So much is going on one
really struggles to work out where to start. First there’s the climate. Today
its warm, tomorrow it might be cold. Yesterday was sunny, tomorrow it might
rain. Last week the PM, said climate change was a fallacy and lie made up by
feminist, gay, unemployed, tree hugging, lefty pinko, Marxists. This week he
announces a bunch of projects that are supposed to cut green house gasses.
Six years ago there were boat
loads of neo-fascist, terrorist sympathisers in boats trying to storm our
northern borders. This year our Foreign Minister argues that more ‘skilled’
migrants should be allowed in without a bunch of red tape to get through.
week a Muslim cleric threw a few misguided words around and was duly reprimanded
by many of his faith. Some years ago Tony Evans, from the far right Christian
“men’s” movement Promise Keepers said, “. . . I believe that feminists of the
more aggressive persuasion are frustrated women unable to find the proper male
weren’t aware of who Promise Keepers are, they’re an ultra-conservative,
fundamentalist Christian “men’s” movement, funded initially by James Dobson of
“Focus on the Family” fame who also espouses an anti-women message. Dobson is
recognised by many in the far right as being a guru on family relationships and
parenting. However his “biblical values” approach demands that women be
subservient to men, that children should be physically abused by smacking and
that the real scourge of our age is homosexuality.
Wakim, writing in The Age reminds us that last month the Pope (a Nazi
sympathiser) told an audience that Muslims were “bad and inhuman” and that the
only way Muslims spread their faith is by “blood”. Wakim goes on to note that
our PM responded to the Pope’s inflammatory words by dismissing them.
ABC’s LateLine program on September 19th Howard said, in his defence
of the Pope’s speech, “I think we should all take a deep breath on these things
and all have a sense of proportion. We seem to be living in a world where people
have no sense of proportion. Okay, they don't like what was said, I'm sure that
the Pope was not intending to attack Islam.”
Wakim goes on to note two things about Howard’s comments. Firstly that, “the
Prime Minister selectively applies a voice of reason” and that, secondly, he
does so because of his use of “dog whistle” politics. In other words, Howard
wants to create an “us” and “them” mentality so that he can signal to certain
groups who he considers to be with “us” and against “them”.
picks up very nicely the fact that Howard only ever refers to our Muslim
brothers and sisters as part of “us” when their representatives agree with him
and his world view. However, for most of the time, as far as Howard and his ilk
are concerned, the Muslim community in Australia is to be referred to in the
third person as either “they” or “them”.
setting up this dichotomy Howard is able to send out various messages in the
form of code words and phrases that, on first appearance, seem to mean one thing
when really they are intended to mean something else for the audience he is
been made very clear in all the reputable media, the vast majority of Muslim
community leaders who have spoken about the Mufti’s words, have condemned them
as in no way representing the wider Muslim community’s views. I suggest that
their comments can also be applied to the many Christians who took offence at
what the Pope said about Islam and to what the Promise Keepers say about women.
said before that Howard’s time as Prime Minister will be looked back upon as one
of the most divisive times in Australian history. His use of dog whistle
politics has been the most hurtful and spiteful development in political
rhetoric in my lifetime.
Maddox in her extremely useful book “God Under Howard: The Rise of the Religious
Right in Australian politics” refers to US critic, Cynthia Burack’s explanation
of the way in which the Christian right uses dog whistle politics. She notes,
“Christian right leaders ‘practice small duplicities – such as apologies – in
order to be misunderstood by the “major population”’ while simultaneously
signalling a more extreme position to a right wing fringe”.
case of so much of the Howard governments way of doing business the flips and
flops that Labor were accused of seem like the flipping and flopping of the
little creatures that jump around when you remove the rock under which they
its the policy, speeches or statement on climate change, immigration and asylum
seekers or the Muslim community among us, Howard is like an untethered ship in a
storm, blown about by wind and always trying to find the right way up. Rather
than being a leader, he is victim to the tide of public opinion his narrow
minded world view dictates.
writes in the closing chapter of her book that, “by legislating to bring out our
best rather than our worst in our interactions, governments can make us nicer.
And they can make us nastier. By penalising some … by sponsoring show trials, …
by draconian national security laws, … by dividing … Howard might keep winning
elections but, in between, he has not entirely had his way with Australia’s
Wakim makes the point that perhaps Mufti Taj al-Din al-Hilali was set up by some
within the Muslim community who wanted him out, “the reformers” he calls them.
He also notes, with perhaps a sense of irony, that “perhaps the dog whistle was
from these savvy reformers, the tail wagging the dog, knowing exactly what bite
it would ultimately unleash. And perhaps our leader, John Howard, did not blow
the first dog whistle, but played along to someone else’s tune.”
I think he right. Howard was
outflanked and as Maddox points out, Australian’s will not be fooled all the
time. The policy vacillations, the increasing pressure being brought to bear by
our international allies (such as Britain’s frustration over the policies on
climate change) and the growing weariness of many in our community at the
carping, bitching, scapegoating and finger pointing we call ‘politics’, bodes
well for change. The question is, will we be there to bring it on?