It’s been bewildering watching Australia drifting back toward a past where White Australia impulses rejected by Holt, McMahon and Fraser (a rationale more extreme than apartheid in South Africa) has re-proliferated in conservative minds, and Labor, spineless in their pursuit of a perceived identity-based voter in the marginals, far from offering any impactful opposition, have instead contributed to the naturalisation of these ideas since the Tampa at least. When he called the 2000 election, Howard said “this election more than any other will be about leadership”. Howard said, “Beasley does not have the ticker”. When the Tampa crossed the horizon, Beasley proved him right. Faced with those initial polls coming out of A Current Affair (the Fox News of that period) Beasley fumbled for a day or so trying to work out his position, before falling behind the polls of Howard’s Australia, thus initiating a pattern which remains into this current election campaign. A Whitlam, Hawke or Keating would not have taken a breath to consider right from wrong. A generation of change toward a society where diversity is understood to be one of our greatest strengths was subverted.
A decade later, the Gillard government was very self-congratulatory about its “forward thinking” Asian Century White Paper, an Orientalist document which megaphoned that we are open and responsive to Asia, so long as there’s a dollar in it. A paper which failed to see “Asia” as anything other than “them”, oblivious to the Asia within us. The Gillard government were spruiking it at the very time that, in response to a perception that Asian kids were exploiting an unfair advantage in the HSC, the Kenneally Labor government in NSW was implementing a handicap for HSC students wanting to study the first language of a parent, thus undermining what would otherwise be our exponentially greatest asset in integrating with Asia – Australians with a heritage in common with the people with whom the ALP wished to engage. Would it not be absurd to handicap kids in HSC English if one or more of their parents spoke English as their first language? Though it’s since been tweaked, Kenneally’s “Heritage Language” handicap continues to discourage kids who might otherwise have an advantage in developing language skills to a level that would be advantageous to Australian business, government, and cultural engagement outside the Anglosphere.
If you want to live in an Australia where the White Australia mindset remains wholly and consistently rejected, you will not be voting for the current conservatives, but don’t for a minute think you should vote for the current Labor Party. These are people who have lost their way.