PM praises Chinese community while divisive Liberal feeds online trolls

Assistant Minister for Multicultural Affairs Jason Wood’s position “untenable” following multiple racist comments posted on his Facebook page

APAC News Exclusive

6 April 2020 | Marcus Reubenstein (Image: AAP)

Online supporters of Federal Liberal MP Jason Wood have littered his Facebook page with calls to “shoot” Chinese-Australians, labelling them “Chingers”, “Filthy Mutts” and “Disgusting Maggots.”

Wood, who is the Assistant Minister for Multicultural Affairs, has posted numerous anti-Chinese media stories on Facebook since the start of the coronavirus crisis. They have become a magnet attracting hundreds of racially charged comments. At the extreme end, a number of his followers have advocated death to Chinese people.

A post which prompted hundreds of inflammatory comments was uploaded last Thursday as Prime Minister Scott Morrison was delivering his national COVID-19 update.

The prime minister began that briefing by saying, “The Chinese-Australian community did an amazing job in those early days of the spread of the coronavirus… they showed all Australians back then how to do this and I want to thank them very, very much.”

However, that praise was not necessarily spontaneous.

The previous day, APAC News had sent a detailed series of questions to the Prime Minister’s Office, seeking answers as to whether anything was being done to protect Chinese-Australians from racial attacks, particularly in light of numerous negative mainstream media reports.

Email from APAC News to PM Media office 1 April 2020
Email to PM’s Media Office 24 hours earlier. Did this prompt Morrison’s praise of Chinese-Australians?

A lengthy follow-up phone conversation with a prime ministerial media adviser took place just two hours before Scott Morrison spoke.

Among questions asked: “Can you point to instances where senior government members or the National Cabinet has proactively taken steps to address the issues of media bias against Chinese-Australians?”

Not a “multicultural” team player

While the government seemingly stands behind Wood’s undermining of his leader’s message to Chinese-Australians, Shadow Minister for Multicultural Affairs, Andrew Giles has condemned the conduct.

“Australians rightly expect better from a politician responsible for standing up for our multicultural communities, which is why a number of multicultural organisations have described Jason Wood’s position as untenable.”

Andrew Giles, Shadow Minister for Multicultural Affairs

Wood’s Facebook post on the day of the prime ministerial briefing was a link to a story in The Age, which made claims of impropriety against a Chinese born property developer.

Within three hours his post had attracted hundreds of comments, many of them extremely racist. A number of Wood’s 31,000 Facebook followers wrote of Chinese people:

“Dirty rotten parasites. Filthy Mutts. Disgusting maggots. Scum bags.” One of Wood’s Top Fans wrote, of the target of the unsupported media allegations, “Parasite pig needs a bullet.”

Comments posted on Jason Wood MP’s Facebook page after Scott Morrison’s praise for Chinese-Australians

Several of these comments appear to have since been removed.

The government forewarned

The day before Wood’s latest inflammatory post, APAC News had alerted the Prime Minister’s office of hundreds anti-Chinese comments on his Facebook page.

Yet it appears the government did nothing to curb his social media postings.

PM’s office alerted of racist Facebook posts before the latest barrage

The Prime Minister’s office directed questions to Alan Tudge, the Acting Minister for Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant Services and Multicultural Affairs, his spokesperson responded:

“Numerous Government ministers, including the Prime Minister and the Acting Minister for Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant Services and Multicultural Affairs have made multiple public statements condemning any racial vilification because of the coronavirus crisis.”

When asked if the government would condemn the highly racist anti-Chinese comments posted on Wood’s Facebook page, just 90 minutes earlier, Alan Tudge’s office did not respond.

Labor’s Shadow Minister for Multicultural Affairs, Andrew Giles says, “Australians don’t want politicians to engage in dog-whistling during this crisis, they want leaders that can bring people together to defeat this virus. In times of crisis the Australian people want unity, not division.”

Not a one-off occurrence

Former Victoria Police detective, Jason Wood is a controversial politician. In just eleven months as Assistant Minister for Multicultural Affairs he’s managed to upset a wide variety of ethnic groups.

The Chinese Community Council of Australia, the National Sikh Council of Australia and the Multicultural Communities Council of NSW are among a number who demanded his sacking following a Facebook post labelled “#WARNING”, telling his followers that certain Asian people are “disgusting.”

Says Erin Chew of the Asian Australian Alliance, “He [Wood] is a person who has no cultural competency, nor has the will to want to learn about cultural diversity and about different communities.

“As someone in a position of power and influence his words become an echo chamber and emboldens those who may have racist intentions to come out bold and proud.”

Erin Chew, National Convener, Asian Australian Alliance

Twelve months ago, Wood faced condemnation over Facebook posts attacking Melbourne’s African community.

In April last year it was revealed he staged an event at an AFL football club in his electorate handing over a $1.5 million dummy cheque, on behalf of the Commonwealth, for a grant which had not yet been approved.

In September, Labor accused him of breaching electoral laws by using his taxpayer funded office to organise a private Liberal Party fundraising dinner where tickets were being sold for $750 per seat.  

Missing in the woods” on Multicultural Affairs

Wood was elevated to the Assistant Ministry in May of last year, where he was given the combined responsibilities for Customs, Community Safety and Multicultural Affairs – the third of which he’s proved incredibly adept at avoiding.  

The Victorian MP was born in the Prime Minister’s electorate of Cook, which encompasses the Sydney beachside suburb of Cronulla. He is said to be a close political ally of Home Affairs Minister, and fellow ex-cop, Peter Dutton.  

A former colleague says Wood has two political interests, border protection and animal welfare, which he pursues “almost to the point of obsession.”

Since his appointment to the assistant ministry he has put out 29 media releases. Not one is related to his Multicultural Affairs portfolio.

He did, however, announce to the media that the Morrison Government provided $49,000 in funding to a tennis club in his marginal electorate. This funding came from the program at the centre of the sports rorts scandal where the National Audit Office found that federal grants had been given to a disproportionate number of marginal electorates.    

Free to roam in the woods, government stands by Jason Wood MP (supplied)

Located southwest of Melbourne, Wood’s electorate of La Trobe is not a safe seat. First elected in 2004, Wood lost the seat to Labor in 2010, before reclaiming it at the next election. Since 1972, the Labor Party has won the seat seven times.

APAC News understands several ethnic community groups are considering campaigning directly against Wood at the next federal election.