See all those languages up there? We translate Global Voices stories to make the world's citizen media available to everyone.

Learn more about Lingua Translation  »

Australia: Dog-whistling to Islamophobes

This post is part of our special coverage on Refugees.

Australian Opposition politicians have been accused of using dog-whistle politics and courting islamophobes during the last week. Two issues have collided with instant reactions in the blogosphere.

Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison has admitted he was “insensitive” to question the cost of funerals as families mourned for those lost in the Christmas Island shipwreck tragedy yesterday.

The Opposition had attacked the Federal Government over its decision to fly 22 asylum seekers to Sydney for the funerals of eight people, including two babies, who died in the December shipwreck.
Morrison climbs down in funeral row

His admission was rejected by Grogs Gamut:

Morrison did not admit his comments were insensitive, he admitted the “timing” of his comment were insensitive. Abbott did not say “we went a little bit far”, what he actually said was: “I want to thank Scott for being man enough to accept that perhaps we did go a little bit too far yesterday.” So actually it was not Abbott admitting it, but praising Morrison for supposedly accepting it (which he didn’t – he only thought his comments were ill-timed, the content itself? Nothing wrong at all).
Morrison and Abbott stay down; Hockey joins them

Mr D at The Failed Estate, ‘Rejuvenating Journalism in a Jaded Age’, uses a photo of Scott Morrison to lead his post:

The Australia I have come to admire is one of the world's wealthiest nations; rich in spirit and resources; a country that takes almost childish pride in its generosity of spirit, its good humour, its open-heartedness and its willingness to look after the underdog.

He laments the media's role in the demise of this Australia:

But I don't hear that Australia on the radio anymore. I don't hear that Australia in the carefully chosen and calculated phrases of the politicians or in the sophistry of the newspaper editorialists. Instead, that hedged, constricted and concocted language reveals a fearful country turning in on itself and shrinking from the world, losing the very qualities that for more than two centuries made it a magnet for those seeking better lives – including the families of our political leaders Tony Abbott and Julia Gillard.
This is Australia?

For those unfamiliar with dog-whistling, journalist Annabel Crabb gives Morrison a lesson in this form of low politicking at The Drum:

Those who toot upon this fabled instrument do so with a complex purpose in mind; to reach certain receptive ears, while maintaining plausible deniability of a darker motive.

…Mr Morrison, it seems, is a new breed: the Audible Whistler.
Morrison: putting the alpenhorn into dog whistling

Anthony Eaton is another strong voice of condemnation at Musings, from an outer-spiral-arm:

So shadow immigration minister Scott Morrison apologises. Not for the basic and fundamental inhumanity of his suggestion that those refugees who recently lost family members in the Christmas Island boat wreck (including the 9 year old boy who lost both of his parents and his brother in the disaster) not be allowed to attend the funerals of their family members, but he apologises for the timing of his comments for the same day of said funerals.

Gutter politics at its finest, Scott.
Whistling up the Hellhounds…

In fact it was nearly impossible to find bloggers defending Morrison, short of the far right. Even journalist Andrew Bolt, who has been accused of similar whistling, thought Morrison might have gone too far:

I really wouldn’t want to be arguing Morrison’s position, either for self-preservation or self-respect. Let the money go. Plenty of other waste to attack in this portfolio, and I think Joe Hockey’s response is the most dignified and humane from the Opposition:

No matter what the colour of your skin, the nature of your faith, if your child has died or a father has died, you want to be there to say goodbye, and I totally understand the importance of this to those families.
Are we really that desperate for a dollar?

However, Bolt's position seemed to shift with updates:

Boy, it did cost, though, as Immigration Minister Chris Bowen conceded to Neil Mitchell this morning…

Many of the negative comments on Bolt’s post show that the dog-whistle was audible to many people.

The second controversy involved the tabling of a petition in Federal Parliament by a Liberal Senator, calling for a 10-year ban on Muslim immigration. From Islamophobia Watch, Documenting anti Muslim bigotry:

ACT Liberal senator Gary Humphries has upset Canberra's Islamic community by tabling a strongly worded anti-Muslim petition in the Senate, even though he says he does not agree with its content or know the signatories to it.
Australia: anger at anti-Muslim petition in Senate

Conscience Vote, Politics for the human, takes on the Opposition over both issues.

That was just the start of a veritable symphony of dogwhistling this week. Senator Gary Humphries got his solo next , tabling a petition to Parliament calling for a moratorium on Muslim immigration and to give priorities to Christians. He hastened to assure us that he didn’t support the ideas in the petition: ‘Many muslims are my friends and I hope they’ll remain my friends’, he said. But he had an ‘obligation to fulfil or place before the Parliament points of view of citizens’.

Seems entirely reasonable, doesn’t it? It’s not that Humphries wanted to do it – why, some of his best friends are Muslims – but he just didn’t have a choice. After all, it’s important to make sure community concerns are brought to Parliament.

The petition was signed by three people.
A symphony of dogwhistling

Riotact has two posts about the petition. The second questions Humphries’ denial of support for its sentiments:

Free speech is wonderful, but perhaps if groups want a voice in the parliament they should get a representative elected?
How many times does Senator Humphries intend to give bigoted whackjobs a voice

Meanwhile Scott Morrison’s week has continued a downward spiral as he defends himself against new racist allegations:

Embattled Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison has rejected as gossip a report that he urged shadow cabinet to take advantage of fears about Muslims.
Morrison dismisses anti-Muslim report as gossip

Could be a case of dog bites whistling politicians!

This post is part of our special coverage on Refugees.

3 comments

Join the conversation

Authors, please log in »

Guidelines

  • All comments are reviewed by a moderator. Do not submit your comment more than once or it may be identified as spam.
  • Please treat others with respect. Comments containing hate speech, obscenity, and personal attacks will not be approved.

Receive great stories from around the world directly in your inbox.

Sign up to receive the best of Global Voices
Email Frequency



No thanks, show me the site