Racism is a beast that threatens those whom it stares down and it regularly mauls its prey. This beast remains at all times as a firmament in the institutions of this Australian nation.
Racism has many veils and layers – institutional and structural – and copiously pollutes the overarching documents that define this nation.
The citizenship crisis that has led to the departure of elected parliamentarians and to a cast of aspersions on others, the majority Australian-born, is exposing the Australian constitution for what it is, for what it was ascribed to at the time by its founders: a racist document that ensures the vice-like grip of white privilege over the Australian continent.
The demography of this nation is not reflected in our parliaments, which remain the citadels of white privilege, bastions unleashing vice-like assimilation.
The racists of my generation are the parliamentarians of today. This is testimony to how young and raw this Australian nation is.
Our parliamentarians may disguise themselves as ‘progressives’ but they perpetuate racism.
The racists are not the One Nation Party alone but the majority of of our parliamentarians – who reflect white Australia.
Those who control the Australia we live in carry on with a hostile denial to the racism, to the oppressor/oppressed dichotomy, to the pain they inflict and exploit.
It is funnily ironic that a One Nation senator Malcolm Roberts has been caught up in questions of his citizenship – over the British blood running through his veins.
This nation’s founding document, the constitution, did not enact Section 44: Disqualification in order to exclude people such as him but instead to exclude any person who:
‘is under any acknowledgment of allegiance, obedience, or adherence to a foreign power, or is a subject or a citizen or entitled to the rights or privileges of a subject or a citizen of a foreign power’: to keep out the black, the brown, the ‘yellow peril’, anyone who was not British white or akin.
When the debates happening in the 1890s to guide the making of the constitution, it had been intended to keep out of parliament the likes of a Nick Xenophon.
It had not been intended to keep out the Malcolm Roberts but to keep out the Xenophons.
Testimony to the vile racism of the 1890s, is that twelve decades later, Australia’s two federal parliamentary houses remain the bastion of white privilege.
Today, nearly 80 per cent of Australia’s parliamentarians are the children of white privilege – a privileged lot who it is clearly evident will not share power with non-white Australians who have not ‘assimilated’.
There are no crash-through visionaries in our parliaments who will take on the racism in the ways the beast should be challenged or who will defend the soul of the nation’s demography. There is no place in the nation’s parliaments for authentic polycultural power-sharing, for polycultural harmony.
It is still a nation embittered and pained by the corralling of peoples into the reductionist and minimalist that is white privilege, it’s akin.
Without polycultural values there is no humanity. It is ironic that more than one in four Australians have been born overseas and more than half the Australian population has at least one parent born overseas.
Racism is entrenched in the Australian Constitution because the whole of the Australian nation as we know it was founded on oppression. The document is the work of the oppressor and where there is an oppressor there are the oppressed.
The Australian constitution cannot be fixed, cannot be repaired.
It needs to be binned and an altogether new constitution borne, and preferably encompassing a Bill of Rights; borne of contemporary debates in contrast to those of the 1890s dished up that excluded the First Peoples of this continent, the black, the brown, the women, all those whom white privilege feared, threatened, punished and excluded.
Racism entrenched, built in, codified becomes a world view. What a mess we are in.
Assimilation is the nation’s tight agenda. Surveys of third-generation Australians show that the majority want immigration restricted to mostly white migrants. Assimilation’s propaganda is relentless, reeling in not only the working classes but also the so-called progressives, academics and ‘chattering classes’.
There are just eight other nations on earth that have a higher proportion of citizens who were born overseas as Australia does.
It does flicker images of a future that may put an end to the vicious selfishness of white privilege that negatively racialises this nation. We are only a few generations past the abominable apartheid and segregation that made miserable the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders (the First Peoples).
During this period of abominable inhumanity, the only respite for the descendants of this continent’s First Peoples was for those who were prepared to assimilate and grabbed the chance, despite leaving behind their people to rot on the missions and reserves. It can be argued that the agenda was to work up, over generations, a share of the power but for those of their immediate generation, they were indeed left to rot.
This was not only so for the descendants of the First Peoples but also for those born overseas and for the children of migrants. They too had to assiduously serve the same master.
By any reasonable-minded definition, Nick Xenophon is Australian. His predominant identity is Australian despite Cypriot and Greek heritage.
His father Theo was born in Cyprus and his mother Georgia was born in Greece.
Xenophon, who has worked as a lawyer for most of his working life, formally renounced any potential citizenship to Cyprus and Greece that could have been descended upon him through his parents prior to seeking candidacy to South Australia’s parliaments. His father left Cyprus in 1951 as Xenophon puts it “to escape British colonial rule”.
The British ruled Cyprus from 1878 to 1960. Xenophon was born in Adelaide in 1959 one year before the British formally removed their colonial imprint from Cyprus.
However Xenophon’s renouncing of any potential claim to Cypriot citizenship should have, and in truth does, remove any concomitant conferral of British citizenship – one which would have been an inferior status to the subjects of British colonies. This diminished status – crumbs – is also racism but that’s another article.
So when is someone an Australian? What does it take for a Nick Xenophon to be an Australian? It should be his birthright to have owned Australian citizenship without questions asked.
Section 44 of the Australian constitution will be, in time, and maybe by the High Court exposed for the racism it was borne from, cradled within, and continues to ignite. The empire-building of Britannia legislatively subjected the peoples of the colonies as belonging to Britain but not equal to Britain’s own.
However the colonies had to protect against the transmigration of these subjects from within the British Empire and also from others from elsewhere in our world. However in the heated racism of the 1890s they could not envisage an Australia that would begin to demographically change only half a century later.
They were the political animals of their day, caught up in racisms. The first Australian parliament – 1901, all males, was 100 per cent comprised of white privilege.
Do not doubt that policy makers can muddle a document so badly, or a section of a document so badly that it can backfire on them as it has today with aspersions effectively cast over the citizenship of Australians who are born and bred Australian.
In 1992, the Paul Keating Government enabled the Migration Amendment Bill 1992 – the mandatory detention legislation – handled by his Minister for Immigration, Local Government and Ethnic Affairs, Gerry Hand.
This legislation was intended to scrutinise those coming in as refugees but because it was so sloppily worded it was easy enough for subsequent governments, particularly the John Howard government to bastardise and manipulate into the debacle of immigration detention centres that has haunted the Australian continent for nearly two decades and fired up racism across this continent the likes not known in the memories of living Australians.
Minister Hand said, “I believe it is crucial that all persons who come to Australia without prior authorisation not be released into the community. Their release would undermine the government’s strategy for determining their refugee claims or entry claims. Indeed, I believe it is vital to Australia that this be prevented as far as possible. The government is determined that a clear signal be sent that migration to Australia may not be achieved by simply arriving in this country and expecting to be allowed into the community.”
The Keating government originally attached a limit of 273 days detaintion for refugees or asylum seekers to the bill. Hand said, “The [Keating] government has no wish to keep people in custody indefinitely and I could not expect the Parliament to support such a suggestion.”
By the time the Act came into force in 1994 a new section (54ZD) removed that 273-day time limit, legislating indefinite detention. They did not foresee the immigration detention centres that would be borne as a result of the ensuing waves of asylum seekers fleeing to Australia by boat.
They did not foresee the inhumanity of the Howard, Abbott, Rudd, and Gillard governments and the tragic culminations with the Nauru and Manus gulags.
Nearly half of Sydney’s residents were born overseas. The 2011 Census reported that 42 per cent of Sydney residents were born overseas and, in Perth, 41 per cent were born overseas. How beautiful is this?
But the ugliness is in our parliaments, where the demography of the nation is not reflected.
Our parliaments and government instruments, the nation’s institutions have one message – assimilate or perish.
The nation’s racism is the child of white privilege – whose whole triumph is to exploit.
Racism has no other parent. Australia cannot function without high levels of migration or otherwise its economies would crumble. Unlike other nations with lower proportions of migration, Australia has tight policies to ensure assimilation.
Australia is indisputably fundamentally racist – mired in racism.
This is shown up when immigration occurs by a different manner than that which our parliaments have prescribed – when people arrive on our doorstep without permission such as when fleeing wars, civil strife and persecution.
Only 16 years ago, then Prime Minister John Howard responded to the arrival of desperate refugees with, “We have a proud record of welcoming people from 140 different nations. But we will decide who comes to this country and the circumstances in which they come.”
Has it ever been different? I am not going to resort to exploiting the misoxeny of Senator Pauline Hanson.
While in his ACTU days, prior to becoming Prime Minister, Bob Hawke, in 1977, responded to the fleets of rickety boats carrying Vietnamese and Cambodians to Australia, “Of course, we should have compassion, but people who are coming in this way are not the only people in the world who have rights to our compassion. Any sovereign nation has the right to determine how it will exercise its compassion and how it will increase its population.”
Before Ben Chifley became prime minister in 1945, he damned the government for allowing, ” … so many dagoes and aliens in Australia that today they are all over the country taking work which rightly belongs to all Australians.”
Those epithets carried on into the sixties and seventies. At my primary school I was the darkest-skinned student.
The memory of a teacher trying to move me along to school assembly has never left me.
He buttkicked me and bellowed, “Be a good little wog and move quicker.”
Like Senator Xenophon, I am Australian-born, three years prior to him, and my father migrated from Greece to this continent around the same time as the senator’s father.
A few years ago my father’s body was buried into this continent’s earth, his bones laid to rest, one with this continent.
Humanity should have the inalienable right to transmigrate, and be ensured rights in their resident homeland equal to all others.
Australia shall flourish as humane, as universal in its humanity, when it accepts the polycultural. Humanity cannot be for slivers of humanity – this is anathema.
White privilege has got away with too much for too long that it should have been unimaginable but this damnation of the rest of us should not be allowed to continue.
This nation’s identity cannot be defined until such time as we accept everyone. Privilege is about accepting a certain some only.
The dual citizenship crisis that has affected Australian parliamentarians is not just a storm in a teacup but the tip of an iceberg, of the racism that is being unveiled, of questions of the Australian identity, of the century ahead where racism will hurt this nation in ways yet not experienced by the majority of the Australian population.
Much will get worse as the white privilege that diabolically wrangle this continent will fight to cling to power, to dominate.
This will come to an end but not in our lifetimes, nor in our children’s lifetimes. White male privilege continues to own everything: government, the nation’s institutions, the boardrooms and the media – the Australian narrative.
How is it possible that in a nation with nearly one in three Australians born overseas, with half the Australian nation comprised of residents with a cultural and linguistic diverse background, that we do not equitably factor in as parliamentarians, bureaucrats, board members, and in the media?
Gough Whitlam’s Racial Discrimination Act 1975 sought to condemn the White Australia Policy and journey Australia in a new direction but the generations since have been betrayed of the expectation that polyculturalism would flourish.
The concept of multiculturalism was led by charlatans. The first multicultural offices were not filled by migrants and their children but by white privilege – by the white Australians.
They delivered a blueprint that for those who were to follow them only the assimilated could rise to office. The informal white Australia policy continues.
Australia’s racism stands defiant even in the face of modernity.
Australia’s first prime minister, Edmund Barton was one of the authors of the White Australia policy, formalised in the Immigration Restriction Act 1901.
The founding parents of the White Australia policy continued into Australian politics till nearly the middle of the last century and with every prime minister up to 1923 having been a member of Barton’s first parliament.
The first Australian government was delivered on an injunction that only male British subjects could be elected to our parliaments.
The Anglosphere continues to dominate the Australian nation. It was unintended with Section 44 that white privilege akin could have aspersion cast upon it.
In recent times, Australia’s prime ministers have included London-born Tony Abbott, Welsh-born Julia Gillard.
Xenophon was born in Adelaide. He attended Prince Alfred College.
He graduated with a law degree from the University of Adelaide. His working life has been in Australia – he even taught law at the University of South Australia.
He has dedicated himself to coalface issues, many of them human rights issues, but always through an Australian lens.
So, when will Nick Xenophon, and others like him, be finally considered Australian?
In time the dual citizenship crisis will extend to more Australians, including those with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent.
The majority of Australia’s First Peoples have heritage from across the seas – in the Kimberley, many have a south-east Asian or European parent or grandparent.
Will their citizenship be called into question as has been Nick Xenophon’s? Strangely, according to Section 44, it could.
The Australian Constitution was a document produced and sponsored by the muddle-minded of the 1890s.
It is of the oppressor. It is our duty to at long last challenge the oppressor and protect generations unborn.
If a baby born on 29 January 1959 in Adelaide to parents who migrated to this continent and who took up Australian citizenship, if this baby was not entitled to one day enter the parliaments of this nation without reservation then the Australian constitution does not reflect the demography, the humanity, the soul, the identity and the long overdue direction of this nation.
* Gerry Georgatos is a regular contributor to Neos Kosmos and a prolific writer on the understanding of racism and of the ways forward. He is the nation’s most prolific writer on suicide prevention: a suicide prevention and prison reform researcher and advocate with the non-tertiary Institute of Social Justice and Human Rights. He works first-hand with the critically vulnerable and marginalised.