EDITORIAL: Racist label displays contempt for mainstream

The Nightly
Laura Tingle has provoked outrage after saying Australia was a racist country.
Laura Tingle has provoked outrage after saying Australia was a racist country. Credit: DC/AAPIMAGE

Is Australia a fundamentally racist country?

If you ask the ABC’s chief political reporter Laura Tingle, the answer is an unequivocal yes.

“We are a racist country, let’s face it. We always have been and it’s very depressing,” she said while onstage at a Sydney Writers Festival event on Sunday.

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Tingle, who also sits on the ABC’s board as its staff-elected director, also accused Opposition Leader Peter Dutton of fuelling racism against migrants, saying while listening to his Budget reply speech, she “had this sudden flash of people turning up to try and rent a property or at an auction and they look a bit different — whatever you define different as — (and) that basically he has given them licence to be abused and in any circumstance where people feel like they’re missing out”.

Tingle’s comments betray the disdain with which she and many of her ultra-left-wing colleagues at our public broadcaster view mainstream Australia. Anyone not enlightened enough to share their views on race and politics is a contemptible knuckle-dragger.

Mainstream Australia’s chief crime, in their eyes, was the rejection of the Voice at last year’s referendum. Finally, there it was — undeniable proof of Australians’ wickedness.

It calls to mind Hillary Clinton’s infamous comments dismissing Trump supporters as falling into one of two camps; those who felt abandoned by their government on one hand and a “basket of deplorables” on the others.

This second basket was packed with the worst of the worst, whose “racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic” leanings Trump had legitimised.

It’s snobbery of the highest order. And comments like these only create and widens division, and erode our social cohesion.

Australia is one of the world’s most successful multicultural nations.

But that’s not to say it is a racism-free utopia. No nation is.

And in Reconciliation Week it’s important to note that an Indigenous person waking up today will die eight years younger than a non-Indigenous Australian. They are more likely to be incarcerated, to die by suicide, to have their children removed by the State, and to be victims of family violence.

These are important issues that deserve real action.

But the assumption that Australians voted to reject the Voice because they are racist doesn’t match with reality. The vote against the Voice was not a vote for a continued disadvantage of Indigenous people.

It was simply a rejection of a constitutionally-enshrined Voice to Parliament as the right mechanism to address that disadvantage. The left failed to prosecute its case for the Voice effectively, and Australians, already distrustful of bureaucracy, were unconvinced that adding another layer of it was the answer.

The theme of this Reconciliation Week is “now more than ever”.

Now more than ever, we need to embrace unity, and reject these elitist attitudes which only serve to drive division.

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