No.690, May 2009
If this is God’s country, then it’s clear God has a predilection towards fair-haired folk. Pulling into Cronulla station, an hour’s sweaty slog south of Sydney’s Central, the train is packed solid. Nothing all that unusual there — it is N.S.W. public transport after all. In this case, though, it’s packed with sun-bleached locals, kissed with a glow that only comes from seaside living.
Cronulla is a proud suburb — one that, rightly or wrongly, has become inextricably linked to a new kind of national fervour, a fervour that for the last couple of years has been mustering itself in an overkill of flag-waving, chest-beating and Southern Cross tattoos. A pride that shocked the world in the riots of late 2005, and reared its head again at another Sydney seaside suburb, Manly, last Australia Day.
I’m in Cronulla to interview three members of the pro-white, anti-immigration political group the Australian Protectionist Party. That it happens to be in Cronulla is nothing more than fate, delicious irony. The interview’s planned for one of the pubs by the sea. Unfortunately two of the APP guys baulk at the media attention and are a no-show — the third, a 24-year-old postal worker, Ben Smith, is sent instead as the solitary spokesman.
Smith is boyish, svelte with cobalt-blue eyes, hoary skin and short-cut blond hair. He’s nervous and reads from crib notes when stumped by questions. I’m guessing he’s been sent to parrot the APP’s mantra and the notes are to ensure he doesn’t stray off course.
Smith tells me he’s a nationalist and that I’m wrong to call the APP a right-wing party. “I’m a normal Aussie patriot”, he says. He’s adamant, too, that he’s not some “white supremacist Nazi nut”.
“We disagree with this idea of multiculturalism”, he says. “Australia has a pure ethnic core and that’s white European and there’s a culture, a way of life that sprang from that and something we want to preserve. That’s the thing about immigration in this country: Immigration good, concern about immigration bad.”
Smith, a Cronulla local, says he wasn’t involved in the riots back in 2005, but empathises with how and why it happened.
“Those people”, he says, his eyes watering with anger, “those Lebos have been coming down here for years to harass people, harass girls in bikinis, to intimidate. They don’t know anything else but violence. The riots were a case of a community boiling up, boiling up, boiling up — people were saying ‘We’ve had enough; we’re taking a stand against this’.”
It’s Smith’s view that the Cronulla area is uniquely Anglo with its brick homes, utes on lawns, surf culture and Christian churches. “Yes it is a white area”, he says. “That’s its strength, but people are threatened by it, they want that destroyed. It has old-fashioned Australian values and people want that protected.”
Recently Sudanese refugees have been resettled in the area, something Smith believes smacks of a conspiracy. “I think politicians seriously believe we are too white down here”, he says. “But I sympathise with them (the refugees) — they’re not welcome, they’re not going to fit in, it’s a recipe for disaster.
“I almost feel sorry for these migrants, the Muslims. They come here, they can’t speak the language, they can’t assimilate; it’s too much of an upheaval for them to come to this country. That’s where multiculturalism has failed, it’s created this friction, this tension and violence.”
It therefore comes as no surprise that Smith is wary of the recent bridge building measures to incorporate Lebanese kids into the local surf life saving club. “These people would rather see an Australian drown than save them”, he says seriously. “They won’t be happy until Australia becomes a Muslim country.”
John Bastick is former editor of FHM Australia. FHM is owned by ACP (PBL); ACP also owns Ralph and Zoo Weekly, and recently acquired Rolling Stone:
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