The South Australian election campaign has become slurred by accusations of racism with a candidate accusing the Labor party of orchestrating a “filthy and racist” attack.
The candidate, Carolyn Habib, is a Marion city councilor running for the seat of Elder.
She says that a Labor party flyer, which features the words “Can you trust Habib?“, is a racist slur against her surname.
“I think it is a very thinly veiled racist attack against my surname,” she told ABC 891 radio.
The backdrop to the words is what appears to be an old wall damaged by bullets.
Carolyn Habib is half-Lebanese.
“It’s a new low and a very, very filthy campaign in what has already been a dirty campaign over the past few weeks,” she said.
Her words have been backed up by Attorney-General George Brandis who told the ABC that it is “overtly racist”.
“The leaflet depicts Ms Habib in a silhouette against what appears to be a bullet-riddled wall using only her surname with the injunction ‘don’t trust Habib’,” he said.
“This is in our view is a thinly veiled racist slur.”
Elder is one of the more marginal seats in the campaign. Labor holds it on less that 5%.
SA Opposition leader Steven Marshall said the flyer was “disgraceful”.
“It makes no reference to her Christian name whatsoever, I think it’s a shot at her surname, which features extraordinarily prominently,” Mr Marshall said.
“It’s a dog whistle. It’s completely outrageous that the Government would use this type of material. There is no place for racism in SA politics, there’s no place for racism in Australia.”
However, South Australian Liberal Senator Cory Bernardi bought into the debate, arguing that the design or the use of her surname isn’t racist.
“How is using anyone’s surname racist?” Senator Bernardi said.
“I look forward to someone explaining how it’s racist to use someone’s surname.”
The South Australia’s Labor campaign spokesman, Tom Koutsantonis said that he himself had been subjected to racist remarks in his career and that this was not racist.
“This pamphlet is not racist. It doesn’t look like it, it doesn’t feel like it, it doesn’t sound like it,” he said.
“Racism is abhorrent. I don’t think anyone in the Labor Party thinks that Ms Habib’s ethnicity in any way has any impact on her ability to run for Parliament,” he said.
Australian Arabic Council chairman Roland Jabbour told The Australian that the flyer was “demeaning” for Australians of Arabic background.
“Habib is clearly a name that links the individual to a particular culture, and it is a culture that already suffers from a lot of stereotyping and negative perceptions and this will add to that negativity,” he said.
What do you think? Is this thinly-disguised racism?