Unrepentant Hanson hopes burqa stunt will create debate


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Senators were shocked when Pauline Hanson appeared in the chamber shrouded in the voluminous black garment.
Lukas Coch/AAP

Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Pauline Hanson’s stunt of wearing a burqa into the Senate on Thursday drew a swingeing attack from Attorney-General George Brandis, amid widespread condemnation.

But an unrepentant Hanson – who admitted her action, which she’s been considering for months, was “extreme” – told 2GB she hoped it was “creating debate”.

Brandis’ denunciation, delivered with emotion, was greeted with a standing ovation from Labor and the Greens, and more limited and hesitant clapping on his own side.

Education Minister Simon Birmingham tweeted:

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Senators were shocked when Hanson – who has called for a ban on Muslim immigration – appeared in the chamber shrouded in the voluminous black garment. She removed it as she rose to ask Brandis whether he would work to ban the burqa, citing foiled and actual terrorist incidents. “There has been a large majority of Australians [who] wish to see the banning of the burqa,” she said.

“Senator Hanson, no, we will not be banning the burqa,” Brandis said.
He said he was not going to pretend to ignore her stunt – and warned of the damage such behaviour could do.

“I would caution you and counsel you, senator Hanson, with respect, to be very, very careful of the offence you may do to the religious sensibilities of other Australians.

“We have about half-a-million Australians in this country of the Islamic faith, and the vast majority of them are law-abiding, good Australians. Senator Hanson, it is absolutely consistent being a good, law-abiding Australian and being a strict-adherent Muslim.”

He said the advice of each director-general of security and each commissioner of the Australian Federal Police with whom he had worked was “that it is vital for their intelligence and law enforcement work that they work co-operatively with the Muslim community.

“To ridicule that community, to drive it into a corner, to mock its religious garments is an appalling thing to do, and I would ask you to reflect on what you have done.”

Hanson then asked whether the government would “ban the burqa in this house … as a security risk” and “also, the fact is the people of Australia have the right to see the face of a person that they elect to this parliament”.

Senate President Stephen Parry said this came within the purview of parliament’s presiding officers, not the attorney-general.

“The Speaker and I have made arrangements that anyone who enters these premises with their face covered by whatever means is clearly identified prior to entering the building.” He said he had ascertained when she entered who she was.

Shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus tweeted praise for Brandis:

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Later Hanson moved a motion calling on “the government to ban full face coverings in public places on the grounds of social cohesion, the need to identify people seeking community support and for public safety”. It was defeated on the voices.

“Muslims determine the electoral outcomes in up to 15 lower house seats,” she told the Senate in her speech on the motion.

“The Muslim vote will continue to increase in importance because of the high birth rates in Australian Muslim communities. The number of Muslims in Australia doubled in the decade from 2006 to 2016 through immigration and high numbers of children born to Muslim families.

“If we do not draw a line in the sand against immigration from Islamic countries the influence of Muslims in this country will continue to grow and Australia will continue down the path of Islamisation.”

She told 2GB that just outside the Senate chamber she had passed Greens senator Peter Whish-Wilson. “He actually put out his hand to shake my hand. Now I shook it. He has never done that to me as Pauline Hanson. He did it to shake hands at a person completely covered up. It was a tokenism that he was shaking the hand of Islam.”

Crossbencher Jacqui Lambie said Hanson had diminished the chamber and was dividing the nation.

Anne Aly, a member of the House of Representatives, said Hanson had made a mockery of the parliament and her behaviour needed to be called out.

Crossbench senator Nick Xenophon said her action was offensive, “demeaning to people of other faiths”.

The Conversation“I wouldn’t even call this a stunt, this was just toxic,” Xenophon said.

https://www.podbean.com/media/player/hu9ay-6f0803?from=site&skin=1&share=1&fonts=Helvetica&auto=0&download=0

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Proposed changes may confuse rather than clarify the meaning of Section 18C



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The Turnbull government’s objectives in seeking to change Section 18C are unclear.
AAP/Lukas Coch

Murray Wesson, University of Western Australia

The Turnbull government has announced proposed changes to Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act: the law that makes it unlawful to engage in acts that are reasonably likely to “offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate” someone because of their race or ethnicity. The Conversation

Under the proposals, the word “harass” will replace the words “offend, insult, humiliate”. A provision will also be included saying the test to be applied in deciding whether 18C has been breached is the objective standard of “the reasonable member of the Australian community”.

There are also proposed changes to the processes the Australian Human Rights Commission follows when someone lodges a complaint under 18C. For example, the commission will have to contact the people a complaint affects.

The changes to the commission’s processes are relatively uncontroversial; the commission supports many of them. They should also avoid a repeat of cases such as that involving three Queensland University of Technology students, who were not contacted until 14 months after the complaint was made.

However, the government’s objectives in seeking to change 18C are unclear. This may have the effect of confusing rather than clarifying what the law means.

Why does the government want to change the wording?

Much of the controversy surrounding 18C has focused on the words “offend” and “insult”. This is unsurprising: many people recognise these words are capable of applying to slights that should not be the concern of hate-speech laws.

Many also think that, in a democracy, there shouldn’t be a right not to be offended or insulted. The hate-speech laws of most other democracies don’t cover offensive and insulting acts.

The Federal Court has recognised the difficulties with 18C by interpreting it that so it applies only to:

… profound and serious effects, not to be likened to mere slights.

18C’s legal meaning is therefore different from its ordinary meaning.

However, this is not always well understood, either by critics of 18C and possibly by some people who have brought complaints under the provision. Many have argued there is a case for amending 18C to bring the law’s ordinary meaning into line with the Federal Court’s interpretation.

Against this, there have been concerns that any changes to 18C could send a problematic message to minority groups and give a green light to people who want to engage in racist behaviour. There have also been concerns about unintended effects upon a settled body of Federal Court decisions.

Clearly, any change to 18C would have to be carefully managed to clarify its meaning while avoiding these negative outcomes.

In this light, the government has not adequately explained what it is hoping to achieve by changing the wording of 18C. For example, why remove the word “humiliate” when controversy has focused on the words “offend” and “insult”? Why has the word “harass” been chosen instead of other options, like “vilify” or “degrade”?

It is also unclear if the government is seeking to bring 18C in line with the Federal Court’s interpretation, or if the government’s view is that the Federal Court’s current approach makes it too easy for race-hate complaints to succeed under 18C.

Unless the government adequately explains what it is seeking to achieve by changing 18C’s wording, it is unlikely to win broad support for its proposals, which look likely to be blocked by the Senate. It is also unlikely to achieve its stated aims of making the law clearer and more effective.

Who is the reasonable person?

Under the Federal Court’s interpretation of 18C, an “objective”, rather than “subjective” test is applied in deciding whether it has been breached.

The question is not whether the person making the complaint was subjectively “insulted, offended, humiliated or intimidated”, but whether the act was reasonably likely to have “profound and serious effects”.

In this regard, the Federal Court will often apply a “reasonable person” test. This involves considering the conduct’s likely effect on a reasonable member of the racial or ethnic group that is the target of the alleged conduct.

The government’s proposal that the standard should be “the reasonable member of the Australian community” therefore clarifies that the test under 18C is objective as opposed to subjective. However, a crucial difference is that the reasonable person is no longer a member of the racial or ethnic group that has been targeted, but is instead a member of the broader Australian community.

The government has not adequately explained what it is seeking to achieve through this change. One possible concern is that “reasonable” Australians who are ignorant of what is likely to harass or intimidate minority groups should not inadvertently breach 18C. However, a clear danger of the new test is that a law meant to protect minorities will not adequately reflect their perspectives.

One way this problem could be avoided would be for the Human Rights Commission and the Federal Court to regard the “reasonable member of the Australian community” as sensitive to minority concerns. However, in the short term, the change is more likely to confuse rather than clarify 18C’s meaning.

Murray Wesson, Senior Lecturer in Law, University of Western Australia

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Section 18C change appears doomed in Senate


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Malcolm Turnbull has announced a watering down of the controversial Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act, in a major victory for the conservatives in the Liberal Party. The Conversation

Under the proposal the words “offend, insult, humiliate” will be replaced by “harass”. The word “intimidate” will remain.

Turnbull argued the government was “strengthening” the act, not weakening it.

In a series of changes to the act and the Human Rights Commission legislation, the government will introduce a “reasonable member of the Australian community” standard by which contraventions of 18C should be judged (rather than the present “reasonable member of the relevant community”), and toughen the commission’s processes to stop spurious claims and give greater fairness to those subject to complaints.

The legislation will raise the threshold for the commission to accept a complaint, provide additional powers for it terminate unmeritorious complaints, and limit access to the courts for unsuccessful complaints.

The change was unveiled on Harmony Day.

The Coalition partyroom overwhelmingly backed the measures, but five MPs – Julian Leeser, David Coleman, Julia Banks, Russell Broadbent and Craig Laundy, who is an assistant minister – opposed the change in wording. There is concern among some Liberals that the issue will lose them votes in seats with large ethnic communities.

Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce told the partyroom if MPs kept talking about 18C, votes would be lost because it would distract from the government’s agenda.

Turnbull said the new 18C would “strengthen the protections of Australians from racial vilification and strengthen the protection of free speech – one of the fundamental freedoms upon which our democracy depends”.

The wording of the present law had “lost the credibility that a good law needs”. “If you have language that is too wide, too general, it has a chilling effect on free speech,” he said.

He admitted there would be many critics and opponents of the change – “but this is an issue of values … free speech is a value at the very core of our party”.

In parliament Labor MP Anne Aly, who said she had been subject to racism time and again, pressed Turnbull on what he wanted people to be able to say that they could not now. He replied: “The suggestion that those people who support a change to the wording of Section 18C are somehow or other racist is a deeply offensive one”, listing a number of critics of 18C.

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In the Senate, Indigenous senator Malarndirri McCarthy said Turnbull had “on at least 16 occasions ruled out his government amending Section 18C”.

Before the election Turnbull indicated he did not plan to revisit 18C. His predecessor, Tony Abbott, had moved to reform it but then retreated. Abbott at the party meeting congratulated Turnbull and Attorney-General George Brandis, saying the situation had altered since his experience.

Asked at his news conference what had changed since his earlier stand, Turnbull cited the experience of the QUT university students who endured a long court case, which finally failed, and the late Bill Leak being taken to the commission over a cartoon in The Australian, a complaint which was dropped.

The changes will be introduced in the Senate and their fate will depend on what the Nick Xenophon Team does. Xenophon told the ABC that he supported comprehensive reform of the commission’s processes but did not support overhauling the wording.

“Let’s get rid of those frivolous and, some would say, vexatious claims by improving the process and then we can then look down the track, if there are still problems in respect to the wording,” he said.

He said there was strong feedback from a whole range of ethnic communities, including the Jewish community and Islamic communities, saying the wording should be kept as it was.

Xenophon later in a statement confirmed his Team’s opposition to changing 18C’s wording.

Conservative Liberal senator Eric Abetz, who has campaigned for change to 18C, said that: “Today’s announcement will be welcomed by Australians who prioritise freedom of speech above politically correct left-wing groupthink”.

“I am also pleased that the government will rein in the Australian Human Rights Commission which has morphed into self-appointed thought police,” Abetz said.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said the 18C change “isn’t about free speech, it’s about the prime minister appeasing his party”.

“The only two cases the prime minister held up today as his rationale could both have been addressed by improving the process – not by changing the law,” Shorten told parliament. He said the change to the Racial Discrimination Act would “make it easier for people to be insulted or humiliated on the basis of race”.

Race Discrimination Commissioner Tim Soutphommasane tweeted:

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The Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils expressed dismay at the proposal to change 18C. Chairman Joe Caputo said it sent “a strong signal that racism is acceptable”.

“Australia’s international reputation as a strong, successful multicultural and multi-faith community is threatened by this proposal,” he said.

https://www.podbean.com/media/player/kwxda-68af74?from=yiiadmin

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

The markers of everyday racism in Australia


Claire Smith, Flinders University; Jordan Ralph, Flinders University, and Kellie Pollard, Flinders University

While Australians value equality, our multicultural nation contains markers of racial discrimination. Some are so innocuous we may not recognise them.

Experiencing racism is part of the everyday lives of many Australians. What is it like to negotiate daily life in a material world that often excludes you, or selectively seeks to control you?

Let’s try to understand the experience of everyday racism by negotiating the material world of an Aboriginal person in northern Australia. You have come into Katherine, Northern Territory, from a remote community. It might be say, Barunga, 80 kilometres away, or Bulman 300 kilometres away, or Lajamanu, 600 kilometres away.

Shopping

Power Card and Basics Card.
Photos: J. Ralph

You shop for food at the Woolworths complex. You use your Basics Card to pay. This is a bit embarrassing as it declares you to be living on managed government money. You understand that this card is a legacy of the NT Intervention, designed to ensure that Aboriginal people spend half their government benefits on food and essentials. You understand that this “income management” signals a lack of faith in your ability to budget your own money.

You purchase some power-cards to pre-pay electricity in your home. You hope you won’t have to share them with friends or family who run out of electricity. You understand that power cards are not the norm in towns or cities of the NT, only in Aboriginal communities.

Toilets closed, Katherine, NT.
Photos: C. Smith

After shopping, you need to go to the toilet. It is the tourist season and the toilets in the Woolworths complex charge $1 per person. There is a guard at the front to collect the money. Throughout the town, the toilets have “closed”, “staff only” or “patrons only” signs. Often, the public toilets in the main street are out of order.

Meeting family in town

You want to meet some relatives in town. It is difficult to meet at the Woolworths complex due to the “no loitering” signs.

No loitering sign at Casuarina shopping centre in Darwin.
Photo: K. Pollard

You understand that these signs are not intended for townspeople, who have homes to go to, or tourists, who are staying in hotels or caravan parks. You understand that they are aimed at you, and people like you.

There are other signs that are not aimed at you. Those signs, such as the lead photo for this article, depict variations of “ideal” white Australian families. Such signs exist throughout Australia. Inadvertently, they exclude those who do not fit the proposed ideal.

There is a nice sitting area at the tourist information centre but it is fenced. You would have to be a bit braver than you feel to go in. So you sit on the ground outside the fence, next to the car park. You watch tourists eating their lunch in comfort at the tables inside the fence. You wonder if they wonder why you don’t come in.

Fenced seating area at Katherine Tourist Information Centre.
Photo: J. Ralph

Driving home

Like most Territorians, you enjoy a beer in hot weather. The bottle shop has police officers stationed at it. You have to show your address and explain where you will drink the beer. However, your address is that of a remote Aboriginal community, one that does not allow alcohol consumption. You do not have a town address, and for you to buy beer the police officer has to believe you will not consume it in the town’s public areas.

You’ve convinced the police officer that you will drink your beer at the unofficial “drinking spot”, 25 kilometres from your community.

On the way there, you pass the rest area for tourists, replete with lights, toilets, water tanks, tables. You could stop here, but you wouldn’t feel comfortable – and you would be moved on if a tourist complained to the police. At the Aboriginal drinking spot, there are no such facilities. You are expected to sit in the dirt, drink from the creek and go to the toilet in the bush.

Comparison of facilities at tourist rest area, Stuart Highway, near Katherine (top) and Aboriginal drinking place, Central Arnhem Road, near Barunga (bottom). Note that the shade shed at the Aboriginal drinking place is now fenced off and inaccessible.
Photos: M. Fairhead and J. Ralph

There is no light either. While sitting at the drinking spot, you think about the people who have been killed here by vehicles driving at night. You are aware that there is no mobile phone coverage to call in an emergency.

On your way to the community, you pass road signs with Aboriginal people depicted in a cartoon-like fashion. You are glad the graffiti on the Liquor Act sign, “This means Niggers, too” has been erased. You pass the “prescribed area” sign, which warns against bringing alcohol or “prohibited materials” into the community.

Erected in 2007 as part of the Intervention, the original signs were more explicit: “No Liquor. No Pornography”. Somehow, these signs seemed to imply that everyone in your community wants to get drunk or use pornography. You wonder how people in the cities would feel if they had a sign like that at the entrance to their suburb.

Confronting signs, on the Central Arnhem Road (left) and at the entrance to Barunga community (right)
Photos: J. Ralph

Racism is just one form of discrimination

Archaeology can provide unique insights into how material culture can reflect racism. However, racism is not the only form of discrimination. The Scanlon report on Mapping Social Cohesion in Australia found that experiences of discrimination on the basis of “skin colour, ethnic origin or religion” increased to 20% in 2016. The report does not provide figures for Indigenous Australians, but records an increase in negative sentiment towards Muslim people.

Nevertheless, the report argues that Australia is characterised by strong social cohesion. We may have problems, but it seems that we are a long way from the treatment of Muslim women who want to wear Burkinis on the beaches of France.

A system of discrimination

Racism occurs in everyday life. It happens to everyday people in everyday locations. It can be redressed through everyday practices.

There are reasons behind the differences described in this article. Townspeople have had bad experiences with some community children leaving a mess in public toilets (itself a reflection of the dearth of adequate working bathrooms in Aboriginal communities). Rest areas are under different government jurisdictions. The Basics card helps people to budget (and now it is being rolled out in wider Australia).

But while there are explanations for individual practices, taken together they create a system of control and exclusion. The outcomes include mental health issues for individuals, barriers to economic participation and a weakening of Australia’s social fabric.

Minimum standards of courtesy, safety and equality should be maintained for all Australians. The systematic discrimination of everyday racism diminishes us all.

The Conversation

Claire Smith, Professor of Archaeology, Flinders University; Jordan Ralph, PhD Candidate, Archaeology, Flinders University, and Kellie Pollard, PhD Candidate, Flinders University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.