According to new One Nation senator Brian Burston, immigration is responsible for Australia's crime, teaching Aboriginal history in schools guilts white students and our public broadcasting is supposedly one of the clearest manifestations of a hostile cultural establishment and a "Marxist takeover".
Senator Burston delivered his maiden speech in Parliament on Tuesday and has used it to lament the days when white men had all the power - unlike today, where they just have most of it.
He yearns for 1950s lifestyles again, saying it was a time where he knew implicitly who Australia 'belonged to' - The good old days when Aboriginal people were not allowed to vote, swim in public pools, attend public schools if white people objected, drink in pubs or march with their comrades in ANZAC Day marches, and certainly weren’t allowed something so evil as to have our own media spaces. It was was the golden years for white Australian's like Burston, and he'd like his television signals back.
Burston decries acknowledgement of country being recited in school assemblies, as it tells white Australian students that their land 'belongs to Aborigines' and the ceremony "finds no place of honour for the British and other European explorers and pioneers or the nation they created". Strange, considering the overarching majority of Australian cities, towns, suburbs, electorates, streets, highways, parks, hills, mountains, universities, bridges, rivers and creeks aren’t already commonly named after these ‘pioneers’.
The funniest thing about this idea of progressing beyond the 'golden era' though is the suggestion that the country we currently live in isn’t the country they created. While Burston may want to hop back into a time machine and travel to the 1950s like a twisted version of Back to the Future where instead of getting Marty's parents to marry, the goal is to try to convince the black guy working in the restaurant to never to become mayor; the rest of us aren’t living in some alternate reality. The civil rights movement actually happened. The White Australia Policy eventually ended. World War II made 'white power' and racism in general slightly less politically palatable - for a while at least - and not just because others were finally allowed to vote too.
Australia today is a product of our history, but because we never really ended racism, and because we never truly embraced multiculturalism, groups like One Nation are still able to get elected through racist fearmongering, and this is why media spaces like SBS and NITV are so essential to our media landscape.
Despite Sentator Burston claiming that tax-payer funded broadcasters like the ABC, SBS and NITV are 'bias against mainstream Australia, distort Australian political culture and support aggressive political multiculturalism' and instead, Australia needs a 'Patriotic Broadcasting Corporation' to 'better represent the represent mainstream Australia' - we don’t actually need a publicly funded broadcaster that specifically represents ‘mainstream Australia’, because they are mainstream Australia and this group's needs are already covered by mainstream channels.
Here, it's important to point out that ‘mainstream Australia’ (eg: white Australia) is not the same as ‘patriotic Australia’ (eg: racist white Australia). As mentioned earlier, Australia isn’t really a multicultural country, but it is one that has a lot of people from a lot of different cultures living within it. This is an important distinction to make. The overwhelming whiteness of our media, our government, and our other institutions speaks to this distinction.
So, do we really want to be a monocultural country that longs to return to the days of the White Australia Policy, or do we want to be one that, rather than push for others to ‘assimilate’, embraces diversity and recognises the strengths and opportunities that different perspectives and different ways of being. And - Spoiler Alert - it’s more than just food, which if ‘patriotic’ Australia was left in charge of multiculturalism would still be the sole discourse in which the benefits of multiculturalism would be discussed.
Recent speeches against multiculturalism have reminded me of Rowan Atkinson in the early 1980s on the sketch show, Not the 9 O’Clock News, pretending to give a speech at a conservative conference, “I like curry, I do, but now that we’ve got the recipe is there *really* any need for them to stay? Conservatives understand these problems, you see...”
The current level of discourse isn’t too far from this, and while it was pretty funny coming from a comedian pretending to be a politician in the 1980s, it is pretty harrowing when it comes from actual politicians in 2016.
Senator Burston echos his One Nation colleague Sentor Hanson's intolerance, that Australia is "being swamped" by immigrants and the non-speaking, people of colour in particular, are obstructing 'domestic peace'. Burston publicly praised elements in the White Australia Policy just this week in Parliament.
It's as though because this racist policy didn’t end until the 1960s, has given people the opportunity to pretend there was no non-white immigration before this point. But the truth is that not only were there non-white people who came over on the First Fleet, but there were non-white people living here long before the First Fleet arrived. There have also been non-white people coming and living here ever since.
The glorified version of the 1950s and 1960s imagined by certain conservatives was no exception to this, and rather than being symbolic of a time of peace, was actually a time where in the wake of the realities of World War II ‘white’ countries were forced to ask themselves just how racist they wanted to be? The answer, it seems, came back as ‘slightly less Hitler-y than we have been in the past’. And for a few decades various racist laws and practices were wound back in Australia, but they never really stopped and they certainly never went 'too far’ as the ‘It’s PC gone mad!!’ crowd would like to assert.
Burston demonstrates that we are at a crossroads though and it is up to all Australians to stake their claim for what the ‘mainstream’ is and what and who it represents, and whether we want to embrace a definition of patriotism that means loving this country or one that means hating Australians whose family didn't immigrate here from the UK.