From the Department of “What Have We Learned From Current Affairs This Week (Which Can Be Interpreted As A Form Of Critical Intertextuality)?”:
On Tuesday’s edition of tabloid current affairs TV show Today Tonight, David Eccleston filed a report on a bizarre new social phenomenon that he and host Matthew White (a former sports reporter whose bland appeal landed him the role in October 2008) termed ‘Reverse racism’. In an operant sense, ‘reverse racism’ is what happens when fair dinkum Aussie blokes like former meat worker turned restaurateur Craig Whitney, CFMEU NSW Secretary Andrew Ferguson, and Australian Protectionist Party spokesperson Darrin Hodges express misgivings over the negative influence migrants have on Australian work and culture.
Walkley Award-winning duo — animated by the same deep and abiding concern for workers’ rights which characterises all reportage on Today Tonight — begin their tale of woe as follows:
White: But now to the issue of reverse racism in the workplace. Workers and trade unions claim it’s at the stage where certain jobs are being reserved for immigrants who are happy to work for less pay. As David Eccleston reports, there are concerns that racism is working in reverse, and threatening the Australian way of life.
Eccleston: Welcome to the new Australia, one where you can be pushed aside by migrants willing to work. Twice as long, twice as hard, and for half the pay.
Yes: immigrants are happy happy, joy joy when it comes to super-exploitation, and their easy acceptance of substandard (living and) working conditions functions in order to undermine our trust in Football, Meat Pies, Kangaroos and Holden Cars.
The term ‘reverse racism’ is of course nonsense, something even a high school student understands — or is, at least, expected to. For the benefit of tabloid journalists however, the Racism. No Way website — designed for the use of such students — spells out why:
The notion of reverse racism is that people from the dominant culture are being discriminated against or not receiving the same benefits as people from minority groups. It needs to be understood that there is no such thing as reverse racism. At an individual level, all ethnic or cultural groups are capable of both discriminating against other groups and of being discriminated against, although minority groups are more likely to suffer from institutional racism.
Of course, it’s also possible to assume, quite reasonably, that White, Eccelston and the other members of the team at Today Tonight are aware of the fact that the term is bogus, but that, more importantly, it sells to an already primed audience.
Having introduced the concept of reverse racism — which, as a form of racism, is certainly objectionable, and being directed against the interests of the show’s presumed audience, more likely to elicit a strong reaction — Eccleston turns to a series of talking heads for further elucidation: former meatworker Craig Whitney, CFMEU NSW Secretary Andrew Ferguson, Australian Protectionist Party spokesperson Darrin Hodges and Race Discrimination Commissioner Graeme Innes.
Craig Whitney is “the workers” Matthew White claimed claim “it’s at the stage where certain jobs are being reserved for immigrants who are happy to work for less pay”. For his part, as evidence, Whitney points to his previous employment at Dinmore Meatworks in Ipswich, Queensland.
The Dinmore Meatworks is one of 10 owned by Swift Australia, a subsidiary of the multi-billion dollar Brazilian corporation JBS Friboi, the largest beef producer in the world. (See also : Brazil as a Key Player, Raúl Zibechi, CIP Americas Program, February 17, 2010.) Like other meatworks around the country, Dinmore employs workers on 457 visas, or ‘Temporary Business (Long Stay) – Standard Business Sponsorship (Subclass 457)’ visas, as they are officially known.
Although initially agreed upon by the Keating Government in 1995, the new, temporary visa regime was actually introduced under HoWARd in 1996. By allowing for the importation of workers from abroad, the scheme was intended to provide employers with the ability to respond to demands for skilled labour that could not be met by locals. It was also in accord with a decline in state and private investment in the education sector, and a broader sweep of neoliberal reforms to the state and economy.
Janet Phillips (Parliamentary Library), ‘Temporary (long stay) business visas: subclass 457’, Research Note, No.15, 2006–07, February 21 2007, (PDF):
Why are the 457 visas so controversial?
Some concerns have been expressed that employers are using the 457 visa to employ cheap foreign workers; that the minimum salary and skill requirements are easy to circumvent; that the overseas workers are exploited and that employers are not required to advertise vacancies before they sponsor foreign workers. Others also argue that in regional areas, where concessions apply in terms of minimum salary and skill levels, the Regional Certifying Bodies that are required to endorse the employer sponsorships may be dominated by employer (rather than worker) interests.
Employer sponsors, other than those in designated regional areas, are not required to certify positions as ‘unable to be filled locally’ by a certifying body before they can sponsor workers from overseas. ‘Regional areas’ are defined very broadly for the purpose of 457 visas—a regional area is anywhere in Australia outside of Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Brisbane, Wollongong, Newcastle, and the Gold Coast.
The government response to these arguments is that, given the unemployment rate for skilled workers is less than 2 per cent, it would be a waste of the employer’s time to test the market and advertise. It is argued that because sponsoring overseas employees is costly, employers would not do so if it was possible to fill the position locally. Unions and the ALP disagree, and it would appear that this issue is going to play a part in the next election campaign.
As of last week (February 10, 2010) meatworkers were reported as continuing to ‘fear visa renewals’ (Chris Garry, The Queensland Times), as “MORE than 1000 employees at the Dinmore meatworks are struggling to pay bills after a cattle shortage left them with just two days work per week.” Some workers are reported to be complaining that, while shifts at the meatworks are being cut, Swift Australia continues to employ workers on 457 visas. Further, given that the visa regime was introduced in order to address apparent shortages in skilled workers, local workers should be given priority over foreign workers, foreign workers retrenched, and local workers given full-time shifts.
Such is the apparent logic upon which the visa regime was introduced, and such is the logic which governs hostility towards its effects.
As for Dinmore meatworks, “The four-year visas are due to run out this year for the majority of overseas workers at the Swift Australia factory”, and “Brian Crawford, of the Australasian Meat Industry Employees Union said there was no evidence JB Swift was renewing 457 visas holders.”
Elsewhere (‘Global Financial Crisis & Livestock Availability’, The Meatworker, August 2009), Crawford writes:
…our members at Swift’s Dinmore have suffered greatly with over 20 lost days of work on every shift from July 2008. This practice could not continue and after numerous meetings with the company, the matter was brought to a head…
During the course of the restructure it was made abundantly clear to the company that no skilled local member should be retrenched in favour of a temporary worker on a 457 visa. I am pleased to say this was achieved. This has nothing to do with discrimination or acting like a redneck – it’s just plain common sense. Temporary 457 visas are granted where there is a skills shortage. It would make a mockery of the whole scheme if local workers with the identical skills were being retrenched while a person on a 457 visa was retained.
Many of these workers on 457 visas are members of the Union. We will do our utmost to ensure that, if they are not required as a consequence of this downturn, the Union will assist to secure alternative employment at another location – provided there are vacancies that can’t be filled with local workers.
In 2005-06, 15,230 Employer Sponsored visas, including 457s, were granted; in 2006-07, 16,590; in 2007-08, 23,760; in 2008-09, 38,030; while in 2009-10, 35,000 Employer Sponsored visas are expected to be granted (Migration Program Statistics).
The employment of workers on 457 visas is of course not confined to the meat industry, and the CFMEU, the Construction division of which has a reputation for militancy (for which reason it is the subject of draconian laws overseen by the ABCC) but which is otherwise firmly within the orbit of Labor (and laborism), has paid particular attention to the question of labour market re-regulation.
Andrew Ferguson is NSW Secretary of the CFMEU. In the week prior to Eccelstone’s sober-minded analysis of the political economy of migration and labour market reform, Ferguson featured in a story about Mani Saravanan, an Indian worker on a 457 visa whose employer helped celebrated his marriage by sacking Saravanan while he was on honeymoon (Till marriage and sacking us do part, Jacob Saulwick, The Sydney Morning Herald, February 5, 2010):
The Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union has taken up Mr Saravanan’s cause, in part because of his claim that Ironbark’s entire production staff are employed on 457 visas.
Mr Saravanan said that of 28 staff, 25 were from India, two from Vietnam and one from Malta. A local source said that while all production workers were recent migrants or on temporary visas, about five or six employees had been given permanent residency.
Also in February 2010, the CFMEU released a paper on ‘Australia’s international trade commitments and the 457 visa’ (PDF), which “examines the extent to which Australia’s international trade commitments limit the ability of the Australian Government to change the 457 visa”. See : Union takes on Labor over ‘cheap’ foreign workers, Malcolm Knox, The Sydney Morning Herald, February 12, 2010: “ONE of Australia’s most powerful trade unions has set itself on a collision course with the Rudd government, backing a campaign against it over the controversial 457 visa scheme for temporary foreign workers.”
For further disco on the CFMEU, labour, migration, nationalism and the law, see: New migration policy for bosses, not people, James Lehrer, Green Left Weekly, February 14, 2010 | The KKK Took The Victorian Education Industry Away (January 9, 2010) | Move over One Nation, here comes Australia First! (October 13, 2009).
As noted, Darrin Hodges is the spokesperson for the NSW branch of the ‘Australian Protectionist Party’, a relatively new, micro-party on the far right, which emerged (mid-2007) as a split from the slightly larger (and certainly more established) ‘Australia First Party’, currently under the leadership of veteran fascist Dr James Saleam.
Hodges first came to prominence in late 2005 in the aftermath of the ‘White civil uprising’/ racist pogrom in Cronulla, when The Daily Telegraph (December 20, 2005) published an article by Joe Hildebrand titled ‘White supremacists casting a black cloud’. The article examined how White racists reacted to the events, especially on the website Stormfront — then as now the world’s most popular White supremacist Internet forum.
One active local member, who goes by the moniker “Proud to be an Infidel”, has been a regular contributor to international white supremacist organisation Stormfront.
Via a series of electronic footprints, anti-Nazi campaigner Mat Henderson-Hau has linked “Infidel” to Engadine local Darrin Hodges.
Hodges, who runs a website for a sex toy distributor, yesterday admitted to being a member of the racist Australia First Party but denied being a member of any white nationalist groups or a contributor to Stormfront.
His alleged alter ego is not so shy.
“Friends, today was an historic day, the day Australians stood up against state-imposed multiculturalism,” he wrote on the night of the Cronulla riots.
Accompanying his posting is a series of photographs he took at Cronulla that day, including one of a T-shirt emblazoned with the words “wog free zone” and another of a sign offering free sausages to the crowd, with “no tabouli”.
Infidel also speaks of footage he filmed on the day which Henderson-Hau believes was used in a video released over the weekend that glorifies a mob of rioters bashing various non-whites at Cronulla.
Posted on Saturday, it had been downloaded around 400 times by yesterday afternoon.
It follows an earlier video credited to “White Nationalist TV” and dubbed “The Battle For Cronulla”, which was released on the Stormfront website on the night of the riots and has since been downloaded 1700 times.
After several minutes of footage showing skinheads emblazoned with the iron cross and three-bladed swastika taking part in the Cronulla “gathering”, the video finishes with the words “Not white, not welcome in Cronulla”.
If there was any doubt as to what Infidel and his ilk stand for, consider one of his earlier posts on Stormfront in which he states: “I’m more interested in the purer form of fascism… and while I don’t subscribe to the whole ‘worship Hitler’ thing, his comments on multiculturalism and politics in general are still just as relevant today as they were 70-odd years ago.”
See also : The Stormfront Down Under Circus : 2004–2008 (May 31, 2008).
At this point, Hodges announced his retirement from Stormfront, his resignation from Australia First (AF), and issued a public apology to those he may have offended by his views. A few days later, he changed his mind, was back posting on Stormfront, and had, presumably, re-joined AF. Certainly, by mid-2006, he had not only re-joined the party, but come to constitute its Sutherland Shire branch. It was in this capacity that he helped to distribute AF propaganda.
Hodges, in highly acrimonious circumstances, left AF not long after, at which point, in early 2007, he formed the ‘Anglo Australian National Community Council’ (AANCC). Hodges carried on his attacks on Saleam and AF on a now-deleted blog titled ‘Saleam’s Lot’ (saleamslot.blogspot.com).
The AANCC resided on a now-deleted blogspot (voiceoftheshire.blogspot.com), and otherwise organised a few public meetings to discuss such pressing matters as the Asianisation and Islamisation of Australia. Hodges (March 3, 2007): “AANCC is not a one man band, actually. It’s first venture into the public arena was quite successful, thirty people (AFP [that is, AF] was not invited) attended our first film night. which was also the capacity of the room. The council wouldn’t let us use one of their halls, they said that the film would not help promote harmony and multiculturalism or something. That’s ok, the current venue is better suited in any case.”
In September 2007, two rather noteworthy events occurred.
First, AF split into three factions: 1) Australia First (AF) in New South Wales; 2) Australia First in rural Victoria; 3) The Australian Protectionist Party (APP) in South Australia. Of these, AF in NSW has expanded to other states, and the party re-consolidated under Dr James Saleam’s leadership. APP has developed along similar though separate lines, and, inter alia, has attempted to develop a more moderate version of White nationalism, one consciously basing itself upon the model of the British National Party (BNP). Although former One Nation Party member Andrew Phillips is the nominal leader of the APP, Hodges has been far more able (and, presumably, willing) to be its public face.
Secondly, APEC staged a conference in Sydney, and during protests against the summit, the fascist groupuscule ‘New Right’/’national anarchists’ decided to announce to the public their existence by forming a ‘black bloc’. In addition to attracting perplexed looks from other, presumably leftist protesters and a bemused media, the neo-Nazi ‘anarchists’ also included among their puny ranks Darrin Hodges, complete with mask and hat. (See also : APEC : New Reich / “National Anarchists”, September 8, 2007 | All Heil the New Reich*, September 18, 2007 | Anarchist statement on the New Right, October 21, 2007 | Anarchist statement on New Right (cont.), October 29, 2007 | APEC : Notional Anarchists, November 20, 2007 | “Pathetic Australian anarchist statement on the New Reich”, January 16, 2008.)
In August 2008, Hodges was featured in The Canberra Times: ‘Tough times suit a right lurch’ (Philip Dorling, August 2, 2008). Dorling’s article surveyed the fortunes of the far right ahead of local council elections in NSW. Hodges contested a seat in Sutherland Shire. As it happens, despite considerable media exposure — and a very handsome face — he came last, garnering just 333 votes or 2% of the total. (AF, which also contested the elections, fared little better.)
At about this time, APP also attempted to organise a tour of Australia by BNP leader Nick Griffin: Nick Griffin Down Under? (September 22, 2008). He didn’t make it, but APP made further headlines when it — meaning: Hodges — gave support to the campaign against the construction of a Muslim school in Camden, NSW. Unlike Griffin’s tour, this campaign was both popular and successful.
It was also at this point that UK anti-racist blogger Deniuse Garside exclaimed Oh, Darrin!. (See also : Scrutinising the religious and political right (Alan Matheson), November 8, 2008 | Moaron Nick Griffin, the BNP and the APP, November 24, 2008.)
In 2009, there were further battles on the far right, involving AF, APP and various other players, a number of which, such as ‘Australians Against Further Immigration’ (AAFI) and the ‘One Nation Party’ (ON) entered into terminal decline. (See : Australian Protectionist Party, Australia First Party, and the future of White nationalism, January 30, 2009 | The Australian Nationalism Information Database is now closed., February 3, 2009 | Protect Australia First. Parties., March 24, 2009 | White With Fear : Flagging A New Hate, June 11, 2009 | Dreaming of An Aryan Jeannie : Australia First, Australian Protectionist Parties, July 10, 2009 | Pride & Prejudice : Mark White investigates the rise of Australia’s far right…, November 8, 2009.)
Perhaps the most noteworthy development as far as Hodges is concerned was the rapid rise and then decline of the Facebook group Fuck Off We’re Full. The history of this particular saga is lengthy, but one starting point is Facebook under fire for racist rants (Asher Moses, The Sydney Morning Herald, December 12, 2008), a subject to which Moses returned in May, 2009 (Facebook turns a blind eye to racist rants, Asher Moses, The Age, May 7, 2009).
Otherwise, “Fuck off we’re full.” (Of shit.) (January 28, 2009) was followed by F*** Off, We’re Full (Of Shit) : Part the 2nd : Timmy!, as a yoof named Timmy Markham presided, briefly, over a Facebook group with over 65,000 fans. Briena Barrett examined the group in ‘Racist Facebook group targets Aussie immigrants’ (WA Today, June 10, 2009), writing: “The Australian Protectionist Party, which describes itself as the patriotic movement Australia is looking for, says multiculturalism is ruining Australia. Party spokesperson Darrin Hodges regularly uploads topic discussions on the site and says the Australian identity needs to be protected…” A short while later, FOWF began to run into some ‘technical’ difficulties, as (according to Hodges) it “was taken over by multicultualists on 15/06/09”.
The rest of the sad and sorry tale of FOWF revolves around Terrie Anne-Verney, a Griffith, NSW-based opponent of non-White immigration and multi-culturalism, whose rather vicious commentary on the subject of Indian students won her popular acclaim among local racists but also lost her her job at the local broadcaster. See : F*** Off, We’re Full (Of Terrie-Annes), July 2, 2009 | Terrie-Anne Verney : Take the Money And Run, August 11, 2009) before concluding — more or less — with “Fuck Off We’re Full” Finally Told To Fuck Off Facebook (November 17, 2009) and F*&^ Off, We’re Not Darrin Hodges (November 19, 2009).
Obviously, none of the above entered into Ecclestone’s report.
There are a number of other issues regarding Ecclestone’s investigative journalism. For example, he attributes to Ferguson and the CFMEU the view that new migrants ‘speak little English and come from Third World countries’. In reality, large numbers of migrants come from English-speaking countries (such as Aotearoa/New Zealand and England) and/or the First World. Secondly, no distinction is made in the report between different categories of migrant, or ‘who comes to this country and the circumstances under which they come’. Thirdly, it fails to refer to, let alone examine, the history of migration to Australia or, crucially, the relationship between migration and (un)employment, not least the fact that the visa scheme of which Whitney complains was not developed in a rural Chinese village and implemented by the Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils of Australia, but by the Keating, HoWARd and now KRudd Governments.
At which point, an historical detour:
The [National Front] tried, during 1974, to develop a wider base than simple racial appeals, by linking race and immigration to other political themes. Unemployment was explained as black workers taking British jobs; bad housing as blacks jumping the council house queue; clogged health and social services were the fault of diseased immigrants taking the place of deserving Britons; bad schools were the cause of illiterate black kids, and crime was their fault too. It was a potent and poisonous combination and it is one to which Britain is still frighteningly vulnerable, simply because the bad schools, the bad housing and the unemployment do exist. Moreover, these social evils predominate in precisely those run-down, inner-city areas with poor housing in which immigrants have tended to congregate, simply because they are cheap. The NF’s electoral heartland, on the evidence of the 1974 general election, is London’s East End and its north-east inner suburbs. They are the areas of massive slum clearance where traditional communities were broken up by the new tower blocks of low quality public housing. Traditionally safe Labour areas, they are the seats where the proportion of the electorate voting has fallen most sharply in the last five elections, and where the local Party, whether as political machine or as a focus for the community, has tended most to decay.
~ Martin Walker, The National Front, Fontana/Collins, 1977, p.217.
And of course, seeking to reduce wages, to worsen conditions, and to sabotage workers’ efforts to increase wages and improve conditions is not some sudden detour on the capitalist road — the result of some brown- or yellow-skinned interloper seizing the wheel of the labour machine — but a structural condition of capitalist society; an economic dynamic intrinsic to and a fundamental expression of the existence of private property and the capitalist mode of production.
See also : Reverse Racism on Today Tonight (February 18, 2010) | F___ Off I’m On Today Tonight! Or: Reverse racism. (February 16, 2010) | Maria Jockel, 457 visas, skill shortages and Worker Protection, People and Place, Vol.17, No.2 (June 2009) | Stephen Harrington, Chasing reporters: Infotainment, intertextuality and media satire, QUT, 2009 (PDF).