Fraser Anning is a magnet for controversy. This weekend, just passed, senator Anning attended a rally that was organised by what every major media outlet in Australia has called ‘Neo Nazi’ or ‘Fascist’ sympathisers. Senator Anning flew from his home state of Queensland to Victoria where he attended a protest march in St Kilda, the senator is thought to have hired a car to travel from Melbourne to St Kilda. Including the flights and the car hire, the taxpayer will be billed close to $3000 for senator Anning’s trip.
Fraser Anning made headlines in 2018 in his maiden parliamentary address. While commenting on the Australian federal governments woes around immigration policy, Anning mentioned the need for “a final solution” around immigration policy and his longing for a continuation of the white Australia policy. Indeed, this senator is no stranger to controversy.
All Australians have the right to express their political points of view. That is to say, Australians who hold that Australia’s boarders should be completely open to immigration or completely closed to immigration are free to express their views peacefully. However, if anyone holds an extreme political point of view, such as completely open or completely closed boarders, they must answer to any and all criticism launched at them, without becoming dogmatic and while maintaining a rational argument.
Senator Anning did not maintain a rational argument, when he explained why he attended this march. Rather, Anning chose to vilify a minority group within the Australian community – the Sudanese community. There are between 6000-10,000 Sudanese Australians living in Victoria, a state of more than 6.4 million people. Despite this remarkably small number of people, Anning insists that ‘gangs of African youths’ are bashing innocent Australians in every major city and in regional areas. This runs counter to what police have said. In fact, the police have made it clear that there are no ‘gangs of African youths’ running around as Anning claims. Rather, any crimes of this nature that have been associated with the broader African community have been committed by “a small number of offenders, who do not constitute a gang”.
The rally that senator Anning appeared at crosses a line that no rational argument can justify. Protestors at the march in St Kilda were photographed performing the Sieg Hail salute, that is the straight raised arm salute made infamous by Adolf Hitler during the 1930’s and 1940’s. I am willing to say that the fools seen making this salute are lacking in a common sense of decency and are most likely just stupid and ignorant young men, lacking any sense of purpose or direction in their lives. I doubt they know what fascism really is, I doubt they have any understanding of what a fascist society looks like. I think these young men are simply looking for attention, which they received, by making absurd gestures.
Fraser Anning claims it was a group called ANTIFA that were making the salute, not his own ‘alt-right’ group. This seems incredible, in the truest sense of the word, given ANTIFA exists as an anti-fascist group. Senator Anning should really have separated himself from the people who made this salute and owned the fact that these people attended the same march as he did. Anning could have shutdown any speculation concerning his fascist or Nazi sympathies by owning the fact that there were people among the crowd he protested with who hold some extreme political views. Yet, he didn’t.
Fraser Anning will not be remembered in Australian history. Anning will not make the footnotes of our nation’s history, nor will his speech, nor will his presence at this rally. Anning will be forgotten because he used fear to create political tension, because he has no ideological integrity, because he was not a strong Australian leader.
Australia needs political leaders who do not play on fear, politicians who do not buy into the popular narrative of identity politics. We need leaders who are going to bring the community together, who understand that a prosperous future requires innovation and compromise. We are not the only nation in the world, though we are one of the luckiest. Our politicians must remember this, when confronted with a choice of instilling the community with fear or showing genuine leadership.