Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Howard condemns “tribalism”

This article on the internet caught my attention:

"Howard’s reaction to the violence on North Cronulla Beach was indicative of the familiar modus operandi of his government. The prime minister refused to call the mob attacks racist, and suggested that the real problem was the “tribalism” of Lebanese gangs who refuse to assimilate into “Australian society”.

“I think it’s important that we do not rush to judgement about these events,” he declared. “I do not accept that there is underlying racism in this country ... it’s also important that we place greater emphasis on integration of people into the broader community and the avoidance of tribalism within our midst. I don’t think Australians want tribalism. They want us all to be Australians.”

Howard continued: “I think yesterday was fuelled by the always explosive combination of a large number of people at the weekend and a large amount of alcohol plus an accumulated sense of grievance, the full extent of which I don’t pretend to know.”

On the “Current Affair” television program, Howard was asked what he thought of the mob’s parading of the national flag. “Look, I would never condemn people for being proud of the Australian flag,” he replied. “I don’t care—I would never condemn people for being proud...”

All this is textbook “dog whistle” politics. Howard condemns the violence but in the next breath emphasises the perpetrators’ grievances and the problem of “tribalism”, tacitly expressing his sympathy for anti-Lebanese racism.

From the beginning of his term as prime minister in 1996, Howard has assiduously attempted to cultivate a racist and right-wing nationalist base for the Coalition government. When the extreme-right member of parliament Pauline Hanson assailed Aborigines and immigrants, Howard said he disagreed with her views - but then immediately called for a “debate” on the issues in order to further his own agenda.

Howard won a third term in office in 2001 after effectively subverting the election by mounting a vicious and completely dishonest anti-refugee campaign which centred on the lie that asylum seekers had thrown their children into the ocean off Australia.

The Liberal Party’s central slogan for the campaign was the prime minister’s declaration that “We will decide who comes to this country, and the circumstances under which they come.”"

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