opinion

The worst thing about Fraser Anning's Christchurch comments: they're not surprising.

Mamamia has chosen not to show the face of the man in custody for the Christchurch terror attack, or to include or link to any distressing material about his acts. Instead, we are dedicated to remembering the names, faces and stories of the victims.

Australians are feeling a lot today. Overwhelming sorrow and grief for the 49 New Zealanders killed in Friday’s terror attacks on two Christchurch mosques, sympathy for the families affected, admiration for the bystanders that risked their lives to help, even a touch of fear. But there’s also shame.

Mostly because one of the three men in custody – the apparent mastermind – is Australian. But now also because of the comments of Fraser Anning, a Queensland senator, who yesterday released a public statement in which he “condemned” the violence but blatantly supported the ideology that underpinned it.

“The real cause of bloodshed on New Zealand streets today,” he wrote, “is the immigration program which allowed Muslim fanatics to migrate to New Zealand in the first place.”

The outrage came thick and it came fast, with Prime Minister Scott Morrison among those to shout down Anning’s claims.

Beyond the disgust at Anning’s bigotry, was anger that he had a platform from which to spout it in the first place.

After all, as an individual, he only received 19 first-preference votes at the 2016 Federal election. Nineteen. The hotel owner only ended up with the job in October 2017 after his then then-colleague, Malcolm Roberts, was turfed for holding dual citizenship.

That measly number, that bizarre twist of fate, seemed to help many allay the embarrassment that Australians are feeling over his comments, to give us some distance from this man whose name is today being spat around the world.

‘We didn’t want him. We didn’t ask for this.’

But the truth is, that distance isn’t as gaping as we’d like to think. Because Australians did vote for him. A quarter of a million of them.

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Though Anning later defected to sit as an independent, at the 2016 election he ran on the Senate ticket for Pauline Hanson’s One Nation in Queensland. While, yes, only 19 people used the optional below-the-line, first-preference system to put a ‘1’ beside his name, the ticket as a whole won 250,126 votes.

Of course, you could argue that system that landed him Anning in the Senate is flawed. But it doesn’t change the fact that hundreds of thousands voted in favour of the party he aligned himself with, one that campaigned on a ban on immigration of Muslim people, whose leader later described Islam as “a disease” that Australia needs to vaccinate itself against.

What Anning said is reprehensible. But the sad fact is he’s not alone in his beliefs. Not even in parliament. Not even in his party.

Let’s not forget…

The House of Representatives voted in favour of a motion that declared “it’s OK to be white” in 2018, which was only narrowly shot down in the Senate.

Former PM Tony Abbott dismissed fears about Islamaphobia in 2017 by (falsely) claiming it “hasn’t killed anyone”.

As Opposition Immigration Spokesperson in 2011, current PM Scott Morrison advised the Liberal cabinet to play on voter concerns about Muslim immigration and the “inability” of Muslim people to integrate.

Of course, there are plenty more examples of that divisive, ignorant rhetoric from the people who hold the power in this country. The kind that normalises bigotry and trickles down to be lapped up by angry, fearful people. And that, most certainly, is shameful.

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