On October 3, immigration minister Kevin Andrews justified cutting the number of African refugees accepted into Australia using racism, alleging that African refugees were "not adjusting too well" to Australian society.
The government announced in August that it would slash the annual quota of African refugees to 3900 — or 30% of Australia's total humanitarian intake — down from 70% of the intake in 2004-05.
Andrews told journalists on October 3 that the government would not accept any more applications from Africans for the humanitarian refugee program until at least July next year. "We have detected that there have been additional challenges in relation to some of the people that have come from Africa ... We know that there is a large number of people who are young.
"We know that they have on average low levels of education, lower ... than almost any other group of refugees that have come to Australia. We know that many of them, if not most of them, have spent up to a decade in refugee camps and they've spent much of their lives in very much a war-torn, conflicted situation.
"And on top of that they have the challenges of resettling in a culture which is vastly different from the one which they came from."
This came after a concerted campaign of gutter racism in the press, particularly Rupert Murdoch's Herald-Sun. Lurid articles painted a picture of Sudanese criminal gangs creating havoc in the suburbs, with racist slur taking the place of fact. For example, on October 4 the Herald-Sun ran a story of a 75-year-old Noble Park resident living in terror because of the Sudanese gangs. However, the article cited no instance of her threatened or attacked, merely that the sight of young black people upset her.
African youth congregating at railway stations was frequently cited by both Andrews and the media, again describing the mere presence of Africans as something threatening. Perhaps, most disgusting, was the use of the murder of 17-year-old Sudanese refugee Liep Gony to vilify the victims' community. Those arrested for bashing him to death as he returned from the shops on September 28 were White Australians, however Andrews and the racist media have cited his killing as evidence of the problem with Sudanese!
Victorian Chief Police Commissioner Christine Nixon has pointed out that Sudanese are not over-represented in crime statistics. However, repeating the tactic he used during the Haneef affair, Andrews cited "confidential advice to the cabinet" to contradict this.
The Herald-Sun has alleged that anecdotal evidence suggests that this is because police go easy on Africans. In fact anecdotal evidence suggests the opposite. In 2003, the Socialist Alliance helped organise a rally in Footscray to protest against police racism after a young Somali man was racially abused and beaten unconscious by the police for the crime of traveling without his student concession card.
Perhaps not surprisingly, Kevin "me too" Rudd has supported Andrews, justifying cutting the intake of African refugees by saying that it will allow for a larger number refugee intake from Iraq and Burma. In 2001, the ALP supported the Liberal government imprisoning Iraqi refugees on the basis that they were "jumping the queue" ahead of Africans. Socialist Alliance supports the right of all refugees to settle in Australia and condemns the cynical attempt to play one group against another.
[Ben Courtice is the Socialist Alliance candidate for Gellibrand and Marganita Windisch is a Socialist Alliance Senate candidate for Victoria.]