Is racism growing in Australia ? Conversation with a uni lecturer
Following the deadly shooting that took place in New Zealand on March, 15th, several Australian politicians established a link between this dramatic event and the intercommunity tensions present in Australia. And for good reason : Brenton Tarrant, the presumed instigator of the Christchurch attack, is born in New South Wales and still holds the Australian nationality. Could we assume that a racism inherent to the country has influenced the shooter ? To answer that question, we have solicited the opinion of Helen Pringle, lecturer at the UNSW School of Social Sciences. Here is the retranscription of our conversation.
Good morning. Two weeks ago, an attack led against mosques in Christchurch has killed 50 people. Does that reveal a rise of an European « supremacism » in New Zealand and in Australia ?
The shooter was an Australian. Therefore, we cannot say that this has nothing to do with us. To me, the impact of the shooting is linked to his nationality and to the ties between Australia and New Zealand. As there is a really close relationship between the people of those two countries, Australians ask themselves : “What does it say about us ?”
The shooter has published a manifesto preceeding the attack, where he said that he was influenced by a trip he did in France. Do you feel that Australian and New Zealander politics are deeply influenced by European politics ?
I don’t think there’s a real connection there. In fact, I was a little bit surprised when I read in his manifesto that he had gone to France. Usually, right-wing people like Pauline Hanson tend to take the United Kingdom as an exemple. I’ve been to France recently, and I didn’t felt any threat there. It’s a very multicultural country, and the face of France is changing. There’s a lot of ministers who are originally from former colonies.
Has Australian history been marked by a kind of segregation ?
No, I don’t think that there’s ever been segregation in Australia. People from different ethnic backgrounds can marry here. That helps assimilation a lot. Though, in France, you have a sense of neighbourhood which can’t be found in England or Australia. That really helps to bring people together and to ensure peace. People do not stop arguing, but they have a sense of belonging.
Do you feel that New Zealand encountered the same problem in the past few years ?
There’s a very strong sense of being New Zealander in a good way. They are more progressive and they have constitutional settlements with the Maoris. Here, I worry about the breadth of concerns regarding Muslim immigration. The major question in Australia is the reconciliation with Aboriginal people, and people tend to forget that.
As the federal elections are coming, do you feel that those events will have an influence on the vote of the people ? Will they encourage the rise of people like Fraser Anning or Pauline Hanson ?
In regard of race, the key question that interests citizens is the issue of migrations and refugees. They’re beating up for nothing ; Australia has such a small refugee intake ! But that’s why they’re concerned about. That been said, I’ve done a lot of research regarding how do people vote. It turns out that the electors won’t necessarily change their party allegiance because of refugees. They might think strongly about them, but at the end of the day, they mostly consider economic proposals. Australians « vote for their pockets ».
Do you feel that there’s a bigger politisation of Australians, especially concerning the petition for the resignation of Fraser Anning ?
Since Pauline Hanson first emerged, one of the things that changed in Australia is the ethnic composition of the country. Australia isn’t white anymore. Actually, it never really was. The White Australia Policy was an attempt to make it white. Nowadays, things are changing, and they should acknowledge that. The impact of the petition shows that not only the white people’s views are evolving, but also the composition of Australia in general. Let’s say that « we’re not as white as you think, and we’re not as white as we were. »