4 June 2024

Is Australia a racist country?

| Ian Bushnell
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The ABC’s Laura Tingle believes Australians are racist. Are we? Photo: Supplied.

ABC political journalist Laura Tingle set the mostly News Corp hares running last week with her comments at the Sydney Writers’ Festival about racism, which were mainly a lament about Opposition Leader Peter Dutton’s approach to migration.

On the night of Peter Dutton’s address-in-reply to the budget, I was sitting there with this terrible chill running through me thinking, okay, we’re back into this territory. I don’t think … we’ve had the leader of a major political party saying everything that is going wrong in this country is because of migrants.

I had this sudden flash of people turning up to try to rent a property or at an auction, and they look a bit different – whatever you define different as – and he has given a licence for them to be abused where people feel they are missing out.

We’re a racist country, let’s face it. We always have been and it’s very depressing and a terrible prospect for the next election.

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Australia no longer practises overt institutional racism, and we’re one of the most successful multicultural nations on the planet, but it’s a fragile consensus and the content and tenor of Mr Dutton’s comments were not helpful for social cohesion.

The question of racism also depends on who you are.

I’m a white Anglo-Celtic man who is hardly going to experience it. But if you are Indigenous or a non-white migrant, the odds tend to narrow.

The disproportionate number of Indigenous people in prison suggests that they attract a disproportionate amount of attention from police, something that First Nations people have had to contend with for generations.

Australia has always had racist elements to its history as a product of British colonialism and European hegemony. After all, we had the White Australia Policy and deliberately strove to destroy Indigenous culture.

But the nation has matured and worked hard to put these beliefs and practices behind us, and we like to assume that racism, like child labour, is somewhere in the past and not relevant any more.

If only.

Recalcitrants persist, even in our Parliament, and sadly, the conduct of the Voice referendum campaign brought many out into the open.

Our institutions, such as Parliament, the judiciary and the military, remain Euro-dominant. That may change over time, but it seems to be a slow process.

Sections of the Jewish community claim that anti-Semitism in this country has never been greater in the wake of Israel’s war on Hamas in Gaza.

The multicultural project that is Australia remains ongoing. It requires nurturing and honest self-assessment. Tingle’s observations in the context of a free-ranging panel discussion were blunt but not unremarkable.

But they were seized upon in the context of an unremitting campaign against the ABC by News Corp, which is undergoing its own restructuring pain and deflecting attention anywhere but on itself, except to promote, ironically, its own special on anti-Semitism.

The vitriol towards the ABC and Tingle is to be expected. The tentacled Murdoch media writes its own rules and sets itself up as the arbiter of truth in this country.

The hypocrisy may be breathtaking for an organisation that rails against cancel culture, but it is what it is.

It is a pity that the ABC found it necessary to take the pile-on seriously and counsel Tingle, in effect undermining one of its key assets.

The message this sends to ABC journalists is that they must be scrupulously balanced in their political reporting and commentary to the point that all views are equal and worthy and none need to be scrutinised, something that Tingle’s critics would never do.

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Does the ABC now expect its senior figures to withdraw from the national conversation or public events?

The ABC has been subjected to this kind of intimidation for years, but it is getting worse.

The Tingle affair is just the latest chapter.

So is Australia, or are Australians racist?

Racism exists in this country. Whether it is allowed to grow to an extent that threatens what we have created on this continent depends on our leaders, an honest approach to history and us.

Original Article published by Ian Bushnell on Riotact.

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unaustralian1:13 pm 13 Jun 24

Of course, we are a racist country and to an extent, I think most countries are. The real danger is when we are in denial about it & refuse to examine or analyse our own beliefs. I think much of it in this country is unconscious bias. Now Mr Bushnell who wrote this article is dead right when he says, ‘as a white Anglo-Celtic man who is hardly going to experience it’, but I reckon he also has not recognised it in himself when he has enacted his own racism. I once worked with him & remember he once lectured me on the Greek-Macedonian issue. He may not have realised it bit it was racist & arrogant to assume he knew more about my own history than I do, and to throw it at my ‘doorstep’ simply because of my name, since I’m Australian born. That is unconscious bias & an example of white majority entitlement. Maybe we should stop using the word racist as it evokes too much of an emotional response & find a new name for this behaviour. I like ‘Exclusive Ownership Belief Syndrome’ as the patriarchy who believe they own this country also think they own the people in it as well, and as such take unwanted liberties with them. I believe this needs to be presented to every school age student as early as possible to unlearn certain behaviour/ beliefs rather than learn new ones.

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