Dear SUVENDRINI PERERA
Julia Gillard's ''right kind of migrants'' are not people in her own image.
The right kind of migrants are those who will accept the standard of living and quality of life issues existing in Australia.Race is now only a side issue.
As Hirsi Ali said recently in Australia and as she wrote in her book, from bitter personal experience, far too many emigres from African or Asian countries who cross illegally to Europe in search of a better life, later want to change their environment in the new country to suit themselves according to the life they left behind. Just one example:walking around the streets in a burqa is as unacceptable to Westerners as walking around in a bikini in their native land. Why do we have to accept it? Next they’ll demand that all women cover-up for their men!
The racism which is endemic in many countries in the world today, is also being transported to Australia by the new immigrants because they don’t leave behind their feelings of animosity towards certain groups. Sri Lankans should know that best of all.
Australia like any country, has the right to demand that its immigrants know and accept the secular laws of their new country in which they have chosen to live and abide by their new democratic way of life without trying to change it to suit themselves,- claiming often some divine rights guaranteed by the UN. They must be prepared that some of their old customs may not be acceptable in their new homeland,- particularly when it comes to status of women issues, freedom of expression and democracy at work. There is a difference between human rights in Australia and human wrongs towards others as practiced in many parts of the world today and brought into our living rooms on TV nightly.
Governments also have to ensure that immigrants come at a rate at which they can be absorbed and integrated successfully in our society and not be swamped by uninvited masses from any one or more regions with totally different value systems and standards of living.
As a former “new Australian” myself, I know it is not always easy to accept or be accepted into a new society. My parents were brave to make the change when they were young enough to do it. But it is also an exciting challenge to change one’s life and move away from the familiar to the unknown, unless one is desperate to escape from it. The latter type of immigrant is not the problem usually and should be identified and aided as much as possible.They are usually so grateful for the opportunity to be safe that they just want to get on with their new lives as quickly as possible.
It is the economic migrants looking for a ‘better life’, perhaps looking to ‘make money quickly’ who invariably want to do it their way and often to transfer the customary life-styles from their previous country, instead of adapting to their new one.Western Europe is a bad example of uncontrolled immigration which we must try not to have imposed on us in Australia.
Population debate hides an ugly racism
July 30, 2010 - 9:01AM
Julia Gillard's ''right kind of migrants'' are people in her own image.
Nearly all commentators see the current ''population'' debate as confusing or conflating a number of issues: environmental sustainability, overcrowding, failing infrastructure - and the arrival of asylum seekers, despite their admittedly small and unthreatening numbers. However, there is an underlying coherence to these issues, one that emerges in the numerous images of Julia Gillard cuddling carefully selected babies.
Although politicians and babies are a well-worn feature of elections, the images in the opening days of the 2010 campaign carry a particular ideological charge. The Prime Minister is not only the first woman to hold the position, but one who is unmarried, in a de facto (heterosexual) relationship and childless by choice - as well as being a self-declared ''atheist''.
The irony of the transparent appeal to the institutions of family and marriage by a PM who presents herself as the ultimate contemporary woman has not gone unnoticed - Samantha Stevenson's recent opinion piece points out the contradictions between Gillard's progressive self-presentation and her retrograde stance on gay marriage. What remains less publicly commented upon are the widely circulated pictures of Gillard with babies, and the way in which they fit into her broader platform.
In the context of the prime ministerial dog whistling (or, as Michelle Grattan puts it, wolf howling) about the ''right kind of migrants'' and a ''sustainable'' Australia, the baby pictures send very potent signals.
The day after the election announcement, several newspapers featured front-page photos of the Prime Minister, garbed all in white, and her (male) deputy - each bearing an exceptionally robust looking, if slightly bemused, white infant in their arms. If the central issue of the election is population, these images of the - reconstructed and thoroughly contemporary - white heterosexual family underscore that the lowering of the birth rate is off the agenda.
The images are a powerful reminder of the importance of the ''natural'' reproduction of the nation, marking the limits of this ''debate'' on population. In fact, of course, far from being simply natural, or a matter of individual choice, the manipulation and regulation of women's fertility - through policies relating to subsidies (the ''baby bonus''), maternity leave, childcare, educational allowances as well as the broader social web of attitudes to sexuality, family and marriage - are all part of what Michel Foucault dubbed biopolitics. The biopolitical, being that which shapes and orders the life and health of the population, is always explicitly or implicitly about shaping and maintaining its racial composition.
The ideal of the remade white heterosexual Australian family represented by Gillard and Wayne Swan at a baby welcome ceremony reaffirms the way in which the reproduction of the population is inextricably bound up with the reproduction of an established political and social order. The image stages an unspoken but unmistakeable return to the defining characteristic of Australia as a nation-state built on whiteness, and dedicated to the reproduction of the racial order established at Federation. Within this order, non-white bodies may be present, and even attain positions of relative power and prominence; however, their presence is one that must remain subject to continuing containment, subordination or assimilation.
Although population has been explicitly identified as the defining issue of the 2010 campaign, it is somewhat misleading to assume that this is a first: historically, official inquiries, debates and policies of successive governments have directly and indirectly addressed the issue of population as a question of the racial reproduction of the nation. In 1903, two years after Federation, the NSW Commission into the Decline of the Birthrate linked concern for falling births with the racial ''threat from the north''. In succeeding years, Australia defined itself by practices of social engineering designed to ''breed out the colour'' of certain Aboriginal groups and by programs to promote the fertility of white women while discouraging that of Aboriginal, Asian and Pacific Islander women.
In the postwar period, slogans such as ''populate or perish'' encapsulate the linkage between race and reproduction. These years were marked also by prohibitions against the circulation of racially marked goods and peoples across national borders. Labor's history of protectionism and racially exclusive trade unionism is one part of this story that has been conveniently forgotten, yet such histories return in contemporary form in the restrictions on temporary work visas and international students, as well as the frenzy over boat arrivals.
Make no mistake: there is a deep internal consistency to the population ''debate''. Beneath the facade of a thoroughly modern, optimistic and relentlessly ''forward-moving'' Prime Minister is a campaign that returns us to the ''race election'' threatened by John Howard in the 1990s.
Can Australia move forward from the exclusionary politics of race? Certainly not with a Prime Minister whose ''right kind of migrant'' is a reproduction of her own image.
Suvendrini Perera is associate professor of cultural studies at Curtin University. This is an extract from her introduction to the forthcoming book Enter at Own Risk: Australia's Population Questions for the 21st Century.This story was found at: http://www.theage.com.au/opinion/politics/population-debate-hides-an-ugly-racism-20100729-10xx2.html