Dealing with racism

The Senate results are in, and Pauline Hanson’s One Nation has won four seats. That’s not a disaster in itself. The point of democracy is that everyone gets a say, including bigots and racists. One Nation members, including Hanson herself, have been elected to Parliament before now, without doing any great harm.

That’s because the major parties have, until nowl taken a principled stand against racism, putting One Nation last in their preference allocations and refusing to do deals. Tony Abbott took the fight against One Nation even further (too far in my view) pushing the prosecution of Hanson for alleged breaches of the electoral act (she was convicted and jailed, but ultimately freed on appeal).

Following the Senate election, however, it will be impossible for the government to pass legislation opposed by Labor and the Greens unless they have the support of the One Nation party. Already, the Oz is pointing out how convenient it will be for Turnbull to be able to bargain with Hanson for her four votes, as opposed to the splintered remnants of the Palmer United Party in the last Senate.

The correct response, advocated by the LNP in relation to the “tainted” votes of Craig Thomson and (in Queensland) Billy Gordon, would be to nullify One Nation votes by directing four government Senators to cast opposing votes. Of course, that’s not going to happen. Failing that, the only response that avoids complicity in racism is a refusal to have any dealings with One Nation. That is, the government while accept One Nation’s votes in favor of government legislation, they should not discuss it or modify it, let alone offer support for One Nation proposals.

Of course, the same applies to Labor on the handful of issues (such as a Royal Commission into Banking) where they might be in agreement with One Nation. If securing a majority on any particular issue involves making deals of any kind with Hanson, it would be better to lose.

It seems likely, however, that Turnbull is going to treat One Nation, for the first time in Australia, as a normal political party, and to negotiate with Hanson as an equal. That would be a new low for him, and for Australia. And, sooner or later, it will come back to bit him and the LNP. For an object lesson in the dangers of courting racist votes while maintaining a claim to be non-racist, he need only look at the US Republican party,

As I’ve mentioned before, the only real instance of political correctness in Australia is the taboo on calling anyone a racist. But, if the word has any meaning at all, it applies to Hanson. That’s true whether you regard the defining characteristic of racism as support for racially discriminatory policies or expressing the view that members of particular groups are inferior (for example, her claim that Aborigines were cannibals). Hanson’s main focus now is an anti-Muslim bigotry and her supporters are keen to make the pathetic point that Islam isn’t a race but a religion. But as far as Turnbull is concerned, the distinction doesn’t really help.

36 thoughts on “Dealing with racism

  1. I find it difficult to believe that after this senate “reform” we now have Malcolm Roberts….

    One Nation senator-elect Malcolm Roberts once demanded Julia Gillard exempt him from carbon tax and threatened her with a $280,000 bill if she failed to act in accordance with his wishes.

    The threat was part of an affidavit sent to Ms Gillard in 2011, which Mr Roberts wrote in a very distinct style consistent with an anti-government movement who believe English grammar is used by governments to enslave citizens.

    I was initially skeptical of Ricky Muir, but he seemed to be the kind of person who should be in the senate. Is there really a large constituency for the likes of Roberts? Something is seriously wrong. I hope Turnbull enjoys the mess he has created.

  2. @suburbanite
    I remember a Lateline debate between Sam Dastyari and Nick Xenophon about these reforms earlier in the year. NX made the (strong) usual arguments about cutting out the backroom deals and wanting an upper house cross-bench that was more representative of the vote. SD had a pretty hard task rebutting these points but in retrospect, Sam was spot on the money.

    I really enjoyed and appreciated the previous upper-house crossbench 😦

  3. The real damage in the composition of this Senate was done, not by the voting reforms, but by the double dissolution which was Turnbull’s idea, and was not supported by the Greens.

  4. Ultimately the racist attitudes of a large number of Australians will only change if those who disagree make their individual voices heard whenever possible. I am so disgusted with the utterances of Trump, Hanson, Farage and others that I could not remain silent.

    So for example in my monthly article in the local newspaper on Health this week, I have taken up the matter of how discrimination affects the health of those who are subject to the discrimination. I have referred people to the PBS program “A Class Divided” on YouTube and insisted on my staff watching that program at our regular staff meeting. As David Suzuki is reputed to have said in relation to the environment, think globally act locally.

  5. @John Goss

    Yeah, that’s the interpretation that seems to have come out of the result: the double dissolution effect of halved quotas swamped any possible differences due to the voting rules.

    Nonetheless, we still got Leyonhjelm, Day and Lambie back, so maybe the new voting rules were visibly ineffective even so.

  6. John Goss :
    The real damage in the composition of this Senate was done… by the double dissolution which was Turnbull’s idea, and was not supported by the Greens.

    I agree. If they really wanted to wipe out the minor parties a New Zealand style 5% threshold would be necessary (less than 5% of the vote… instant elimination). Although possibly it would need to be higher than 5%.

    In some ways I’m surprised that the racist vote is so small, but I suspect it’s more that it looks small because it’s diffuse. There aren’t a lot of people for whom racism is the primary factor driving their vote. But when you drill into the polling just a little, about half of the electorate think we treat refugees too nicely, the other half think we should be better. But that’s soft – from 60% thinking boat people aren’t “real refugees” under Abbott to the same thinking we should let more in just before the last election.

    The other factor, of course, is that racists have so many options. Pro-union racist? ALP. Tax cut racist? Liberals. Christian racist? Family Fist. Country racist? Nationals. And so on. No need to vote for a racism-only party. It’s only the issues where the major parties are split that bring out the differences between voters.

  7. A quibble, Prof Quiggin, but does calling someone a cannibal ipso facto mean calling them inferior? After all, New Guineans are well known to have practised cannibalism – are they inferior?

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