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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 26 November 2016
DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 26 NOVEMBER 2016 25 OPINION The dog whistle becomes a clarion call Dutton legitimates racism and may be signalling the end of the Liberal Party FOTIS KAPETOPOULOS The Minister for Immigration Peter Dutton blamed the former Liberal prime minister Malcolm Fraser for the 22 cases of alleged terrorist activity by Muslim Lebanese Australians. How were these activities Fraser's fault? Mr Dutton said that Fraser was responsible for allowing the entry of Lebanese Muslims as refugees from the Lebanese Civil War 1979-90. So the crime of the children and grandchildren needs to be visited on the parents and grandparents. "The advice I have is that out of the last 33 people who have been charged with terrorist-related offences in this country, 22 of those people are from second and third generation Lebanese Muslim background," he said in parliament. Saint Arsenios Cave in Velliani - Paramythia. PHOTO: GIORGOS MALAMIDIS. of positive thinking. Now there is a model for modern Greece to follow." This white Degani did not serve chips with oregano and feta cheese and I felt dirty as I ordered a calamari salad. As I relinquished hold of the menu, I mentioned how Alexander, who he idolised, was paranoid to the extent that he felt it necessary to murder his friends and star employees. Far from uniting the Greeks, he not only destroyed the city of Thebes, but also ordered the deaths of Greeks whose ancestors had colonised a city in central Asia a century prior to his arrival. By most Greek city-states, used as they were to running their own affairs themselves, Alexander was a tyrant, not a liberator or a leader. Furthermore, Alexander's empire was slightly smaller than that of the Persians, whose empire he basically appropriated, and nowhere near as large or as organised as that of the Romans, or indeed the Mongols, whose empire was not only the largest, but also, when they weren't killing those who resisted them, the most religiously tolerant. And why, I asked, in these times, was it necessary not just to idolise a person, but consider him worthy of emulation, simply on the basis that he took over more of other people's homelands than any one else? "No, no, no!!!" my friends cried in unison. "How can you say that about Alexander? He is the last pure-blood Greek king!" "Really? I asked. "Then why is it that both Plutarch and Libanius mention that his grandmother, Eurydice, was actually Illyrian?" "No! Lies!" they pleaded. "And why is it so important that he be a pure-blood Greek anyway?" I asked. The answer, of course, was that everything in Greek culture was pure and existed ab initio. We owed nothing to anyone and we, the pure-bloods, maintain the same germs of genius within our DNA today. In the heated exchange that followed, which took the form equivalent of that extended dark forest path which my daughter traverses in her own paramythi, I showed my friends how archaic Greek sculpture had its origins in that of the Egyptians and the Assyrians, how Persian religion was just as rich and possibly more theologically sophisticated than that of the contemporary Greeks and, of course, how a good sprinkling of both ancient Greek deities and ancient Greek heroes were, even in their own time, considered to have been of foreign origin. The more I delved, the more violent the reaction came until such time as I felt it was time we were out of the forest. "Re, that was funny, you being the devil's advocate and all that," Spartan-lover patted me on the back as I paid the bill. "You had me going there with that Eurydice thing," Positive Thinker guffawed. "But everyone knows that Eurydice is a modern name. Couldn't have been Alexander's grandmother. Imagine what we would do if we had a modern equivalent today. A corporate takeover giant. There is one in all of us. The Greek business genius is second to none ..." "What an empire needs is muscle," Spartan-lover mused. "That's why within the DNA of every Greek lies the discipline of the Spartans. This is why neither the Germans, nor the Turks will keep us down ... But wait till we get access to those pools of oil under Thasos. We are sitting on the largest oilfield in the world. Then they will see." “Και μετά, ήρθε ο μπαμπάς ... ” I whispered as I walked away, lamenting that for my people, there is no Balm in Gilead, merely coffee, in diverse cups, by way of παρηγοριά. According to Dutton, Lebanese Muslim immigrants and their offspring are still linked to the politics of Lebanon's civil war, thus Fraser's failure was his liberal immigration policies. Such an absurdist argument, a slur on a people who have contributed immensely to Australia since the 1970s, a people whose cohorts have been in Australia since the late 1800s, would have been totally unacceptable a few years ago. Yet a mainstream politician, and the minister of immigration no less, had the fortitude to utter racial nonsense with no opprobrium from his leader or his peers. The prime minister, who was once married to the liberal politics of former Liberal prime minister, the late Malcolm Fraser, came out in anodyne support for Minister Dutton, arguing he "did an outstanding job", and that the minister was reflecting on issues of migration in the past, when immigration policies were based on humanitarian principles and not on skilled migration. Dutton's comments were a bullet from the right of the Liberal Party in its ongoing attempt to undermine the legacy of the former Liberal PM. They reemphasised the lack of power Turnbull has over his party and to mainstream racism in political discourse in the wake of Donald Trump's victory in the United States, Brexit and a resurgent One Nation in NSW and Queensland. The right of the Coalition since 1996 under former prime minister John Howard's stewardship has been attempting to erase Malcolm Fraser's legacy. Fraser enshrined and augmented Labor leader Gough Whitlam's multiculturalism by instituting SBS, funding Migrant Resource Centres, developing the Bureau of Immigration and Multicultural Research, and much more. Importantly, Fraser refused to accept the Immigration Department's advice to set up refugee camps. He facilitated the arrival of Vietnamese and Lebanese refugees. The right of the Liberal Party have to a large degree been successful. The late Malcolm Fraser renounced his membership of the party on the grounds of our cruel refugee program; former premier Ted Baillieu, a genuine liberal, was destroyed by the right of his party; NSW Premier Mike Baird is increasingly hamstrung and Prime Minister Turnbull has become a shadow of his former self. Worse, right-wingers like Eric Abetz, Cory Bernardi and George Christensen have become the go-to people for the media on social issues. Rarely have outlier politicians been able to garner so much profile in contrast to their leader and cabinet. His tugging of the forelock to President-elect Donald Trump highlighted Prime Minster Turnbull’s almost complete loss of moral authority. Rather than highlight our multiculturalism and our values, as he often does, as did German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who was judicious in her recognition of Trump's victory by pointing to the values of diversity, Mr Turnbull was obsequious in his congratulations of the US President-elect. So, rather than an ally, a conduit to Asia, or an equal friend, we became a supplicant. Dutton's comments on Lebanese immigrants and their offspring reveal the shift away from 'dog whistle' bigotry to mainstream bigotry. Bigoted dog whistling was part of former prime minister Howard's agenda to transform the Liberal Party into a big 'C' party, dog whistling (to a lesser degree) was part of former Labor prime minister Julia Gillard's approach on refugees when she tried to assuage fears in Sydney's west of traffic bottlenecks and housing shortages, while a hairy-chested antirefugee approach was led by Tony Abbott with his 'stop the boats' mantra. No doubt the election of nativist and populist Donald Trump has provided moral legitimacy to racism from once mainstream political parties. Brexit, the rise of nationalist and nativist parties in France, Austria, Hungary and Netherlands are part of an unfounded fear of economic liberalism, a liberalism that has been good for most people, not least those in India, China, Vietnam and other parts of the developing world. Now is the time for liberals to reassert Whitlam's, Fraser's, Hawke's and Keating's values of multiculturalism as a bulwark against right-wing nationalism, irrational attacks on economic and moral liberalism, and equally repressive 'identity politics'. We need to reengage with the important aspects of multicultural policy as drafted by Australian political pioneers in the ‘70s and ‘80s. We need to reassert a respect for people's cultural, linguistic and faith identity; we need to provide equitable services to all regardless of language, race, faith, sexual preference or gender; we need to assist with the integration of all Australians into civic society; allow for the aspiration of Indigenous people and immigrants; repeal the inhumane treatment of refugees and retake our place on the world stage as a model multicultural and humane society. The Liberal Party will in the end suffer tremendously if liberalism is not re-injected in it, the right will lose the next election, as people flock to One Nation, the Greens and Labor for what they feel may be traditional economic protectionism. Finally, both the Liberal and Labor parties need to reassert the bipartisan values of multiculturalism, a multiculturalism for all Australians, not only those of non-Anglo background.
19 November 2016
3 December 2016