More dribble from the Australian Left

The author below, John Hewson, is known as the man who lost an "unlosable" election (in 1993).  He stood then as a conservative party leader but over the last 23 years has drifted steadily Leftwards. His views now would be similar to those of Hillary Clinton, who also lost an "unlosable" election.  He deplores Trump, of course.

The idea that Australians have a inferiority complex is an old slur supported by no representative psychological research that I know of. In my own research I found general population averages on a standard neuroticism measure to show no differences as between England, Australia and India.  An inferiority complex would be associated with high levels of anxiety.  So Hewson is just spouting a lot of conventional nonsense with no care about evidence.

The claim mainly seems to be supported only by the fact that Australians adopt a lot of ideas from overseas.  But Australia has a population of only 24 million so it is absurd to expect that Australians would have all the good ideas in a world of 6 billion people. If anything, it shows that Australians are an open-minded people with no fears of the new.

And they don't need the example of Trump to make their decisions.  There was a major anti-immigrant upset in the Australian Senate in July, long before the Trump triumph.  In that upset, an anti-immigration party entered the Australian Federal parliament for the first time

Why is it that so much of our lives is dominated by America, from fast food to the immediate release of the latest TV program, to the latest Kardashian excess? It seems that we have a massive national insecurity and sense of inferiority – if it is "good" for America, it must be "good" for Australia. The 51st state?

In politics we have seen the worst of it lately as some of our political leaders have sought to draw on, and emulate, elements of the Donald Trump victory. Pauline Hanson and some marginal Liberals and Nationals gloated, while Bill Shorten sought to capitalise on the anti-immigration sentiment, claiming to "protect Australian workers and their jobs". We must avoid the "Trumpification of Australian politics".

The most disturbing feature, among many, of Trump's anti-establishment strategy is the nationalistic, isolationist, anti-immigration position and proposals.

The US has a significant problem with "undocumented immigrants", reportedly now some 11 million of them, that is easy to exploit in a political argument about jobs and "white" wages, even though these people have mostly done the "dirty, menial" jobs and contributed to the "wage restraint" that has allowed the US to quickly recapture its competitiveness with "cheap Chinese and other imports".

It is also easy to promote xenophobia, especially against Muslims and against a threat of terror.

Unfortunately, this anti-immigration "movement" was also the dominant reason for Britain's Brexit vote and is now sweeping much of Europe, driven by the mass migration from Syria, Iraq and North Africa that in the end could tear down the dream of a united Europe.

It is perhaps most conspicuous and effective in Germany, where the anti-immigration vote has been significant and determining in recent regional elections and will probably ensure the demise of Angela Merkel. Just pause to contemplate a Germany controlled by the "hard-line right conservatives" and the likely consequences for Germany, Europe and the Euro.

We should want none of this here in Australia. Without in any way seeking to play down the significance and richness of our Indigenous origins, heritage and remaining challenges, we are an immigrant nation, where immigration has been fundamental to our economic and social development and wellbeing.

I suggest our greatest post-WWII achievement is that we have built a very tolerant and effective multiracial, multireligious, multicultural society, in many respects the envy of the world. It is to be appreciated, protected and further developed – it remains a work in progress, which calls for a clear acceptance of our national interests, to be delivered collaboratively with understanding, sensitivity and commitment.

It is a process in which we all have a role to play, but it needs to be led from the top, by our political and community leaders.

In this context, the rhetoric of Shorten's attack this week on 457 visas, essentially claiming that these immigrants are taking our jobs when we have some 700,000 unemployed and as many as 1 million underemployed, was most divisive and irresponsible, especially with the echoes of Trump.

It was also hypocritical when these visas reached their peak under Shorten as employment minister, even recognising the circumstances of a mining boom. And it was inconsistent with his proposals for a lower "backpacker tax" on foreign youth workers than would be applied to Australian youth workers. All up just more cheap, short-term, opportunistic politics.

While it is also true that if we were drafting section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act today we may have used different words, this is not the time to be having that debate, or to be making changes, as it gives another platform for xenophobia, "hatespeak", bigotry and the like. It is not a first order issue right now, and risks considerable downside.

There has been much said this week about "listening", especially in the aftermath of the Nationals' demise in the Orange byelection. Yes, much of the success of the Trump anti-establishment message is because a succession of establishment presidents, and their administrations, ignored the electorate's mounting concerns as the "system" of government failed to respond, while often favouring a few vested interests.

Here, too, the system is seen to be failing many, especially as inequality grows. Yet our leaders also have a responsibility to lead in matters of genuine national interest, as hard as it may be at times to educate and advocate against populist sentiments. There are also important intergenerational and moral dimensions to this challenge.

If this nationalistic, anti-immigration movement is allowed to spread, it will risk global fragmentation, reversing much of the global development we have all shared in, while stranding some 65 million people who are now displaced globally.


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