Please Explain?

The 2nd of July was a sad day for Australia. Not because of the uncertainty that followed election day but because Pauline Hanson and her One Nation party potentially gained enough votes to land at least three seats in the Senate.

It’s been 18 years since we saw her in parliament, made infamous in Australian culture after her ‘please explain’ retort on a 60 Minutes special. This election she promoted a war against Islam, wanting to ban Halal certification, the burka, and ceasing the construction of Islamic schools and mosques. She stands for zero net immigration, previously asserting Australia was being ‘swamped by Asians,’ having recently called for a ban on Muslim refugees. Hanson longs to bring back a ‘closed Australia’ however I’m not sure it ever really existed.

Saturday night on Seven Network’s coverage of the election, Labor Senator Sam Dastyari extended
an invitation for Hanson to join him for a halal snack pack, similar to Adelaide’s AB. She responded with an angry tirade about how she doesn’t believe in halal certification, and perhaps most shockingly, that 98% of Australians are also against the certification—a fabricated statistic. She believes halal certification fees paid by companies go towards funding the Islamification of Australia and possibly even terrorism, however such links have never been found despite a Senate inquiry.

We’ve come a long way as a country since she was last in parliament. Foreign-born Australians now constitute approximately 28% of the population, with 45% of Australians having at least one foreign-born parent. The largest ethnic groups in Australia are those from the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Mainland China, India, Philippines, Vietnam and Italy. Australians collectively speak more than 200 languages at home—Italian, Greek, Cantonese, Arabic, Mandarin and Vietnamese each have approximately 200,000 to 400,000 home-speakers. Only 62% of Australians speak only English and yet the country’s cultural diversity has not hampered social harmony. Nor has it stunted economic growth.

Australia had one of its largest immigrant intakes ever during the Global Financial Crisis in 2009 and yet the economy grew, unemployment remained low, and it was probably one of the largest drivers of economic growth. Zero net immigration, and more specifically legislating against Muslim immigrants, would create barriers for some of the world’s brightest minds to contribute to Australian society, close the country off to trade opportunities with booming markets, and limit the nation’s celebrated culinary diversity.

With only 2.2% of Australians practicing Islam, Hanson’s war against the religion and immigration seems to be something more personal. Islam has been present in Australia since the 1860s, even before the end of convict transportation. Hanson yearns for a more racially and religiously pure, homogenous society. Perhaps Australia’s best quality is its multiculturalism and despite Hanson claiming multiculturalism has failed across the world, it’s undeniably Australia’s best success story. Considering the Islamophobia and hateful acts seen across the US with the rise of Presidential candidate Donald Trump who also stands to legislate against Muslims and Islam; the race and religious hate spike in the UK following Brexit; and Europe’s response to Muslim refugees, there is no room for more hate in the world.

People preaching hate, like Hanson, who categorically label all Muslims as potential threats to Australia’s safety and way of life, do not belong in parliament. She and her supporters are the ones causing the most harm to Australia; hatred and unacceptance of difference are not two Aussie values that we should uphold. We don’t need people like her legislating against minorities. That would be detrimental to Australia’s racial and religious harmony, and the wellbeing of minorities who would surely experience a rise in hate related incidents. It’s disappointing to see how popular her campaign became and the three Senate seats she and One Nation have potentially secured as a result. Australia, one of the worlds richest and most diverse countries, I thought we were better than that.

Words by Daniel Zander

Image by Erin Abell

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