Another day, another dog whistle

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Nice work with those comments about Muslims, Prime Minister. Just the thing we need to hear from our Prime Minister after Cronulla, the cartoons, and everything else. (Sure, the comments were old, but the refusal to dilute them isn’t.)
The man who feared Australia being “swamped by Asians” in the 1980s has decided to pick on another ethnic group as part of his tireless campaign to appeal to middle Australia’s uglier side – the bedrock of his support for ten years. Although it does seem fitting that the comments were made in a book celebrating his highly successful decade of minority-bashing.


It also seems fitting that the comments have come to light the same day as a survey saying that Australia has become meaner during his decade in the Lodge.
Like anything explicitly criminal, it’s hard to argue against the proposition that Muslims who want to conduct jihad on Australian soil are a bit of a problem. Nor am I going to stand up for Taliban-style attitudes to women. But the Prime Minister has a responsibility to heal divisions, not exacerbate them. To be a uniter, not a divider, as George W. Bush laughably termed himself.
Whereas these comments just throw even more fuel on a fire that’s already consumed far too much, and desperately needs extinguishing. They were always going to be reported, and always going to cause problems. He should have known better.
But oil on troubled waters is not John Howard’s way. He’d rather throw the Pauline Hanson voters a sly wink, subtly implying that he understands where they’re coming from, and the dastardly Muslims won’t be taking over on his watch. He’s a more effective, less ridiculous version of Danna Vale.
The jihad problem “is not a problem that we have ever faced with other immigrant communities who become easily absorbed by Australia’s mainstream,” he says. Well, unless you count the white Australian who waged war on the Aborigines with devastating success. But we don’t mention that, because that would be the dreaded “black armband” view of history that means we can’t apologise for, or even acknowledge, our problematic past.
And while most Australians would agree that “where is within some sections of the Islamic community an attitude towards women which is out of line with mainstream Australian society,” it’s also become abundantly clear during the recent abortion debate that some Liberal MPs’ attitudes to women aren’t 100% in line with mainstream opinion either. But I don’t hear the Prime Minister condemning Toby Abbott, or the millions he wants to spend on allowing the churches to lecture distressed women about the evil of abortion via ‘counselling’.
Howard’s defence is that he wasn’t trying to “”make some kind of tawdry political point,” but rather, “it is a view that I have held for some time.” I’m not all that reassured to hear that it wasn’t cynical opportunism but reflective of a deep problem he has with Muslims.
Ten years of this muck is enough. Peter Costello has his flaws, but he’s got far more class on these issues, as his subtle attempts to differentiate himself from the PM on the issue of tolerance have implied.
It’s time John Howard’s dog-whistle politics were aborted out of existence. Let’s hope he does the decent thing and takes political RU486 on the upcoming tenth anniversity.

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