Tag Archives: xenophobia

Our xenophobic national anthem better reflects national mood.

My tweeter feed this morning reflected the news that the transfer of Asylum Seekers to Malaysia has been delayed by the High Court.  One such tweet by Mia Freedman stated:

Remember our national anthem “For those who come across the land we’ve boundless plains to share”

While I agree the sentiment, unfortunatley we can’t really use the National Anthem as a glowing example of Australians’ willingness of sharing our plains.  The Australian National Anthem was first performed in 1878 and was composed by Peter Dodds McCormick , a time when basically being Australian was being British.  The song has in all five verses.  Officially now the Australian Anthem has kept two, but the discarded ones are telling.

VERSE TWO

When gallant Cook from Albion sail’d,
To trace wide oceans o’er,
True British courage bore him on,
Till he landed on our shore.
Then here he raised Old England’s flag,
The standard of the brave;
With all her faults we love her still,
“Brittannia rules the wave!”
In joyful strains then let us sing
“Advance Australia fair!”

Interesting here the concept of ‘our shore’.  Obviously the Eora people who lived in the Sydney area for thousands of years didn’t really count.  But it gets better.

VERSE FOUR

While other nations of the globe
Behold us from afar,
We’ll rise to high renown and shine
Like our glorious southern star;
From England, Scotia, Erin’s Isle,
Who come our lot to share,
Let all combine with heart and hand
To advance Australia fair!
In joyful strains then let us sing
“Advance Australia fair!”

It’s clear here who Australians want. “England, Scotia, Erin’s Isle” everybody else can get stuffed and we don’t want you.   But just in case you haven’t got the message the clincher is in verse five.

Shou’d foreign foe e’er sight our coast,
Or dare a foot to land,
We’ll rouse to arms like sires of yore
To guard our native strand;
Brittannia then shall surely know,
Beyond wide ocean’s roll,
Her sons in fair Australia’s land
Still keep a British soul.
In joyful strains the let us sing
“Advance Australia fair!”

I don’t think further explanation is needed.

But perhaps we can say that this is a song ,which basically is an exultation to the White Australia Policy,  reflects values of an old Australia.  Before Federation, before the wars, before air transport before immigration from continental Europe.  And of course it’s right.  However I do wonder whether for many Australians, perhaps exemplified by those commenting in the Herald Sun, would love nothing better than the return of a White Australia Policy, and that all those years in the 70’s 80’s and dome of the 90’s where multiculturalism was supported by both major parties and Australia changed to be more culturally pluralistic basically accounted for naught. That basically Australia still secretly (and not so secretly) wants to hark back to the days where most migrant were British, if not at least Christian and white.

What other conclusions can I draw when we have both the Coalition and the ALP clambering over each other to devise the harshest anti Asylum Seeker policy possible?  Maybe we should sing the whole five verses.  Maybe it would be more honest to show the world how we really are.

Verse Four
spacer
While other nations of the globe
Behold us from afar,
We’ll rise to high renown and shine
Like our glorious southern star;
From England, Scotia, Erin’s Isle,
Who come our lot to share,
Let all combine with heart and hand
To advance Australia fair!
In joyful strains then let us sing
“Advance Australia fair!”

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Old fur balls.

Mr Ruddock and another former immigration minister, Kevin Andrews, are again shaping Coalition policy.

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Can Rudd avoid another bout of xenophobia?

How things change.

As a keen follower of Italian media, Australia is hardly mentioned. However in August 2001 it was quite a news item due to the Tampa. Italian governments were (as they are now) struggling with the issue of refugees coming from Africa (which is a flood, comparing to the trickle Australia gets).

How to deal with asylum seekers was a contencious political issue between the third Berlusconi government and the opposition. The fact that Australia chose to get the SAS to board the Tampa was seen as a dangerous precedence in international affairs. The Italian left was afraid that allies of Berlusconi, who were anti-refugees in their thinking such as the National Alliance and the Northern League, would look at Australia as an example. So the attack on Australia was pretty strong (and in some cases quite wrong).

The irony now is that the tables are turned. In an opinion piece in The Age today, Pamela Curr, campaign co-ordinator at the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre in Melbourne, writes that we shouldn’t take Italy’s example where boats are turned back to Lybia after a deal done with Gheddafi.

In the same edition we have Paul Sheehan stating that the current policies of the Government towards refugees are making us a ‘soft target’. That Sheehan writes this sort of opinion piece is not surprising. He was after all the darling of the anti-multicultural set when he wrote Among the Barbarians: the dividing of Australia, back in 1998. A book that Tim Costello in a review described as ‘skating on xenophobic ice’.

Fortunately at this stage we haven’t yet reached the xenophobic hysteria that we reached in those depressing times during the Tampa. There are different factors at play. Labor is in government and failry popular, while the opposition seems divided. Terrorism is not at the height of That period of 2001, when 9/11 occurred. However ever since that time I am wary.

I think it was Thomas Keneally that said that xenophobia in Australia is like malaria. Once you get it you can’t get rid of it. It may lie dormant for a while but prone to re-surface if the conditions are right.

This issue is discussed by Mark in Larvatus Prodeo where he raises the point that the same old issues tend to come up again and again once asylum seekers are mentioned.

Andrew Bartlett, who has been a consistent advocate for asylum seekers in Australia has a great post in the Crikey blog. Where he highlights the fact that the local paper is advocating for a white South African family to stay in Australia because they not meet the criteria for a state-sponsored business-owner visa. I wonder if they would do that for a Sri Lankan family of a family from Afghanistan.

Eva Cox also on the Crikey blog berates Ruddock. And Guy Rundle discussed how the latest discussion on refugees raises the spectre of the politics of fear.

On one hand we don’t want the Rudd government to return to the bad old days of the ‘We decide who comes here’ Howard government, where refugees were shunted in holes across the Pacific indefinetely and were offered temporary visas with no opportunity of support or work. But Rudd also needs to keep the xenophobic genie in check. This is a sad reality, especially when a desperate opposition will exploit every boat arrival with Sharman Stone hyperbollically stating that the Rudd government ‘has lost control of our borders’ – the yellow peril revisited.

How this is done humanely and without Australia going back into a punishing mode against asylum seekers is not something that is going to be easy. It is certainly a delicate balance act. But have another bout of xenophobia would be dreadful.

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