Yesterday I quit Sky News after five years as a commentator. Giving airtime to neo-Nazi, Blair Cottrell, might be passed off as defending the right to free speech, but former chief minister of the Northern Territory, Adam Giles, was effusive in his praise, wrapping up the interview with: “Good luck. I hope it all goes well for you.”
A Sky anchor wishing a neo-Nazi all the best in his endeavours is yet another step in the mainstreaming of racism and bigotry in our country.
Lest Cottrell’s agenda be misunderstood, he has advocated all schools displaying a photograph of Adolf Hitler in every classroom and issuing a copy of Mein Kampf to every student. He has said: “The Jews are small physically as they are degenerate in character” who “infiltrate and subvert entire generations of other nations in a bid for world power.”
Cottrell has boasted of women that he has “manipulated them using violence and terror” and that the secret to keeping them faithful is to “care less about them and even crack them around the ear every once in a while.”
Yet Sky was not the first television network to give violent Cottrell a platform.
In January, the Seven Network boasted of its coverage of a meeting at which they interviewed Cottrell that: “Seven News was the only news organisation invited inside the meeting” that had “come together to help average Australians deal with what they are calling an immigrant crime crisis.” Seven reassured viewers that Cottrell and his ilk are “hoping to create a kind of neighbourhood watch.”
Nowhere did Seven or Sky mention that Cottrell is a criminal convicted of arson, burglary, stalking and making threats to kill.
That Seven and Sky could present a neo-Nazi as a regular kind of guy and, in Seven’s case, a pillar of the community as a sort of neighbourhood watch coordinator, is frightening.
Seven and Sky have sought to normalise racism and bigotry to boosts their ratings and advertising revenue.
Another Sky anchor, Andrew Bolt, has used his position as a News Corp columnist to warn: “There is no ‘us’ any more, as a tidal wave of immigrants sweeps away what’s left of our national identity.” He complains that “immigration is becoming colonisation” and criticises Jews for clustering in Melbourne’s North Caulfield, and Chinese, Vietnamese, Cambodians, Indians, Muslims and even Italians for doing the same in identified suburbs of Sydney and Melbourne.
The cartoon accompanying Bolt’s diatribe depicts five evil-looking migrants in national dress carving up a pie in the shape of Australia. News Corp’s racial cartoon is reminiscent of the depictions of Jews in pre-war Nazi Germany.
I have a personal reason for quitting Sky. My father fought the Nazis, was captured and spent the rest of the war in a German prisoner-of-war camp. He wrote in a diary concealed in his great coat that the German “hatred for the Jews cannot be imagined so it is impossible to describe it”, and that one day all the Jews were taken away. He didn’t know at the time that the gas chambers at Auschwitz were nearby.
My father would never have understood me appearing on a television network that hosted anti-semitic racists. To his credit, Bolt has criticised Sky for giving a platform to a “thug, bully and anti-Semite.”
It is deeply worrying that racism is being normalised in political discourse.
Former prime minister, Tony Abbott, recently advocated a return to a racially discriminatory immigration policy.
Coalition government ministers, including Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, are politicising the 1 per cent of crimes committed by Sudanese people in Melbourne, ignoring the sharp overall reduction in crime rates in the state and the domestic violence overwhelmingly perpetrated by white men.
When, in 1988, John Howard complained of too much Asian immigration, prime minister Bob Hawke immediately leapt upon it, moving in parliament a motion supporting the prevailing immigration policy that did not discriminate according to race. The motion praised previous Liberal prime minister, Harold Holt, for beginning the end of Australia’s shameful White Australia Policy. Several Coalition MPs crossed the floor to vote for the motion, including future immigration minister, Phillip Ruddock.
Bob asked me to accompany him to the chamber and sit in the adviser’s box while he spoke to his motion. It was one of the proudest days of my life.
As Hawke did, we must call out racism wherever it is practised. There was a time when doing so was normal. Now racism in the name of free speech is becoming the new normal.