Trump, Dutton and the New Landscape of Multiculturalism

by Esther Lozano - Thursday, 24 November 2016

The Ethnic Communities’ Council of NSW refers to Donald Trump’s election in EEUU as well as comments made by the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection Peter Dutton MP that Australia made a mistake in allowing Lebanese Muslims to migrate to Australia in the 1970s.

ECCNSW Chairperson Peter Doukas said, “Following the election of Donald Trump in the United States, the world has entered a new an unpredictable faze. His election was a repudiation of the established customs of the Western Political Order in the vain of Brexit and Hanson’s One Nation.

In addition, the election was also a revolution by the white working class of the United States against what it identified as elements which had led to its own demise. 
Trump’s message of division and of blaming one ethnic, religious or social group for the faults of another sets a dangerous precedent and we fear that if he keeps to his political rhetoric from the campaign while in office, the plural framework of American society may be under significant strain.
Australia however, is different. Paul Keating has said that ours is a better society than the US, indeed more even and fairer and this is something we ourselves should be proud of. It does not mean however, that we should be any less vigilant in maintaining our pluralistic society nor be misguided that we under any less threat from populist forces. The essence of Australian multiculturalism is that it is our differences that make the entire society stronger. Those differences are protected and each community respects the wider polity and has a better understanding of the rule of law and the commonality of the English language. Our vigilance should now take a different track. It is one of opportunity and one of weariness.
As an opportunity, we relish in the fact that Australia sits with a few countries of the world in which a multicultural tradition has been continually built on since its inception. This allows us to continue our experiment while building the trust of all communities, white, black and all in between. It is where differences are respected and traditions are acknowledged and peoples’ contributions are respected by the wider society. 
The path of weariness is emerging as an easier blame game and it is only one political campaign away. It is very easy for the Donald Trumps of the world to point the finger at one ethnic group and accuse them of causing the problems of an entire nation. It is unfortunately just as easy for Pauline Hanson to point the finger at Australia’s Muslims and direct her anger at them instead of offering a solution to build a cohesive society.
For 42 years, the Ethnic Communities’ Council of NSW has been vigilant in its protection of the multicultural experiment. That experiment is now compelled to change gear. We live in a country in which one in every four people is born overseas and at least one in every four has at least one parent born overseas. 
Recent comments by Federal Immigration Minister Dutton that Australia made a mistake in allowing Lebanese Muslims to migrate to Australia in the 1970s has sent shockwaves across the Arabic-speaking communities. This appalling rhetoric from an Australian Minister of Immigration who is the successor to great ministers like Arthur Calwell who stood at the docks of Australia’s cities to welcome new migrants coming to our shores. How far we’ve come.! The Lebanese community of Australia is one of the most vibrant and energetic aspects of our multicultural framework and has contributed immensely to our nation. In New South Wales our own Minister for Multiculturalism, Mr John Ajaka MLC is a proud Lebanese Australian and we stand with him and the rest of the Lebanese Australian community in condemning these ignorant remarks. 
Trumpism in Australia is a scary prospect. For that reason, our vigilance and our staunch protection of our pluralistic society is now of paramount importance. The 9th of November 2016 does not signify the beginning of the end of our multiculturalism. But as Churchill said, it does at least, mark the end of the beginning. 
Rhetoric is important. What we say matters. It is for this reason the Ethnic Communities’ Council of NSW will continue to work towards defending the right of all communities to express themselves to their fullest in our pluralistic society. The multicultural agenda in this country can be nowhere else but at the forefront of dictating our internal and external policies. This is how our country and its values will permeate throughout the world and the way in which our unity is viewed by the rest of the world.”