Wednesday, 7 October 2020
I am so delighted to have Senator Lidia Thorpe join us in parliament. Senator Thorpe and I will be leading the Greens to put antiracist work at the core of everything that we do. We will leave no stone unturned to tackle head-on the rising tide of racism and demand justice for First Nations people and people of colour. Side by side, and alongside communities of colour, we will fight the growing tide of far-right nationalism and tackle systemic racism. In the words of Angela Davis:
In a racist society, it is not enough to be non-racist, we must be anti-racist.
I'm proud to have the responsibility of the new antiracism portfolio for the Greens.
Over the last few years, we have seen the far right emboldened. We have seen again and again the cheerleaders of the far right and the merchants of hate in here and in the media legitimise, normalise and even incite the hate that foments right wing extremism and toxic anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim hysteria. The institutions that are meant to protect us haven't just failed; they've become captive to the hate they're meant to fight. Any nation where police officers feel comfortable flashing white supremacist hand gestures is not one where people of colour can feel safe. It has led us to become a nation where far-right violent extremism constitutes up to 40 per cent of ASIO's counterterrorism case load. That's up fourfold, from as little as 10 per cent just four years ago.
Yet politicians trivialise racism and far-right extremism. Just as they've been denying 200 years of systemic racism against First Nations people, resulting in ongoing oppression, incarceration and deaths in custody, they now also deny the far right and the harm they cause. They draw their inspiration from President Trump in the US. During that awful first presidential debate last week, when Trump was pressed by the moderator to denounce violent white nationalism, he said:
Proud Boys, stand back and stand by. But I'll tell you what … somebody's got to do something about antifa and the left because this is not a right-wing problem. This is a left-wing problem.
Many people looked at this in horror, but I'd heard similar things before. I heard this when the home affairs minister, in the days after Christchurch, drew an equivalence between my advocacy and my antiracist activism and the far right and their apologists.
Make no mistake: there's no doubt that what is happening in the US is very bad. But let's also have some introspection. Trump is a President who has time after time shown his racism, white nationalism and white supremacy. Even moderate US commentators who shied away from labelling the President this way now admit that he's a racist and a fascist. He has encouraged violence against Black Lives Matter protesters while openly bolstering the far right. He has described Haiti, El Salvador and some parts of Africa as s-hole countries. He has gone out of his way time and again to target and attack Democratic congresswomen of colour, telling them to go back to the 'broken and crime-infested' places that they came from. Yet there is little reflection in this chamber on what this means for us. There is a Liberal-Labor consensus of unquestioning and uncritical alliance with the United States. They are too cowardly to call a spade a spade. They are too complicit to call out Trump's blatant racism. Australia should be distancing itself from Trump, not cosying up to him. But we've also got to get our own house in order and we are far from doing so.
We must become an antiracist country. We must proactively dismantle the racist system we live in, a system that oppresses and silences people of colour and a system where there is a dismal lack of diversity in politics, in the media and at the top of Australian companies, institutions and government departments. It is a system that refuses to accept that far-right violence is a serious and growing threat and a system that has allowed increasing hate to be piled on communities of colour, using them as scapegoats when the going gets tough. Well, no more. I look forward to working with communities as we continue to fight for racial justice and focus even more on antiracism, and I call on you to join us in this fight.