Rise in xenophobia in Australia

Politicians saying they are against racism is an age old cry, words must follow their actions

16 April 2021 | CCCA

The Sydney Morning Herald (13Apr2021) article “Anti-Chinese racism hinders efforts to counter foreign interference: Paterson” which reported “Liberal senator James Paterson saying that he is concerned about the rise in anti-Chinese racism in the wake of COVID-19, warning it is hampering efforts to counter foreign interference within Australia.”

We agree with Osmund Chiu, a youth leader of our community, that Senator Paterson acknowledged the rise of xenophobia or racism in our community when he said “Chinese Australians have reported a significant rise in racist attacks over the past 12 months, with research showing one in five has been physically threatened or attacked because of their Chinese heritage.

Senator Paterson’s statements are perceived by our Chinese Australian community as a “promise” to improve the well-being of the 1.2 million Chinese Australians when he said “We want to work with and support the 1.2 million Chinese descendants who live in Australia and make them feel fully and equally participants of our democracy.

“And I want to see more of their voices in our public debate, not less. If they feel ostracised and excluded and singled out, then that is totally counter to our aims … we have to wrap our arms around the Chinese community.”

In a recent conversation with a Chinese Australian person who is born and educated in a British colony in SE Asia and has been living in Australia for nearly half a century, I was saddened by the person’s remarks: “If I am young, single and able again today, and if I had a choice of living in Australia or China, I would choose China”.  

I am not disappointed that such a decision can be made by someone who has already “settled” in Australia for generations but what caused the outcome of such sentiments reflects the intensity and the pressure the community is feeling.  

The racism has managed to dislodge and destroy whatever affinity is left for the person towards Australia.  There are likely to be many more persons in the 1.2 million to feel that way.  It unwinds the good done under multiculturalism and ushers in social disunity or a fractured community harmony.

Hence, to correct the situation, we hope Senator Paterson’s “promise” in this article is genuine and a panacea for curing our society ills and not just a placebo that could alleviate the symptoms temporarily, but the cause remains.

Another collateral damage derived from increased xenophobia is highlighted in the SMH report “They would not hire someone with my name….”. 

This report examines why only one percent of Australian diplomats are proficient in Mandarin.  Quote: “New research shows that Chinese Australians are opting not to join the Australian Public Service, or choosing to resign early in their career, because of issues with recruitment, retention and the difficulty presented by security checks.”

The article, however, did not explain how xenophobia can affect counter foreign interference nor did it cover foreign interference from other countries. When only China is mentioned, it telegraphs bias.

The Chinese Australian community always welcomes political leadership in reducing racisms of all sorts.

We sincerely hope the statements by Senator Paterson are genuine because it is in our national interest to be united in a harmonious and multicultural society.

Hence, the Chinese Australian community urges the Federal Government to take up the suggestion and challenge outlined by Racial Discrimination Commissioner Mr Chin Tan recently.

That is to launch a national Anti- racial Education program. to educate our citizens in all walks of lives to respect one another and learn to live together in harmony; enjoy the beauty of our diversities; accepting the differences and united under the fair and just rule of laws and our democratic institutions. We can create a truly modern multicultural Australia that all citizens can be proud of for generations to come.

This commentary is supplied by the Chinese Community Council of Australia Incorporated: Founding President, Dr Anthony Pun OAM, President, Mr Kingsley Liu. The views expressed in this article are those of the authors.

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