Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott's short-lived government was renowned for its vitriolic attacks and demonisation of the Labor Party, unions, Muslims, asylum seekers and essentially anyone opposed to their ultra-right-wing policies.
All of this was done under guise of patriotism or anti-terrorism and used falsehoods, exaggerations and outright fear to convey its message. ABC Factcheck found that only 12% of the Abbott government's claims were (1). Call me cynical, but this is a dismal display of hypocrisy and lack of integrity from a party that gained significant traction by claiming to be an honest alternative to the Labor Party after exploiting Julia Gillard's single 'lie' about the carbon 'tax'.
Within months of gaining power, the Abbott government instituted a Royal Commission into Union corruption, continued persecuting, demonising and misrepresenting the plight of asylum seekers, unveiled anti-terrorism laws that targeted Islam, unleashed hundreds of police in numerous raids on Muslims and wrapped the Prime Minister and his messages in more and more Australian flags to push the illusion of patriotism.
With the replacement of the Abbott government by the apparently more moderate Malcolm Turnbull, there was hope that some sanity might return to the political discourse.
However, within weeks of assuming power, the Turnbull government unveiled its 'anti-radicalisation kit'. The kit addressed extremism and radicalisation in a number of areas, including racism and nationalism. This is somewhat ironic, given that the government has been using Muslims and asylum seekers as the poster-children of terrorism in order to advance its ultra-right-wing agenda behind a facade of flags and nationalism. Pot / Kettle. It seems the kit is more about paying lip-service to anti-racism rather than being a serious attempt to truly address the racist hate crimes currently being perpetrated across the country against Muslims, Asians and even Australia's own indigenous population.
The kit also took aim at left-wing politics, environmentalism and ... alternative music (2). A person could be mistaken for thinking that the 1980s Reagan-loving Christian Right had made a return with their tub-thumping 'rock is evil' mantras. But no. Welcome to 21st century Australian politics. Alternative music can lead to radicalisation.
|Extract from Booklet - Preventing violent extremism and radicalisation in Australia (3).|
Since winning the 2013 election, the LNP government has:
- instituted a Royal Commission witch-hunt into Unions
- attacked and misrepresented Islam
- introduced harsh anti-terrorism laws that reduce freedom and give unprecedented power to law enforcement agencies
- demonised, persecuted and tortured asylum seekers in contravention of international laws on refugees and torture while using the military as a political tool to enforce brutal 'border protection' policies
- attacked environmentalists and denied climate change
- invoked nationalism in the name of patriotism and flag-flying to portray its opponents as enemies of the state
None of this is new. It's straight from the fascist hand-book. Nazi leader, Herman Goring stated at the Nuremberg trials, ' ... the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country'.
German Pastor and anti-Fascist activist, Martin Niemöller succinctly described the events in 1930s Nazi Germany:
First they came for the Communists
And I did not speak out because I was not a Communist
Then they came for the Socialists
And I did not speak out because I was not a Socialist
Then they came for the trade unionists
And I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist
Then they came for the Jews
And I did not speak out because I was not a Jew
Then they came for me
And there was no one left
As bad as terrorism is, any government that exploits the community through fear and falsehoods has to be considered a threat to the Australian way of life, to our freedoms, to democracy.
Abbott's fascist style of government has taken Australia down a slippery slope of authoritarianism, racism, xenophobia and jingoism which portrays anyone to left of this extreme right-wing ideology to be unpatriotic. Many of the government's supporters sincerely believe that Australia is a Christian nation and that it is their patriotic duty to attack Muslims, even though the Australian constitution specifically states that people are entitled to practise any religion, not just Christianity.
When persecuted people requesting protection are imprisoned for years and treated as criminals even though they haven't committed any crime or been charged with a crime, there is something seriously wrong. When children are referred to by number rather than name, there is something seriously wrong. When the government makes it illegal to reveal the abuse, maltreatment and persecution of asylum seekers, there is something clearly wrong and something which the government is clearly hiding.
Now is the time to oppose the government's attack on the freedoms that we've taken for granted. Freedom of religion, of expression, of association, of movement. The freedom to protest. Now is the time to protest the government's attack on the rights that Australia claims to hold sacred. The right to political association, the right to seek asylum, the right to a fair trial and the presumption of innocence.
Through its vilification of the left-wing, the unionists and Islam, the LNP is shoring up its political strength by weakening those it sees as its opponents or who can be used as scape-goats for government policy, and conditioning the rest of the community to believe these groups are radicals, extremists, terrorists; that they are a threat to society.
As with the majority of the Abbott government's claims, these are fallacious, dangerous and give impetus to racist and radical right-wing ideology. Abbott's sloganeering and flag-waving go beyond patriotism and slide down the slippery slope of nationalism.
The words of award-winning Filipino writer, Manuel Syjuco, are most apt, 'I don't believe in nationalism. I think it's a bunch of slogans. It's a bunch of poor attempts at creating pride. My problem with nationalism is that it becomes exclusionary. We start to exclude people'.
And exclude people Australia has. From the gulags of Manus Island, Nauru and Christmas Island to the anti-Halal, anti-Mosque, anti-burqa and anti-Islam preaching and vituperation of politicians, pastors and plebs. Muslims and refugees are being excluded. Yet, inclusion not exclusion will help prevent radicalisation and extremism. Inclusiveness breeds understanding and understanding destroys ignorance and fear of the unknown while promoting community, harmony, friendship and love.
Now is the time to challenge and reverse the culture of fear and demonisation that has been the basis of political policy-making. It is time to challenge and reverse the ideology which has radicalised many Australians to fear and hate Muslims and refugees, and the belief by some on the right that verbal or physical abuse is patriotic or that vilifying people through social media is somehow the Australian thing to do.
It's not Islam that is to be feared. It's not asylum seekers who are to be feared. It isn't green groups or alternative music that are to be feared.
It is the insidious rise of racism and hate within mainstream society that is to be feared. It is this that will lead to radicalisation and extremism of the majority against the few.
1. ABC, 'Fact check scorecard: How does Tony Abbott's record of claims and promises stack up?', 24 September 2015, http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-09-24/tony-abbott-fact-check-record/6792016, accessed 24 September 2015.
2. ABC, Carl Holm, 'Radicalisation Awareness Kit: Government's new booklet for schools links green activism, 'alternative music' to terrorism', 24 September 2015, http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-09-24/anti-radicalisation-kit-under-fire-from-green-groups-teachers/6803024, accessed 25 September 2015.
3. Australian Government, Living Safe Together - Building resilience against violent extremism, What is radicalisation, Booklet - Preventing violent extremism and radicalisation in Australia, http://www.livingsafetogether.gov.au/informationadvice/Documents/preventing-violent-extremism-and-radicalisation-in-australia.pdf, accessed 25 September 2015.