Roasting a rogue senator in federal parliament counts for nothing if discriminatory government policy is spared the blowtorch.
We all saw MPs line up this week to condemn hate speech espoused by Fraser Anning, but without these same MPs standing up to vote against government policy that looks eerily like the White Australia Policy, these declarations about multiculturalism are nothing but empty soundbites.
In the coming months, the federal government will ask parliament to approve legislation designed to force non-Western migrants to take a language test before they become permanent residents, delay migrant access to social safety nets including paid parental leave, and require migrants to undertake an “Australian values” test which even the PM has been unable to explain.
Earlier this year Colour Code toured the country, meeting people affected by these policies. Many had paid huge amounts for English language tests only to hear nothing about the progression of their applications, others had been told theirs were frozen. Many aretoo scared to raise their concerns for fear of being seen as a troublemaker.
Malcolm Turnbull and Alan Tudge might well tweet that Senator Anning’s comments don’t reflect the views of the government. Peter Dutton might well tell parliament how colour blind he is because he had a childhood friend with Chinese parents. But they continue to develop policy that will only serve the very thing that these politicians so freely decried.
Senator Anning's speech has ripped the cover off months of toxic racism in our politics. From Australia’s most syndicated news columnist Andrew Bolt singling out Chinese, Cambodian, Indian and Jewish communities for “changing our culture”, to Sky News asking a neo-Nazi to comment on Muslim immigration, all the way to Peter Dutton suggesting Melbournians are too scared to go out for dinner because of “African gangs”. This hurts people.
Without this heady mix of bigotry and falsehoods, Senator Anning may never have felt emboldened to stand up in parliament and call for a “final solution” for Muslim immigration. Subtly and not-so-subtly, politicians have undermined the parliament and the public's commitment to multiculturalism and to a non-discriminatory immigration system. Parliament must commit to policies for migrants that don’t discriminate based on where people are from, who they worship or the colour of their skin.
Roj Amedi is from Colour Code, a movement for Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander and multicultural communities to speak and organise around racial justice issues.