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The RU486 debate becomes ugly.
February 13, 2006 1:12 AM   Subscribe

An Australian Government Member of Parliament (MP) will be trying to amend a crucial piece of legislation which, if the amendment is successful, will make it far harder (if not impossible) for Australian women to gain access to abortion drug RU486 because of fears that making it easier for women to access the drug will lead Australia down a path of Islamisation. "I've actually read in the Daily Telegraph where a certain imam from the Lakemba mosque actually said that Australia is going to be a Muslim nation in 50 years' time. I didn't believe him at the time but when you actually look at the birthrates... we are aborting ourselves almost out of existence." Liberal MP Danna Vale said today. Has she been reading Metafilter?
posted by Effigy2000 (106 comments total)

 
For Metafilter's larger international audience, who may be confused that a "Liberal" would vote against a drug that would make it easier for a woman to chose, it is important to note that in an Australian context, a capital-L Liberal is part of the conservative Australian Howard Government. Our small-l liberals, the Labor Party, are currently in Opposition (though some would definently argue that the Greens are a much better fit than the ALP to claim our small-l liberal tag).

Some quick background; the legislation Danna Vale is trying to amend will see the decision to allow and regulate RU486 stripped from the federal health Minister, a highly conservative Catholic named Tony Abbot, and transferred to the Therapeutic Goods Administration. The Australian Senate voted largely in favour of this bill last week, and it is now up to the House of Representatives, where both Danna Vale and the Prime Minister sit, to pass it. This seems likely to happen in a rare conscience vote later this week.

Many parliamentarians, Abbott included, have been involved in a scare campaign to try and see that this legislation dosen't pass the lower house. But Danna Vale's fears of Islamisation take the cake. On the downside; in a country where we recently saw large scale riots between 'white Australians' and Australian Muslims, this kind of rhetoric is bound to influence the debate and inflame racial tensions in melting pot Sydney even further. But on the plus side; at least now the RU486 debate has become interesting (albeit very ugly).
posted by Effigy2000 at 1:13 AM on February 13, 2006


we are aborting ourselves almost out of existence

*hands over cake*
posted by mediareport at 1:20 AM on February 13, 2006


I've never met an Australian who wasn't racist.
I'm just saying....
posted by nightchrome at 1:25 AM on February 13, 2006


*aborts self out of existence*
posted by felix betachat at 1:36 AM on February 13, 2006


When I heard Vale's quote on the news tonight, my jaw dropped. I'm very glad she's no longer a Minister for anything.

On the Federal Issues page of DannaVale.com.au, she/her ghost writing staffer says
"There are many issues affecting Australia which the Federal Government has to deal with. In this section you will find information about topical issues that are important to the residents of Hughes now. My hope is that this information will help you better understand and act on these issues."
and the rest of the page is empty.
posted by d-no at 1:39 AM on February 13, 2006


So apparently unwanted babies are better than no babies at all.
posted by Plinko at 1:56 AM on February 13, 2006


Australia sucks.

(beating delmoi to it.)
posted by Ritchie at 2:07 AM on February 13, 2006


I've never met an Australian who wasn't racist.
I'm just saying
....that you're a generalizing dickhead.
posted by peacay at 2:27 AM on February 13, 2006


The difference between American fears and and Australian ones is always interesting to me.

Aussies, is this Muslim takeover fear actually gaining popularity? It reminds me of a quote made during a period (White Australia Policy?) when people feared that the Chinese would take over (maybe that fear never went away): "two Wongs don't make a Wright" (attributed to Australian Labor Party leader Arthur Calwell in the 60's - please correct any factual mistakes, I'm an American, after all).

Anyway, I'm wondering if there are any clever sayings similar to the one above that relate to Muslims.
posted by redteam at 2:29 AM on February 13, 2006


Or he hasn't met any Australians.
posted by JZig at 2:32 AM on February 13, 2006


I've met plenty of Australians.
I didn't say all Australians are racists.
I said I've never met one who isn't.
Huge difference, but feel free to jump to conclusions on your own and start slinging around insults.
posted by nightchrome at 2:36 AM on February 13, 2006


More background: According to what I heard on Radio National this morning, Tony Abbott ended up with regulatory power over RU486 as the result of a deal with Brian Harradine (now retired), a pro-life independent senator from Tasmania who held the balance of power in the Senate, over the partial sale of Telstra, Australia's national telecommunications provider.

The Senate is now controlled by the Coalition, which is supposedly why Howard allowed the conscience vote on RU486 - he no longer has to make deals with independents.
posted by Ritchie at 2:37 AM on February 13, 2006


Yeah, but watch as crime rates sky rocket in 20 years...
posted by public at 2:48 AM on February 13, 2006


redteam, that alleged Calwell quote is very very very likely untrue. Google it. One hit.

So nightchrome, by announcing the results of your no doubt widespread survey on an international forum where the topic under debate is a strangely framed putative Aussie policy decision with racist undertones, you were edifying the the discourse with your well reasoned interjection were you?

No peripheral slander intended? No possibility that you've had such a cloistered upbringing that you haven't in fact met more than a handful of Aussies or worse that you have been something of a racist-magnet for some inexplicable reason though the decades hmm?

Backflip all you want. Noone passing by that comment is going to see it as anything other than an ignorant spit on Australia. And I'm happy to see bona fide criticism of the country but you contributed z.e.r.o. other than a petulant barb masquerading (or so you would have us believe) as anecdotal evidence.
posted by peacay at 2:54 AM on February 13, 2006


And redteam, to address your serious question - as to whether the 'Islamic takeover fear' has much in the way of traction (paraphrasing).

I don't think so, no.

The press, and especially the faux-investigative reporting elements, beat these things up out of all proportion. The recent beach riot is a focus for many exaggerated and outlandish claims and provided a springboard for the small section of society who are intractibly racist to bruit their narrowminded fears about.

It was once the Italians and then the Asians (still is to some degree) and now it's the Arabicesque cultures that are the subject of fears. I truly believe that the overwhelming majority of Australians do not hold fears of being 'taken over'. It's a small but vocal section of the country that want to spread hate and fear of difference.

That is of course just my opinion.

(/offtopic)
posted by peacay at 3:15 AM on February 13, 2006


I absolutely love the quote "aborting ourselves out of existence". Yes, because NO AUSTRALIANS ARE HAVING BABIES. They're just having every single one aborted. Are you kidding me here? Jesus. Next up, let's ban sterilization procedures!
posted by antifuse at 3:19 AM on February 13, 2006


Tony Abbot needs multiple hits in the face with a large blunt object.
posted by VirtualWolf at 3:29 AM on February 13, 2006


This is a stupidly inflammatory post about something said by an idiot.

I love the news! Now featuring morons in high places.
posted by Wolof at 3:31 AM on February 13, 2006


peacay, I did plenty of Googling. That quote comes up everywhere. Maybe someone else said it?

Thanks for the update regarding the fear atmosphere.

What would you say is the most reliable, least biased source of news in Australia?
posted by redteam at 3:32 AM on February 13, 2006


What would you say is the most reliable, least biased source of news in Australia?

For national news? The ABC.
posted by Talez at 3:35 AM on February 13, 2006


Guys, we need to be serious here. There's a culture war going on, and we need more soldiers for our side.

The only possible solution to this crisis is that you all immediately start having sex.

Ready? On three.
posted by Simon! at 3:37 AM on February 13, 2006


redteam .. the search I did gives only Everything2.com as a result. I looked at a quote page for Calwell and this wasn't included. The actual quote does come up everywhere though, agreed. I always thought it was a kind of 'traditional punchline'.

As for news...hmm....I would tend towards our national (govt.) news services.....ABC or SBS.
posted by peacay at 3:48 AM on February 13, 2006


Is it even possible to discuss drift in a population's racial demographics without sounding racist?

Australia is already overpopulated. The natural carrying capacity of the land is very low. The soils of Australia are some of the most ancient in the world and not really productive without significant amounts of fertilizer produced by increasingly expensive fossil fuels. European farming and grazing practices have destroyed vast tracts of land and now there are significant problems with erosion and salinization. Other problems include only 25% of Australia's forests remaining intact and there is ongoing pressure to turn these into low value woodchips destined for Japan.

Overall, "aborting ourselves out of existence" doesn't seem like such a bad option because, if we don't, social unrest, disease and starvation will most likely do it anyway unlest population numbers can be stabilized.
posted by Meridian at 3:48 AM on February 13, 2006


Unfortunately the evil tendrils of Rupert Fucking Murdoch are present everywhere in Australia - therefore it's difficult to get the real dope on anything.

The only 'least biased' news point is the ABC, anybody reasonably interested in some semblance of the truth wouldn't bother with anything else - although it's still wanting.

Nightsomeofmybestfriendsareignorantfuckingmoronsbone - isn't your pointless little statement a tad oxymoronic? Seems fundamentally racist to me. If you hadn't taken peacay's bait I would have put you in the same category as delmoi, and given you the benefit of sarcasm rather than ignorant fucking moron.
posted by strawberryviagra at 4:04 AM on February 13, 2006


Wolof: This is a stupidly inflammatory post about something said by an idiot.

Seconded. Metafilter struggles enough with Newsfilter posts, it doesn't need non-stories from Australia as added baggage.

But on the plus side; at least now the RU486 debate has become interesting (albeit very ugly).

No, it hasn't. RTFA.

Mrs Vale's concerns are not shared by the other sponsors of the amendment, including Jackie Kelly. "I think Danna's on her own on that one," she said.

This was shown as nothing more than a "isn't she a nutjob?" sound bite on the news. And the substance of your post is contained in two ABC articles and one from the Border Mail (WTF? For Metafilter's larger international audience, this is a Hicksville daily).

You already have a blog.
posted by bright cold day at 4:25 AM on February 13, 2006


From crikey.com.au (yes, this is the second time I've quoted Crikey on MeFi. I have the 2-week trial subscription and I'm milking it for everything it's worth):

An email exchange between Labor Federal Member for Bendigo Steve Gibbons and a constituent:
From: David Stratton (University of Ballarat)
To: Gibbons, Steve (MP)
Subject: RU486 approval process
I trust that you will treat the upcoming vote as one on the appropriate process for approval of medication and not a backdoor vote about abortion.

From: Gibbons, Steve (MP)
To: David Stratton
I don't need advice from half-wits that have been educated beyond their intelligence!

From: David Stratton
To: Gibbons, Steve (MP)
I am profoundly disturbed by your reply to my democratic expression of opinion as your constituent. I shall make sure that public awareness of your attitude, through all possible media channels, is as wide as possible. I, and the dozen or so friends with whom I have shared this, have all been consistent Labor voters – were we Liberal voters we would be overjoyed at such a display of arrogance and political ineptitude. As iti s we are deeply saddened.

From: Gibbons, Steve (MP)
To: David Stratton
I have received many hundreds of emails on this issue, from both sides, and your email was the most arrogant and offensive with the clear implication that I am not capable of making a decision on the merits of the argument. I look forward to your media campaign.
I've never met an Australian who wasn't an idiot.
posted by Ritchie at 4:29 AM on February 13, 2006


Hey,relax.Post only US related politics please.
Fuckin' foreigners,Jeez.
posted by johnny7 at 4:30 AM on February 13, 2006


I believe Arthur Calwell said "two wongs don't make a white".
posted by pjgirl at 4:41 AM on February 13, 2006


Nice post effigy2000 and a very helpful lead-in.

This is a valid observation, but it is not a valid complaint. I have heard more than a few white Americans make the same "aborting ourselves into a minority" comment when referring to the growth of the (currently minority) Hispanic population. They "breed like rabbits," you know. It's, by definition, a racist comment suggesting the superiority and right to rule of one race over another.

One might argue that maybe it's the Aborigines and Native Americans who should be denied RU-486 and the stuff should be added to water like flouride for everyone else.
posted by three blind mice at 4:45 AM on February 13, 2006


Wow....nice. Bigotry justifying more bigotry. Cheers, my australian mates.
posted by Doorstop at 4:46 AM on February 13, 2006


OK pjgirl, that sounds more familiar and returns a lot more on search.
posted by peacay at 4:47 AM on February 13, 2006


Is it just me, or has there been an increasing amount of derails in recent threads?
posted by clevershark at 5:33 AM on February 13, 2006


Meridian writes "Is it even possible to discuss drift in a population's racial demographics without sounding racist? "

Insofar as such discussions inevitably center on the issue of preventing one non-traditional (in the area) racial group from gaining undue societal influence, then by its very nature I suppose it is impossible to discuss these things without sounding racist.
posted by clevershark at 5:37 AM on February 13, 2006


I have to say that I've been shocked by the general level of racism in Australia when I've been there. There are racist idiots in every country but it was amount of casual racism (particularly the language used by white Australians to describe anyone they thought wasn't a white Australian - which included Italian Australians & Croatian Australians) in everyday conversation that surprised me.

One theory I heard from a friend there was that a lot of people who emigrated from the UK in the 50s & 60s did so, in part, because they hated the wave of post-war immigration there and didn't want to live with non-whites & that delightful attitude has been fostered in their adopted country.

On the subject of the 'Islamisation' I had an enlightening exchange with a (white - UK descent) Australian friend 7 years ago as we were wandering out of her house in a Perth suburb :

Her: The problem round here is there's too many muzzies moving in.

Me: (mishearing) Mozzies? You have a mosquito problem?

Her: No! Muzzies! Muslims. They're all over the place! They're coming over here and taking over.
[I wasn't sure how Perth related to other cities in Oz but on a European & US-scale it seemed hilariously white.]

Me: You mean just like your ancestors did a few generations ago? Can't the Aboriginal people say the same thing about you?

Her: Err...

clevershark: One person's derail is another person's widening of the debate? ;-)
posted by i_cola at 5:45 AM on February 13, 2006


bright cold day : "Seconded. Metafilter struggles enough with Newsfilter posts, it doesn't need non-stories from Australia as added baggage."

Yeah, I visit Metafilter for the American non-stories. If I wanted to know about Australian non-stories I'd go to Matefilter or something.
posted by nkyad at 5:58 AM on February 13, 2006


nkyad wins.
posted by NewBornHippy at 6:02 AM on February 13, 2006


Guys, we need to be serious here. There's a culture war going on, and we need more soldiers for our side. The only possible solution to this crisis is that you all immediately start having sex. Ready? On three.

NO, NO, NO! Not with each other, men! Imbeciles. Sex with women! I mean have sex with women!!
posted by three blind mice at 6:03 AM on February 13, 2006


I dunno, Ritchie, that definition of idiot sounds very American to me...

Is the "muslim takeover" fear gaining popularity? Not that I've noticed. Can't think of anybody I know, or deal with, who really genuinely thinks that way. Note, though, that there is - and has been, for as long as I can remember - a slight undercurrent of "how dare they come here bringing their strange foreign lingo and weird food; if they want to come here they should speak Ostrayan and eat good Aussie food like dim sims and spag bog". Not racism as such, but more a desire that people who come here act "Australian".

Amusingly, the most "racist" person I've ever known was a Macedonian immigrant. And he was alright, as long as you didn't call him a Yugoslav ;-)

[on preview: i_cola, there's a certain amount of "joking" about backgrounds and heritage that, to an outsider, might look like casual racism. It's not malicious though, more like giving "them" a fair chance to have a go at "us". I can't think of any white/anglo-australians who would take offence at being called a "skip" by a "wog" or "lebbo", f'rinstance. Though your story from Perth is pretty horrible...]

To keep on topic, though: basically, what's gone on in this case is that the availability of drug in question is currently controlled solely by the health minister - not the TGA (the Australian equivalent of the "drug" part of the FDA) as is the case with every other medicine. It's like ... well, the US doesn't seem to have an elected official responsible for health/medical policy that I can find, so there's no direct parallel. But I notice US Metafilterians got all upset about Presidential rumblings to overturn Roe vs Wade a few months ago...

Really, though, it's a sideshow - the government can look open, progressive and responsive to the electorate by passing it in the upper house and allowing a conscience vote in the lower house, while simultaneously making the opposition look like a bunch of baby-murdering cowards. Throw in the occasional "OMFG! They're helping the terrorists!" ratbag comment from clowns like Danna Vale, and it surprises me that people fall for it. My cynical nature makes me wonder "well, what is this smokescreen covering this time?"

Oh, and nightchrome: I've never met an American who wasn't a self-centred self-opinionated fsckwit. Just sayin'...

(Canadians, on the other hand, are nice people. I've never met one I didn't like ;-)
posted by Pinback at 6:16 AM on February 13, 2006


I have to say that I've been shocked by the general level of racism in Australia when I've been there. There are racist idiots in every country but it was amount of casual racism (particularly the language used by white Australians to describe anyone they thought wasn't a white Australian - which included Italian Australians & Croatian Australians) in everyday conversation that surprised me.

You missed it, i_cola. Did you ever think that Aussies are just more relaxed in their speech and don't put on a false facade on their attitudes in front of strangers. When I lived in the U.S. state of Georgia (20 years ago) white people rarely said "nigger" in the company of strangers, but get them alone and it was nigger this, and nigger that, and nigger the other thing, nigger, nigger, nigger. Little old southern ladies who were just as sweet as iced tea in public, would use language and say things in private that shocked the hell out of me. If my last visit was any indication, ain't nothing changed. A casual visitor might not think they are racists, but hang around a while...

You might be able to accuse Aussies of not having any self-restraint, or common sense, or social graces (all true), but to single them out as any more racist than anyone else is just missing the point.
posted by three blind mice at 6:19 AM on February 13, 2006


I don't want to fall into the "Australians are racist" camp and get flamed but I cant seem to shake that notion. Does anyone know of any studies/surveys that clear this up?
posted by Binliner at 6:44 AM on February 13, 2006


Something tells me that Danna Vale would fit right in with certain members of the Republican Party.
posted by SisterHavana at 6:47 AM on February 13, 2006


I don't want to fall into the "Australians are racist" camp and get flamed but I cant seem to shake that notion. Does anyone know of any studies/surveys that clear this up?

ok, this is officially the weirdest thread I've read or been involved in for the year.
posted by peacay at 8:05 AM on February 13, 2006


As an American who has visited Australia twice and encountered countless Aussies, I interpreted Aussie speech regarding Foreignese the same way three blind mice describes. Whether it's actually true or not, I don't know. Whether that kind of talk is still bad ... well, I don't know; Aussies can be an upfront bunch from my point of view.

When I was there the first time, a Maltese woman asked where I was from because I looked a little "woggish". I told her that my parents are from Argentina. Maybe calling someone a wog in Australia is derogatory (or maybe not - there was that "Wog Boy" movie, after all - maybe it's just how you use it), but I liked it. I was kind of proud of my woggishness. Here in the US I'm just "swarthy" or "Foreign-looking". There, I had an identity. [rising music] I was a wog.

And another little tidbit which will no doubt infuriate some Aussie out there, but when I went backpacking for over a year a while back, the only Bush supporters I met were two Aussies on two seperate occasions. Still have a lot of love for Aussies, though. That probably has nothing to do with this thread.
posted by redteam at 8:15 AM on February 13, 2006


You might be able to accuse Aussies of not having any self-restraint, or common sense, or social graces (all true)

And threeblindmice, with unrestrained graceful sense I suggest you go fuck yourself, you prejudiced twat.
posted by peacay at 8:17 AM on February 13, 2006


You know who's hot? That Kylie Minogue.
posted by horsewithnoname at 8:25 AM on February 13, 2006


Hahah, what a bizzare theory, in order to stop islamification, we need to be more islamic. SMART THINKING.

Oh, actualy what I mean is that we have to force white women to have more babies against their will.
posted by delmoi at 8:39 AM on February 13, 2006


I've never met an Australian who wasn't racist.
I'm just saying....


One of my co-workers is Australian. If you saw him you'd think he was white, but over there he's not considered white at all. His family was Greek or something. Anyway, he said Australia was pretty racist, and most of what I read online and in the news tends to back up that idea.
posted by delmoi at 8:42 AM on February 13, 2006


A compromise: Allow RU486 for muslims but not for anyone else.
posted by I Foody at 8:43 AM on February 13, 2006


I've never met an Australian who wasn't Australian. Just saying...
posted by arcticwoman at 8:46 AM on February 13, 2006


I've never been to Australia, but was surprised that both the Sri Lankan and South African cricket teams faced enough racial abuse from spectators on recent tours in Australia to warrant a fact-finding inquiry by the International Cricket Council, the world's governing body for cricket.
posted by Azaadistani at 8:50 AM on February 13, 2006


The only possible solution to this crisis is that you all immediately start having sex.

Does that include sex with arab chicks? Because they can be pretty hot sometimes.
posted by delmoi at 8:50 AM on February 13, 2006


delmoi: perhaps you'd like to clarify? which muslims force their women to have babies? how is that islamic? seems catholic to me, if anything. seems, also, that you and danna vale would get along.
posted by Azaadistani at 8:53 AM on February 13, 2006


Does that include sex with arab chicks? Because they can be pretty hot sometimes.

No, of course not. That would dilute your race. Besides, they are only hot ... sometimes.
posted by Azaadistani at 8:57 AM on February 13, 2006


More anecdotal evidence I'm afraid, but I think generally, sadly, there is indeed a racist undertone to Australians. I recently went to a neighborhood Christmas party, and I was dismayed at the casual racism. I don't normally have too much to do with my neighbors beyond the odd wave and a few words in passing but they're perfectly normal middle class Australians. After a few drinks I was appalled to hear them vilify Aboriginals (drunken bludgers), Asians (boat people), and Arabs/Muslims (terrorists and/or gang rapists) alike. I'd like to say it was an ussual exerience but it was really pretty typical.

Even just looking at politics, given our recent history with the One Nation party (and that accursed Pauline Hanson is a celebrity now) and our appalling immigration policies, it isn't really a surprise that the debate about RU486 has somehow come to involve race.
posted by adamt at 8:59 AM on February 13, 2006


redteam: Aussies can be an upfront bunch from my point of view.

peacay: And threeblindmice, with unrestrained graceful sense I suggest you go fuck yourself, you prejudiced twat.

Oh, did I forget to add that Aussies have a lovely sense of humor? When they get the joke, that is. Well, at least you didn't slander me with a racial slur, Mr. Dundee. Those rodent cracks can be very hurtful.
posted by three blind mice at 9:03 AM on February 13, 2006


I've never met an Australian a human being who wasn't racist.
I'm just saying....

Including myself. We are all fucked up at least a little
posted by papakwanz at 9:04 AM on February 13, 2006


I didn't say all Australians are racists.
I said I've never met one who isn't.
Huge difference


Oh, please. This has got to be the stupidest fucking defense I've ever read on MeFi.
posted by wakko at 9:10 AM on February 13, 2006


my 2 cents on australian racism:

i went to sydney back in 1999, to attend a conference on computer human interaction (OZ-CHI -- anyone else on mefi been to one? anyone there in '99? :-) ).

as a young african-american male, with dreds and piercings to add to the "case" against me, i've gotten the short end of the stick more times than i care to remember here in the u.s.a., and i was anticipating some mistreatment in australia because i'd heard things about the aussies that echoed some of the statements in this thread.

i can happily report that i had a great time. no one did or said anyting that struck me as racist with regard to their behavior toward me; nor did i hear or see anything racist directed at other non-whites. in fact, one very positive experience stands out in my mind.

some friends (white) and i went to a fancy jewelry shop, the kind where a security guard has to buzz you in and out of the store. as we were waiting to be let in, i wore a sad smile b/c i was expecting the treatment i would get here in the states: the security guard would become my personal escort the entire time i was in the store, while my white friends would be treated like lords and ladies. to my complete surprise, the guard utterly ignored me. i mean it. he wasn't pretending to ignore me while checking me out on the sly, he made himself invisible while the sales staff showed me the same respect and attention they showed my companions. it was wonderful.

on preview: papakwanz, jonmc called -- he wants his shtick back. (j/k, nuff respect and one love ;-) )
posted by lord_wolf at 9:27 AM on February 13, 2006


You're doing a heckuva job, Peacay!
posted by five fresh fish at 9:29 AM on February 13, 2006


Ru486 causes abortion ? You gotta be fucking kiddin me !

Since when does MORE choice cause only one choice, namely that of aborting ? And I'm not entering the debate on ru486 isn't abortive, but non-implantive as that could be better explained by mefi-gynecologists.

It's obvious that the real cause behind choosing to abort is not a single one, there are many.

I am going to name ONE : necessity. Some people decide not to have kids or more kids because they can't afford giving them a decent lifestyle ; also, increasing work uncertainity and wildly fluctuating market don't give parents enough certainity for the future, something they clearly need when raising kids.

Some "leaders" who are leading at spewing bullshit around the clock believe we should reproduce more and more, as they see less advanced countries (more poor) are also more prolific. In turn this offers low cost workforce, easily induced into hard work attempting to avoid misery...that's capitalism wet dream, a highly motivated poor skilled worker.

As proletarian classes still exists, it is not hard to believe part of this proliferation is caused by need of more working arms , but also because it is probably a lot easier for these people to gain money and resource they like or need to live their lifestyle.

So you want another baby boom ? Provide economic boom, stop blaming choice-drugs and condoms for the misery of your failures.
posted by elpapacito at 9:44 AM on February 13, 2006


delmoi: perhaps you'd like to clarify?

I'm not saying all arab chicks are hot, and I mean you can't really tell with those burqas. But there is an essence of forbiddenness about them, and their features, in general can be exotic and alluring. Just look at Wafah Dufour (nee binladen).
posted by delmoi at 10:24 AM on February 13, 2006


The Calwell quote was "Two Wongs don't make a white".

I think whether you encounter racism in Australia depends, as it does anywhere, on who you encounter and the context you encounter them in. As with any situation, the racists tend to be loud and obnoxious and therefore easier to remember.
posted by andraste at 1:50 PM on February 13, 2006


lord_wolf, racism is a strange, strange beast. As an Australian I can vouch for the fact that African-Americans probably get treated nicer than, well, white Americans. I don't know how to explain it, except that Australians tend to be very picky about who they're racist to. The only explaination I can come up with is that the attitude of many of my countrymen seems to be something along the lines of:

Aborignal? Filthy bludgers.
Muslim? Rapist terrorists.
Italian? Wog.
Japanese? Nips, remember world war II.
African? Cool! Probably great at sports!
posted by Jimbob at 2:54 PM on February 13, 2006


as a young african-american male, with dreds and piercings to add to the "case" against me, i've gotten the short end of the stick more times than i care to remember here in the u.s.a. ... i can happily report that i had a great time. no one did or said anyting that struck me as racist with regard to their behavior toward me..

some friends (white) and i went to a fancy jewelry shop, the kind where a security guard has to buzz you in and out of the store. as we were waiting to be let in, i wore a sad smile b/c i was expecting the treatment i would get here in the states...it was wonderful.


So what you're saying is that since Australians don't have the same racial stereotypes as Americans, they're not racist? They obviously tagged you as an American tourist. If you walked into a US Jewelry store with an African outfit and spoke with an accent you probably wouldn't be tailed either. Try it some time. If you'd dressed and spoken like an aborigine (I don't know how much you look like one) you might have had a different experience.

In any event, racial issues in Australia are not the same ones we have here, and they're still a lot worse there then here, IMO. There is no way you're going to be able to get a feel for it as a few days tourist.
posted by delmoi at 2:56 PM on February 13, 2006


I guess it's very difficult to generalise about whether a country is more or less racist than another or than the average. I live in an incredibly diverse suburb of Melbourne, about as polyglot as anywhere on the planet, and there's zero racially motivated crime or violence. I married a wog (as she would call herself), and my conservative anglo fmaily never thought for a moment that was a bad thing. I work in perfect harmony with a range of people with different skin tones and physiognomies. Basically I don't see any racism at all in my life. Maybe I'm blind, or lucky.

But the Pauline Hanson, unarguably racist, gets 25% of the vote in Queensland (less than 1% in Victoria) and the creep John Howard doesn't say anything against her. And after Cronulla everyone tries to pretend there wasn't race involved*. And the Sri Lankan and South African cricket teams complain about racial taunts. So yeah, Australia certainly has a racism issue. Bigger or smaller than anywhere else? Imposisble to say.


* A lot fo stupid journalists failed to realise or point out that more than half of the lebanese population of Sydney is Maronite Christian. This was not a religious issue.
posted by wilful at 2:56 PM on February 13, 2006


they're still a lot worse there then here, IMO.

Evidence?
posted by wilful at 2:57 PM on February 13, 2006


Glad to know that politics are fucked everywhere and not just the U.S.
posted by Mijo Bijo at 3:06 PM on February 13, 2006


Because it's a good thing that the US isn't the only fuckup, Mijo? Why else the gladness?
posted by five fresh fish at 3:19 PM on February 13, 2006


This is what happens when you have a crap FPP.

Nature abhors a vacuum.
posted by bright cold day at 4:00 PM on February 13, 2006


As someone who moved to Sydney over six months ago from the US, I'd have to agree that racism seems very prevalent and very accepted by the whites here. And that is "whites" who are from an English background, rather than Italians, or Greeks.

It is sort of like having an entire country of people from the deep south in the US. What strikes me as curious is the ease with which people relate their negative feelings about the wogs, or abos (aboriginals), or any asians whatsoever. Since I am the right kind of "white", I'm assumed to carry the same prejudice and it can get uncomfortable.

The hatred of muslims is pretty high, even gaining the ire of people who are relatively open minded when it comes to issues of race and culture. Before moving here I assumed that Aussies were laid back concerning their views on other cultures and races, but they really come across as worse than what I was used to in the US. Now, what I was used to was the northern cities and the west coast. It is exactly like being in Alabama or Texas. Lots of pride in being the chosen class.

And if you bring up the fact that whites basically took over this country from the blacks, you get a look of "what has that got to do with anything" before they then pine about the good old Australia before all the foreigners moved in.

For the record, I live in Sydney and it is by far the more accepting than, say, Brisbane or Perth. Even so, it is not as enlightened regarding race as I assumed and wished it would be.

To be fair, it appears that other races and cultures are also "racist". Australia seemd to be comprised of lots of cultures that just never mix and have a distrust of the others. Not a lot of "mixing pot" going on.
posted by qwip at 4:03 PM on February 13, 2006


Bigger or smaller than anywhere else? Imposisble to say.

I think other people have got close to the truth: Australians (the racist ones, anyway) simply tend to be less ashamed of their racism, and speak it more openly, especially when they're in a crowd and have a big of grog in them. And the non-racist Aussies (which I like to think I am), are too friendly and polite to give the racist ones a dressing down. This attitude has been here since white fellas first planted a Union Jack on the beach - whether it was slaughtering Aboriginies like animals, chaining up Chinese goldminers, sending Japanese and German citizens to camps, implementing the "White Australia Policy" for immigration, shaking in our boots over the ever-imminent "Yellow Peril", demanding that we "sink the boats" of refugee, voting for John Howard, or forming mobs and beating up middle-eastern looking kids. At the same time as all this, as wilful said, we also seem capable of living in peace and harmony with a diverse range of people unlike most any other nation on earth. There's just a dark undercurrent of racism that rears it's ugly head from time to time, in the worst possible way.

The fact that Dana Vale, as an elected member of parliament, could say something like she did and not realise that it is totally offensive and racist, or not give a shit that it reveals her as a racist, speaks volumes about this sort of attitude.
posted by Jimbob at 4:10 PM on February 13, 2006


Whereas I've generally thought that multiculturalism worked. Maybe only in Melbourne.

I find it hard to believe that there's any racism against wogs. They are so much a part of society, we all work, live and play with them so much that I don't believe racism would be possible. Again, maybe I'm just blind.
posted by wilful at 4:11 PM on February 13, 2006


As an Australian I sort of dont know what to think anymore. In my day to day life I just dont see this racism that these visitors are talking about, but then I think down the pub its not too unlikely to see someone talking about the wogs or abos. I sort of agree to an extent that this sort of talk is not as vindictive as it may appear to an outsider - But it can spill over into hate, Cronulla being a good example. I think we do have an underlying racism problem.
Also, Delmoi really seems to have it in for us.
posted by phyle at 4:30 PM on February 13, 2006


So you want another baby boom ? Provide economic boom, stop blaming choice-drugs and condoms for the misery of your failures.
posted by elpapacito at 12:44 PM EST on February 13

This, to me, is the real heart of the matter. That a government representative of the people is actually attempting to harm her own constituents is so very wrong. She is essentially saying "Fuck you women, forget about your dreams and aspirations, forget about your monetary concerns, forget about making the right choice for you and your family...I've decided you should have more babies in the manner least costly to the government."

If she was serious about wanting more babies from the general population, why not provide free day care? Does she even know (or care) why women in Australia are not having as many babies?
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 4:32 PM on February 13, 2006


I find it hard to believe that there's any racism against wogs.

I think we have a winner...
posted by Sonny Jim at 4:38 PM on February 13, 2006


Gravy: on the same track, our current treasurer (and possibly soon to be Prime Minister) recently called for people to "have one for Mum, one for Dad and one for the country", in regards to children.

(All this at the same time as our natural environment is straining to keep up with the resource demand, we're running out of water, we're running out of space in our cities, housing prices are skyrocketing so a lot of families, were they to follow this mantra, wouldn't be able to afford a house with enough bedrooms for all these kids, and childcare is scarce, costing most of a weekly wage for a mother who decides to continue her career)
posted by Jimbob at 4:38 PM on February 13, 2006


I find it hard to believe that there's any racism against wogs.

I think we have a winner...


And I think the point of that phrasing flew right over your head.
posted by wilful at 4:41 PM on February 13, 2006


Whereas I've generally thought that multiculturalism worked.

So do I (and I'm in Adelaide) - but what works on a national scale is different from what people talk about at their backyard barbeques, or on late-night talk-back radio. There is definately variation around the country though. I think Sydney is quite compartmentalised compared to other cities, for instance, and I think people in some of the remoter parts of Queensland have a lot to answer for.
posted by Jimbob at 4:42 PM on February 13, 2006


It is sort of like having an entire country of people from the deep south in the US.

*sigh*
posted by mediareport at 4:43 PM on February 13, 2006


And I think the point of that phrasing flew right over your head.

Not at all -- I know 'wog's supposed to be one of those 'reclaim the racist epithets of your oppressors' kind of words, these days. My point was, removing it from that context for a second, that's one of the most sublime sentences I've ever read. Seriously.
posted by Sonny Jim at 4:49 PM on February 13, 2006


Maybe I'm misreading you, but I inferred that was a callout against me, saying I'm a racist who can't see it. To which I would say WTF would you know what I mean by it. I have a number of wog friends (including a wife and her family) who happily use the term with me, to me, in front of me, with no slur or affront ever taken or given. SO yeah, the whole 'reclaim the racist epithet' thing has worked.

Unless you've got a differnt take on the matter. Sublime? In what way?
posted by wilful at 4:59 PM on February 13, 2006


Speaking as the token (white) Queenslander -- in my day-to-day life, like most posting here, I don't see much racism. At all. I work with a mixed bunch of Indian's, Fijian's, "Wog's", Whiteys, etc. We're all just people. Actually, I have a theory that the racism vibe is very much a generationalist thing -- certainly, people of my grandparent's generation have a reflexive racist reaction to pretty much everything, whereas my (25ish) generation is more inclined to a who-cares-what-you-are-just-chuck-us-a-beer-mate attitude.

In fact, about the only racism I've experienced in living memory was from "Chinese-Australians", about pretty much everyone who's not Chinese. Let's all make generalisation's now! It's FUN!

quip: As someone who moved to Sydney over six months ago from the US, I'd have to agree that racism seems very prevalent and very accepted by the whites here. [...] For the record, I live in Sydney and it is by far the more accepting than, say, Brisbane or Perth. Even so, it is not as enlightened regarding race as I assumed and wished it would be.

Excuse me, but how the living hell would you know what it's like in Brisbane? Or Perth? Also: can you point me to the Cronulla-equivalent race riots in Brisbane and Perth please?

Thankyou.
posted by coriolisdave at 5:30 PM on February 13, 2006


I think it's stupid to deny that there's racism in Australia (a comment which applies to all countries). No matter where you go, there'll be people who are prejudiced. Having said that, we do have a nasty racial history (ie waiting until 1968 or so to enfranchise Aboriginal Australians, the stolen generation, White Australia and so forth), which isn't always given the acknowledgement it should be.

In day to day life however in urban areas (Brisbane, Sydney, Canberra), I've not noticed too much overt racism [1], though this may have much to do with the places I've lived, and the company I keep. Having said that, if you turn on John Laws, you can listen to all the bigoted tripe you want. There's a nasty undercurrent; but it's not fair to classify the whole country that way.

As was mentioned up thread, the Australian sense of humour probably doesn't help foreign perceptions. What sounds horribly offensive when lacking context, is quite often friendly banter. How would a show like Fat Pizza (based entirely on immigrant stereotypes) be perceived by a non-Australian audience?

[1] nightchrome doesn't know me, but I am Australian, so maybe I'm just too racist to identify racism in others.
posted by blender at 5:41 PM on February 13, 2006


How would a show like Fat Pizza (based entirely on immigrant stereotypes) be perceived by a non-Australian audience?

Perhaps about the same way a chain called Abo's Pizza might be perceived by Australian audiences?
posted by barnacles at 5:51 PM on February 13, 2006


Oh, and to reply to the racist-comments-at-the-cricket thing -- from the reports I read, all of the racism aimed at the South Africans came from ex-pat South Africans, with most of it delivered in Afrikaans.
posted by coriolisdave at 5:53 PM on February 13, 2006


Danna Vale is dragging race into it because she knows that Australians just don't give a crap about abortion. I've lost the reference to it, but surveys of Australians show that they tend to overwhelmingly favour access to abortion.

The debate about RU486 really is about abortion - there's no point anyone trying to pretend it isn't. Australians have already decided that if there's a moral angle to be addressed in abortion, they feel comfortable addressing it as individuals.

What Vale really needs is some way of tying RU486 to the thing that matters the most to middle-Australia - their precious mortgages. Maybe she could insinuate that interest rates might rise if RU486 is freely available. That is about the only thing that would do it.
posted by Ritchie at 6:15 PM on February 13, 2006


Excuse me, but how the living hell would you know what it's like in Brisbane? Or Perth? Also: can you point me to the Cronulla-equivalent race riots in Brisbane and Perth please?

Point taken. I should have prefaced to say that this is based on lots of discussions from people from all over Australia, Perth and Brisbane. They were self identifying with being racist or that it was common, or commenting on the percieved racism of Australians from other cities.

I realize that you feel my time here has not been enough to make any valid observation and the fact that I live in Sydney only lets me comment on Sydney, but I think what I said is still valid. As mediareport seems to indicate by his *sigh* in my reference to the "deep south", it may be harder to see the prevalence when you live within it for some time. I have traveled the US south quite extensively and there is a lot of racism there. It's a stereotype for sure, but so prevalent that it makes one uncomfortable. It exist all over the US, but less at a institutional basis. I guess that's what I see in Australia, that it has more or less been institutionalized. You are welcome to disagree, but from someone outside looking in, that's how it appears.

And I was commenting that the city of Sydney seemed more accepting - more of a melting pot - than those other cities. I do not include Redfern, Cronulla, etc. The suburbs can be just as bad. Sorry I hit a hot button.

Disclaimer: Not all Australians are racists. Not all of Australia caters to racism. This is a subjective topic. All opinions are of the original poster.
posted by qwip at 6:15 PM on February 13, 2006


qwip - you're hanging out with the wrong crowd. We need to arrange another Sydney MeFi meetup.
posted by tellurian at 6:34 PM on February 13, 2006


I like Australia, and Australians. I only lived there for about 4 years, total, mostly in Sydney but also a few months in Canberra and Perth, with trips all over, and my feeling was that there's just about as much racism as there is anywhere else. I would say it's quite comparable to Western Canada in that respect, very generally. And less prevalent than in South Korea, where I've lived for the past several years (but where, granted, it's more a matter of ignorance and misunderstanding than hatred and dislike).

For what little it's worth.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:38 PM on February 13, 2006


I'm not sure that you can exclude suburbs like Redfern, or Cronullam without also restricting "Brisbane" and "Perth" similarly. This would effectively mean you're excluding most people living in the 'burbs, and certainly would exclude Pauline Hanson's own Ipswich. So about all you'd be left with would be relatively young, middle- to upper-class wealthy professional people who, if not not-racist, would certainly be more inclined to supress any such urges (in case it interferes with business, doncha know).

So it's probably not a fair guage of the respective city's racism level.

To go off on a related tangent, though -- it really irks me that we've come to the point where a leader must "allow" a conscience vote. Surely, every vote should be a conscience vote, otherwise where's the democracy? It shouldn't be a question of allowing a democratically-elected representative to vote according to their constiuents wishes, it should be a requirement.

This isn't just a reflection of John Howard, either -- the Labor party does the same thing.
posted by coriolisdave at 6:41 PM on February 13, 2006


coriolisdave: Disloyalty to the will of The Great Leader (tm), be it our fearless garden gnome, or the head of your ALP faction is saying goodbye to any chance of preselection. Compared to other western democracies (well, USA and UK), the ironclad party discipline (on everything!) is a little stunning.

I'm actually a little suspicious that the conscience vote is a way of providing the Libs with plausible deniability to keep the Family First lot happy. If he outright supported availability, the right would be upset, if he denied it, the left (and enough of the middle to concern the Libs) would be upset, by allowing a conscience vote, we get "don't blame me, blame the TGA".
posted by blender at 6:56 PM on February 13, 2006


Actually Dave, the Labor party does NOT allow conscience votes - failing to follow party discipline is a matter for dismissal from the party, it's in theri constitution. Something that the Liberals have nominally never have. But party discipline in Australia has been far too strong for far too long.
posted by wilful at 7:15 PM on February 13, 2006


I'm fairly certain that the ALP allows conscience votes whenever the Government allows its own members a comscience vote. I'm not sure, but I think that this is true in the RU486 vote, also.
posted by Effigy2000 at 7:38 PM on February 13, 2006


Binliner: I don't want to fall into the "Australians are racist" camp and get flamed but I cant seem to shake that notion. Does anyone know of any studies/surveys that clear this up?

I've been trying to find something less anecdotal but there doesn't seem to be too much.

The University of New South Wales' Racism Project was the only study I could find that attempted to quantify the attitudes of people directly. They did a telephone survey in late 2001 with a number of resulting publications. Most of the other articles and papers I've been able to google up seem to refer to/rely on the results of this study. They apparently did another study last year but I was unable to find any results for it so I imagine it is still being analyzed.

A study by the University of Technology Sydney attempted to measure reported incidents of racial prejudice. Their efforts being hampered somewhat by the being no uniformity in reporting. One statement from the report itself, "A decision by the national government to maintain the secrecy of key research in the late 1990s had the consequence of ensuring that conjecture and hunches have formed the basis of most debate." is particularly disconcerting but I wasn't able to find any more on this. A similar study was conducted by The Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission dealing specifically with attitudes towards Arabs and Muslims.

I'm sorry I haven't provided much other than more reading. I didn't feel I could satisfactorily provide any summery without over simplifing. Ummm... "There is indeed an undercurrent of racism in a percentage of Australians, sort of, sometimes, depending on what you mean by racism, but in recent years it has become more prevalent, or at least, more overt."
posted by adamt at 7:54 PM on February 13, 2006


Interesting thread. As an Australian whose lived here all my life it's pretty interesting to hear people's perceptions on Australians.

I don't want to generalise more than necessary but it's pretty obvious race and religion are still touchy subjects in Australia.
The previous posters who suggested white Australians are more open about their racist views than Americans were probably right - but a lot of that is due to the fact they expect other white Australians to share them and don't often get contradicted.

Fifty years ago Australia was a 98 per cent white (95 per cent english/irish descent) country where Aboriginal people were second class citizens.
It's now about 85-90 per cent white, with a much bigger non-UK European influence, plus a big Asian and Muslim population.
The surveys done straight after the Cronulla riots showed about 70 per cent of people supported multiculturalism and the current colour-blind immigation policy. That's reasonably encouraging to me but shows there's a lot of people who've never accepted the way the country has changed.

But I think it's right to say that the younger generation is less racist, just because they've grown up with people of different backgrounds
The paranoia about Asian immigration that existed in the 1980s has pretty much disappeared, although most of it now seems to have shifted onto Muslims. I'm still hearing the same comments about Aboriginals that I did 20 years ago, just not as often.

On the plus side native born Australians and immigrants mix pretty well in Australia. Most ethnic ghettos have lasted about 20-30 years before people pack up for the suburbs. The rate of 2nd-generation migrants marrying out of their ethnic group is high and there's a lot of tolerance for mixed marriages, especially in major cities.

Getting back to the original post, I had the pleasure of being at Mrs Vale's press conference yesterday. It was just magic to watch the faces of the other MPs involved as Danna so spectacularly derailed the whole show.

She's a sweet old biddy who happens to believe everything she reads in the Daily Telegraph. A bit worrying she became a minister though
posted by the moose at 7:59 PM on February 13, 2006


adamt, binliner, I don't really trust surveys on racism unless the methodology is explained. There's always a tendency to understate one's predjudices so as not to appear racist. The surveys could easily be underestimating the actual incidence of racism.
posted by Ritchie at 8:43 PM on February 13, 2006


I'm not sure, but I think that this is true in the RU486 vote, also.

Yep, Labor Senators and MPs have been voting (or indicating their likely vote) either way as much as the Liberals have. It is true, though, that any Labor MP who votes his own way on any ordinary bill will probably very quickly be kicked out of the party, while Liberal MPs who go against the grain are more likely to simply have their preselection for the next election made more difficult.
posted by Jimbob at 8:59 PM on February 13, 2006


Ritchie, I thoroughly agree. Who was asked? How were they chosen? What were they asked? In what context? What did the asker believe these questions would tell them? What gaps or shortcomings have been identified in the data? Who failed to respond and what does that mean for our data? It was largely on this basis that I linked to these studies rather than say, an article referring to them, ("... according to a 2001 survey n% of Australians think...") of which there are plenty. Although a few column inches and a easily understood bar graph would be dandy it really doesn't tell the story.
posted by adamt at 9:26 PM on February 13, 2006


I guess I'm gonna backtrack a bit and say that Australia is probably just as racist as everywhere else. I would also say that most of the Australians I've met don't think they are racist. Do with that what you may.
posted by qwip at 12:41 AM on February 14, 2006


Okay qwip, you arrrange the meetup :)
posted by tellurian at 6:26 AM on February 14, 2006


Okay qwip, you arrrange the meetup :)

You're not a wog, are you...?

I keed! Seriously, though, I stand by my "most" and will defend till I die my lack of "all". But I'd level the same critism at Americans. I would probably not have leveled this against Aussies if the current situation with terrorism wasn't so out of control. I think that fear is the basis of a lot of it. Still, it's unfounded racism as opposed to founded hate of some extremists.

Has there been a Sydney meetup?
posted by qwip at 1:40 PM on February 14, 2006


Bloody septics, coming over here and using our sunshine and then asking us if we've ever had a meetup and you might wanna fix the spelling on your homepage (Sydeny).
posted by tellurian at 4:58 PM on February 14, 2006


For closure: Danna Vale apologises for Muslim comments.
posted by Effigy2000 at 9:41 PM on February 14, 2006


Bloody septics, coming over here and using our sunshine and then asking us if we've ever had a meetup and you might wanna fix the spelling on your homepage (Sydeny).

So, I'm a Sydenier, eh? Guess I deserve that, seeing how's I just plopped down over here and started pissing all over the place.

I am sorry that I offended Aussies here and abroad. Not intended. But I see a real need for people to address racism here as I see in the US. I guess I'm over sensitive to the issues as I had hoped things would be very different than what I had been experiencing back home in the States with the resurgence of hate and intolerance on an institutional level. But hey, the Dutch are starting to have issues now too and I thought they were a bastion of tolerance from all sides. Where does one go where everyone can just get along? (rhetorical)
posted by qwip at 10:45 PM on February 14, 2006


Hell, I would think.
posted by strawberryviagra at 12:51 AM on February 15, 2006


the moose:

Are you in the press gallery? (I'm in the basement.)
posted by the duck by the oboe at 9:18 PM on February 15, 2006


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