One apparently innocuous morning two weeks ago – 6 April, I believe – I received in my letterbox what at first glance seemed to be a small, harmless piece of white paper. Closer inspection revealed the sinister truth.
It appears to be striving towards business card presentation but in reality falls into the category of cut up paper. The meagre funding behind the xenophobic propaganda is perhaps one of the few positives to come from this experience. (Though I did also derive amusement from the graph in the bottom right corner that conveniently illustrates the devastating problem without having to take the trouble to spell out more confusing statistics.)
My suburb is Oatley, which is in southern Sydney on the north side of the Georges River. Just above the fabled Shire – fabled for being home to Cronulla, not hobbits, and the 2005 race riots, which this obnoxious oblong appears to take perverse pride in. Though the absence of an organisation or party of origin is conspicuous, it doesn’t seem unreasonable to deduce from the two events mentioned the authors’ alignment as Pauline Hanson-supporting Cronulla riot participants. Perhaps One Nation or the Australia First Party. The latter is fairly operative in my area and their founder Graeme Campbell’s claim that ‘Australia must remain predominantly white’ is central to their policies.
A friend of mine regularly insists our suburb is one thriving with racists, but I had never thought it much of an issue until now. It is a predominantly white middle-class suburb but by no means strictly so; it is as multicultural as your average, suburban, middle-class neighbourhood.
This racist titbit came only days before the Labor Party’s announcement on 9 April that they were suspending the processing of Afghan and Sri Lankan asylum seekers. The Labor government is swinging back to Howard-era hardline policies: tough not only on people smugglers, but asylum seekers too. Yet these illegal policies are not enough for many. The Opposition repeatedly calls for stronger border protection measures and many in the public agree. A poll at the end of a Sydney Morning Herald article reporting the new immigration clampdown shows seventy-one percent of 7690 readers support the policy. Hardly reliable but it nonetheless illustrates general public opinion.
A Roy Morgan poll on 8 April asked 670 members of the public:
Sixty-four percent said asylum seekers arriving by boat should be returned compared to only twenty-six percent who are happy with the current system and five percent saying there should be another system.
The home delivery I received is not the kind of grassroots community action that warms the cockles. Hopefully the letterbox drop is the end not the beginning. Then again, it’s an election year and immigration tensions are high. The topic looks once again to be a deciding issue in the upcoming election. The Labor Party’s latest move shows that the major parties will be pushing each other for more and more hardline policies in an effort to win over a frightened electorate.
As long as politicians and such anonymous groups as the one that delivered my unwanted mail keep up the inflammatory hysteria, immigration will be a contentious subject where discrimination becomes acceptable for the sake of protecting our borders and our jobs. If the debate continues to be framed in the same terms, where ‘boat people’ are an object of fear, racist policies and rhetoric will be defendable.