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Immigration Blog

REGULAR POSTS FROM NEW ZEALAND & AUSTRALIA

Why Dutton is So Dangerous

Last week’s blog post on why the Australian Minister of Home Affairs (Immigration) is, in my view, either a racist and a hypocrite or simply a cynical Australian politician playing to a small racist constituency in Australia, hit a nerve in South Africa as I expected it would. The reaction ...

Iain

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Why Dutton is So Dangerous

Last week’s blog post on why the Australian Minister of Home Affairs (Immigration) is, in my view, either a racist and a hypocrite or simply a cynical Australian politician playing to a small racist constituency in Australia, hit a nerve in South Africa as I expected it would. The reaction ...

Iain

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Why Dutton is So Dangerous

Posted by Iain on March 23, 2018, 9:37 p.m. in South Africa

Last week’s blog post on why the Australian Minister of Home Affairs (Immigration) is, in my view, either a racist and a hypocrite or simply a cynical Australian politician playing to a small racist constituency in Australia, hit a nerve in South Africa as I expected it would. The reaction to last week’s blog across various forms of social media and in private emails to me deserves some further exploration.

The reaction to it confirmed two things for me - what politicians anywhere will do for a few votes and how, sadly, South Africans are for the most part these days, seemingly incapable of any form of grown up discourse. 

On the Minister, I cannot believe he was not being very calculated and while I’d like to believe he had the best interests of South African farmers in mind, the way he has gone about handling the issue suggests his kite flying exercise was more for domestic consumption; appealing to an anti-immigrant (unless those migrants are white) constituency rather than any real interest in reaching out to a group in possible need of ‘rescue’ in South Africa.

There are clearly enough people in Australia who believe their pre-1958 ‘whites only’ immigration policy represented some sort of demographic ‘dream time’ that a cynical Australian politician will seek to exploit that minority world view. It is a shame that a country where 20% of its people were not born there and who, for the most part, all get on like a house on fire living harmoniously, has room for a Minister of Immigration who will try and exploit a minority view for political gain. If he was genuinely concerned with the plight of white farmers in South Africa (or, simply more intelligent) he would have quietly floated the idea to his colleagues, gauged their reaction and if they were in agreement that white South African farmers deserved special treatment, they could have quietly gone about creating a visa pathway for them without the political grandstanding. You have to ask yourself why Dutton handled the issue the way he did.

Recently New Zealand did something similar in creating a special pathway to residence for several thousand largely unskilled farm workers at a time the same Government was tightening up on migration in general because of concerns we were dropping the ‘quality’ of our skilled migrants. Sensibly, and with profound (or cynical, depending on your perspective) political judgement, it was done quietly and what could and arguably should have caused a political backlash, passed virtually unnoticed by the public. As a result, 4000 people who would not otherwise not have had any pathway to residence because they are effectively farm labourers but who were making an economic and social contribution to the rural economy, now have a path to achieve it. 

Mr Dutton, it seems to me, must have known his musings on maybe, possibly ‘looking at’ creating a pathway for white farmers was not going to fly and it is impossible for me to conclude that he has done anything other than cynically exploited the situation white farmers find themselves in across South Africa. He didn’t fly his kite for them, he flew it for political gain at home.

Those of you who think, so what, if it helps thousands of farmers to get somewhere ’safe’ and to a ‘civilised country,' you might want to reflect for a moment on what the chances of it happening really are.

It is very interesting that in the past few days the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Julie Bishop, one of the Government’s most senior Cabinet Ministers, several senior politicians along with the Prime Minister himself have all poured cold water on Mr Dutton’s suggestion. It would suggest that his kite-flying exercise was pretty much simply politicking, not for the ultimate benefit of any white South African farmer, but for local consumption. That is what made me so angry and disgusted - if he was truly serious, he’d have gone about it very differently and in a way that might have been politically acceptable and worked.

The second tragedy the piece illustrated is that South Africans have sadly got to the point where they cannot have a grown up discussion about anything without it descending into ugly vitriol and accusing one another of every opinion being based on a racist worldview. Anyone who ever believed in a ‘rainbow nation’ must surely, by now, realise if it wasn’t always an illusion, it is a crawling baby struggling to learn to walk. I got to the point a while ago in South African hotels of dreading the question about what colour toast I wanted for breakfast, in case my preference for ‘white over brown’ might be construed as the outward manifestation of my inner racist, rather than a simple taste preference. (‘Why don’t white people want to eat brown bread I ask you!?’ I can hear Malema screeching into his bullhorn, ‘It’s because if it is brown, it is inferior to white!’ I imagine he’d then start dancing and singing about ‘one farmer, one piece of brown toast’).

That last week’s blog resulted in a very predictable firestorm of ignorance, abuse and hate on social media was sad. All I was saying was if white farmers deserve a break because their lives are threatened what about all the other people around the world being threatened for no reason other than their skin colour, religion, political beliefs as well? Why aren’t they being treated with the same ‘compassion’ as Dutton claims to be showing white farmers? There are thousands of people being held in appalling conditions in Australian detention centres who one might reasonably argue should be ahead of South African farmers in the ‘help us’ queue. 

No matter what the discussion point, if you don’t agree with my opinion, I must be a racist. If I don’t agree with yours, it is you who must be a racist. So it seems to be in South Africa. Even 24 years after the dismantling of apartheid, old world views in South Africa still run very deep. There are plenty of politicians, Julius Malema being the prime example in South Africa, willing to exploit those for maximum political gain. To also have a senior foreign politician in a country like Australia which has a very recent - some would suggest ongoing - sorry history of racist immigration policies, is to offer little other than pouring fuel on the South African flames. I am not sure who that actually helps in South Africa.

Is a target of 30% black ownership of land in South Africa such a bad thing if done properly, sensibly and fairly? Before I set anyone else off, I agree - if it is done properly - and over the past 24 years it is hard to find a lot of evidence this is an economy where the political leadership has done much ‘properly'. And therein lies the real problem - only when local politicians stop turning the economic argument into a racial one can there be any chance of success or peace in this land.

Maybe I didn’t explain it very well, but so many people either could not see beyond their own biases having read the piece last week and launched into racist attacks (seemed to be equally split between black on white and white on black) yet most, in their haste to rather froth at the mouth seemed to completely miss my point.

I feel as desperate for the farmers of South Africa as I do for any victim of the senseless violence that pervades this country.  

Mr Dutton has raised the expectations of literally millions of white people who now want to believe, because they are white, that Australia is some sort of knight in shining armour that will ride to their rescue.   

I am pretty certain that it will not happen - not for the South African farmers let alone any other white, ‘christian, cricket and rugby playing people’ that he has said ‘assimilate’ so well into Australia. If those things count then add ‘points’ for being a fully paid up member of your local South African cricket club to the ‘points’ criteria for skilled migration. If being Christian makes you a good Aussie, then give all those that go to a Christian Church 20 bonus points. Australia operates a test for English language so why not a tractor driving test, if what they want is farmers? 

Mr Dutton’s biggest mistake (or achieving exactly what he wanted) of course, was to go public with his musings rather than quietly make the suggestion, perhaps at a closed Cabinet meeting, for further discussion. 

Ironically, he has now put the Australian Government in a position where in my view, they cannot help the South African farmers and for me, that is the greatest tragedy of all - a cynical politician of the worst kind or just a very stupid one. 

Across Australia the clear majority of people have great sympathy for anyone who is targeted, officially or unofficially, because of the colour of their skin. Given how divisive the ‘benefit’ of economic migrants and refugee seekers is in Australia it is simply not going to open a residence door just because a person is ‘white’.

It is 2018 after all in most of Australia, even if where Mr Dutton comes from it is still 1918.

Until next week (when we will talk about something else)...

Iain MacLeod, Southern Man


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6 comments on this post
March 23, 2018, 10:12 p.m. by Luke

Hi

Doing nothing or do something, that is the question.

Being targeting by race to be tortured and murdered (5 times national average), not allowed a job or start a company based on race, being rejected education based on race, having your property taken without compensation because of race.
That is everyday life in South Africa.

If Australia wants English proficiency or any other, then let us know and let us work on those points. Many will enroll in such programs and do anything that is required.

The same that happened to the Jewish in the 1900's is happening and will escalate to that level in the few years to come.
Anyone that is really looking into South Africa will notice this.

Australia and the rest of the world has a choice, either help or not to help.
But if you wait to long, like with the Jewish people, it may be to late to help.

Syria gets help but we have almost double the amount of people being murdered and targeted because their race.

History will tell what the world did as they turn a blind eye and denounce helping people based on race.
Only Dominican Republic and Costa Rica offered to help the Jewish people from the Holocaust, and by the time the other countries went to war and ended, more than 5 million was exterminated. That is more than the white population in South Africa.

Regards

Reply to this comment
March 24, 2018, 8:08 a.m. by Lawrence

Iain

What's really sad is that while white farmers ARE being murdered, you joke about Julius Malema and toast? When you know that the recent violence surrounding land reclamation is his main agenda. That is sad.

You're right about one thing, Everyone is terrified of being called a racist.

Why is it so scary to say that White, English speaking, Christian, South African, farmers are a better fit for Australia, a predominantly White, English speaking, Christian country, than Middle eastern Muslim's are? It's true isn't it? Does it make you a racist if you think it's true?

Lastly offering help to one group, obviously doesn't negate the need to help other groups, it's obvious isn't it, we all know that. If someone decides to raise money for deaf people, do you immediate ask "What about the blind people?"

I also notice you calling Dutton a hypocrite, which reminds me how at your seminar you told a bunch of South Africans that they were lobsters in a pot slowly being boiled without realising it, while adding a couple housebreaking stories as you went. And yet hear you are joking about Julius Malema singing "One farmer, one bullet" and downplaying the issue.

Which is it? Should we be scared and wanting to immigrate or is it just farmers you don't want because of the previous experience NZ had with them?

Replies to this comment

March 24, 2018, 6:10 p.m. by Iain
Sometimes my friend a little humour can help in a tense situation. You seem to have completely missed the point - if the whole Australian Government, rather than a single populist politician, wants to help any group of people settle in their country, that is their prerogative and their choice. Every country gets to decide who and why they want to let people in. My point was I don't think the Australian Govt will see this though for many reasons, not least the way the Minister has handled his idea (there is no plan) and the fact that by making it a high profile issue Australians will legitimately ask 'Why white South African farmers when we have several thousand asylum seekers already in our country sitting as effective prisoners in detention camps waiting to be processed'? You can see that, can't you? I have nothing against farmers, white or otherwise, I have a problem with idiot politicians.
Reply to this comment
March 24, 2018, 9:35 a.m. by Alicia Thomas-Woolf

"South Africans are for the most part these days, seemingly incapable of any form of grown up discourse. "

Well now, Iain. That's a bit of a generalisation, isn't it?

I am sorry that you have experienced a backlash, it's never nice to be on the receiving end of one of those - and it wasn't from all of us.

And in all the passion and drama that your last post evoked, remember that within your audience are traumatised people who do feel persecuted because what is happening to them is real. Many hurt people lash out when they are angry and afraid.

You wrote: "Ironically, he has now put the Australian Government in a position where in my view, they cannot help the South African farmers and for me, that is the greatest tragedy of all - a cynical politician of the worst kind or just a very stupid one."

I think you're right.

Replies to this comment

March 24, 2018, 9:17 p.m. by Julie Richards
I have to agree with this comment about Iain’s generalization of South Africans. I generally tend not to comment on “hot” topics on social media platforms, because of the very real tendency for controversial topics to descend into firestorms of ignorance and hate, to use Iain’s own words. I am sure there are many like me, and I do not believe the people who do end up contributing to these discussions can be considered representative. “South Africans have sadly got to the point where they cannot have a grown up discussion about anything without it descending into ugly vitriol and accusing one another of every opinion being based on a racist worldview.” This is a very unfortunate comment. Yes, it might be indicative of a few, maybe even many (given the tumultuous nature of our politics), but please don’t tar all of us with the same brush.
March 24, 2018, 9:17 p.m. by Julie Richards
I have to agree with this comment about Iain’s generalization of South Africans. I generally tend not to comment on “hot” topics on social media platforms, because of the very real tendency for controversial topics to descend into firestorms of ignorance and hate, to use Iain’s own words. I am sure there are many like me, and I do not believe the people who do end up contributing to these discussions can be considered representative. “South Africans have sadly got to the point where they cannot have a grown up discussion about anything without it descending into ugly vitriol and accusing one another of every opinion being based on a racist worldview.” This is a very unfortunate comment. Yes, it might be indicative of a few, maybe even many (given the tumultuous nature of our politics), but please don’t tar all of us with the same brush.
Reply to this comment
March 24, 2018, 6:24 p.m. by Iain

I certainly wasn't surprised at the backlash by some (it proved one of my points) nor did I take any offence taken at the way some in SA reacted. It was totally expected. Sometimes the toughest discussions are unpleasant but that doesn't mean they should not take place.

That there are so many 'traumatised people' in SA, including a whole lot of farmers, I felt compelled to write both pieces and call the Minister out. Don't forget my day job is helping people to get to Australia and New Zealand. Anything that makes that easier is great. However I genuinely believe a great many people in SA have misunderstood the real motivation for Dutton's kite flying exercise.

I think SA Farmers are being used for one Australian politician's gain at their expense - it is reprehensible in my opinion. My pieces were in effect a message that maybe Australia will do something for farmers, I just wouldn't hold my breath because, as they say these days , of the 'optics' of the suggestion. How does the Minister expect all of Australia feels about his idea? It is actually irrelevant what South Africans think. The Minister, if he is indeed genuine, should have made a quiet plan and flown it under the radar. That he didn't makes either him an fool or cynical because in fact he was simply using the tragic situation in SA for his own Australian political ends ....time will tell which.

Reply to this comment
March 24, 2018, 11:31 p.m. by Alberto Glover

HI Ian

I thought that this could be appropriate to the situation:

"First they came ..." is a poem written by German Lutheran pastor Martin Niemöller (1892–1984). following the Nazis' rise to power and subsequent purging of their chosen targets, group after group.

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum quotes the following text as one of the many poetic versions of the speech:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

Reply to this comment
March 26, 2018, 6:40 p.m. by Angeline Shannan

Hi Iain

I've read both your blog posts on this subject and the comments made, which have provoked me to analyse the issue from the perspective of the definition of refugees as per the UN Refugee Convention. Seeing that many comments from SA express an apparent fear of persecution and discrimination, they would in theory be cries from potential asylum seekers to Australia. In view of the statement by Australia's Immigration Minister, it would look like Mr. Dutton, is side-stepping the definition of refugees and giving priority to one group of potential migrants (asylum seekers) over others on the basis of colour and ethnicity, as you have rightly pointed out, although I agree that you have at times tarred all South Africans with the same brush. You, nonetheless, have a right to free expression as your basic human right.
I would, however, want to pose this question to Mr. Dutton and the Aussie government, what if members of this same group of migrants arrived in Australia in rickety boats as have many of the refugees from Asia and the Middle East? Would they be accepted in Australia via that fast-track process for 'white SA farmers' or would they be relegated to places like Christmas Island, Manus Island and Nauru?
This is an issue which Mr. Dutton failed to understand when he made such a sweeping politically racists statement. Bad enough that xenophobia causes the targeting of new migrants in virtually every country including my own. You may think that the question raised is merely an exercise in semantics as the Aussie administration doesn't appear to support the measure proposed by Mr. Dutton, but I do pray that it never sees the light of day.
I work with refugees in Malaysia and this is why I feel I have to voice it.
Thanks for raising the issue.

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