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Demand Equity

The Final Straw: Australians Unite to Reject Racism

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Political leaders from every side of Australian politics have united to condemn a “racist” speech by Australian crossbench Senator Fraser Anning, in which he called for a plebiscite to terminate immigration by Muslims and non-English speaking migrants “from the third world”.

Anning, a member of Bob Katter’s Australian Party, used his maiden speech to the Senate on Tuesday evening to call for a “final solution” to immigration and a shift back to “European Christian” values via a reinstatement of the White Australia Policy.

Take Action: Call on Australia to Step Up to Support Migrants and Refugees!

His comments were extensively condemned on Wednesday.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced Anning’s comments were “appalling” and not at all an indication of Australian values.

"The remarks by Senator Anning are justly condemned and rejected by us all. There is no place in Australia for racism,” he stated. “We are a nation that does not define its nationality, its identity, by reference to race or religion or cultural background or ethnic background. People from every corner of the earth, from every religion — or of none — and every race can connect, be inspired by, and be part of our values. That is Australia.”

Echoing the comments of the Prime Minister was Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, who labelled Anning’s speech as “repugnant and disgraceful”.

“The tiny number of violent extremists does not represent the Islamic communities of Australia. It is grossly unfair to blame Muslims, who see themselves as a committed component of Australian multicultural society,” Shorten stated. “But here is the truth about Australia. We are a nation made great by immigration. We are strong because we are diverse. We are a richer, smarter, more interesting, and a more prosperous destination because of people who have built a new life here.”

Minister for Energy and Environment Josh Frydenberg claimed Anning echoed phrases used by Nazi Germany and that his entire speech drew significant parallels to neo-nazi terminology. “The final solution to the Jewish Question” was a term used to describe the execution of Jewish people throughout Europe under the Nazi regime.  

“Fraser Anning should not only retract his comments last night but he should also immediately go and visit a Holocaust museum and hear firsthand from survivors how raw the pain is, and hear about and see the destruction and devastation caused by the Nazi killing machine,” he told Channel Nine.

Despite following general protocol, Victorian Senator Derryn Hinch announced he regretted shaking Anning’s hand, before claiming Anning’s speech made him feel like he was “trapped in a Ku Klux Klan rally".

“His speech was one of the most disgraceful, racist, homophobic, divisive, misogynist, spiteful, hateful speeches I've ever heard," he stated. "I want to apologise to the Senate and the Australian people that ... I dutifully lined up and shook this unworthy man's hand. I then went home and I washed my own."

Labor’s Penny Wong and Anne Aly both delivered powerful responses to the speech, with Aly stating she was “tired of having to stand up against hate and vilification” and Wong calling for “bipartisan support for the Australian values of inclusion, acceptance and respect”.

A motion recognising the Holt government's success in eradicating the White Australia Policy was passed in the Senate following Wong’s comments. The motion acknowledged Australia’s “unambiguous and unqualified commitment” to ensure ethnic origin, race, and faith are never used as requirements when assessing who is allowed into the nation.  

Anning has adamantly refused to apologise for his comments. 

Race Discrimination Commissioner Tim Soutphommasane claimed “race politics is back” and labelled Anning’s speech as “disturbing”.

“As I warned previously, we are now unfortunately seeing a triple threat to our race relations: the return of race politics, the fuelling of racism by some sections of the media, and sustained attempts to weaken our institutional stance against racial discrimination," he stated. "Last night’s speech by Fraser Anning in the Senate, praising the White Australia policy and calling for a ‘final solution’ to Muslim immigration, just underlines the dangers.”

In a speech last week, Soutphommasane stated the last five years of Australian race relations had been “turbulent”, but claimed community support for racial equality and multiculturalism “remained strong.” 

Following the rallying cries of politicians, Australian citizens have taken to Twitter to add their voice to the discourse.

“I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities," activist and leader Nelson Mandela famously said. "It is an ideal which I hope to live for and achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”

Against the backdrop of Anning’s speech, these words by Mandela continue to be vital. The challenges our generation faces in Australia and abroad prove that we must do our part to change the world. We all want to live in a world that reflects our generation’s shared values — a world where people of all genders, race, religion, and ethnicity are treated equally.