The crossbench senator Fraser Anning caused uproar across the political spectrum with his maiden speech on Tuesday, in which he called for a return to the White Australia policy and used the term “final solution”, regarding immigration.
The Senator from Queensland replaced One Nation’s Malcolm Roberts in the chamber last November, after the latter was found ineligible due to his citizenship status. However, he chose to sit as an independent until June 2018 when he joined Katter’s Australian Party as its first senator.
In a speech that included praise for Joh Bjelke-Petersen’s reign as Queensland premier (which Senator Anning claimed was the state’s “golden age”), critique for Gough Whitlam’s policies and influence on Australia, and an attack on “cultural Marxists” who undermine Australia espousing the ideals of philosopher Antonio Gramsci, as well as a call for a cultural counter-revolution to restore traditional values and redefine national identity.
Senator Anning even mentioned Greece, issuing a warning on the risks of an unsustainable welfare state, “Unless we are going to follow the path of Greece, we need to stop finding new ways to give handouts and start increasing workforce participation,” he said.
Describing Katter’s Australian Party as “the only political force that seeks a return to the pre-Whitlam consensus,” Senator Anning said that he wants “to see the defeat of the cultural Marxists, their ilk, and a rolling back of the subversion of Australian culture and values that they have wrought.”
But it was his ideas on immigration, multiculturalism, and particularly muslims, that sparked outrage, with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, Labor, the Greens and even One Nation leader Pauline Hanson, condemning him.
Outlining his political goals Senator Anning said he aims “to reduce immigration levels and restrict entry to those who will best assimilate;” he then went on to single out Muslim migrants as a threat, saying: “While all Muslims are not terrorists, certainly all terrorists these days are Muslims” […] “So why would anyone want to bring more of them here?”
Calling for a plebiscite on who comes to Australia, in order to allow people to decide whether they want “wholesale non-English speaking immigrants from the third world,” Senator Anning deemed this “popular vote” as “the final solution to the immigration problem,” echoing a phrase associated with Nazi Germany’s views on the Jewish population.
“Anyone who knows a thing about history will have felt a shiver up their spine upon learning of Fraser Anning’s words,” Race Discrimination Commissioner Tim Soutphommasane said. “This is a deeply disturbing intervention. The use of such language risks inciting the most serious kind of hatred and violence against Muslims.”
SENATOR ANNING’S INFLAMMATORY STATEMENTS
In particular, Senator Anning made lengthy references to immigration policy, in regards to his ideas of what constitutes an Australian national identity.
“We as a nation are entitled to insist that those who are allowed to come here predominantly reflect the historic European Christian composition of Australian society and embrace our language, culture and values as a people,” he said.
“In order for us to remain the nation that we are now, those who come here need to assimilate and integrate. Those who are most similar to the mainstream majority in terms of ethnicity, culture, language and values most readily do so.
“I believe that the reasons for ending all further Muslim immigration are both compelling and self-evident. The record of Muslims who have already come to this country in rates of crime, welfare dependency and terrorism is the worst of any migrants and vastly exceeds any other immigrant groups. A majority of Muslims in Australia of working age do not work and live on welfare. […]
“We have black African Muslim gangs terrorising Melbourne. We have ISIS-sympathising Muslims trying to go overseas to fight for ISIS and, while all Muslims are not terrorists, certainly all terrorists these days are Muslims. So why would anyone want to bring more of them here?”
“The final solution to the immigration problem is, of course, a popular vote. We don’t need a plebiscite to cut immigration numbers; we just need a government that is willing to institute a sustainable population policy, end Australian-job-stealing 457 visas and make student visas conditional on foreign students returning to the country they came from. What we do need is a plebiscite to decide who comes here. […] We need a plebiscite to allow the Australian people to decide whether they want wholesale non-English speaking immigrants from the Third World and, in particular, whether they want any Muslims or whether they want to return to the predominantly European immigration policy of the pre-Whitlam consensus.”
TURNBULL: “THERE IS NO PLACE IN AUSTRALIA FOR RACISM”
Senator Anning’s maiden speece attracted immediate ire from all parts of the political spectrum. In his response, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said that “there is no place in Australia for racism. We are the most successful multicultural society in the world. We are a migration nation. Our immigration program is non-discriminatory.
“The White Australia Policy was abolished by my predecessor as Prime Minister and Liberal Leader, Harold Holt. Senator Anning’s remarks are appalling. I condemn them and I reject them in their entirety”.
The PM also added that “We are a nation that does not define its nationality, its identity, by reference to race or religion or cultural background or ethnic background.
“We define ourselves by commitment to shared political values of freedom, of democracy and the rule of law. People from every corner of the earth, from every religion or of none and every race can connect, be inspired by, be part of those values.
“That is Australia.
“So, we reject, we condemn racism in any form. The remarks by Senator Anning are justly condemned and rejected by us all.”
MINISTER FOR CITIZENSHIP: “WE WILL ALWAYS MAINTAIN A NON-DISCRIMINATORY IMMIGRATION PROGRAM”
Senator Anning’s views were expressively dismissed by Minister for Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs, Alan Tudge, who said that his views “are not views shared by the Government, the Opposition nor any fair-minded Australian”.
“We will always maintain a non-discriminatory immigration program,” said the Minister. “The rest of Australia welcomes with absolutely open arms people who want to come to Australia to adopt those values and make a contribution, regardless of where they’re from, their racial background, their religious background, their heritage or anything else.”
The Minister went on to point out several factual errors in Senator Anning’s speech, such as the 457 visas, abolished last year, the student visas, the family reunion program and, the rights of migrants to welfare.
“Many of Senator Anning’s comments were factually ignorant, but there were other comments that he made that were deeply divisive. […]
“Then there was his final comment which was not just deeply divisive but very, very offensive and hurtful, particularly to members of the Jewish community—that is, the use of the phrase ‘the final solution’. That is a phrase which should never be used when discussing immigration matters or citizenship or any such other matters. It should never be used in that context,” he said, calling Senator Anning to apologise, specifically for that “final solution” comment. “Even if he didn’t mean it in that way he should clarify, apologise and move on.”
Echoing the same sentiment, Energy and environment minister Josh Frydenberg, who is of Hungarian-Jewish heritage, called Senator Anning to retract his comments and “go and visit a Holocaust museum”.
OPPOSITION: “THIS PARLIAMENT SAYS ENOUGH”
Senator Anning’s speech received an immediate reponse from the Opposition. Addressing the chamber, Tony Burke MP, Shadow Minister for Citizenship and Multicultural Australia, warned about the risks of “another speech wanting to incite debate.”
“Don’t give them what they want. That’s a question that you always ask when there is an appalling speech,” he said.
“Don’t give them what they want. They want to incite a debate and the debate when it happens, when you hit back, is exactly what they might have hoped for.
“But there has to be a point when this Parliament says enough.
“If we haven’t reached that point tonight then for some of us there is apparently no limit at all.”
Speaking about Senator Anning’s speech, the Shadow Minister said that it was “belittling Australians” and “dividing the nation.”
“Those who have thought that maybe the best thing is to not give them what they want? I say if we continue to hold back they got exactly what they want,” he said. “Muslim Australians, African Australians, Chinese Australians, when you invoke the Final Solution Jewish Australians in the same way as in years gone by Greek Australians and Italian Australians have been the subjects of prejudice the bigotry of today is no different to the bigotry of yesterday.
“The words that happened in the other place are not the words of a proud Australian. They are the words of people who hate modern Australia, people who hate who we are as Australians.
“Our diversity is nothing to be afraid of but the silence that has come from those opposite is everything to fear because the fight for modern Australia when it’s under attack in this way is only going to be won when we get to the point of bipartisanship again and be in no doubt we are not there right now,” he added, holding the government responsible for allowing for such rhetoric to emerge.
“We had the Immigration Minister stand right there and refer to Australians not as second and third generation Australians but as second and third generation Lebanese Muslims and then described them as a mistake,” he said.
“We had the Government introduce university level English test but you didn’t have to read university level English if you were immigrating from the five English speaking nations that are predominantly white.
“Don’t apologise for racism, don’t imitate it and don’t preference it,” he concluded.
VAMVAKINOU: “A DELIBERATE SPEECH”
Responding to Senator Anning’s speech, Labor MP Maria Vamvakinou said: “There will always be Fraser Annings amongst us; they certainly were amongst my community when I was growing up in the ’60s. Fraser Anning has to be condemned for the speech that was given in the Senate last night. It was a deliberate speech – it was intended to divide the community.
“As the Federal Member for Calwell, I just want to reach out to my own constituency first and say to them, like them I am too, and my family, have been a part of the great nation building program that was instituted by Arthur Calwell. Australia has a migrant history; migrant Australia has been the bedrock of our nation building. It was so when it began 70 years ago and it will continue to be so well into the future – a non-discriminatory immigration program has served this country at its best.
“And to my very large Muslim community, can I thank you for the great contribution that you are making, not only to our community, but to the broader Australian community”.
GCM: “UNACCEPTABLE, RACIST AND BIGOTED VIEWS”
Weighing in on the debate, the Greek Community of Melbourne issued a statement, demanding Senator Fraser Anning to retract his comments and apologise to all those who he offended.
“There is no place in Australian politics for statements such as those made in senator Fraser Anning’s maiden speech which in plain English seeks a return to the White Australia policy,” reads the statement.
“Comments regarding Muslim Australians are highly offensive and racist and must be withdrawn.
“Also, Senator Anning’s calling for a ‘final solution’ on immigration was appalling and an insult to the Jewish community.
“The Senator’s anti-Semitic and Islamophobic views are unacceptable, racist and bigoted.
“Australia has benefited immensely from the contribution of migrants over the past century and we are all proud of our multicultural way of life.
“The Greek Community of Melbourne demands that Senator Fraser Anning retracts his statement and apologise immediately to all those who he offended.”
Senator Anning refused to apologise in a round of media interviews, claiming he was exercising free speech. “It was never meant to denigrate the Jewish community and it’s two words and if that offends anyone unfortunately that’s the way it has to be”. As for Bob Katter, he backed the comments and called for cuts to Australia’s migrant intake, including from the Middle East and Africa. “It was a magnificent speech. It was solid gold”, Mr Katter said.