Skip To Content

    21 Things White Politicians Said During Australia’s Racism Debate

    Bring on the sweet release of death.

    It all began when conservatives in the government wanted section 18C of Australia's Racial Discrimination Act changed.

    Lukas Coch / AAPIMAGE

    So when prime minister Malcolm Turnbull's changes to 18C were introduced to the parliament, they were thrown straight into the Senate so they could be debated.

    What happened was THREE DAYS of politicians debating racism.

    These are their stories:

    1. Senator Eric Abetz said if there's legislation protecting against racism, well, hell, why stop there: "Why not religion; the height of a person or, indeed, the shortness of a person; the overweightness of a person or the lack of it..."

    Mick Tsikas / AAPIMAGE

    2. Abetz then said he had seen a study that showed kids were most often bullied for physical characteristics – being "overweight", or having "red hair" or "buckteeth" – not for their race.

    Abetz now talking about how kids get bullied in school for being red heads.

    3. He then moved to the suggestion from Labor MP Anne Aly that the legislation should consider vilification of Muslims.

    Mick Tsikas / AAPIMAGE

    Here he goes...

    "So we would be offended if we were called a 'dirty Arab' or a 'dirty Muslim', according to this Labor member, but what about if you were called a 'dirty unionist', a 'dirty Liberal', a 'dirty Labor Party member' or a 'dirty deal maker'?"

    4. It was then One Nation senator Malcolm Roberts' turn. It took Roberts mere minutes go full tilt Godwin's Law.

    Mick Tsikas / AAPIMAGE

    According to Roberts, 18C was similar to laws that facilitated the rise of the... Nazis.

    "... similar laws in the pre-war Weimar Republic had not only failed to prevent the rise of the Nazis but had been successfully used by the Nazis to silence their critics, much as radical Muslim groups and their apologists do now," Roberts said.

    5. Roberts wanted us to know that Australia's anti-racism laws stemmed from... the repression of the communist Soviet Union.

    "The pretence of protecting people from injustice was in fact a Trojan Horse to silence those who dared to dissent from the Communist Party line," he said.

    "Those of us in this parliament who believe passionately in the right to free speech are implacably opposed to this Soviet legal landmine and strongly support this amendment."

    18C = communism. OK, got it? Let's move on.

    6. Roberts concluded by suggesting that 18C has the HIDE to PROTECT Muslims.

    Mick Tsikas / AAPIMAGE

    "If your Muslim Sudanese neighbour is engaging in female genital mutilation, your Syrian Muslim cafe owner is a terrorist building a bomb, or the Afghan Muslims in the public housing flat next to you are molesting small children, chances are that you are afraid to speak out," he said.

    So many straw men in just one sentence.

    7. Then senator James Paterson acknowledged that people might be scratching their heads about the fact all the white dudes seemed to be pushing hardest to water down the race hate laws.

    Mick Tsikas / AAPIMAGE

    "It is said that, because we are white men of a certain age, we have not experienced discrimination, and therefore we should be much more careful in advocating this change," Paterson said.

    This is like that scene in Jurassic Park when they figure out that the raptors are learning.

    8. Senator Pauline Hanson opened her speech about racism asking: "I, like a lot of Australians, thought to myself: 'Why are we taking up so much precious time in this parliament debating this issue?'"

    Mick Tsikas / AAPIMAGE

    Kevin Rudd style, Pauline then answered her own question.

    "It is because political correctness over the years has shut us down from having an opinion or a say. The thought police have intervened. The lefties are out there shutting us down from having an opinion on most things, and this is where section 18C has come into play."

    9. Hanson suggested that just because you're white doesn't mean you can't experience racial vilification in Australia. She's got the receipts to prove it.

    "You might be surprised, but I have had racist comments said to me," she said.

    Go on...

    "It happened in 1996, when I went out to have a meeting with some Aboriginal elders," she recounted.

    "When I approached the elders, they called me 'white trash' and 'a pig in mud'. I was abused."

    10. Because, you see, there is this thing called "reverse racism" which is an actual REAL THING*

    Mick Tsikas / AAPIMAGE

    "I think what has happened over time is that there is reverse racism in Australia," she said.

    "Australians are feeling the brunt of this and are fed up."

    (*not a thing)

    11. Hanson said sure, Australia has had issues with new migrants, like, look at the Italians and Greeks.

    "I have heard the terms that the Italians were called, such as 'eye-ties' or 'wogs'," Hanson said.

    12. Hanson, who has said among other things that Australia is at risk of being "swamped" by both Muslims and Asians, then challenged anyone, anywhere to point to something that she's said that was racist.

    Pauline Hanson has challenged anyone to show her anything she's ever said that's been racist. #auspol

    13. New Tasmanian Liberal senator Jonathon Duniam said of course there were racists in Australia, but why should they wreck it for ALL OF US.

    "As I said, there is a minority and, yes, we need to deal with them, but I do not think they should ruin it for everybody else," Duniam said.

    14. Conservative senator Cory Bernardi's speech mentioned left wing crocodiles. But it was the ending, in which he called an 18C a weapon of mass destruction, that was *kisses fingers*.

    Mick Tsikas / AAPIMAGE

    "[It's become a] bit toxic around this issue because of the alt-left ideology that is out there and the fake news that they are putting forward," Bernardi said, crossing off squares from his right wing bingo sheet.

    "The simple fact is that, until recent times, section 18C was rarely, if ever, used, but now it is being used as a weapon of mass destruction in the battle for freedom in this country."

    Greens senator Nick McKim replied: "Oh my God."

    15. Queensland senator Ian Macdonald suggested 18C may have played a role in the recent death of cartoonist Bill Leak.

    Mick Tsikas / AAPIMAGE

    "I pause to think what would have happened had the government pursued its intentions back in 2014, rather than delaying till now," McDonald said.

    "Perhaps Mr Leak's untimely death might not have occurred."

    16. Libertarian senator David Leyonhjelm daringly began by stating: "I will say some things that violate 18C". Everyone was like, "Oooooh, go on..."

    Mick Tsikas / AAPIMAGE

    Firstly he suggested that ethnic community leaders who were against 18C changes were not true Aussies.

    "18C is being defended by self-appointed representatives of Armenian, Hellenic, Indian, Chinese, Vietnamese, Japanese, Jewish, Lebanese Muslim and Arab groups," Leyonhjelm said.

    "These largely self-appointed representatives do not subscribe to Australian values."

    17. Leyonhjelm then took aim at Jewish leaders concerned about Holocaust deniers.

    "We have self-appointed representatives of Jewish Australians wanting to suppress Holocaust denialism," Leyonhjelm said.

    18. The assistant minister to the prime minister James McGrath suggested changing the Racial Discrimination Act was the next step in the West's "war against tyranny".

    Alan Porritt / AAPIMAGE

    "It gives me great pleasure to rise tonight to speak on reforms to section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act, because what we are trying to do with these reforms tonight is continue in the fight against tyranny," Senator McGrath said.

    "I have said before in this chamber that we are at the end of the second 100 years war, and this second 100 years war is the war against tyranny."

    McGrath went on to list WWI, WWII and 9/11 as landmarks in this century long war.

    19. Fellow Queensland senator Barry O'Sullivan wanted to talk about "Negro citizens" in the United States.

    Here's Nationals senator Barry O'Sullivan saying "negro" during the #18C debate.

    20. Attorney-general George Brandis gave the final speech on the issue, calling 18C "political censorship pure and simple".

    Mick Tsikas / AAPIMAGE

    21. Then he said it was "deeply offensive and insulting" that he'd been called "white" by other senators.

    Here's George Brandis listing all the times people called him "white" and he was deeply offended and insulted. #18C

    "Indeed, it is the crowning irony of this debate that those who champion section 18C have actually in this very debate attacked those of us who favour reform, because of the colour of our skin," Brandis said.

    "When on Tuesday I said that I did not believe that Australia was a racist nation, what did Senator Bilyk say by way of interjection? 'Coming from a white man.'

    "Senator McCarthy, in her contribution, said that I would not understand the issue because I was 'a white man growing up in Petersham', and Senator Di Natale said that this bill 'has everything to do with allowing a very small group of very privileged, largely older white folk in this place to be more racist than they might otherwise be'.

    "Those remarks are, of course, deeply offensive and insulting."

    Then that was it! After three days debating racism, the Senate voted 31 - 28 against the government's wording changes. What did we learn? Who fucking knows.