events such as the recent flood and cyclone disasters for people to return to humanity, even for a short time.

    “If you can divide the people, you can conquer them.”

  16. Lorikeet

    Paul Walter:

    I think it’s normal for people within various parties to disagree quite a lot. This is far healthier than simply giving the party leader (or anyone) a mandate to do whatever he or she wants.

    When everyone brings their ideas to the table, a much broader perspective is available for analysis and consideration.

  17. Wondering

    Loriket, the information given by the Australian Catholic University as to the composition of its student body gives 18.8% of students are what it calls “International”. Of these it says the nationalities represented are: India, China, South Korea, Nepal, Japan, Philippines, USA, Bangladesh, Indonesia, France. Even if the 0.8% are non_muslim and 18% are muslims, and we add in some of the approximately 2% of the Australian population of all ages who are Muslims but Australian citizens, then I don’t know how you’d reasonably conclude that it is possible that 50% of the students are Muslim.

    And if they are, so what?

    Your son will learn, perhaps, that we have 4 systems of law operating in this country, depending on the area of life we are referring to: Jews have their own laws on divorce, so do Catholics. Under Jewish and Catholic law, law, a civil divorce is not recognised without a gett or religious divorce in the case of Jews, and Catholics can’t even get one in this country- they have to p., Aboriginal traditinal law operates alongside mainstream law in some places, and then there is mainstream law.

    Your son’s other assertion that the Muslims who are there all came on boats seems unlikely given that the university claims to have about 3,200 International students, most of whose nationalities indicate that they are unlikely to have arrived on boats, unless they were yachts, cruise ships or the occasional passenger-carrying cargo boats still sailing to Australia. Those not International students but Muslim Australians who are old enough to go to university and who arrived as so-called ‘boat people’ and who have the means to attend university wold be unable to make up anyhting like half the university’s 17,000 student population, even if you cut that in half to account for the hypothetical number those who don’t attend face-to-face classes.

    Sounds like he’ll have a lot of catching up to do when he gets to the statistical calculations part of his psych studies

  18. Wondering

    sorry, that bit that’s missing above was about the need for Catholics to petition the Pope, sovereign head of another country, to get a divorce under their own law.

  19. paul walter

    I actually think, by the media reports, that there is a movement toward critical mass from the moderate end of the Liberal party in response to Abbott, beginning to settle around Bishop as a credible, more rational and realist alternative. Its one thing having values, quite another convincing others rather than coercing them, after Andrews, Abbott, Barnardi and co.
    As the Bishop seeks to “take”, the Abbott (sounds like a chess game), the hard core will become more strident.
    Barnadis’ comments reflect tension within the opposition as much as concerns with more universa l issues.

  20. Lorikeet

    Wondering:

    Thank you for the information.

    You said Catholics cannot get a divorce, but this isn’t true. I know lots of divorced Catholics, both men and women. Under Australian law (which overrides any religious law) anybody can get a divorce after 12 months of separation. It’s Australian law which also prevails over multi-nationalism or multi-culturalism.

    Regardless of whether or not they have any religious beliefs, there are some people who remain living with their spouses while conducting relationships outside of the marriage relationship. As far as I’m concerned, this is much worse than getting a divorce.

    You asked: “If they are Muslims, so what?” The simple answer is that he was commenting on how many students were likely to be Catholics.

    I think what my son was trying to tell us is that 50% of the students at the ACU are non-white. With so much talk of boat people in the media, he probably just applied a blanket term to cover everyone else who looked as if they could have arrived by boat.

    I think the 18.8% you quoted as being “international students” would be non-citizens of any race, religion or ethnicity. I’m sure you would agree that oodles of people who are non-white are now Australian citizens.

    When I had a son at the QUT from 1993-1995, he said half of the Faculty of Information Technology were Asian students. His father and I thought this might be incorrect.

    When we attended the graduation ceremony, we found out from observing the graduates, and also reading the names of students who had returned to Asian countries, that what he had told us was correct.

    Paul Walter:

    There is a growing trend to empower female leaders. I think Bishop is a very bad alternative to Abbott.

    I have been expecting The Greens to promote Sarah Hanson-Young to party leadership. She missed out on trouncing Christine Milne as Deputy Leader, but Bob Brown has expressed a desire to hand the reins to someone else, and Sarah is clearly his favourite.

  21. Wondering

    Lorikeet – my point, badly put, I think, was that Australia has more than one system of laws running simultaneously. You appear not to be aware that Catholics can divorce in the mainstream legal system, but it is not respected in traditional catholic circles unless they have also obtained a divorce/annulment from their own Catholic legal sources, as far as I am aware this is done through Rome. In fact the Catholic system does not recognise marriages not done their way – you can go to the Town Hall every Saturday, or someone’s garden, and get a celebrant, but it is not recognised by catholic law. I may be wrong, but I belive this is the case for Jews also. Muslims wishing to introduce SOME PARTS OF Sharia law to cover this part of life in Australia (marriage/divorce/family matters) would not be creating a precedent but following one created whenever the first catholic priest was licensed to perform marriages – my guess is that this happened in the 1840s or so.

    The point is that there is more than one legal system in Australia. I agree that values like equality of the sexes, freedom of religion, freeedom of speech etc shoudl be espoused by all citizens, but you are talkign about something different when you speak of ‘ people who “bring their own [law] with them from other countries.

    You said “I think what my son was trying to tell us is that 50% of the students at the ACU are non-white. ” I hope he learns soon that “non-white” — whatever that may mean — is not the same thing as ‘Muslims who came here on boats. ” Poor lad, you have some catching up to do there, Lorikeet. If he is studying law he needs to get to grips with definitions and saying precisely what he means. Studying psychology might teach him not to make assumptions.

    I hope his studies are happy and profitable, but fear he has fallen victim to the haze of anti-musliim propaganda that is already tainting public discourse in thisunfortunate country.

  22. Lorikeet

    Wondering:

    In 1975, my sister married a Catholic in a Catholic church on the insistence of his family. At that time, the priest was not supposed to marry a Protestant and a Catholic in front of the altar, but a couple of words from the matriarchal mother-in-law seemed to make it happen without too much trouble.

    Another sister married a Catholic under more equitable circumstances. Since she was a Methodist, they compromised by getting married in an Anglican Church.

    Tony Zegenhagen (DLP) is a Catholic, but he married his wife in an Anglican Church. In the baby boomer generation, it was considered appropriate for the bride to choose the church.

    I don’t think too many Catholics adhere to the letter of church law. I thought that went out nearly half a century ago. If a man’s wife divorces him and she is not a Catholic, are we to worry ourselves needlessly about what happens then?

    These days, Roman Catholicism (and any religion, Christian or otherwise) has a number of subgroups and breakaways of varying belief system and practice. Some are more liberal, some are much stricter/conservative, and a few are downright dangerous.

    As I said before, Australian law overrides any religious practices which are considered illegal. For example, if a prostitute or infidel were to be stoned in accordance with any belief system, the people committing the offence would be charged by police.

    If adults are held against their will in a residential arrangement, I’m fairly certain the perpetrator can be charged with unlawful imprisonment and/or kidnapping.

    I think it is unwise for you to make the assumption that my son is incapable of understanding various concepts and definitions.

    I agree that there is a lot of fear mongering around that needs to be addressed.

  23. red crab

    so here we are againe
    the word which some peole use for every time they cant get there own way is being debated againe .
    if i was to swear at you or any one elce its no different .

    question to the wise and educated ppl
    when was the last i mean first time an anglo australian won or even had herd a case where he or she was racially insulted

    when this happens then and only then will there be a tru meaning to the word that is used way to much in this country.

    p.s its never worked and never will even the britsh prim minister has admitted it

    300 tho dollars for a charted flight
    i wonder how much some of the ppl who pulled them out of the water is paying for there food today
    unlike some its not free and then i tell myself there is no reason for resentment is there .

    if one wants to see they must first look.

  24. Lorikeet

    Red Crab:

    Perhaps you could address your concerns directly to the United Nations, since it would appear to be their agenda to reduce and redistribute populations across the world by doing little about abusive despotic regimes.

    I am sometimes left to wonder if they even encourage civil war by defaulting on their responsibility to act as a cohesive group.

    BTW I don’t think you can easily claim a “racial (or any other) insult” unless you belong to a minority group.

    Discrimination within our society will also NOT be helped by a new television program designed to specifically insult Australians living in lower socio-economic areas. In this program, people living in public housing are described as “housoes” and a few previewed excerpts didn’t impress me at all.

    I’m sure this will do nothing to help the poorer people (regardless of race) if they are charged with a criminal offence. When I was on Jury Duty last year, a majority of jurors were “classist” rather than “racist” in a case involving a non-white defendant.

  25. red crab

    BTW I don’t think you can easily claim a “racial (or any other) insult” unless you belong to a minority group.

    is this not dicrimination

  26. Lorikeet

    Red Crab:

    Yes, I understand what you mean, but I meant that it’s quite difficult to insult majority groups due to strength of numbers.

    We always have the choice of ignoring insults and bad behaviours. I think it saves a lot of energy to choose your battles carefully and walk away whenever possible.

    As a middle aged white female, I find I am far more likely to be subjected to sexism, ageism and consumerism (from corporate abusers), but the worst insults of all come from politicianism.

  27. Wondering

    red crab: what are you talking about? Are you saying you have been called “a white person” or “Anglo” or “Skippy”? If it is in the workplace, you might be able to complain about harassment. If someone said that to you in the street, I don’t think you have grounds for complaint, just as you don’t if people call you some other kind of name based on their perception of where you come from. You might make your case cleaer here is you say what you mean. I might have misunderstood you.

    I guess it is a lot to do with perceptions. I remember a workgroup in Canberra in the 1970s who were managed by a person of Scottish origin. They called him “Jock” and he called them “you bunch of Yugoslavs” – it was seen as something accepted. If, however, you were the one representative of a group and people said “Oh, do I smell curry / goat meat / spaghetti / whale blubber ?” when you enter the room in a work context, and said “That might work in [insulting name for some other country] but we don’t do that here,” when you made perfectly reasonable remarks, or you were excluded from work meetings because they were held in pubs, where your cultural beliefs did not allow you to go, then I think you might have a case for saying you were being discriminated against. Is this the sort of thing you mean? I’m talking about experiences I’ve had, and similar ones, which I’ve imagined, but heard about.

  28. red crab

    wondering
    think about it this way i and you are a majority of one we are a minority group in our own rite as is every one elce that lives here knowmatter where they come from .
    so if you can understand that and think that we are all taught to be indivuals
    then if another person of a so called minority group dose something to you or me and trys to hide behind the fact that they are of a percieved lower ethnic group then we should have the same right to be herd as do
    if this is not the way it is ment to be then why do we call ourselves all australians and equil in the eye of our laws

    mabe the point is if a remark or worse is perpitrated on to someone then the person who did so should be held accountable nomatter who they are .or where they come from or what troubles they have had or do have .
    it all boils down to we all know right and wrong and should all take responobillity for our actions and at this point in time its still one sided because every time some one trys to make it so they are accused of being that word

  29. paul walter

    The Abbott stuff at Canberra was unsavoury, I wonder if he will have hampered himself, for initiating that sort of stunt, distasteful to a moderate.

  30. red crab

    paul walter

    i havent seen much of what went on or what abbott sead
    but mabe he was just caught up in the moment we all do that from time to time
    so here we are beween a rock and a hard place
    or should we say a fool and a lier ..
    one the one hand a fool will always be a fool but not allways a lier

    but a lier can never be trusted because a lier will allways be a lier

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