30 July 2010

Is it because they are Brits?

The Prime Minister has told us all that when it comes to discussing the immigration program we shouldn’t feel constrained by political correctness, so I am going to throw caution to the winds and indulge in a bit of politically incorrect commentary and thinking aloud.

Like Suvendrini Perera in her thoughtful opinion piece Population debate hides an ugly racism in today’s edition of The Age, I believe that there is an underlying coherence to the current debate about population with its confusing references to crowded cities, asylum seekers, lack of infrastructure and a new-found concern for our fragile environment. 

The well-springs of this underlying coherence are, I believe, in common with Suvendrini  Perera, common or garden racism.  Both North Asia and the Indian Sub-continent are now larger sources of migrants than the United Kingdom, and I think that when Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott say that there are too many migrants, what they are dog-whistling to the western suburbs and rural Queensland is that not enough of them are of “the right sort”- not enough of them look like us.

There has been a strong streak of racism in Australian society since 1788, but it is also fascinating to reflect that this unworthy debate is being led by immigrants from the British Isles. One of my first supervisors and mentors in the Public Service, himself from the UK (Shetland Islands) and in his way an exemplar of the Scottish Enlightenment, used to say to me of British racial attitudes that in Britain a conservative is a person who believes that “the wogs begin at Dover”, whereas a progressive is someone who knows they don’t begin until Calais.

Are we seeing a bit of this here?

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