John Howard, an 81-year-old white man, who joined the Liberal party in the 1950s and worked as a politician for the majority of his life, having been elected to one of Sydney’s wealthiest electorates in 1974, doesn’t believe there is racism in Australia.
This shouldn’t be news: Howard’s views that Australia was not a racist country shaped much of the nation’s social policy under his prime ministership, going so far as to reject the Eureka research anti-racism study his government commissioned in the late 1990s, because it found there was in fact, racism in Australia.
This didn’t “align” with Howard’s views Australia wasn’t racist, so the report was suppressed until 2011. (Instead the government set up “Harmony Day”, which is essentially a day borne from the government’s desire to *not* confront racism.)
Then there were the 2005 Cronulla race riots, which targeted the Middle Eastern community, in particular the Lebanese community, and had been spurred on by radio shock jocks such as Alan Jones, whose comments were found to have “likely to encourage violence or brutality and to vilify people of Lebanese and Middle Eastern backgrounds on the basis of ethnicity”.
Howard didn’t accept that was racist either and said at the time:
I do not accept that there is underlying racism in this country.
Overnight, Howard was a guest on the ABC special report Australia Talks – which went through the survey results of the ABC’s Australia Talks survey. Howard was there because he was voted Australia’s favourite prime minister (seriously).
Co-host Nazeem Hussain (who had been listed on the TV guide as Waleed Aly, again, because – Australia) questioned Howard on his views on racism, given that 76% of respondents to the survey said they believed Australia had an issue with racism.
Howard, though, still disagrees.
That has not been my experience. I have to say, respectfully, to that 76%, say I don’t think there is underlying racism in Australia.
Asked directly if he believed there was racism in Australia, Howard said, “No, I don’t.”
And he still doesn’t believe the Cronulla riots had anything to do with race:
My view about the Cronulla riots is that it was not an example of underlying racism.
… I think that is a supremely pessimistic view of the Australian community and I’ve seen so many examples of where people of different races have worked together in a seamless fashion for the common good.
I think that’s a hugely pessimistic view of the Australian community.
Which goes a long way to explaining why he is, apparently, Australia’s favourite prime minister. Because if a white, powerful man doesn’t see racism as an issue, because that hasn’t been his personal experience, then obviously there is no issue, right?