'Moderates' assist anti-immigration parties

February 28, 1996

By Pip Hinman Several anti-immigration independents and parties are standing in the federal elections. While they claim not to be racist, Graeme Campbell, Australians Against Further Immigration Party, Reclaim Australia: Reduce Immigration and National Action (the last running as independents) blame immigration for economic, environmental and social problems. Why are these reactionary outfits getting a hearing (some 300 people turned up to AAFI's launch in Sydney last week)? One reason is because they have been given "legitimacy" by some politicians and parties considered moderate. For instance, Ted Mack, retiring independent for the federal seat of North Sydney, has endorsed Campbell's run for the seat of Kalgoorlie. Asked why, he told Green Left Weekly that while he didn't agree with all of Campbell's views, "Just being an independent is enough" because "the two-party system is the ultimate evil". Mack has also endorsed five other candidates: Phil Cleary in Wills (ind); Peter Andren in Calare (ind); Kevin Butler in Grayndler (No Aircraft Noise); ex-Liberal Paul Filing (ind) in Moore; and Harry Woods (ALP) in Page. Mack told Green Left that he hadn't read any of the AAFI's literature — the party with which Campbell has been closely associated for a number of years. He got to know Campbell through working together on a parliamentary committee for six years. Mack said that Campbell had "a dislike of all elite groups, including elite Green and elite Aboriginal groups", and that he agreed with this. AAFI plans to run up to 20 candidates in the House of Representatives and is fielding a Senate ticket. Campbell has been active in helping to promote AAFI "as a mainstream community organisation". Since being disendorsed in Kalgoorlie by the Labor Party, Campbell has gone on the hustings for the AAFI and endorsed two of their members as Senate candidates in Victoria. AAFI (NSW) advocates "low immigration and an end to institutionalised multiculturalism". Immigration, it says, "increases the burden on infrastructure. The more people we have means longer waiting lists at hospitals, more crowded roads, more pollution, more competition for our youth at universities and other educational institutions." In other words, it scapegoats migrants for government cutbacks and its push to deregulate the economy. Rather than aim its fire at the real culprits — state and federal governments of both stripes — AAFI takes aim at newly arrived immigrants. National Action, in South Australia, is taking aim at Asians in particular. It is fielding candidates — who will run as independents — in Hindmarsh, Makin and Bonython. While National Action manages to get its graffiti around in Adelaide's western suburbs especially, it rarely draws more than 30 people to any of its actions. Reclaim Australia: Reduce Immigration, a split from AAFI, is contesting Senate and lower house seats in NSW. This party blames former PM Bob Hawke for losing control of immigration in the 1980s, something, it says has resulted in "chronic congestion, overcrowding and pollution of our major capital cities". Its main demand is to reduce immigration as a way of reducing population growth in order to "achieve a balanced and sustainable future". The reality is that under 13 years of federal Labor, Australia's intake of immigrants has been drastically cut. In 1988-89 the total number of migrants accepted was 122,100; by 1995-96 the figure had been cut to 83,000. Also revealing is the fact that skilled migrants are more likely to be granted permanent residence than those entering under the family reunion scheme. Despite studies which show that immigration has boosted the economy and that unemployment is a direct result of neo-liberal restructuring, these racist parties still brandish the emotive line that "high immigration increases unemployment", especially among youth. AAFI is aiming to get a senator in every state. While this is unrealistic, it has scored, on average, 6-7% of the vote. The general lowering of living standards for the majority, a general xenophobic attitude nurtured by both major parties and the legitimacy given these racist parties by Mack and the Democrats (which will direct preferences to Reclaim Australia: Reduce Immigration ahead of the Greens in the Senate in NSW) may help boost their vote.

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