Frances Simmons and Brynn O’Brien work at the Anti-Slavery Project at the University of Technology Sydney, a specialist legal service for trafficked and exploited people.
Referring to an upcoming episode of Today Tonight, they reckon it’s troubling that abuse of migrant workers is called ”reverse racism” (Asians taking Aussie jobs? No, it’s labour exploitation, Frances Simmons and Brynn O’Brien, The Age, July 22, 2010).
I reckon it’s “good ratings”, based upon a “lowest common denominator” approach, one capitalising upon “widespread anxiety” on the part of “White Australia” that “we are in danger of being swamped by Asians”.
Note that, despite PM Gillard’s protestations to the contrary, slavery has a proud history in Australia, and its rejection — or rather, the forcible ejection of its brown-skinned beneficiaries — helped form the foundations of the Australian state.
In September 2008, in her speech to The National Press Club titled ‘Introducing Australia’s New Workplace Relations System’ Gillard, also took the opportunity to burn her black armband, declaring in her opening remarks that:
The signature values of nations are often defined by the circumstances of their birth… And for us there’s one value above all others that we identify with as truly our own. It’s the value that emerged out of the circumstances of Federation, which coincided with the industrial turbulence of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. That value is fairness. Or as we like to put it: ‘the fair go’.
Which is all rather odd, especially given that — as angry White men across the country know — one of the first Acts of Federal Parliament was the Immigration Restriction Act 1901. This Act (together with the Pacific Island Labourers Act 1901) formed the legal cornerstone of the White Australia policy; the Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904 — which in Labor Party mythology has ensured a ‘fair go’ for ‘working families’ for the bulk of the country’s history — was only assented to by Edward VII in 1904. Further, while 100 years ago the Gub’mint couldn’t get rid of the Pacific Islanders quick enough, they now wanna import them — albeit if only for a coupla years.
As for “the industrial turbulence of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries”…
There’s a side current here which is rarely looked at but which is also quite fascinating. That’s the working class literature of the nineteenth century. They didn’t read Adam Smith and Wilhelm von Humboldt, but they’re saying the same things. Read journals put out by the people called the “factory girls of Lowell,” young women in the factories, mechanics, and other working people who were running their own newspapers. It’s the same kind of critique. There was a real battle fought by working people in England and the U.S. to defend themselves against what they called the degradation and oppression and violence of the industrial capitalist system, which was not only dehumanizing them but was even radically reducing their intellectual level. So, you go back to the mid-nineteenth century and these so-called “factory girls,” young girls working in the Lowell [Massachusetts] mills, were reading serious contemporary literature. They recognized that the point of the system was to turn them into tools who would be manipulated, degraded, kicked around, and so on. And they fought against it bitterly for a long period. That’s the history of the rise of capitalism.
See also : Leave Tim Noonan alone! (July 21, 2010) | Reverse racism?msicar esreveR (February 21, 2010) | Reverse Racism on Today Tonight (February 18, 2010) | F___ Off I’m On Today Tonight! Or: Reverse racism. (February 16, 2010) | How to Make Trouble… // The Dole Army (November 6, 2009) | Justin Sheridan in Canberra (September 22, 2009) | Justin Sheridan : Australian of the Year (September 15, 2009).