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Josh Frydenberg criticised for 'racially abusive' speech with references to symbolic Hindu practices

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg during Question Time in the House of Representatives, Thursday, February 27, 2020. Source: AAP

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has been slammed by the members of Australia’s Hindu community for mocking Hinduism and Hindus in the Parliament.

The Treasurer was mocking the idea of the 'wellbeing budget', mooted by shadow Treasurer Jim Chalmers, when he derisively referenced ashrams, yoga and what is essentially considered the Hindu way of life.


Highlights:

  • Liberal MP Dave Sharma has said the comments were not racist
  • Josh Frydenberg was mocking Shadow Treasurer Jim Chalmers’ wellbeing budget idea when he made these comments
  • Members of the Indian community have shared their outrage online on social media

Mr Frydenberg ridiculed the idea of the wellbeing budget, describing how it would be presented by the Member for Rankin.

“I was thinking yesterday, as the member for Rankin was coming into the chamber fresh from his ashram deep in the mountains of the Himalayas, barefoot into the chamber, robes flowing, incense burning, beads in one hand, wellbeing budget in the other, I thought to myself, what would the yoga position that the member for Rankin would assume?,” Frydenberg said to those present.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who has often praised the contribution and the achievements of the Indian community in Australia, laughed alongside his other Liberal Party MPs as Mr Frydenberg continued mockingly making references to symbolic Hindu practises.

Watch the video:

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‘Denigrated my culture, heritage and family just to score cheap political points’

Ashrams in India are places for spiritual retreats and often where meditation and yoga are taught.

The comments by the Treasurer have upset many within the community.

Sydney-based Dhanya Mani, a Hindu and member of the Liberal Party, said the Treasurer had ‘denigrated’ her culture, heritage and family.

“I am a proud young Indian-Australian woman. My parents are hardworking migrants, who raised me as Hindu,” Ms Mani told SBS Hindi.

“I have also been a member of the Liberal Party since I was 17. I joined the Liberal Party because I'm a classical liberal feminist who believes that the philosophical core of the Liberal Party is not what we see in clickbait headlines but is a belief in the value of empowering individuals so that they are free to celebrate their identity - including their culture, heritage and religion. Frydenberg should epitomise this philosophy. Instead, he gleefully used racially abusive language that denigrated my culture, heritage and family just to score cheap political points.

“To get some laughs and airtime, he not only turned a key part of my identity into a racist punchline, but he also compared sacred vestiges of Hindu traditions to a policy proposal that he saw as a damaging failure,” she said.

Hrishikesh Desai said the comments had hurt his feelings.

“Comments from Hon. Josh Frydenberg yesterday targeting Hindus and Ashrams have hurt feelings of Hindus like me. The most hurtful aspect was that the treasurer made them score cheap political points at the expense of an entire community,” he wrote.

Ramyavaran said the comments were not in a good taste.

“Frydenberg’s rant (yes its a rant) at Parliament yesterday was not in good taste. Why was he trying to demean Hindus & their ashram (a place wherein worship & Holistic teachings are shared) in trying to counter the opposition,” he wrote.

Shadow Minister for Multicultural Affairs, Andrew Giles said Treasurer’s comments were disrespectful.

“Hinduism is the fastest-growing religion in Australia. The Liberal Party’s Josh Frydenberg used Hinduism as the butt of his political jokes in Parliament - that’s disrespectful,” Mr Giles told SBS Hindi.

“Australians rightly expect better from the Treasurer. We should be trying to unite people, not be disrespectful,” he said.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Wentworth candidate Dave Sharma.

Liberal MP Dave Sharma jumps to Josh Frydenberg’s defence

Liberal MP Dave Sharma, the only Indian-origin Member of Parliament in the House of Representatives and who has a Hindu father, though has jumped to his colleague’s defence.

Mr Sharma strongly believes the comments were not racist and has apologised to those who felt offended.

“Josh was making a joke at Jim Chalmers’ expense, the shadow treasurer, that was really the focus of his joke. I don’t think anyone with a sense of humour would find that at all offensive,” Mr Sharma told SBS Hindi.

Mr Sharma has said his colleague is "fair-minded" and a "champion for minorities within Australia".

“I don’t think anyone could doubt Josh’s own credentials – as someone who has fought and continues to fight for tolerance and diverse, multicultural, multi-racial Australian society.

“Josh is one of the most fair-minded, decent and a champion, I think, for the minorities within Australia,” Mr Sharma said.

Listen to Mr Sharma’s defence of Josh Frydenberg:

Josh Frydenberg criticised for 'racially abusive' speech with references to symbolic Hindu practices
00:00 00:00

But he has also apologised to those offended.

“I apologise if they feel offended but I don’t think they have any cause. Unfortunately in this modern-day and age, people are always waiting to be offended by any number of things, especially if you go online. You always find people going and shouting, but I don’t think anyone should have that cause at all."

Labor’s Jim Chalmers has proposed Australia introduce wellbeing budget similar to the one in New Zealand in context of the recent bushfires which have affected the wellbeing of many fire-affected communities.

Mr Chalmers had suggested non-economic measures alongside general indicators of an economy’s performance could track overall wellbeing of the country.

"Traditional measures have a place but don't paint the whole picture. We can do more to measure what matters," he said in his address to the Australia Institute event in Brisbane.

"If we do, we'll give ourselves a better chance to make the right calls on economic policy, for the right reasons.”

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