I could only shrug when it became evident that Pauline Hanson was bound for federal parliament. She never really went away. In the years since she last graced Capital Hill, an assortment of far-right groups emerged across the country. Some of them were on local ballots last weekend.
Given that politicians from both sides, under a pendulum of leaders, have also cultivated xenophobic hostility, it is almost fair to say that One Nation has long been superfluous. The problem is not Hanson but the reality that she embodies: racism will always have political currency in Australia. She just happens to be the most familiar brand — for now.
Rather than her reprise, it was the appeals for civility that I found more disconcerting. Katharine Murphy, Margo Kingston and Tracey Spicer ran variations of the argument that confronting the things that Hanson and her party stand for would inflate her status (apparently, getting elected into the senate has not already done that).
Murphy says that we shouldn't 'patronise' and instead 'attempt to understand the underlying dynamics in play'. Kingston suggests seeking out Hanson supporters for a chat.
Unfortunately, that is not a thing black and brown Australians do, sit down for a cuppa with people who despise them. They seldom have the luxury of intellectualising these interactions. Non-Anglo Australians are under no illusion that polite engagement protects them from assault, vandalism and petrol bombs.
Tolerance is not their burden. Yet they are the ones being told to be more understanding. People who are routinely blamed for things that go wrong in a free market economy — high rent, manufacturing decline, cheap labour — are being asked to contextualise the disaffection of white voters. People who often find themselves at the centre of moral panics are being told to seek nuance.
It is not really about you, people of colour are told. It is that voters have had enough of the political class. It has become de rigueur to cast an anti-establishment patina to analyses around recent political disruptions.
Here's the thing, though: if economic anxiety were the only reason that Americans flock to Trump, Britons voted to leave the EU, and Queenslanders opted for One Nation, then people of colour should be drawn to those options also. In developed countries in the west, minimum wage jobs, casual work conditions, insecure housing and chronic health problems beset minorities the hardest.
"Trump, Nigel Farage and Hanson aren't exploiting a class divide but a cultural one. The section we imagine to be lower and middle class has always been white."
The US and Australia over-incarcerate their black populations. In both countries, as well as the United Kingdom, established Muslim communities (and immigrant communities, more broadly) continue to be hauled into culture wars. Citizenship can be flimsy protection for people of colour.
They have many reasons to be anti-establishment — yet Donald Trump, Nigel Farage and Pauline Hanson do not address them. That is because such figures aren't really exploiting a class divide but a cultural one. The section we imagine to be lower and middle class has always been white. People of colour are some other stratum.
As Ronald Brownstein writes in The Atlantic, the affinities drawn by Trump are cultural in nature, shaped closely by attitudes regarding immigration and diversity. Whatever economic anxiety is felt by white voters, it really only goes as far as blaming non-whites. That is, obviously, not an economic argument.
The growing visibility of immigrants, as well as the increasing political capital of people of colour, has coincided with the effects of globalisation. This means that a fair proportion of anti-establishment feeling is drawn from the belief that national governments have allowed non-whites to wreck the socioeconomic order. It is a socioeconomic order that is seen to have been successful because of its homogeneity. No one thinks to wonder whether it is precisely that homogeneity that has left it vulnerable to forces of change.
So rather than asking Australian people of colour — the targets of Hansonism — to be more understanding, how about her supporters reconcile instead with a changed world and think a bit harder about who or what is really getting in the way.
Fatima Measham is a Eureka Street consulting editor. She tweets @foomeister and blogs at This is Complicated.
Cartoon by Fiona Katauskas
Comments should be short, respectful and on topic. Email is requested for identification purposes only.
07 July 2016
"Murphy says that we shouldn't 'patronise' and instead 'attempt to understand the underlying dynamics in play'." We should of course try to understand the breadth of reasons why supporters are attracted to the likes of One Nation. We should also accept there may well be reasons other than just racism or the cult of personality. But the need for understanding is not limited to one side of an argument, and nor is it an adequate end in itself when, despite it, feelings of strong disagreement remain. So the issue is how to respond, not whether to respond. Whilst the patronising and ridicule of Pauline and followers is counter-productive to meaningful debate, it's also the case that Miss Hanson is (like Presidential nominee Trump) a serial avoider of actually answering to scrutiny of the detail of her party's policies. And like Trump, it's not the ability to successfully rebut counter arguments whilst prosecuting her own through which she claims legitimacy, rather, the simple fact that her rhetoric attracts popularity is itself regarded as verification of its truth. And whereas Hanson's supporters may feel ignored by current political leadership, in efforts to find common ground it's the (querying/dissenting) rest of us who are being deliberately ignored by Pauline.
07 July 2016
Some years ago, I read a little of the 19th and early 20th-century frontier history of NW Australia. I was fascinated by the mix of culture (including 'race' and religion), class, and gender and the relative importance of each element. It seemed to me, that when the rubber hit the ground, class always trumped gender, and culture always trumpped class. This is consistent with working-class English in the NE and NW voting with their myopic regional middle-class English in the South and with Euro-philic Scotland voting with multicultural London and Ulster. It's not surprising, to me, that it is regional Queensland, where the frontier war is still going on, that throws up someone like Hanson and provides her with the level of the support that she gets.
08 July 2016
Much of this of course is true but whites are not quite free of "assault, violence, and petrol bombs". In Lakemba
I know of minor assault- spitting at clergy, the prominent street promotion of the "coming Caliphate", shooting through a church's windows at Easter, and the petrol bombing of a friend's corner room in a hostel (an elderly Christian woman with MS). Some who criticise the reactions live far from the areas where these things happen. (The many Christian people who have fled from war and persecution in the Middle East are not the ones who retaliate, and meet some of those every week. I must add that every week I also meet fine Muslim people - nurses and hospital patients, and work with a Muslim colleague.) The very high levels of immigration - the elephant in the room - supported by both major parties - are a fundamental cause of enormous problems in our city in this and in many other areas. Unfortunately, Sustainable Australia which advocated a return to the earlier levels of immigration - say 70,000 a year instead of 200.000 (without any discrimination on the basis of colour or race, and without reduction in the number of refugees) gained little support in the election.
08 July 2016
Well said Fatima. Racism needs to be called for what it is, and is never excusable.
08 July 2016
I was amused on election night when Sam Dastiari welcomed Hanson to the senate and offered to "take her out for a nice halal snack" sometime when she arrived. Her reaction was immediate. Instead of taking it as a the gentle joke that it was, she prickled. At that point it hit me: she really is back. Sigh.
John Cronin, Toowoomba
08 July 2016
Well put, Fatima Measham. The demogogues of the right who are mainly establishment figures in Australia & in other western nations, find overt and covert racism to be a useful way to control their gullible & fearful citizens and so gain political power. If Hansen or Trump or Boris in UK can exploit the irrational fear that some people have, for people of other cultures and races, it gives them political power. Their cause was, and still is, NEVER about fixing social injustice here, or in UK or in USA. Mostly they could not care less about justice issues. What is the answer for people of good will ? There is NO material or secular solution. People of good will need to join with others of like minds ACROSS all religious, cultural & all other divides - whether of any belief or no religious belief at all. Ms Gillian Triggs, a courageous person of no avowed belief, but certainly a person of good will, has been more useful in creating social cohesion in Australia than most other public figures here. The spirit, as we know, blows where it/he/she wills - not HOW and WHERE we think "she" should.
08 July 2016
I reckon we who can't assimilate the PH factor could get some T-shirts. badges etc saying "Asians r Aus" or similar. That may seem a bit weedy but I find the idea that we can/should ignore the likes of PH is a luxury we can't afford. it isn't up to us to allow her more or less oxygen cos the media carries her views . It's about offering an alternative. Bring back Unity Party!
10 July 2016
Insisting that support for Hanson is largely about skin colour has no more credibility than the utterances of Hanson or Trump etc. We should all think a bit harder, not just the supporters of Hanson. And if we did think harder not many of us would want to reconcile ourselves with this changed world. Instead we would be doing everything we could to overturn the market ideologies that have wrecked social cohesion.
Roy Chen Yee
10 July 2016
Racism, the belief that another race is inferior to one's own, is rare because it is not empirically supportable. A belief that another culture or subculture contains harmful elements is another matter altogether, as it might be empirically supportable, but it is not racism. And so there might be a call for a royal commission to explain what exactly Islam in practice is, or a plebiscite to flesh out what same-sex 'marriage' entails. And then there is the problem of too many people competing for scarce resources, as when some Britons complain about jobs being taken by Poles. Such Britons are not being racist or 'culturalist'. They are querying the cost versus the benefits of a governmental policy of free movement of labour. They wouldn't be complaining if Poland exerted the same economic magnetism on Britons as the UK does on Poles but not many Britons find incentive to look for jobs in Poland. Perhaps that is a question of whether border controls are necessary when a prosperous economy adjoins a poor one. Trumpians aren't concerned about Cuban Hispanics, just about Hispanics who illegally enter the country from Mexico. They're not concerned about Japanese and Koreans because, unlike black Americans, those racial groups don't figure prominently in crime and welfare-dependency statistics. Some Hansonites might be racist but most have a rational, addressable reason for their concerns.
11 July 2016
It is incredibly simplistic to group "Australian people of colour" together as if they represent some homogenous group with similar views and experiences. Then to describe them as "the targets of Hansonism" is even more simplistic and dangerous. This is a time for reasoned and compassionate debate not further divisive thinking.
11 July 2016
Here here! Thanks Fatima for saying so eloquently what I would like to say and for continuing to say it. One sometimes feels worn down and the Pauline Hansen speak dehumanizes and desensitizes the situation.
12 July 2016
I'm surprised to learn from Ms Measham that I despise black and brown people. (I voted for Pauline Hanson's party).And I'm fascinated to discover I'm in the business of assaulting non-Anglo Australians as well as vandalizing and bombing their property. Foolishly, I had the quaint idea that it is people of another ethnic and religious community who are hell bent on terrorizing others. Perhaps I'd be a much better Catholic if I stopped following the teachings of the Angelic Doctor and the likes of Hilaire Belloc and Popes Urban II and Pius V. Perhaps I should conclude that it is far better to hold an iftar dinner to mark Ramadan than to just pray constantly for those poor Christians and others being persecuted unto death in the name of the god of Islam by "tolerant" people. Almost 60 years ago when, in adulthood I was baptized into the Catholic Church, there was no diversity of doctrine and belief. We knew unity and certainty. All things considered, I shall stick with the immutable truths I was taught then, rather than follow the new emphasis and teachings which have divided the Church today.
13 July 2016
It's certainly not the case that a vote for One Nation is, in itself, proof positive that you "despise black and brown people". What is unquestionable though, is that Pauline (uncoincidentally) attracts a large amount of support from people who do. That you yourself apparently don't, simply confirms that her support is not only (not) homogenous, but is also comprised of disparate and irreconcilably contradictory interests. Each interest sees political opportunity in supporting Pauline - for their own particular agenda. Ironically, amongst her supporters, the absence of reciprocal recognition of diversity in others (Asians, Muslims, Aboriginals etc.) appears as a relatively common trait. A gathering of One Nation supporters would include, neo Nazis such as Ross May (http://www.news.com.au/national/neo-nazi-the-skull-is-pauline-hansons-biggest-fan/story-fncynjr2-1226633236242), Asian led Christian fundamentalists from Rise Up Australia (http://riseupaustraliaparty.com/congratulations-pauline/), exclusively 'anti Islamers' from the Q Society, Australian Liberty Alliance, Reclaim Australia etc., climate science deniers from the Galileo Movement.... as well as those such as yourself seeking "unity and certainty" rather than "diversity of doctrine and belief". Good luck with that.
25 July 2016
The world has indeed changed. With virtually every day now bringing new atrocities from members of the Islamic religion the Hanson/Trump/Brexit positions on the Muslim question are looking more and more plausible. How many innocents have to die before the proposition "Islam is a religion of peace" can be questioned? Or does the Left regard it as simply non-falsifiable?
26 July 2016
Most of the innocents dying are other Muslims. And if, by your logic, a minority committing atrocities is proof that their 'Islam' is not peaceful, then the 1 billion + Muslims who are not engaging in such conduct must likewise be proof that theirs is. And to extend your dubious logic even further, should we make similar absurd claims against the entirety of Christianity, and characterise it as "the religion of child protection'? I think not on both counts.
28 July 2016
1. Muslims killing other muslims (and others) is supposed to prove Islam is a religion of peace? Not sure I follow that logic, Rashid. 2. Sure. there are many peaceful Muslims. Indeed, there are sincere Muslims who are actively seeking to reform their religion. Into one of peace. Q.E.D. 3. As for the Islam peace/Christianity not paedophilic analogy which I think you're attempting to draw, it's completely bogus.1. Contra Islamist terrorists, no paedophile priests (to my knowledge) accompany their crimes invoking God, or defend theirs acts with scripture or magisterial statements calling for paedophilia (because of course there are none). 2. Contra Islamic terrorist acts (28, 000 since 9/11) paedophile crimes are not overrepresented in Christianity or in (eg) Catholic clergy or religious. 3. Contra the endorsement of jihad against the non-muslim in the Islamic world, paedophilia is criminalized in all Christian regimes. Indeed it was a capital crime in many Christian countries. Eg, in Catholic Venice, paedophiles were garroted in St Mark's Square in the 18th century. So, for all the types of reasoning one can use to legitimately argue Christianity to be against child abuse, one can argue Islam is not a religion of peace.
28 July 2016
You must've missed my conclusion that characterising Christianity (i.e. the religion) through either the actions or beliefs of a minority, is also invalid. You began by implying that the peacefulness of an ideology could somehow be directly gauged by an effect - the number of 'innocents dying'. The first essential point you're missing is that 'Islam' is not a singular, homogenous ideology - ergo diversity of belief, ergo diversity of outcome. Your essentialising the beliefs and interpretations of 1.6 billion Muslims is nonsensical. And so you're incorrect to say that sincere Muslims (such as myself) are seeking to reform our religion. We're not. We're seeking to reform Muslims. And we're also seeking to reform the understanding held by non Muslims such as yourself. That's the irony - extremists and those like yourself share much of the same misguided understanding. I say yours and their violent interpretations are 'both' incorrect and a (relative) minority view. That's the reformation I'm involved in. Secondly, terrorist acts since 9/11 by persons identifiable as Muslims have been motivated by a variety and combination of factors, which also include political and social ones. Unless you can show that 28000 incidents were directly and primarily motivated by the perpetrator's faith, your statistic is meaningless.
28 July 2016
No, Rashid - I noted your conclusion, but took issue with it. One CAN characterize a religion by the actions/beliefs of a minority if the characterization reasonably relates those action/beliefs to the tenets of the religion itself. One can't do this successfully in the case of paedophile Catholic priests, etc, as I demonstrated above. But, re. action: one can do it in relation to, say, canonized Catholic saints. They are in a tiny minority. The vast majority of Catholics (such as me) struggle with serious sin all their lives. The saints lived lives of proven virtue according to Catholic teachings. So their lives - not the lives of the vast majority of ordinary Catholics - express in the clearest way the essence of the Catholic religion. Similarly in terms of belief: most Catholics are pretty ignorant of their religion's teaching. Only a small minority these days are well catechized. It's that small minority which can express Catholic belief much more clearly than the majority. And this applies, I suggest, to other religions as well. The trouble there is, as you suggest, Islam is not monolithic. Like Protestantism, but unlike Catholicism, you don't have an authoritative magisterium. This means you can't stand above all the crowd and claim your interpretation of Islam as a "religion of peace" to be any more authentic, essentially Islamic, than rival interpretations proffered by other Muslims, including Islamic jihadists, who believe on the basis of the Koran and other teachings that they must destroy the West and establish a world caliphate, by violence if necessary, in order to bring about "peace" as they understand it. So, while I commend your sincere desire to reform these murderers, I think you're starting off from false premises.
29 July 2016
HH, if as you claim, one can "characterize a religion by the actions/beliefs of a minority if the characterization reasonably relates those action/beliefs to the tenets of the religion itself", then surely one can, on the same basis, make an opposite characterisation by the actions/beliefs of a majority who differ in their interpretation of the very same tenets? You're making the same argument you began with, and it still works both ways. I take your point that paedophile Christians don't (generally) link their behaviour to their beliefs. But even if I accept this nuanced reasoning - that a minority accurately represents a religion they share in the interpreting of with a majority, then there are plenty of examples, both historic and contemporary, of violence and intolerance by a minority who very much believe(d) they are true followers of Christianity. Are they therefore also a valid representation of the tenets of their faith? It seems obvious to me that the false premise - i.e. that the minority of Muslims claiming religious sanction for their violence are correctly interpreting the tenets of their faith - is yours. And it's a false premise underpinned by bias and/or a shared minority interpretation of Islam.
30 July 2016
Rashid, it was you who made the fallacious argument that, on the assumption that most Muslims are peaceful, Islam must be a peaceful religion. My reply was that numbers don’t come into it: after all, it is perfectly possible for the beliefs or actions of a minority to more accurately embody the tenets of its religion. It’s no answer to this to say as you have “But a majority can accurately reflect a religion too!” That’s perfectly true, but it only fleshes out my point: minority, majority, the numbers game itself is irrelevant. So let’s recap: that’s two fallacious arguments you’ve used so far to support your contention that Islam is a religion of peace. 1. Muslims kill each other more than they do non-muslims. 2. Most muslims are peaceful.
Your third and strongest argument is that those interpreting Islam as supporting violent jihad are in fact misinterpreting their faith. My reply is: 1. Since you don’t have an authoritative magisterium to rely on in asserting this (unlike Catholicism), there’s no way of proving decisively that your interpretation is better than theirs. And on the face of it, the literal reading of the Koran and Hadiths, the sermons of mullahs and imams I’ve seen and read, the historical record of Muslim “conversion”, the testimony of many reformist and/or ex Muslims (Ayaan Hirsi Ali) and polls out there regarding contemporary attitudes to jihad, suicide terrorism, the caliphate, etc, all seem to give at least some plausibility to their interpretation. 2. Even if you are correct here, then in regard to your project to re-educate your more violently-tending co-religionists: fine, and I pray you succeed (or better, convert with them to Catholicism! We’d welcome you all with open arms.) But until you’ve definitively succeeded with them, then—invoking the “precautionary principle” so beloved of global warming alarmists—could you please sort all this out, um, … offshore?
01 August 2016
HH, firstly, my conflating a majority of Muslims being peaceful with the character of their religion was simply an inversion in response to your initially implied argument. I did so to prove a point. If it's fallacious, then so is the inverse assumption about a non-peaceful minority, and we're in agreement. But I suspect your newfound position that "numbers don’t come into it" is more than a little disingenuous given your original insinuation of Islam not being peaceful, i.e. "How many innocents have to die?". How many HH? Is "the numbers game itself is irrelevant" correct or not? Secondly, my saying that "Most of the innocents dying are other Muslims" was not, as you've incorrectly inferred, stated as proof of Islam's peacefulness or otherwise. It was simply a response to your opinion that "the Hanson/Trump/Brexit positions on the Muslim question are looking more and more plausible". All these 'positions' base their arguments on the threat of Islam/Muslims to the (non Muslim) west. Muslim on Muslim violence, including the threat to Muslims in the west, is never their concern. That you're impressed and convinced by the sermons and testimony of Muslims who espouse violence is your prerogative. I still say any such reading of Islam is inconsistent with the Quran, Islam's primary and paramount source. Your 'precautionary principle' is invalid since it relies on wholesale discrimination and collective punishment. So no, As an Australian I won't be 'going offshore' because of your inability to discern. And I'm surprised that you, as an apparent Catholic, seem to have forgotten the treatment of Catholics in colonial Australian history. Lastly, given your emphasis on the relevance and importance of an "authoritative magisterium to rely on", I'm not sure how much respect should be afforded to the views of someone who has no respect for the views of their own authority - 'Pope Francis denies that Islam is Violent', https://cruxnow.com/world-youth-day-krakow/2016/07/31/pope-francis-denies-islam-violent/
02 August 2016
Thanks, Rashid. 1. In no way did my initial argument imply that a majority of Muslims are violent. What I said was that Muslim atrocities were occurring on virtually a daily basis. Which was the situation, last week, in Europe. Logically no implication there that most Muslims are violent. 2. Numbers are of no significance re. believers as such, as I think we both now agree. But, clearly, numbers are vital re. violent actions! I mean, if there are zero violent actions from adherents of religion X, such as murders, murder-suicides, bombings, sexual assaults, etc it’s easy to argue that religion X is peaceful. But up from zero, one has to start giving good reasons to defend the thesis. 3. How does the fact that intra-Muslim violence is greater than Muslim attacks on infidels in the West in any way undermine the Trump/Hanson thesis that Muslim immigration is a threat to the West? If anything, I’d suggest it lends weight to the thesis. 4. Of course the precautionary principle I’m invoking is discriminatory! Every society discriminates when it separates violent or potentially violent/harmful members from the rest of society on a daily basis: prisons, lunatic asylums, medical isolation wards, drunken motorists etc. So why should a nation not shield its community from groups within which in recent history there have emerged lethal elements in disproportionate numbers, regardless of the fact that many in that group may be perfectly innocent, given that there is no easy a priori way to sort out the violent from the non violent? 5. Pope Francis has not bound and cannot bind Catholics to his personal opinion that all religions, including Islam, are peaceful. Catholics are perfectly free to disagree with him on this and any other non-doctrinal point.
03 August 2016
HH, you've introduced a straw man - i.e. insisting that you're 'not' arguing that most Muslims aren't peaceful. No one claimed you were. Your initial statement (i.e. "how many innocents"?..) sought to imply that the slaughter of innocents, and/or the number slaughtered (by Muslims), was of itself evidence of the non peaceful nature of Islam. My counter was that Muslims engaging in contrary behaviour are not afforded the same basic logic. You then justified your selectively applied logic, by suggesting that a minority - rather than the majority - 'can' in some instances accurately and exclusively represent a religion. But this is a wholly subjective position since you only apply it when 'you' are in agreement with the minority, and not when you aren't - e.g. violent Christians. The number slaughtered is not, as you state, "vital", it's actually irrelevant. A single adherent to an ideology may slaughter a large number of innocents, or a large number of times; a large number of adherents may all support the slaughter of one innocent. By your reasoning, the former informs the nature of the ideology more so than the latter.
03 August 2016
What undermines the 'Trump/Hanson thesis' is their simplistic and incorrect classification/demarcation of both terrorist violence and its perpetrators. Their thesis denies citizen Muslims equality in citizenship, and equality as potential victims. Because the 'west' includes innocent Muslims of the west. The two are not mutually exclusive. Consequently, usually when terrorists strike in the west, such Muslims become (by their very status) equal as targets, and are often over represented as victims - e.g. Nice (over a third). This is not 'intra-Muslim violence'. This is the indiscriminate targeting of those subscribing to a political/social ideal, one whose contract has been bought into by peaceful Muslims and peaceful nons alike. Your offered examples of 'similar' societal discrimination aren't similar at all, since those discriminations occur on the basis of demonstrable individual behaviour, not on the basis of a shared creed of differing substance and consequence. That's the basis (individual behaviour) for 'sorting out' the threatening from the non threatening. We prosecute (discriminate against) drunken drivers, not those who drink. But we also take steps to educate, dissuade and rehabilitate would be drunk drivers; we don't simply lock up every drinker.
10 August 2016
Rashid, 2. You’ve made a false distinction between belief and behaviour. To believe X is an action—an instance of behaviour. In any case, we *can* reasonably discriminate on grounds other than behaviour, such as identity. Thus, our interring of enemy aliens in wartime is reasonable as a precautionary measure, since we have no practical way a priori of ascertaining where their loyalties will lie. Likewise for the sake of the common good it can be prudent to discriminate against all members of a given religion (e.g., by restricting immigration, or expulsion) if some of its members have been committing or advocating violence in its name, and their religious affiliation is the only proxy we have to go by.
13 April 2017
I don't think Murphy, Kingston and Spicer are asking non-Anglo Australians to 'be more understanding'. They're ignoring you/us/them completely. Kingston writes about two sides: the educated, right-thinking, city elites on one side and Hanson supporters on the other. Non-Anglo migrants with limited education and/or living in poverty seem not to have a side.
It's like a duel between two broad types of racism – and there are as many types of racism as there are people. Black and brown people are almost exclusively spoken about in the third person on television and (white) commentators typically use 'us' and 'them' pronouns when they discuss issues of xenophobia. It takes an insightful article like yours to make people aware of it.