News from Oz

Gary MacLennan g.maclennan at qut.edu.au
Mon Sep 10 15:11:52 MDT 2001


Hi all,

The case of the refugees and Australia is very much the hot issue here.  It
speaks to the essential nature of this country. Still after 200+ years it
is a white colonial settler nation surrounded by people of colour, who are
regarded as in the old John Wayne movies as hostiles who want to take our
jobs and our women, and maybe even a few of our men.

As a result of his brutality on the issue, Prime Minister John Howard's
approval rating has soared.  The sight of fully armed Australian SAS
bearing down on helpless refugees has it seems gladdened the hearts of
middle Australia. Few people care to contextualise this matter or to see it
in any terms other than as the threat to the way of life of the white
settlers.

The talk back radio jocks have had a field day.  They and their audience-
the true 'chattering classes' - have been baying for refugee blood. There
is no surprise there.  From a fascist one gets fascism. What is however
deeply enraging is the role of the Labor Party and its leader Kim Beazley.
He has thrown his considerable weight behind the government.

Historically the Labor Party has been weak on immigration
matters.  For instance early in the last century Labor politicians were
leading exponents of the notorious White Australia policy, where Australia
was explicitly and unashamedly a 'white immigrants only' outpost of the
British Empire.

For the Labor movement, the sad truth is that people of
colour, above all the Chinese, represented the danger of cheap labor
forcing down the wages of the White workers. Accordingly the leader of the
Labor Party has consistently backed the policy moves of the government on
immigration. The
results have been of course demoralisation for those who want the
Opposition to oppose and a revival of government fortunes in an election year.

The only significant sources of opposition to the Govt have come from left
liberal elements within the NGOs and the churches and most interestingly
within that section of the ruling class which seeks to integrate Australia
within the Asian region's economy. The voice for this opposition has been
the Murdoch press - especially their flag ship publication _The Australian_.

So then we have a phoney war stage between the Govt and the Opposition. It
is in a way symbolic of the wider state of politics within this
country.  The neo-liberal push is truly bankrupt and exhausted.  Yet there
is no alternative in ruling class terms.

Not that an alternative is not desperately needed for Australia is poised
on the
brink of a very deep recession or at the best a continuation of the chronic
stagnation that has gripped the economies of all the leading nations.  For
instance our
neighbour New Zealand which lead the world in neo-liberal economic reforms
is slipping down into 'developing nation' status.  The same fate awaits
Australia.  In the meantime in between time the sons and daughters of the
original white settlers can get a psychological boost at the sight of
"wogs" being turned away from the shores of the "lucky country" and the
latest young Aussie super brat winning the tennis.  Oh joy!

regards

Gary


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