Home' Policy Magazine : Policy Vol 31 - No 1 Contents 18 Policy • Vol. 31 No. 1 • Autumn 2015
View from PArliAmeNt
labor’s claims to be the great friends of
multiculturalism and tolerance have been further
undermined by the appalling campaign they
have just run during the recent New South Wales
In lock-step with their financial enablers in the
CFMEU, Labor gave full vent to anti-Chinese
prejudice. Frankly, I could not believe my eyes
when I saw the television ad the CFMEU was
running about electricity privatisation. It harked
right back to the ugly “yellow peril” rhetoric that,
frankly, I thought had been abandoned before
I was even born.
It’s pretty dire when even Bob Carr—a politician
noted for elevating shamelessness to an artform—
has to come forward and disassociate himself
from the tone of the campaign the party he led
for so long was running. Former labor treasurer
Michael Costa said the campaign was “completely
disgraceful” and “absurd.” There are other senior
labor luminaries who are distraught about what
was being said in the name of their party.
yet what did we hear from Federal labor’s current
parliamentarians? Remember, these are the people
who argue that supporters of legislative reform want
to “give the green light to racist hate speech.”
When confronted with a real life example
of racist hate speech last week in the form of the
Labor/CFMEU campaign, what did we hear from
Bill Shorten? From Tanya Plibersek? From Anthony
Albanese? Complete silence.
Bill Shorten recently told ABC radio that he
wanted to create a society where “everybody is
somebody.” With apologies to George Orwell, it
seems that for so-called “progressives,” some of us
are more “somebody” than others. one can’t help
but wonder how Chinese Australians must have felt
about the tone of labor’s campaign.
Ultimately, my support for reform of Section
18C reflects my own faith in the fundamental
decency of Australians, which we’ve seen shine
through time and again over recent months when
racism has reared its ugly head.
You may recall the case of Nilson Dos Santos,
which came to prominence in Sydney last year.
Dos Santos, a Brazilian-born gentleman seeking
employment as a barista in Sydney, was refused a
job at the Forbes and Burton café in Darlinghurst.
According to media reports, Mr. Dos Santos was
refused a job by the café owner, a Mr. Steven Hu.
The reason given to Mr. Dos Santos was that the
café’s customers “would not want coffee made by
Perhaps what was most interesting was that
when Mr. Hu was contacted by the media to
investigate the claim, he did not deny making the
remark. Unbelievably, he tried to justify it, at least
initially, going on to claim that “I think the clients
here want local people, not African people.” He also
told one media outlet, “I think the coffee culture is
more about white people.” Adding a further twist to
this bizarre story, Mr. Hu is himself an immigrant
to Australia, so his claim was as illogical as it was
offensive. But that is not the issue.
Once this case was reported, the public reaction
was swift and decisive. That café is now closed, such
was the public’s objection to the owner’s behaviour.
The public voted with their feet. They make their
disgust at the incident known the best way anyone
can—they took their business elsewhere. I can’t
think of a better demonstration of the power of the
free market. No legislation was required. Mr. Dos
Santos was offered work elsewhere, and the owner
of the business paid the price for his stupid and
That is a powerful demonstration of the sort
of society in which we live. It’s a typical display of
the fundamental decency that lives in the hearts
of Australians. We don’t need the government
to legislate to make us tolerant, because the vast
majority of us are imbued with a sense of fairness
and justice. And those who are not quickly learn the
error of their ways. I’m confident that this common-
sense approach is one that actually transcends
partisan boundaries, whatever the ALP’s present
leadership might say.
That is why I challenge the labor Party to grant
its parliamentarians the right to a conscience vote
on this private senator’s bill. This is an issue which
transcends partisan politics. When Senator Day’s
bill comes to a vote in the Senate, I am confident
I will be joined by other colleagues in supporting
a change to our laws that better reflects the
common-sense and decency that lies at the heart of
contemporary Australia – and better protects the
right of all Australians to freedom of speech.
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