Debate: Australia is a Xenophobic nation

Discussion in 'Formal debates' started by Challenger78, Jan 8, 2008.

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  1. Challenger78 Valued Senior Member

    [See also the [thread=75992]Proposal[/thread] and [thread=76023]Discussion[/thread] threads related to this debate.]

    Definition: Australia- (the majority of the population of Australia) is a xenophobic (afraid of foreigners) nation

    the proper definition of xenophobic is:

    A person unduly afraid or contemptous of foreign things especially of foreign peoples.

    1. Pauline Hanson

      Pauline Hanson's one nation party and her nationalist, anglo centric ideals would not exist unless there was a significant part of the population that was xenophobic. Her initial acceptance into the Liberal party indicates that at that time, leading politicians clearly thought that she would appeal to the rural vote.
    2. Demographics,

      Outside of sydney, there is less of a chance that you will find heavily multicultural towns. In these close knit communities, obviously you will find that people are unduly afraid of foreigners. It is from these rural towns that most of the xenophobic voter base is formed.
    3. Riots

      Specifically the Cronulla riots, would not have had the response they did unless foreigners were involved. While i do not deny that youths of other ethnicities were involved and did participate in retaliatory attacks. The large scale violence was initiated at Cronulla. Normally an assault on three life savers would have earned a police arrest and jail time. but in this case it rose to mob violence. why ? because underneath all the pretense about multiculturalism, there lies a streak of xenophobia.
    4. citizenship test

      Australia never had a citizenship test until recently. there was no need for a citizenship test, unless it was to ensure that people could live adequately in Australia. while the idea of a citizenship test is not racist or xenophobic, the motive certainly is.
    5. Later political tactics

      Why would, the liberal party, and people involved in the Coalition (Liberal/national) resort to racist tactics at the last minute ? In any other country this would be condemned and the politician shunned out of the party.
      my point is, they would not resort to these tactics unless they felt that it would appeal to a voter base. Normally no politician would be stupid enough.. so it must be a large base, that they try to appeal to. The freeze on african immigrants, who have nothing to do with terrorists, was purely motivated by xenophobic means... by the government , which is elected by the people. for 12 years.

    There you go folks, my introductory post. apologies if its a little fragmented.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 8, 2008
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  3. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

    I'd like to start with some statistics.

    According to the 1996 Australian Census, 22.2% of Australian Citizens were born overseas. The top 5 countries of birth of these people were: England, New Zealand, China, Italy and Vietnam. In addition, the 2001 Census shows that 26% of the population had at least one parent who was born overseas.

    In 2004-5, 123,000 people migrated to Australia, including 13,000 under Australia's Humanitarian programme.

    Approximately one third of all immigrants to Australia come from Asian countries (China, The Philippines, India, Vietnam).

    Migrants tend to do well economically on settling in Australia. According to a study by Australian academic Professor Sue Richardson entitled "A Comparison of Australian and Canadian Immigration Policies and Labour Market Outcomes", migrants get jobs quicker in Australia. The study has found that six months after arrival, 26 percent of migrants to Canada were unemployed, compared with just 10 percent in Australia.

    Do Australians support immigration? Judging by the governments we elect, yes they do. Both major Australian political parties favour a relatively high level of immigration. Levels of immigration rose under the Howard government. Howard himself was accused of deceiving the public by appearing to be "tough" on illegal immigration to win support from the working class, while simultaneously winning support from employers by actually increasing immigration.

    The Australian government announced a freeze on refugees originating from Africa in October 2007. The government cited problems in integrating them into the community, but this prompted critics to accuse the government of a pre-election move to appease anti-immigration voters.

    The new Rudd government similarly supports immigration.

    In comparison, Pauline Hanson's anti-immigration party, One Nation, only ever enjoyed brief electoral success, mainly in one state, Queensland, and is now electorally marginalized. One Nation argued for a zero net immigration policy, asserting that "environmentally Australia is near her carrying capacity, economically immigration is unsustainable and socially, if continued as is, will lead to an ethnically divided Australia." The public obviously did not agree.

    The Liberal Party's policy of mandatory detention of illegal immigrants came under criticism from a range of religious, community and political groups including the National Council of Churches, Amnesty International, Australian Democrats, Australian Greens and Rural Australians for Refugees.

    What of Australia's official approach to multiculturalism? Well, a clue might come from a document all immigrants are required to sign: an "Australian values statement". In part, it reads:

    I understand:
    • Australian society values respect for the freedom and dignity of the individual, freedom of religion, commitment to the rule of law, Parliamentary democracy, equality of men and women and a spirit of egalitarianism that embraces mutual respect, tolerance, fair play and compassion for those in need and pursuit of the public good
    • Australian society values equality of opportunity for individuals, regardless of their race, religion or ethnic background
    I undertake to respect these values of Australian society during my stay in Australia and to obey the laws of Australia.

    I understand that, if I should seek to become an Australian citizen ... Australian citizenship is a shared identity, a common bond which unites all Australians while respecting their diversity​

    If these values are not held by Australian citizens in general, why do we expect immigrants to hold them?


    Challenger78, in his first post, defined the topic as "the majority of the population of Australia is ... afraid of foreigners".

    I concede that a minority in Australia is xenophobic, but that is not the debate. I dispute Challenger78's claim than over 50% of Australians are xenophobic - fearful and/or hateful of "foreigners". I argue that Australia is in fact a multicultural nation. Over one fifth of Australia is composed of first-generation immigrants - how could we not be multicultural? So, there we have 22% of the nation non-xenophobic straight off the bat. All that is required is to show that at least another 28% of the nation is not xenophobic. I hope that some of the above information goes some way to showing that Australians in general are not xenophobic.

    Taking Challenger78's points one by one, briefly:

    1. Pauline Hanson and her party are a spent political force which never had large support in the first place. One Nation won no seats at all at the last election, and nor did Hanson's own newly-formed party.

    2. Challenger78 has presented no evidence that rural towns form a base of xenophobia in Australia. Contrary to his claim, many medium-sized towns have vibrant migrant communities. I would argue that the xenophobe minority in fact is based predominantly in the large cities of Australia.

    3. The Cronulla riots undoubtedly had a racist element, but the instigators of those riots were again a minority of the community, even in Sydney. Moreover, the rioters were widely condemned from all corners of the community. Since the riots, much effort has been put into educating those around Cronulla about cultural diversity, so that their ignorance and prejudice is adjusted to conform to the views of a wider Australia. Most Australians think this is a good thing.

    4. The citizenship test has indeed been widely criticised. This is evidence that many Australians like immigration and think the test is unfair to potential new Australians.

    5. The Liberal government was voted out at the recent election. It is arguable that part of the reason for this was its policies that were considered xenophobic and discriminatory.
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  5. Challenger78 Valued Senior Member


    You have mentioned that migrants have made it to Australia. This does not mean that the mindset of local Australians would change. I acknowledge that if Australians were extremely xenophobic, they would ban all immigration all together. However, (and I apologise for this) Until there is a survey measuring a response to increased or to immigrants in the local area , we can only use the comments and perspectives of Politicians and the media as a judge of Australian's response .

    I understand that the term Xenophobia may not apply, as the Australian population seems to be xenophobic towards a certain region, as over half the immigrants are still from Europe and the UK. So in a sense my definition was flawed.

    You have successfully shown that the government supports immigration, however, why does government still supports mandatory detention ?. See my later point for the Children overboard exploitation and incident.
    Again, Immigration from all areas was not supported until the late 70s, whereas in other nations, such as the US, Immigration flourished.

    Yet the Liberal Party still was reelected for 3 consecutive terms.
    In response to the Children Overboard affair, yes, there was criticism, but why didn't anyone resign ? . The fact that that affair turned the tide of the 2001 elections is indicative of the widespread xenophobia, present. Logically there is no reason to suspect that there would be a large "wave" of illegal immigration. The exploitation by howards government shows how easily and quickly voters jumped in fear.

    The comments made by Andrew Fraser, The media's sensationalist headlines regarding the riots and the constant racist attacks. Usually more sensationalist when committed by foreigners than home grown. I can't remember but I believe it was on a today Tonight show. The controversy surrounding Sheikh Al Halalily and his comments, which were intended for muslim women. And not to mention that the cronulla riots to which over 5000 people turned out for an assault on 3 lifesavers.

    i stated that the motive for the Citizenship test rose out of paranoia that immigrants would erode Australia's national Identity and Culture. In fact many of the values held by Australians are common human values, and no one is questioning that. What is being questioned is the motivation of such a citizenship test and the support it received from the government.

    I would say that Australians are fearful.. Of certain Races, rather than all foreigners in general. But since colonisation, there has been a definite element of Xenophobia running rampant within the population. Taking the response of the population to the Tampa and the Children overboard affair, one can conclude that Australian's are very protective of their border, hence fearful of foreigners.

    Given the lack of media focus on immigration and the harsh conditions in the Detention Centres, one can also conclude that there are many who support the idea of Offshore detention centres, which hold children, some unaware of the legal rights they may/may not posess.

    The fact is, Her party took over a safe seat. It means that there could be many more seats like that. The question here is not what happened after she became popular. Its why she ever got that far in the first place. In any multicultural society, idiots like her would not be able to run for office in the first place.
    Heres the evidence, from the mayor of the local town,

    Again, its not how long and what happens afterwards, Its the fact that these events occurred in the first place. In any true multicultural society, there wouldn't be 5000 people gathering to avenge 3 assaults.

    Again, The motive behind the test was that it would appeal to anti immigration. The fact that the government and politicians think that some of these measures would appeal to anyone, Is indicative of the political mindset.

    But evidence shows that the Liberal government was elected twice in two elections from the appeal of anti immigrationists, There is no reason to say that they won't do so again.
    Last edited: Jan 8, 2008
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  7. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member


    I don't think that you have actually established that most Australians have a xenophobic "mindset".

    On the issue of immigration, it does not automatically follow that being opposed to immigration (or "too much" immigration, whatever that means) is necessarily a xenophobic stance. The One Nation party painted its own stance against immigration as a concern for the carrying capacity of Australia, which is, after all, largely a desert. In the case of One Nation, its true motives were fairly clear. However, there is an ongoing debate in Australia as to how many people the nation might realistically be able to sustain. With climate change occurring, we are already seeing problems in an undersupply of fresh water. These problems are not at the current time insurmountable, but they have led some to suggest that unlimited immigration would be a bad idea. On the other hand, estimates of the carrying capacity of the land vary widely. It should also be pointed out that Australia is a net exporter of wheat and livestock.

    You make the point that about half of all immigrants come from Great Britain or New Zealand. This is most likely due to Australia's close cultural ties with those nations, its history, and in New Zealand's case its geographical proximity. However, the fastest growing region of immigration to Australia is Asia.

    You mention the previous government's policy of mandatory detention of illegal immigrants. I am not sure what the new government's stance on this is at this time. However, I note that the detention centre on Nauru, centrepiece of John Howard's "Pacific Solution", is to be closed down. Nauru presently is complaining about this, since it contributes approximately 20% of that nation's GNP at the present time. But no matter.

    I should also point out that there was a massive public outcry about detention centres such as Woomera, and many public protests. For a time, the news was saturated with such protests. If I had to guess, I'd say that the policy of mandatory detention is not supported by a majority of Australians. However, I admit that I don't have data which absolutely proves that.

    You mention that immigration from all areas was not supported until the late 70s, and you are correct. However, this debate is about whether Australia is a xenophobic nation, not whether it might have been one in the past. Therefore, I will restrict myself to the present and the recent past. Personally, I think that the attitudes of the general public to people of other nations have shifted in the last 4 decades, and Australia itself has become far less insular.

    You point to the re-election of the Liberal government for 4 consecutive terms as a sign of xenophobia. However, the issue of illegal immigration was a major issue in only one of the 4 elections, and in that election it was a "wedge" issue which served to swing a small proportion of voters towards the liberal government, while the majority voted on other issues such as the constant ones of economic management and national security. Tellingly, in the most recent election, the major issues that swung the election result were social issues, the most prominent being workplace relations. However, by the end of last year, a majority of Australians were fed up with the socially divisive politics of the Howard government, and that showed in the election result.

    You ask why nobody took responsibility for the infamous "Children Overboard" affair. The answer is that the Howard government progressively eroded the concept of ministerial responsibility during its time in office. The mantra was to maintain power and protect their own, almost at all costs.

    You say, regarding Children Overboard:

    That is correct. Voters were misled by a fear campaign, with racist overtones. But only some of them. Perhaps enough to swing the election. But people who read the newspapers were informed that by far the majority of illegal immigrants to Australia are British visitors who overstay their visas.

    Then we come again to the Cronulla riots. You say 5000 people participated. That's less than 0.1% of the population of just the city of Sydney. Far more people go to a single football match every weekend. And how many of those people were motivated by racism? In fact, how many were actually violent? I think you'll find that a reasonable portion of the young people there that day believed they were "supporting the lifesavers". As I said, I do not deny that there was a racist element there, egged on by at least one famous radio shock-jock's previous comments. But Cronulla cannot be held up as a reflection of majority community sentiment.

    One of the joys of democracy is that anybody can run for office. Sometimes a one-issue party can make a splash. With the paranoia stirred up over illegal immigration, the ground was ripe at the time for One Nation. But, as I said, it is a spent force now, and irrelevant in Australian politics.

    This quote is from one bigot, back in 2002. It is easy to find individual examples of racists. Extrapolating to an entire nation is what is difficult.
  8. Challenger78 Valued Senior Member

    Very Well, compared to other multicultural countries, In the modern day, there have been more racially motivated comments, by politicians, academics and various other facets of society. These are the "higher" levels of society, Some are elected, and would not have said these views unless they believed their electorate shared them.

    You point out accurately that the issue of immigration does not mean xenophobia, I point out that it does not mean that there are not significant elements that are xenophobic. These elements would be larger than in other countries of comparable populations. In fact, compared to nations with larger populations, there is an inordinate amount of comments which you call "isolated incidents" than in other countries.

    The fact that we are an exporter has nothing to do with our mindset, We may be a dictatorship who hates a certain enemy, but still export secretly with that enemy.

    I admit that while there is no study that says that Australians are xenophobic, We still have a higher amount of racially motivated violence than our neighbour(s).

    Is it too far a stretch to imagine that there is still a large portion holding on to past values ?

    Again, for our population we have far too many cases of racist comments by politicians and elements of society.

    I do apologise for the short replies, been on the run in singapore.
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2008
  9. Challenger78 Valued Senior Member

    Throughout this debate, I have consistently mentioned,

    Australia has a proven track record of xenophobia, and racial violence. I am not saying that Australians are bad, or that they are personally responsible. But a vast majority would have an inclination to xenophobia.

    The rise of single issue parties such as one nation, would not be possible without the fertile thoughts of people behind it.

    The cronulla riots, was a outpouring/outlet for hate, and I agree that while it was a small percentage, It was far larger than anything in Australia's history.

    However, I will concede that it is only a small minority of Australians that are truly xenophobic, until a poll/test is done on the majority of the population, we simply do not know.

    *sorry for the short post folks..see above*
  10. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

    This claim is unsupported, as far as I can see. Which other "multicultural societies" are you thinking of, exactly? It is also difficult to respond to claims of "more racially motivated comments", since you have provided no point of comparison, or even any examples that might help to establish an increase.

    I agree that, on occasion, some elected politicians express racist and/or xenophobic points of view. However, apart from the early days of Pauline Hanson, I'm not aware of any politician campaigning on such views. Why not? Because any politician espousing such views openly would be shouted down by the wider Australian community. Look what happened with the fake Muslim leaflet fiasco just before the last election.

    This is an easy claim to make, but it needs substantiation. Unfortunately, you have provided none, so we only have your own "gut feeling" to go on, it seems.

    I can point to many countries where "ethnic tensions" are rife and obvious. Some are quite close to Australia. In comparison, Australia is a much more tolerant nation.

    I'd like to see statistics that prove this. I doubt they exist.

    I agree that there is a lot of xenophobia and racial prejudice in Australia's past, although probably no more than in any other "western" nation's past.

    The only major "racial violence" I can think of that was systematic and government-sponsored happened during the early settlement of the country, but as I said before, this debate is not about that. It is about when Australia is xenophobic today.


    This is my last post in this debate. I conclude only by pointing out that Challenger78's case has not been made out. The only evidence presented in support of the general claim has been references to isolated incidents involving relatively small numbers of people. On the other hand, the reaction of the general public in Australia to such incidents has consistently been to loudly condemn the kind of "mindset" that leads to such things. This suggests strongly to me that the majority of Australians are what they claim to be: a tolerant and inclusive, multicultural society.

    I would like to thank Challenger78 for an interesting debate.
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