2001: A Race Odyssey

Café Whispers

Imagine what you’ll know tomorrow

December 26, 2011 by Miglo

Nothing gives me greater pleasure than watching the right resort to shrill when we of the left voice an opinion that they disagree with. They are like seagulls at a loose chip. Funny to watch. How often have we thrown away a chip for the enjoyment of watching them do battle?

The name John Howard is a prized chip. I love to drop it. It brings the seagulls in, squawking, flapping, fighting each other. Only one seagull wins. The losers turn against the winner.

So typical of the right.

I’ve often wondered what this country would be like if John Howard hadn’t have turned the 2001 election battle into one of race. Would we still be a country where xenophobia dominates the political landscape?

Malcolm Fraser opened the doors to a quarter of a million Vietnamese refugees and papers released under the 30 year rule show that Howard bitterly opposed this. His ideals in 2001 were unchanged. But supposing they had, and race was not entered into the 2001 political equation, would Abbott have shown the same kindness in 2011? Is there anyone in the Liberal Party who would have?

Conversely, is there anyone in the Liberal Party who, if leader, would have abandoned the xenophobic shrillness created by Howard and perpetuated by Abbott?

More importantly, would we be a better and more racially tolerant country if John Howard hadn’t have degenerated the 2001 into a racial slog?

I believe we will be.

There are two photos below. One is a creature who squawks a lot, bites the necks of others while fighting over the spoils, then flies off and shits on people. The other is a seagull.

John Howard

Image via Wikipedia


Image by Lip Kee via Flickr

Café Whispers is a group blog which looks at Australian politics, society and culture


17 thoughts on “2001: A Race Odyssey

  1. And gets a MBE from The Queen.

    Yes John Howard, not the seagull.

    But then again The Seagull should have got it for services to Australia and lunch time crowds who come from different backgrounds.

    • Not quite an MBE (Howard as an Australian does not receive British honours – dual citizens such as Clive James and Geoffrey Robertson are eligible)

      But the award of an Order of Merit to a non-British PM is an unusual honour. No Australian PM since Menzies has ever received one.

      Maybe Howard passed the Corgi Test – if they didn’t bite he got an imperial gong 🙂

  2. Sorry, but to my mind, that is a poorly written opinion piece that does SFA for the cause of progression. Focusing on Howard, 2001, et al, does nothing to address the issues that have been building for longer than that. Way longer.

    If anyone truly thinks that there is a difference between Howard/Abbott, Whitlam/Gillard, or Bob Brown (or any other politician), I’d suggest they were somewhat deluded. That the author chose to ignore the impact of the media, and the lack of opposition to over 60 years of poor governance is somewhat self-defeatist, no?

    Right? Left? Political anachronism.

    Tho’ I did like the seagull analogy. Seagulls. Cunce of things.

    • Howard was quite happy to take the reins of the poisonous legacy of Hansonism and ride it to victory in an election where all the predictions were that the Coalition would lose. Of course certain events in New York in the September of that year did not harm him either. He was able to conflate terrorism with asylum seekers nicely, creating a myth which haunts Australia to this day, and Beazley’s only available response was to try and be more hairy-chested than Howard.

      The point Miglo was making is that until 1996-2001, Australia was moving away from the official racism of the past, and he emphasises the role of Malcolm Fraser and his largely humane response to asylum seekers from SE Asian conflicts as being instrumental in this change of attitude. It was only Hanson/Howard who brought xenophobia back in an even more insidious form.

    • You will find that Miglo is well aware of the media’s deficiencies and has written on that subject as well as providing Media Watch pages for anyone to comment, about 12 pages so far.

  3. What a shame that the author of this piece can’t separate themselves from the old ‘Left v Right’ anachronism… the dominant paradigm.
    It seems such a shame for people to fall into that trap, rather than realising the true ‘enemy’….

  4. I once saw a seagull eat 3/4 of a hotdog in one go. It was my hotdog.

    I feel this blog post is crossing line when it comes to politics for this site. Regardless of who started it both sides have been just as bad as each other on the asylum seeker issue.

    This site isn’t about Right vs Left it is Racist vs Non Racist.

    “Our political discourse is drenched in Left and Right because it is so deeply impoverished. These terms are the hallmark of a political conversation that is obsessed with teams and uninterested in ideas.” – Waleed Aly, What’s Right?

    • I think Miglo makes that point.

      And this blog is not just about racism but covers other forms of discrimination. Miglo is noting the negative contribution of ONE (prehaps two) Liberal leaders to the re-growth of xenophobia in this country.

      I think you would agree that if Hewson had remained as Liberal leader, or if someone else other than Howard had succeeded Hewson, and if Malcolm Turnbull were currently Liberal leader, we’d be having a different conversation about both immigration and Indigenous matters.

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