The organiser behind an anti-foreign investment rally at the Chinese Consulate in Sydney planned for this Saturday denies his campaign is racially motivated.
The Party for Freedom is holding a protest against Chinese investment in Australia’s residential property market, despite a parliamentary committee and independent economists stating that foreign investment was vital.
Leaflets adverising the protest have been distributed to thousands of homes in city suburbs, most recently throughout Sydney's north shore, angering many residents.
Footage posted online showed party chairman Nick Folkes burning the Chinese flag, along with images of Prime Minister Tony Abbott, while person off camera laughed.
In the video, he said the protest aimed to send a message to “the Chinese that we’re not open for business.”
“We’re sick and tired of Australia being invaded by foreigners, especially Chinese,” he said.
“… we’re turning into the land of fried rice and couscous.”
Listen: Nick Folkes speaks with Stephanie Anderson.
The Party for Freedom is not registered with the Australian Electoral Commission.
The party website, which features swastikas, stated that Australians were becoming a “stolen generation” due to foreign investment.
“The new dispossessed or forgotten people will one day be remembered as the ‘stolen generation’ priced out of the market by invading overseas Chinese colonising our suburbs and cities,” it read.
“Australians are feeling alienated and isolated in areas once considered safe and cohesive.”
A Facebook page belonging to Mr Folkes also shared exchanges with recipients of earlier flyers.
One recipient said they were “completely disgusted and ashamed” of Mr Folkes’ views, while others labelled him a “redneck” and “delusional”.
'I see it as economic genocide and Australians are being priced out of the market'
Mr Folkes told SBS that he had “copped a lot of abuse” in response to his comments, but had a growing number of supporters.
While membership figures have not been disclosed, he said they’re moving towards the minimum membership to register with the Australian Electoral Commission – 500 people.
He said that despite his anti-immigration stance, his “graphic and confrontational” flyers were not racist.
“Australia is changing dramatically because of the government’s open door policy on foreign ownership,” he said.
“I see it as economic genocide and Australians are being priced out of the market, and that’s not fair. That’s the issue.”
Lane Cove Mayor David Brooks-Horn described Mr Folkes' flyers as "clearly unacceptable".
"While I do support freedom of speech, the language used within this brochure is clearly unacceptable," he told SBS.
"I believe it is deliberately divisive and inflammatory."
SBS investigated the issue in September, when economists said foreign investors were not responsible for the increase in house prices.
'The housing supply issues that have been ongoing in Australia would worsen if foreign investment was curtailed'
Shane Oliver from AMP Capital said basic economics involving lack of supply was driving house prices, while foreign investors traditionally brought more expensive properties – minimising the impact on the first home buyers Mr Folkes believed were being disadvantaged.
Parliament has also investigated the impact of foreign investment in residential real estate, following a request from Treasurer Joe Hockey in March 2014.
Rather than hurting Australian buyers, the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Economics found that foreign investors were “vitally important”.
“The housing supply issues that have been ongoing in Australia would worsen if foreign investment was curtailed,” it stated.
The report tabled in November showed that China was among one of the largest sources of foreign investment, but was primarily involved in commercial property.
The report further cited Urban Taskforce Australia in stating that Chinese investment was “not considered to be at a level to warrant the community concerns and intense media scrutiny”.
In conclusion, it stated that foreign investment was “a vital component” of the housing economy.
“Importantly, the committee is also satisfied from the evidence received that foreign investment is not causing market distortions that have been advocated in some quarters, particularly for first home buyers,” it stated.
When presented with the report’s findings, Mr Folkes dismissed them.
“That’s the government and I don’t trust the Australian Government,” he said.
“They don’t represent my interests.”
Read the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Economics' report in full.