Thursday, October 4, 2007

The Soft Bigotry of Kevin Andrews

For most of my adult life, I have pondered one of the most vexing questions in Australian politics: is John Howard really racist, or does he just cynically exploit the racism of the electorate for political gain? I never answered the question one way or another. But the issue is nonetheless resolved in my head: I don't care. Each is precisely as bad as the other.

This came back to me when I was reading Guy Rundle's opinion piece on Kevin Andrews in Crikey today. Guy asks much the same thing of Andrews: racist or cynic? And just as I concluded for Howard, so I say of Andrews: it doesn't matter. The damage his M.O. causes is far more important than the (I suspect) not particularly interesting political philosophy behind it. In his dealings with the Haneef case, Andrews demonstrated that he is willing to do most anything to keep the fear of the other a salient feature of Australian politics, including, but not limited to: grossly misrepresenting the case to the public, ignoring the rulings of the judiciary, and placing such pressure on the Feds that they were unable to handle the case with anything that resembled professionalism or competence.

Now, Andrews is at it again, introducing what appears to be a racial component to the assessment of refugees. Regional quotas already exist, but the traditional rationale for them has been targeting areas of high demand, ie, we take the most refugees from the places that are the most screwed up. Fair enough, I guess, except that Andrews has now taken it upon himself to explain the moratorium on refugees from Africa in failure-to-integrate terms: was clear that settlement wasn’t occurring at the rate that occurred with other refugee and other migrant groups to Australia

Not that Kevin is racist. Anything but:

"We know they've been in war-torn situations; many of these people are much younger than any other group of refugees," he said."So [the] combination of a lower level of education, up to a decade or so in refugee camps and in conflicted situation, these are all issues that are providing us with challenges."

Young, disadvantaged people from war-torn parts of the world. Definitely not the kind of people we should be accepting as refugees*.

It seems Kev's particularly concerned about the Sudanese, who, despite the assurances of such know-nothing sources as the Victorian police that they are not overrepresented in crime statistics, just don't fit in as well . Case in point: the recent murder of a Sudanese refugee, Liep Gony. If the Sudanese community had any real commitment to integration, they would avoid becoming murder victims. It's so obvious.

Meanwhile, Opposition immigration spokesman Tony Burke says he agrees with Andrews' stance, albeit without the kooky Sudanese murder-victim hook of his Coalition counterpart. Hooray for diversity.

*"A person who owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it.." - UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees

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