BY LISA MACDONALD
SYDNEY — Over the past few weeks, the Daily Telegraph and right-wing radio "shock jocks" have been working overtime, hand-in-hand with state government politicians, to whip up a racist frenzy linking migrant and non-Christian communities to "criminal gangs" in Sydney's western and south-western suburbs.
This is not surprising. The "law and order" and racism cards are the favourite diversionary tools of used by both major parties in the lead-up to elections.
Chiming in with the federal Coalition's rabid attacks on refugees, NSW Labor Premier Bob Carr outdid the racist rhetoric of One Nation when he stated that refugees and migrants from "cultures predisposed to violence" should be refused entry to Australia.
Labor's cynical attitudes towards working-class people have been on display during the campaign for the September 8 by-election for the state seat of Auburn — one of the safest state seats held by the ALP. A swing of 18% would be needed for Labor to lose the seat.
Last month, sitting member Peter Nagle resigned after his secretary, Kristine Frost, revealed that Nagle was "not interested" in talking to migrant constituents and wanted "nothing to do with" housing commission tenants.
Nagle, a former head of the parliamentary ethics committee, told Frost that he didn't have time for these people because, while they had a lot of problems, they frequently moved to other electorates so he would lose their votes.
More than 70% of Auburn's residents are from non-English speaking backgrounds. The majority have come to Australia from countries in the Middle East, Asia and north Africa in the last five years. Many are refugees. Auburn is one of the poorest areas in Sydney and has one of the highest unemployment rates.
In its glossy leaflet for the by-election, the ALP boasts about what it has achieved for Auburn residents, including: "Cracking down on crime", "Giving police the power to break up gangs, confiscate knives and stop suspicious vehicles", and "Building a new police complex in Auburn staffed by 240 officers".
"The ALP doesn't give damn", Pip Hinman, a Socialist Alliance Senate candidate in NSW, told Green Left Weekly. "The way Labor treats the residents of Auburn makes it crystal clear that it represents the big end of town.
"Auburn doesn't need or want more cops on 'ethnic gang' search-and-destroy missions", Hinman said. "They want secure, decently paid jobs, massively increased unemployment benefits and pensions, free English classes, a cheap, reliable public transport service, and more public education, childcare and health services.
"Most of all, they need to be able to get their family and friends, who are still suffering from war, poverty and persecution in their home countries, safely into Australia and into their own communities, not imprisoned in camps overseas or in refugee detention centres in Australia."