Anti-racist public meeting

August 20, 1997

Anti-racist public meeting

By Veronica Lee

MELBOURNE —"Stand strong against racism: Building the movement against Howard and Hanson" was the theme of a public meeting organised by Campaign Against Racism (CAR) on August 13.

Speakers included Dr Jim Cairns, deputy prime minister in the Whitlam Labor government and anti-Vietnam War activist; Greg James, Koori education officer for the Australian Education Union; George Lekakis, deputy chairperson of the Ethnic Community Council and director of the South Central Migrant Resource Centre.

Both James and Lekakis drew attention to the fact that racism existed in Australia before Pauline Hanson, and that Hanson is not the only public figure promoting racism. They pointed to the racist policies of the Howard government — attacking native title, cutting funding to Aboriginal services and migrant resource centres, extending the waiting period for welfare for new migrants, cutting immigration and the Red Cross program for refugees.

Cairns said that we can learn from the anti-Vietnam War moratorium that the "success and the peaceful content of the demonstrations had much to do with raising public opinion against the war from just over 30% to over 50%".

There was much discussion about whether the anti-racist movement should focus just on building opposition to Pauline Hanson's One Nation party, or whether it should organise against the racist policies of the Howard government as well.

Some put forward that the movement should focus on petitioning local councils to ban One Nation and on closing down the party's meetings.

Others argued that it was dangerous to call on governments to ban racist groups when they are fostering racism themselves and may take this as the green light to ban "extremists of the right and of the left".

Another argument was that focusing on closing down the Hanson meetings distracts from the task of explaining that Hanson's racist policies are no solution to unemployment and the government cuts.

CAR spokesperson Bridget Riggs said that the movement should be "about ordinary people taking up opposition to the racist lies of Pauline Hanson and the racist policies of this government. This is why Campaign Against Racism plans not only to mobilise at One Nation meetings, but to target Liberal parliamentarians, demonstrating the links between Howard and Hanson."

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