The Politics    Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Accidental swill

By Paddy Manning

Accidental swill

Source

Fraser Anning has no place in Australia’s parliament

Fraser Anning’s execrable first speech in the Senate yesterday, proposing a “final solution” on Muslim immigration, marks a new low for Australian politics, but assuredly not for long. Things are likely to get worse before they get better, as a bunch of illegitimate right-wing nobodies in the Senate compete for race-hate shock value in the lead-up to the next election. The combination of a double dissolution in 2016 and the citizenship crisis has burdened us with the least representative Senate in living memory. The crossbench is populated by senators who won on the donkey vote, defected, were elected on a countback or were hand-picked mid-term and are yet to face the people. Most face electoral oblivion in 2019. We are used to hearing of “unrepresentative swill” in the Senate, where one vote, one value has never applied, but a record number of our current senators literally don’t deserve to be there. Call them accidental swill.

Anning’s speech, in which he called for a return to the White Australia policy, did not come out of the blue. We have been building up to this steadily. From Pauline Hanson’s return to parliament, to Tony Abbott’s dog-whistling on immigration policy, to Peter Dutton’s attacks on “African gangs”, to Andrew Bolt’s comments about Chinese, Cambodian, Indian and Jewish communities “changing our culture”, to Sky News airing an interview with neo-Nazi Blair Cottrell, the trend is clear: we are sliding ever-faster down a slippery slope towards an ugly, divisive race-card election.

Anning has been condemned on all sides today – even Hanson was “appalled”, which must be a first. Donors to Katter in recent years included the CFMEU and ETU, which may now want to reconsider any future support for the party. Anning refuses to apologise, telling Sky News that his reference to a “final solution” was taken out of context: “It was just two words, and the thought police have jumped on it”. His leader, Bob Katter, said this afternoon that he backed Anning “1000 per cent”, which underlines that Anning and the Katter Australia Party have got what they wanted: outrage and name recognition. In that, Anning was emulating Liberal Democrat senator David Leyonhjelm, who was elected on the basis of a combination of the donkey vote and people mistakenly believing they were voting for the Liberal Party, and who insulted and refused to apologise to Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young because it prolonged the debate and kept him in the news. He was finally censured in the Senate yesterday. 

Anning’s comments were deeply offensive to Jews, particularly but not only to survivors of the Holocaust, as Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg said with feeling this morning. They were also, of course, deeply offensive to Muslims. Labor’s member for Cowan, Anne Aly, who was born in Egypt and was the first Muslim woman elected to the federal parliament, this morning thanked the prime minister and Opposition leader for their condemnation of Anning and for passing a motion re-affirming Australia’s non-discriminatory immigration policy, saying “I don’t have to fight alone anymore”. The Greens’ Mehreen Faruqi, who will be sworn in this week to replace the retiring Lee Rhiannon and will become Australia’s first female Muslim senator, today told The Guardian that Anning had “spat in the face of our successful multicultural society”. 

If you’ve lost track of who is representing whom, the Senate composition page is a fascinating reminder of the chaos that’s afflicted the chamber since the 2016 election. Anning, who got just 19 first-preference votes when he ran third on the Hanson ticket, is only in the Senate because Malcolm Roberts was deemed ineligible, and Anning defected to the KAP within two months of being appointed. There are six such defectors in the Senate who are there under similar circumstances. Apart from Anning, there’s New South Wales’s Brian Burston, who, like Anning, defected from One Nation; Tim Storer, elected to replace ineligible Xenophon senator Skye Kakoschke-Moore, lasted 10 days before defecting to become an independent; Tasmania’s Steve Martin was elected on a countback to replace Jacqui Lambie, and lasted four days before turning independent and then defecting to the Nationals; South Australia’s Lucy Gichuhi was elected for Family First and defected to the Liberal Party; her state fellow Cory Bernardi was elected as a Liberal and defected in 2017 to form the Australian Conservatives. Excepting Bernardi, all are up for election in 2019. These seat-stealers are not all extremists – Tim Storer is a diligent parliamentarian – but they have no mandate, no policy, no reason at all for being there. They need to be flushed out of the system, fast.

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Paddy Manning

Paddy Manning has worked for the ABC, Fairfax, Crikey and The Australian. He is the author of Body Count: How Climate Change Is Killing Us, Inside the Greens and Born To Rule: The Unauthorised Biography of Malcolm Turnbull.

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