Contributed from New South Wales
Tim Soutphommasane was Australia’s race discrimination commissioner, until he finished his term in 2018 to take up an academic post at Sydney University. He said then, that the threat of racism to Australia is serious.
He used the opportunity of his John Curtin lecture on Thursday night to sound a clarion call, for the need for Australia to build what he calls, a culture of inclusive patriotism, to counter the threat that rising discrimination poses to the health of society.
He argued that the current threat exists both inside and outside institutions.
We have had a taste of this in the way the government handled its loss over medical assistance to asylum seekers and return to Howard’s children overboard fear campaign. We saw it the Coalition’s Victorian election campaign late last year, around the so-called African gangs threat and tragic shooting in Bourke Street.
In a recent essay called On Hate, He says that there is there is every indication that the Coalition has already “flicked the switch of fear,” as a campaign strategy for the coming election. As we get nearer, the sentiment of race hatred may well be whipped up to a new level.
Tim Soutphommasane writes: “You get the impression that Armageddon awaits vulnerable Australians, and if this kind of scare campaigning is not bad enough, just ask yourself this – might the fear mongering get worse between now and the election later this year? Could this not be just a preview of a race politcs put on steroids?
“If such appeals to fear are to win the government a fillip in the polls, we must anticipate the likelihood of an escalation in rhetoric. We must expect more naked and blatant appeals to racism and division.
Although Tim Soutphommasane points the finger at certain politicians and elements within our society, he does not leave out the role played by sections of the media.
“In a fractured media landscape, outlets are seeking monetised hatred.”
Tim Soutphommasane will call on politicians to act to “safeguard democratic institutions” and call out against the media’s manipulation of angry audiences, venting against so-called political correctness and minorities who dare to speak up.
He warns, “if we’re not careful, the recent outburst of nationalist populism may prove to be more than just an episodic venting of anger.”
Victorians thoroughly rejected the politics of hate last year. This can be repeated around Australia.