The Politics    Thursday, August 16, 2018

Stopping the outrage cycle

By Paddy Manning

Stopping the outrage cycle

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Hate speech in parliament must be reined in

As politics shifts from a news cycle to an opinion cycle to an outrage cycle, spinning faster and faster, we get more unhinged each time. It takes two to tango, and the outraged are an essential dance partner for the political trolls. Every time a racist opportunist crosses a new line, we respond by giving them exactly what they want: howls of denunciation that allow them to portray themselves as victims of political correctness, plus airtime. Even Malcolm Roberts was back on Sky News today, and was allowed to spew more uninterrupted race hate, as he does every time he opens his mouth (when he’s not denying climate change). Condemning Fraser Anning, as all sides of politics did yesterday, is one thing. The real question is this: as the current cycle of outrage fades, what are our federal politicians going to do to stop the next race-hate troll who decides to get up in parliament and big-note themselves by launching an attack on a minority group? Particularly, what is our prime minister going to do?

When One Nation erupted the first time, 20 years ago, John Howard came under intense internal and external pressure to denounce Pauline Hanson (which he refused) and then to put her party last in preference negotiations (which the Liberals finally did). This time around, One Nation is said to be different, Malcolm Turnbull has played nice, and the recent Longman by-election showed the LNP ready and willing to do preference deals with One Nation.

Today we learnt that – no surprise here – Fraser Anning’s first speech was absolutely deliberate. Sky News played leaked audio of a telephone conversation with former One Nation adviser Jim Savage, in which he says he told Anning months ago to make his first speech count, to “say something really controversial”, and that he called Anning yesterday to tell him not to apologise but to “hold your f***ing nerve”. Anning’s speechwriter, Richard Howard, used to work for Roberts and is reportedly [$] “fascinated with Nazi Germany”. One of Anning’s own staffers, Richard Mcgilvray, today resigned in disgust. Union donors, like ETU and CFMEU, are walking away from Katter’s Australia Party, which may come to regret standing behind the One Nation defector. So much for Fraser Anning. The next election can’t come soon enough, although with Queensland’s track record of electing racists to the federal parliament, one can never be sure.

But it won’t be long before we see the next attempt to outdo Anning in the outrage stakes, spinning the outrage cycle even faster. Within hours of denouncing Anning yesterday, Hanson introduced a bill backing the immigration plebiscite he’d proposed in Tuesday’s speech. Likewise, after decrying racism yesterday, as Andrew Wilkie tweeted, Labor and the Coalition “ganged up in Parliament to strip the rights away from 1,600 asylum seekers who’ve been illegally detained”. Only Wilkie, the Greens’ Adam Bandt and independent Cathy McGowan voted against the government’s legislation to retrospectively validate the excision of Ashmore Reef from Australia’s migration zone. Today Cory Bernardi tabled a 15,000-signature petition from the Halal Action Movement and moved a motion against Australia joining the UN’s Global Compact for Migration. It has to end.

Denouncing Pauline Hanson for donning a burqa, or David Leyonhelm for hurling sexist abuse, or Fraser Anning for invoking the “final solution”, is too easy. We will not be the most successful multicultural nation in the world for long if this goes on. Something concrete has to happen to stop the downwards slide into open bigotry. Greens leader Richard Di Natale today moved a motion calling for a code of conduct for MPs, as Cathy McGowan tried unsuccessfully to do in February. Standards in parliament should be higher than they are in the community, Di Natale said, not lower. “If it’s hate speech outside the parliament, it's hate speech inside the parliament,” he said. His motion, which was simply an attempt to open negotiations with the major parties on what might be included in such a code, was promptly voted down. Any glow from yesterday has well and truly worn off.

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The Australian reports [$] that backbencher George Christensen has publicly committed to crossing the floor to vote against Malcolm Turnbull’s National Energy Guarantee in its current form, ahead of the government putting legislation to the lower house early next week.

The Guardian reports that a 12-year-old refugee boy who has been on a hunger strike on Nauru for more than a fortnight is at imminent risk of dying, but that efforts to move him to hospital care in Australia have foundered.

NBN Co has backflipped on introducing new pricing that would have charged regional users more than those in the city, less than 24 hours after the proposal was first flagged. Earlier, Telstra’s full-year profit fell 8 per cent to $3.6 billion due to the impact of the NBN rollout and competition for mobile customers.

Criminal charges have been laid against the Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union and its Australian Capital Territory secretary, Jason O’Mara, for alleged cartel conduct, The Australian reports [$].


IN CASE YOU MISSED IT


More than one million Australians have put off seeing a doctor in one year because they could not afford it, according to a report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

New South Wales has declared its earliest ever total fire ban, the SMH reports, with scientists left “gobsmacked” by blazes across the state during winter.

The push to allow territories the right to legalise euthanasia foundered in the Senate last night, with a majority of the chamber voting against the proposal before it reached the committee stage.

University of Sydney lecturer Omid Tofighian writes in The Conversation about his time translating asylum seeker Behrouz Boochani’s No Friend But the Mountains.

Some of Australia’s largest employer groups have rejected suggestions that the underpayment of workers amounts to “wage theft”, telling a Queensland parliamentary inquiry that the term exaggerates the problem.

A Fairfax Media investigation has revealed that WA Treasurer Ben Wyatt accepted thousands of dollars in overseas travel from an organisation linked to China’s communist regime and controversial property developer Huang Xiangmo.


by Helen Garner
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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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