The facets of Australian fascism: the Abbott Government experiment (Part 23) – By Dr George Venturini

The facets of Australian fascism: the Abbott Government experiment (Part 23)

By Dr George Venturini*

Testing the thesis . . . Identification of enemies/scapegoats as a unifying cause (continued)

The ‘Liberals’ have made it their business to discriminate against Muslim women who do not conform to their liking: what clothing they should wear, and where they should go. Their freedom should be curtailed ‘for their own good’ – not a chance to reflect that Muslim women decide what to wear as a matter of personal choice, and has nothing to do with religion.

According to the Australian Institute of Criminology, one woman is killed every week in Australia by a current or former partner (‘Family violence protest – Melbourne CBD | Victims of crime’, accessible at, and one in three women would say that she has suffered violence from someone she knows.

If Abbott and his ‘Liberals’ were serious about the human rights of Muslim women, they would have immediately: 1) freed all Muslim women refugees (and their children) who are languishing in Australian concentration camps in remote parts of Australia, in Nauru and in Papua New Guinea. and 2) made it their policy to treat refugees, including women, as humans.

On 24 September 2014 – just a few days before Abbott warned of random attacks by Muslim Australians – an Australian teenager, 18-year-old Abdul Numan Haider was shot dead by police outside a Melbourne police station. He was killed in broad daylight after attending an interview with the police at the Endeavour Hills Police Station. (‘Melbourne shooting: What we know about Abdul Numan Haider, shot dead after stabbing anti-terrorism officers at Endeavour Hills‘).

After his death, the police and the media concocted a “radicalised” profile for him. He was soon accused of posing a “threat to Australia’s security”. It would be so of any Muslim who would dare to speak up publicly against western-perpetrated war crimes, including the rape of Muslim women and the slaughter of innocent Muslim women and children in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria and Yemen.

By contrast, some criminals who could pose serious threat to the community are set free and allowed to spread anti-Muslim propaganda. The case of Man Haron Monis, who took seventeen hostages at Lindt Café in Sydney on 15 December 2014, is significant. Monis was on parole for crimes committed in Australia. It is known that he has committed crimes in Iran before fleeing to Australia in 1996, that he had entered Australia as a ‘refugee’ in 1996 and was granted political asylum in 2001, and that the Iranian Government had requested his extradition, but was rebuffed by the Australian authorities. In 2004 Monis was granted Australian citizenship and began waving the Union Jack.

Monis was used as the perfect stooge to serve the Abbott Government’s anti-Muslim agenda. As Julian Burnside QC reported:

Tony Abbott referred to Muslims a number of times in his speech on Monday [23 February], and he referred to the Lindt café siege in Sydney. It is important to bear in mind that the Lindt café siege was not a Muslim terrorist event: it was not any sort of terrorist event. It was the terrible act of a madman. The fact that he was a Muslim is utterly irrelevant. The fact that it is used, even indirectly, to stir up fear of Muslims is utterly disgraceful.

Of course, Muslims are an easy target: Islamic State (Isis) is doing a pretty bad PR job for Islam. But most Muslims do not support terrorism, either here or overseas. A small group of zealots support Isis and want to join its fight. If there are 50 jihadists in Australia who would fight with Isis (unlikely), that represents about two Australians in a million who are sharply at odds with us. Is two in a million really a big enough threat to encourage us to abandon long-held principles of justice, fairness and liberty?” (‘The Islamophobia stirred up by Abbott and Bolt is a bigger threat to us that terrorism’).

The 2015 Report of the Scanlon Foundation presented the findings of the eighth  ‘Mapping Social Cohesion’ national survey. It was conducted in June-July 2015. The report builds on the knowledge gained through the seven earlier Scanlon Foundation national surveys, which provide, for the first time in Australian social research, a series of detailed surveys on social cohesion, immigration and population issues.

According to the Report’s findings the Scanlon-Monash Index of Social Cohesion had moved in the strongest positive direction since the Index was established in 2007.

The Scanlon Foundation survey asked respondents for their view of ‘the most important issue facing Australia today’; “change has occurred in the ranking of national security and social issues, which are now both second ranked (the economy remains first).”, the Report noted.

Concern over immigration remained at the lowest level recorded by the Scanlon Foundation surveys; attitudes towards asylum seekers arriving by boat had also changed little since 2014.

The high level of support for the proposition that ‘multiculturalism has been good for Australia’ had been maintained.

There were significant differences in attitudes of young adults, the middle-aged and older Australians, evident in response to questions on national identity and cultural diversity. Significant difference was also evident across Australia’s regions, with lower support outside capital cities for immigration, resettlement opportunities for asylum seekers and cultural maintenance. Difference in attitude was also evident in comparison of Australia’s major cities.

With regard to immigration, the 2014 survey had found relatively low concern over issues of immigration and cultural diversity. Just 35 per cent considered that the immigration intake was ‘too high’, the lowest recorded in the Scanlon Foundation surveys.

As for asylum seekers, the views on policy towards them also remained unchanged in 2015: 24 per cent were of the view that asylum seekers arriving by boat should be eligible for permanent settlement – same as in 2014; 31 per cent thought that they should only be allowed to apply for temporary residence – 30 per cent in 2014; 9 per cent was of the opinion that they should be ‘kept in detention until they can be sent back’ – 10 in 2014; 33 thought that ‘their boats should be turned back’ – 31 in 2014.

On the basis of earlier findings, it appeared likely that negative opinions reflect views on mode of arrival, not on providing opportunities for refugee resettlement. Scanlon Foundation surveys between 2010-2012 asked respondents for their view on the ‘humanitarian programme’, which was explained as resettling ‘refugees who have been assessed overseas and found to be victims of persecution and in need of help’. A large majority, in the range of 67 to 75 per cent, indicated that they supported the ‘humanitarian programme’. (‘Mapping Social Cohesion 2015: The Scanlon Foundation Survey Report’).

Still, the main and most consistent  target for discrimination and hatred by the Abbott Government remained the so-called ‘Illegal arrivals’. As Reporters Without Borders noted  in August 2015, Australia was suppressing the coverage of refugees on ‘national security’ grounds. The organisation was mainly concerned with the effect of the   Border Force Act 2015, which entered into force on 1 July 2015. The organisation noted that the Act “reflects a disturbing desire to deny access to information about the often deplorable treatment of refugees in detention centres by classifying this information as ‘protected’ on national security grounds.” (Australia suppresses coverage of refugees on national security grounds’).

Approved by the two main political parties, the Act provides for two-year gaol terms for ‘entrusted persons’ working in Australia’s refugee detention centres – including the centres on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea and on Nauru, should such persons disclose information about conditions in the centres and how refugees are treated.

Without prior permission from the Department of Immigration and Border Protection, doctors and health professionals working in the centres are now forbidden to talk about the conditions in which asylum-seekers are being held and to report any abuses or human rights violations. They are nonetheless the only people who could act as whistleblowers about what is going on in these centres, to which the public has no access.

“We firmly condemn this act, which effectively censors all sources of information about the problematic issue of refugees in Australia,” said Benjamin Ismaïl, the head of the Reporters Without Borders Asia-Pacific desk. And he added: “Doctors and other care personnel are potential whistleblowers. They have long been the only people able to talk about conditions in these centres and the health of the detainees. As such, they are a link between these closed and secret centres and the media and public opinion. By threatening this link, which is essential for media coverage, the authorities are clearly flouting the right of Australia’s citizens to question their government’s stance on human rights and democracy.”

The Australian Government already imposed drastic curbs on journalists’ access to refugee detention centres in 2011, after several refugees died in detention. These restrictions constituted a grave violation of the right to information, which is supposed to be guaranteed by the law.

“They are trying to prevent any information about conditions in detention centres reaching the public” said Julian Burnside  QC.

“A journalist who requests information or records from an entrusted person can be charged with aiding and abetting the commission of that offence” added George Newhouse, another human rights lawyer.

Many people have spoken out against this latest attempt to prevent doctors, social workers and other employees of detention centres for asylum-seekers from the telling the media about any human rights violations and abuses they might witness.

A health workers collective has held demonstrations in various Australian cities to protest against the Border Force Act. One of its members, University of Sydney Professor Maria Fiatarone Singh, a geriatrician, said that doctors have a duty, both as professionals and citizens, to report human rights violations. Although some of the law’s opponents have said they will circumvent it, “many are afraid of losing their jobs, which is stated in the act, or imprisonment up to two years.” Singh said.

Tomorrow: Testing the thesis . . . Identification of enemies/scapegoats as a unifying cause (continued)

GeorgeVenturini* In memory of my friends, Professor Bertram Gross and Justice Lionel Murphy.

Dr. Venturino Giorgio Venturini devoted some sixty years to study, practice, teach, write and administer law at different places in four continents. In 1975 he left a law chair in Chicago to join the Trade Practices Commission in Canberra. He may be reached at

Part 22