Anti-racism campaign debates council bans

August 13, 1997

By Zanny Begg

BRISBANE — On July 25, the Ipswich branch of One Nation attempted to hold its first meeting in a hall managed by the Ipswich City Council. The meeting had to be rescheduled when the council cancelled the booking.

Then Lord Mayor Jim Soorley declared that Brisbane City Council was a Hanson-free zone and no council property would be available for hire to One Nation.

The decisions of the Ipswich and Brisbane councils were the subject of heated debate at the Anti-Racist Campaign (ARC) meeting on Monday August 4. Members of the International Socialist Organisation (ISO) moved to support the "ban" on One Nation using council property.

At the ISO's instigation, the ARC had been circulating a petition calling on Soorley to make Brisbane a Hanson-free zone.

During the meeting, the ISO declared the council bans a victory for the anti-racist movement.

Sam Wainwright, an activist in the ARC and a member of the Democratic Socialist Party, moved an alternative motion condemning the council bans. He questioned just what sort of "victory" ARC should be celebrating.

"It is a serious mistake to think that we can defeat racism by censoring One Nation. Racism can only be defeated politically. Despite the council ban, the One Nation meeting went ahead in Ipswich anyway, and all the ban did was allow Hanson to present herself as the wounded party.

"Furthermore", Wainwright continued, "political censorship turns the focus of the anti-racist movement upside down. We are calling on the representatives of the state to stop racism for us. The problem with this is that it is those in power who are perpetuating the racist society we live in."

Wainwright pointed out that both major parties perpetuate racism through measures such as attacks on land rights and attempts to deport the East Timorese refugees.

"It is very naive to believe that these parties can now defeat Hanson for us", he said.

Ian Dearden, president of the Queensland Council of Civil Liberties, warned of the precedent established. He explained, "The ban could just as easily be used against the left. When you support freedom of speech, you just can't say it's freedom of speech for some people. It has to be freedom for everybody."

Some of the most enthusiastic supporters of banning One Nation have been members of the ALP, both inside the two councils and in the ARC committees.

Wainwright argues that this is because the ALP "is frightened of the prospect of a mass anti-racist movement, which may not only campaign against Hanson but against them as well. They want to look like they are doing something to stop Hanson whilst simultaneously stifling the anti-racist movement. It's a pretty cynical move."

The degree to which the Ipswich decision can be called a "victory" was further bought into question by the council meeting on August 6, which censured councillor Paul Tully for publicly describing the council decision as a ban.

Lord Mayor John Nugent explained to Green Left Weekly that the booking was cancelled because the council did not feel it could protect its staff members from anti-Hanson "violence". If "adequate" security measures were paid for by One Nation, they would be "welcome to make a booking".

Wainwright explained, "All the Ipswich council really decided was that One Nation has to hire more security guards to intimidate us when we organise a protest. Its seems a bit foolish that some people within the ARC committee want us to thank them for that."

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