The Australian federal parliament was shocked on Tuesday afternoon when Senator Fraser Anning of the Katter Australia Party made his maiden speech in the senate. In his speech, Anning called for a severe overhaul of immigration policy, barring Muslims from migrating and moving towards a more “European Christian” policy of the past. He followed this up by suggested a plebiscite (popular vote) on the issue, stating that it would be “the final solution to the immigration problem.” While the entirety of what Anning proposed was appalling and unbecoming of the Australian Parliament, this statement was specifically shocking as it was a common phrase associated with Nazi Germany’s policy towards Jews, described as “the final solution to the Jewish question.”
This speech was met by swift condemnation in parliament across most of the political spectrum. Leading the charge immediately after Anning’s speech were Penny Wong and Tony Burke, both members of parliament for the Labour Party. Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull and Opposition Leader, Bill Shorten both gave speeches on Wednesday morning to unite against the views expressed by Anning. It was at the conclusion of the Prime Minister’s speech where the Opposition Leader reached across the chamber and the two usual foes shook hands. This along with Ed Husic and Josh Frydenberg, from Muslim and Jewish backgrounds respectively, crossing the aisle to embrace each other showed a rare moment of unity and bipartisanship within the Australian legislature. Anne Aly, another Muslim MP for the Labour Party, summed it up best by saying that she no longer feels like she has to fight against racism on her own. Anning’s party leader Bob Katter went against the tide and said that he supported him “1000 per cent.”
Senator Anning initially came into the Australian Parliament as a member of Pauline Hanson’s One Nation Party. He was third billing on the party’s preferential voting ballot, receiving only 19 first preference votes from people who opted to vote on individual candidates rather than on party preferences. Anning’s speech comes during a wave of controversy surrounding the political legitimacy of extreme-right figures. Much controversy was caused in the week previous when broadcaster Sky News interviewed Blair Cottrell, a white-nationalist who holds similar, if not more extreme views to Anning. Much backlash to the interview saw it being pulled from all online platforms, the show to be suspended, and the producer sacked. Jacinta Allan, the Victorian State Transport Minister, responded by pulling Sky News from all public transport screens.
Adam Masters of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) wrote that Anning’s statements can either be read as severe ignorance to history or can be a dog-whistle to those like Cottrell and his supporters. While he denies any intentional connection to Germany’s fascist past, it does not take much of a stretch to take Anning’s objection with a grain of salt, especially considering the specific nature of the language he used. In either case, parliamentarians utilizing this sort of language and promoting these views should be actively discouraged as it provides the opportunity for those with extreme nationalist views to claim legitimacy. As shown in recent years among many European states, the festering and eventual legitimization of views such as these lead to an upsurge in violence and discrimination. With a good proportion of these groundswell movements occurring in western liberal nations, the existence of such intolerance and reprehensible behaviour is the antithesis of their values. Because of these modern day issues and the tragedies that have occurred in the past, this language and position should be given no light of day and should be opposed early and strongly before they spread throughout civil society.
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