An event organisers say is aimed at ‘cultivating a culture of welcome’ on immigration and asylum seeker issues is being targeted by the hard-right nationalist Australian Protectionist Party (APP).
Organised by Nicholas Folkes and Darin Hodges, both senate candidates for the APP at the 2010 Federal election, the “Torpedo Gillard’s Boat Policy” event will be held during Refugee Week to coincide with the “Welcome to Australia” campaign supported by Mission Australia.
The event, originally titled “Torpedo the Boats,” was renamed after there were concerns it incited violence.
Ian Rintoul, from the Refugee Action Coalition, told Tharunka that the march was horrifying, but similar events had been held in the past. “It needs to be said they are small in numbers, but nonetheless I think what it does do is reflect a very ugly element there is in Australian society,” he said.
The organisers of the event wrote that not stopping the refugee ‘invasion’ would result in “[an] increased tax burden, ethnic ghettos and enclaves, no-go areas for whites, increased crime and the spread … of Islam.”
Dr Mark Rolfe, lecturer at the UNSW School of Social Sciences, said there was no evidence to support any of those claims. “We don’t have ethnic ghettoes or enclaves, despite what many think. There are ethnic concentrations in areas but in all such concentrations there are other ethnicities. One need only go to ABS maps and figures to see that,” he told Tharunka.
The APP includes zero-net immigration in its policy platform. The Party supports the end of Muslim immigration, and the abandonment of multiculturalism.
Dr Rolfe said most immigrants do integrate into mainstream Australia. “Islam has been in Australia since the nineteenth century with Afghan camel drivers, and more recently since the 1960’s with Turkish immigration,” he said.
“Nobody thinks of them when Islam is discussed but my point is that they are a Muslim community that is integrated in Australia, just like other waves of non-Anglo immigrants who were victimised but were replaced by another wave who were then victimised.”
There were fears that recent articles published by the Daily Telegraph had inflammed the situation. In an article later retracted after an Australian Press Council ruling, readers were told Government plans would “open the floodgates” and result in a “deluge” of asylum seekers.
Rintoul said politicians and sections of the media were to blame for the acceptability of extreme ideas. “The rhetoric that comes from both Chris Bowen and Scott Morrison is that boats aren’t welcome, that refugees should be processed offshore,” he said.
“The Daily Telegraph article is exactly the kind of thing which feeds the extremist sentiment, and we’ve seen the shock-jocks in the last couple of weeks similarly, especially in the aftermath of the Four Corners people-smuggling program.”
However, Dr Peter Chen, a lecturer in public policy at the University of Sydney, said whilst the media was significant in shaping the parameters of what people talk about, it didn’t necessarily tell us what to think. “It does shape popular discussion and what sort of language is used, but often that has to be aligned with what we already think about a particular issue.”
According to their Facebook page, 142 people planned to attend the rally on June 23. The Department of Immigration declined to comment, citing an unwillingness to engage with the claims made by the APP. “The Department acknowledges that people have a right to protest, however this is a police matter, particularly if the protest involves any anti-social behaviour,” a spokesperson told Tharunka.