So Fraser Anning said what he did. What did you do about it?
Advertisement

So Fraser Anning said what he did. What did you do about it?

This week a member of our parliament, Fraser Anning, gave one of the more, shall we say, controversial maiden speeches that we’ve heard for some time.

Fraser Anning delivers his first speech in the Senate.

Fraser Anning delivers his first speech in the Senate. Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

It all started innocently enough. He came from a family of graziers, he said, and married the girl next door. Quickly, the red flags started appearing: he talked about the virtue of marriage between "a man and a woman"; he espoused the value of our "predominantly European identity", and of coal power. These things are not expressly discriminatory or hate filled. He was merely relaying his (in my view, concerning) perspectives, with Cory Bernardi nodding (tellingly) behind him.

After a swathe of underdeveloped policy points, the newly minted Senator took it upon himself to opine on Australia’s immigration policy, lamenting "white flight" in suburbs overrun with migrants; a lack of "assimilation"; suggesting the family reunion visas be restricted. Then came the creme de la creme:

"I believe that the reasons for ending all further Muslim immigration are compelling and self-evident…

Advertisement

"all terrorists are Muslims…"

Loading

"Muslim asylum seekers are actually just welfare seekers…"

"the final solution to the immigration problem is, of course, a popular vote."

The condemnation has been broad and wholehearted, but from where I’m sitting, it doesn’t do much to take away that slow burning realisation that our country (and our world) is full of people like this guy: scared, vitriolic, and dogged in their abusive ideas.

And from the outset I want to say, let’s not kid ourselves. This guy is not a loose cannon. He’s just the guy who said out loud what most other politicians have been agitating for, for years. He’s speaking the global Western language of today: divisive, racist and fearful. There’s nothing unique or special about Mr Anning: he just got the shock value because he quoted the Nazis.

The thing is, Fraser Anning said it outright, but the rest of them (or should I say us) do with their actions instead of their words.

It’s all good for Penny Wong to stand up and give an emphatic anti-Anning speech. Maybe she should pop over to Manus and take a hard look at all the kids the Labor party supports keeping in cages. It’s all good for Malcolm to be anti-Nazi (a pretty easy position to take these days). Maybe he should reflect on the fuel he poured on the "African gang" dialogue in Melbourne. That was just as harmful as Mr Anning’s speech – it’s just that Mr Turnbull has been a lawyer too long to quote Hitler.

And while we’re at it, I’m not giving myself a free ride here. Not at all. In fact, as far as I am concerned I am complicit in the sea of racist bile that is rising in our barren plains. I used to consider myself a warrior for refugee rights, but I allowed a sense of helplessness to overtake me. I couldn’t handle being so engaged with our consistently devastating refugee landscape – so I ducked out. It was making me so miserable that I chose my own mental wellbeing over standing up for the people who need us the most in this world.

It is because of people like me – the silent complicit ordinaries – that people like Mr Anning can stand up in Australian parliament and quote Nazis and spread vicious lies about the most vulnerable people in this world, refugees and asylum seekers. He’s up there talking, and I’m out here staying quiet.

The times they are a-changin, but they’ve been changing for a while now. Long gone is the fleeting moment where globalism was a goal. And let’s not fool ourselves. Each day we stay quiet, another Fraser Anning takes centre stage to join the cast of thousands who preach hatred and division every day through their actions. Mr Anning said the words, but we are just as culpable. I blame myself as much as anyone for the hatred and racism in our country today.

Claire Thurstans is an Age columnist.