The Myth Of
“Fair Go” Australia
By Ghali Hassan
03 June, 2007
Anglo-Australians can be proud of a long-time forgotten truth of “Fair
Go” Australia for the privileged, today’s Australia is an
unequal and unfair society. The myth of “Fair Go” Australia
is just a shield, protecting Australia against criticism of Australia’s
unfair treatments of Indigenous Australians and Australians from other
In May 1967, white Australians
voted overwhelmingly to abolish discrimination against Aboriginal and
Torres Strait Islander Peoples. The Referendum allowed the Government
to make laws for Indigenous Australians and to have them counted as
citizens of Australia. The amendment to the Constitution was simply
a “window-dressing”. Indigenous Australians continue to
experience widespread institutionalised racism and remained unequal
and marginalised minority group. High rate of unemployment, poverty
and welfare dependency characterised the living conditions of Indigenous
Successive governments have
used discriminatory policies not different from Apartheid South Africa,
treating Indigenous Australians as second-class citizens. The health
conditions are disastrous in Aboriginal communities. Access to primary
health care services by Indigenous Australians remains worse than any
other sector of Australian society. The 20-year gap in life expectancy
between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians remains unchallenged
According to the Medical
Journal of Australia, diabetes and overweight are increasing among young
Aborigines at an alarming rate. “Indigenous children are dying
at almost three times the rate of non-Indigenous children”, said
the Journal. Indigenous infant mortality rates still two to three times
the national average. The Australian Medical Association (AMA) annual
Indigenous Health Report Card adds that Indigenous Australians are “dying
early because of institutionalised racism”. Indigenous Australians
are 10 times more likely to have kidney disease and report higher rates
of arthritis, heart disease and asthma, according to the new study by
the council of Australian Governments released on 01 June 2007.
In December 2006, some 37
key Australian health and human rights agencies signed a letter calling
for equity in Indigenous health. “It is inconceivable that a country
as wealthy as Australia cannot solve a health crisis affecting less
than 3% of its population”, said the letter to the Government
and the Australian public. To make thing worse, the Government plans
to build a nuclear waste dump on Indigenous land. “It will poison
our beautiful land, and damage our dreaming”, Bindi Jakamarra
Martin, an Indigenous elder from the Ngapa clan told The Age Newspaper.
Indigenous education is in
shambles, suffering from lack of funding and uncertainty. As Lester-Irabinna
Rigney of Indigenous Studies at Flinders University of South Australia
noted; “Literacy and Numeracy skills of Indigenous Australian
students are well below those of non-Indigenous students in primary
and secondary schools. Many Indigenous Australians in remote communities
have no direct access to secondary school education”. While adult
educational qualifications have increased and unemployment has decreased
slightly in the last 10 years, the decrese is largely due to the Government's
Aboriginal “work for the dole” schemes. Further, of the
260 Indigenous languages spoken before the 1788 white settlement, no
more than 60 remain in use as first language today. On the eve of the
40th anniversary of the referendum, the Howard’s Government wants
to make English compulsory for Indigenous children.
Although they make less than
3 per cent of the overall population, Indigenous Australians continue
to be overrepresented in the prison population. According to the Australian
Institute of Criminology, Indigenous Australians represented 20 to 22
per cent of Australia’s prison population in June of 2005, with
disproportionately high rate of incarceration.
The new study, Overcoming
Indigenous Disadvantage: Key Indicators 2007, by the Council of Australian
Governments confirms previous findings and shows that the imprisonment
rate for indigenous women surged 34 per cent between 2002 and 2006.
For men it increased 22 per cent. Indigenous imprisonment rates rose
32 per cent overall from 2000 to 2006 and are now 13 times higher than
the rate for non-indigenous Australians.
Indigenous Australians accounted
for 18 per cent of all prisoner deaths in custody between 1990 and 2000.
Official figures show that since 1990, some 200 Aboriginal people have
died in custody, despite the 1991 recommendations by the Royal Commission
on Aboriginal Death in Custody. In the “Lucky Country” of
Australia, few alcoholic drinks could put an Aboriginal man behind bars,
and may lead to his death.
In short, despite governments’
rhetoric, living conditions for Indigenous Australians are worse today
than they were before white settlement. It appears that Australian elites
awaiting the disappearance of Australian Aborigines as a distinct racial
group. As the Aboriginal Historian Henry Reynolds stated, there should
be a right for Indigenous Australians to remain Indigenous.
After he was elected Prime
Minister in 1996, John Howard moved swiftly to water down the importance
of “multiculturalism” and accorded a privilege status to
Anglo-Australians. As James Forrest and Kevin Dunn pointed out; “Multiculturalism
became essentially, ‘assimilation in slow motion’ or delayed
assimilation and Anglo privelege was effectively established on Howard’s
terms”. Since then, the Howard’s Government perpetuates
inequalities, creates divisions between different ethnic groups of Australians,
and has succeeded in rolling-back all anti-racism achievements in Australia.
The Howard’s Government
rhetoric and advertised “success” of doing a good job “managing
the economy” is a hoax. The education system and the health services
are worse than they were in 1996. Australia’s foreign dept has
increased from 193 Billion in 1996 to around $540 billion in 2007 or
60 per cent of GDP. Yes, official unemployment figure is down, but this
is not due to the rise in employment but to the changing of the unemployment’s
definition. Many Australians are worse off today than they were in 1996.
The Howard’s Government
WorkChoices law, the anti-workers law ? fished out from the Nazis’
archive ? exposed the Howard’s Government monstrosity towards
low-income workers. When asked by Eleanor Hall of the ABC to comment
on WorkChoices law, the former Labor Prime Minister Paul Keating said:
“I tell you what, to stop two people or more talking about their
conditions at work, to give you the sort of take-it-or-leave-it AWA”
(Australian Workplace Agreement). The other success of the Howard’s
Government was the introduction of the racist anti-asylum seekers policy
which is aimed specifically at Muslim refugees fleeing the Howard’s
Government-sponsored illegal wars.
Howard’s former chief
of staff and his trusted confidant, Arthur Sinodinos, said recently:
“People say that Howard moved Australia to the right. But that
is misleading, the Howard government succeeded because he [Howard] expressed
the innate conservatism of the Australian people”. Racism is not
“innate”. Racism is learned, and can be unlearned. For years,
Anglo-Australians have been fed a daily diet of xenophobia and Islamophobia
by right-wing governments and inherently racist media.
David Marr of the ABC Media
Watch summed up Howard’s other acheivemnets:“Since 1996,
Howard has cowed his critics, muffled the press, intimidated the ABC,
gagged scientists, silenced non-government organisations, neutered Canberra's
mandarins, curtailed parliamentary scrutiny, censored the arts, banned
books, criminalised protest and prosecuted whistleblowers”. His
foreign policy is to make Australia a U.S. proxy army or “Deputy
Sheriff”, participating in U.S. war crimes around the Globe.
as Prime Minister can be attributed to the following key factors: 1.
the adoption of Pauline Hanson’s One Nation racist “policy”
and rehtoric by the Liberal Party; 2. irrelevant and divided Opposition?like
in other Western “democracies” ?provides no alternative;
3. a subservient media, led by the Murdoch Press, provide unquestinable
backing for the Howard’s agenda; and 4. Howard’s ability
of escapegoating and demonising minorities, including Indigenous and
Howard’s instinct is
that he can rally voters behind him by appealing to the easily manipulated
and mislead “working class” Australians, the so-called “Howard’s
battlers”. Using scare tactic by combining fear and racism, Howard
was able to manipulate and rally voters behind him. Today, many Australians
are indoctrinated and share Howard’s ideology of superiority and
A recent Saulwick Poll found
that 55 per cent of Australians thought the Prime Minister is a divisive
leader. Howard succeeded in making Australians more individualistic,
prejudice and obsessed with material possessions. While Howard is proud
of Australian values of a “Fair Go”, and “tolerance”,
he is ? like many in his circle ? preaching “tolerance”
For example, during the Howard's Government tenure, racial abuses and
violent attacks directed against Muslim Australians have increased dramatically.
Muslim women and girls have been spat on in the street, assaulted on
public buses and have had their scarves torn from them in Sydney and
Perth. Many of them have become hostages in their own homes, afraid
to venture out. Mosques and schools have been vandalised and set a light.
While Australian Aborigines
are discriminated against because of their race, Muslim Australians
are faced with the same discrimination because of their (Muslim) faith.
Muslims face discrimination in education, housing and employment.
Howard and his ministers
often used the West-fabricated fallacy of the “suffering of Muslim
women” as a pretext to justify attacks on Muslims and Islam in
general. Howard’s appropriation of (Muslim) women’s rights
for political goals has been recently exposed. The ongoing attacks on
Julia Gillard, Deputy Leader of the Labor Opposition, by the Liberal
hypocrites (“Howard’s attack dogs”) brought some needed
relief to Australian Muslim women. The Liberal hypocrites are furious
to see one or two women speaking in loud and independent voice and challenging
the inherently Macho culture.
Furthermore, the media play
an important role spreading racism and anti-Muslims sentiments. The
Murdoch Press in particular is the leading racism monger. A study by
Flinders University of South Australia found that; “Out of 179
[Murdoch Press] articles collected during the period of 1 June to 31
July 2003, 153 [articles] portrayed Muslim men as violent (usually as
terrorists)”. Like the rest of the mainstream media, politicians
and pundits the deliberate use of the words “Islamists”
and “Jihadists” in derogative sense designed to associate
Muslims with terrorist.
A report released recently
by Islamic youth organisation (the Independent Centre of Research Australia
[ICRA]) - highlights religious and racial discrimination by the media
as one of the biggest challenges facing young Muslim Australians. ICRA
chairman Fadi Abdul Rahman told the ABC; “Young Muslims feel angry
and marginalised about negative press. ‘They have already been
labelled as, you know, the majority are perhaps criminals or the majority
are perhaps no good and I guess this misperception about young people
is really turning young people into this marginalised, alienated group
of young people within their own society”. Muslim Australians
are crucified because of who they are, Muslims, mostly Arabs and often
outspoken against racism and Western-perpetuated violence in their countries
Alan Jones 2GB Radio is a
case in point. The anti-Muslim thug used his Sydney Radio to encourage
violence and racism on Muslim Australians in the led-up to the Cronulla
Beach attacks. However, when the Australian Communications and Media
Authority found Jones guilty of encouraging violence, John Howard brushed
the conviction aside and described Jones as; “an outstanding Australian
broadcaster who says what a lot of Australians are thinking”.
The Prime Minister should have condemend the thug. Instead, the treatment
Jones received in the media and from politicians for advocating violence
stands in stark contrast to the racist treatments many peaceful Muslim
Australians receive on daily basis. Furthermore, Howard’s misuse
of the terms “Us” to refer to Anglo-Australians, and “they”
and “them” to refer to Muslim Australians, suggests incitement
to hatred against Muslim Australians and an appeal to prejudice and
racism against Muslim Australians.
While the Government uses
fear and xenophobia to manipulate the public against Muslim Australians,
it is Muslim Australians who are living in a state of real fear, based
on their daily experience of physical and verbal abuse and discrimination.
The event of 9/11 in the U.S. provided the Government with a pretext
to justify and encourage racism against Muslim Australians. Like the
U.S., the Howard’s Government hostile policy towards Islam has
implicated every Muslim and caused great suffering to the Muslim community
through various laws and policies, including the draconian “terrorism
laws”. The Howard’s Government has removed funding from
various Islamic schools and communities and associated donation to Islamic
communities and schools with terrorism.
It is important to note that
the Muslims community is a small (1.5 per cent of Australia’s
population) and unsophisticated community. Because of their diverse
origins ? from around the Muslim World ?, Muslim Australians remain
divided, unsophisticated and disorganised community. They are Australia’s
most alienated and underprivileged in economic, social and political
arenas. Australian Muslim “leaders” ?mostly self-appointed?,
have been co-opted by the Howard’s Government to serve Government’s
interests and anti-Muslims ideology.
In order to further demonise
and alienate Muslims and Islam, the Government and Australian elites
have bought and recruited an army of vulgar native informers, who pretend
to speak on behalf of Muslims and Islam. Their real role is to confirm
to Anglo-Australians that they and the Government are right in attacking
Islam, and that Islam need to change according to Howard’s racist
agenda. The Sydney Writers Festival, a gathering of Australian elites
and Western “intellectuals” is a case in point. One expects
a gathering of these “progressives” will invite an authoritative
Muslim scholar to inform them about the diverse Muslim World. No, the
elites prefer to learn about Islam from an illiterate and fraudulent
con artist, Ayraan Hirsi (Ali). How low can these “progressives”
stand in Muslim eyes?
While racism often blamed
on “working class” Australians, anti-Muslims racism has
become entrenched within government departments, the education system,
the justice system and the police. A study by the Australian Government-sponsored
agency, the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (HR&EOC)
revealed that anti-Muslim sentiment is “very strong” in
Australia. Schools and Universities are also playing their useful roles
in preaching and encouraging racism against Muslims.
In ten years, the Howard's
Government has succeeded in turning Australia into an anti-Muslims arrogant
society, a return to the Australian commentator and historian Jonathan
King’s description of Australians as: “Lazy, arrogant, racist,
urban money-grabbers who have surrounded themselves with the myth that
they are outback heroes”. In an age of “Globalisation”,
Howard would be ashamed to return to the practice of “White Australia
Policy”, when only white Anglo-immigrants were considered “worthy”
humans an allowed to settle in Australia.
Recently, Philip Ruddock,
a proud Australian and the current Liberal Minister for Immigration
and Multiculturalism, called refugees and asylum seekers ? fleeing wars
and bloodshed in their countries?, “parasites”, “queue-jumpers”
and “double dippers”. Mr. Ruddock knows there are tens of
thousands of Western illegal immigrants and ‘tourists’ in
Australia, but he dares to vilify them and to call them names.
Evidence of surveys carried
out in Australia in the late 1980s found Muslims are the most discriminated
and victimized Australians. The HR&EOC study also reported widespread
rise in violence against Muslims and Arabs. A key finding of the report
was that 90 per cent of female respondents reported experiencing racism
abuse or violence. While he Race Discrimination Act covers Jews and
Sikhs, it does not recognize Muslims as an “ethnic group”
and protection of Muslims under Australian federal law is limited.
A lawyer with some 30 years
experience in the Legal System in Western Australia told me: “It
is very common for the Police to arrest Aborigines and Muslims for trivial
things and charge them with crimes before they are allowed to see a
lawyer”. When I asked her if the Police could obtain convictions,
she replied; “the Police and magistrates share the same prejudice”.
She added; once these poor men are convicted and recorded in the [justice]
system, it is easy to victimise them further”. The policy of racial
profiling is now very common is now very common in Australia.
In most cases, Muslim men
who charged with minor crimes were given much harsher penalties than
non-Muslim Australians who committed far more serious crimes. The aim
is to criminalise Muslims and make it difficult for Muslims to find
employment and be part of the community.
It has become almost impossible
for Muslims to find employment, outside menial employment. Discrimination
starts at the recruitment process and employment. Unemployment among
professional Muslim Australians, and among Muslim youth, is very high.
More than 30 per cent compared to 5 per cent the official national total.
In addition, Government figures show that 30 to 40 per cent of professional
Muslim Australians with PhDs or MDs are unemployed. Muslims are often
employed in jobs that require lower or no qualifications. Furthermore,
Muslim Australians, both female and male, have reported discrimination
in the workplace, both in obtaining and retaining a job.
With the arrival ? in large
number ? of middle-class Asian immigrants, Indigenous Australians and
Muslim Australians are further discriminated against, marginalised and
denied employment. The situation in Australia today is reminiscent to
that of Europe in 1930s when Roma people, Jews and other minorities
were subjected to discrimination in employment, racial attacks and persecution,
although the conditions of Muslims across Europe today is not much diffrenrent.
(See Muslims in the EU) .
Finally, according to Article
27 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)
signed by Australia; “In those States [such as Australia] in which
ethnic, religious or linguistic minorities exist, persons belonging
to such minorities shall not be denied the right, in community with
the other members of their group, to enjoy their own culture, to profess
and practise their own religion, or to use their own language”.
It follows then, that Australia is in violation of Article 27 of the
“Fair Go” Australia
is a myth; it protects Australia from ratinonal criticism, and preserves
Anglo-Australians priveleged position. Australia has failed to deliver
not only on a promise Anglo-Australians made 40 years ago to Indigenous
Australians, but also on a rehtoric of non-discriminatory policies to
protect Australians from minority groups. There is an urgent need to
make Australia a nation for all Australians to live together.
Ghali Hassan is an independent writer living in Australia.
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