The Politics of Hate

As I sat listening to Pauline Hanson’s maiden speech in the parliament I was, like many Australians, appalled at what I heard.

Few people get the chance to make a first speech to Parliament, even less manage to deliver two. But Pauline Hanson’s political comeback puts her in this unique club. She returned to Canberra railing against another minority group. In the 1990s it was Indigenous Australians and Asians she targeted, in 2016 Hanson has singled out Muslims.

In the introduction to my book More to the Story –conversations with refugees I said the following:

I left Australia with my husband at the end of 1996 to work in Hong Kong, just as Pauline Hanson’s One Nation party began its popular rise, with a focus on race and anti-immigration messages. This increased xenophobia seemed magnified to us as expatriate Australians watching and reading about it from afar. Our Chinese friends started asking us why Australians hated them so much. My standard reply was to deny that Australians hated anyone or were racist. I talked about our long multicultural history of welcoming new arrivals from all over the world, as well as helping those in need. Over the following years, however, I began to worry that this position no longer did reflect Australia.

Yesterday, and today as I listened to callers on talkback radio, my worst fears have been confirmed. Hanson’s election seems to have given permission to the voices of racism in our society to speak more openly. It is hard to understand how a Senator can say we are being “swamped by Muslims” when according to the last census the Muslim community is less than 2% of our total population.

Yes, I accept we live in a free democratic society with the right to free speech, but I don’t believe we live in a society that should tolerate hate speech. I hope everyone I know will stand with the Muslim community against those like Senator Hanson who make wide ranging, factually incorrect assertions about minority groups in Australia. Surely the least we can demand is a fair and factual debate.

There are links below to some thoughtful articles in the Guardian Australia which present a more balanced view. And true to my belief that everyone’s voice deserves to be heard, (something Pauline Hanson is clearly against) here is the link to her speech.