SENATOR THE HON PENNY WONG

LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION IN THE SENATE

SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS

LABOR SENATOR FOR SOUTH AUSTRALIA

SPEECH

16 October 2018

STATEMENT ON PAULINE HANSON MOTION

THE SENATE

CANBERRA

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I move that the Senate take note of the government’s stated position on racism in Australia, and I rise to respond to that somewhat pathetic attempt at a clean-up. And that’s what it was—a pathetic attempt at a clean-up where this minister has to come in and try and take on the chin the fact that they all voted for a motion that included a phrase that everybody knows is used by white supremacists. All of you did so. And now you want to come in and say, ‘Oops, we made a mistake.’ We don’t believe you. No-one believes you, and everybody knows this is a just craven and pathetic attempt to try and clean up your mess.

The reality is yesterday’s decision by Government Senators to vote in favour of a phrase created and disseminated by white supremacist groups around the world is a shameful episode. It is a shameful episode in this chamber. It is a phrase created by white, right-wing extremist groups in the United States with the sole purpose of causing a backlash to help convert people to the cause of the Neo-Nazis and extremist groups like the Ku Klux Klan.

There is nothing innocent, nothing unknown, nothing hidden about this phrase. Frankly, the claim that somehow the government didn’t understand it or didn’t understand this or didn’t know about it is not believable.

Frankly, if Mr Christian Porter wasn’t aware of the true meaning behind this phrase, then how is he fit to be the Attorney-General?

And as to government senators who walked in here like sheep yesterday to stand up behind One Nation and Ms Hanson—frankly, do you really deserve to be here? I mean, who is running the government? Are you so lacking in basic decency, so lacking in understanding, so lacking in common sense, you just walk in and vote for a motion like that without actually looking at it on the basis that somebody in some office somewhere supposedly made a mistake?

Do you really have no understanding of what One Nation was trying to achieve here?

It’s not as if this was a surprise. Senator Hanson gave notice of this motion almost a month ago on 19 September. It was due to be voted on the next day, and there was extensive publicity at that time about the motion, its true meaning and what supporting it would say about the parliament and the people in.

It sat there for nearly a month on the Notice Paper, and yet we are now supposed to believe that no-one in the government paid attention and some junior staffer ticked it off and then government senators just filed it and sat behind Senator Hanson oblivious to the fact that they were endorsing a racist motion designed to promote Nazis, the Klan and other white supremacist groups. It is simply not believable.

Then, when this is finally pointed out to them, do they apologise? Do they seek to recommit the vote? No. You doubled down. One after one you line up on Twitter to defend your actions. The Attorney tweets, ‘Government senators’ actions in the Senate confirmed that the government deplores any kind of racism.’ Senator Cormann is so outraged by this, he retweets that, and then adds his own comments in support for good measure.

But you know what did actually made them change position? Not principle; not the fact that they were standing behind a white supremacist slogan; and not the fact that they were yet again lining up behind Senator Hanson in some hopeless and vain attempt to protect their right-wing base. No, it was only when the Liberal candidate for Wentworth came out against the motion that it started to dawn on the government that they might have made a mistake—not that it was wrong in principle to support a motion that really can be characterised as akin to something a Neo-Nazi would support; not that it was wrong to be led by the nose by Senator Hanson. What they really responded to was that it might cost them votes in Wentworth.

And hasn’t that been a pattern today? The Prime Minister flagged that he’s prepared to stump Julie Bishop and Alexander Downer’s longstanding bipartisan foreign policy because he thinks it might save the seat of Wentworth. And, now, the government is belatedly trying to walk away from their support for this appalling motion, again, because they’re worried about the seat of Wentworth—not because it was wrong.

So this doesn’t have anything to do with correcting the record, and it certainly has nothing to do with doing the right thing. It’s entirely about trying to clean up the mess ahead of a by-election they’re worried about losing.

In closing, my challenge to the government is this: if you’re serious about fixing this up, why don’t you recommit the motion? Why don’t you recommit the motion and not allow this stain in a multicultural nation to remain on the record of this Senate?

Authorised by Noah Carroll, ALP, Canberra.