For a person who projects the image of a simpleton, Bob Katter is quite a complex person.
He opposes privatisation, the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement and other aspects of global finance capital’s neoliberal agenda, voted to throw out Howard’s persecution police in the construction industry (the Australian Building and Construction Commission) and opposed the anti-union WorkChoices legislation. He has helped bridge the gap between rural conservatives and the union movement through his invitation to Dean Mighell, militant leader of the Victorian branch of the Electrical Trades Union to speak at a Katter Party convention, and his subsequent invitation to Mighell, now retired from the ETU, to draft the Katter Party’s industrial relations legislation. He is strongly opposed to the Section 457 visa scheme.
However, he is just as strongly committed to socially conservative views. He is homophobic, and his opposition to 457 visas is couched in terms of “jobs for Australians” rather than the CFMEU’s more balanced opposition to rorts of the system, and support for overseas workers to migrate and become Australian citizens.
Complex social and historical base
His electoral base in northern Queensland embraces the best and the worst of the Australian experience. It has been a stronghold of organised labour, but also the site of continuing frontier violence against Aboriginal Australians. Meatworkers and others still talk about the Bloody Sunday events of June 29, 1919 when citizens rallying in support of jailed strikers were shot at by police. Sixteen were injured. But it was also the region where, 130 years ago, the notorious practice of “blackbirding” – the kidnapping and placing into virtual slavery on the cane fields of South Pacific Islanders – began.
With the monopolised corporation’s print and electronic media now in election mode, Katter’s new political party is organising and using Pauline Hanson’s strategy of xenophobia (fear of foreigners) and chauvinism, e.g., that Anglo and North-East European back-grounded Australians are culturally ‘superior’ compared to other ethnic and indigenous backgrounded Australians.
This is a dangerous a reactionary trend because it divides the working class. Katter has played a positive role in opposing some reactionary laws and policies, but essentially his support for working people is an investment in securing their support for his party. He is a temporary ally on some issues, but has no commitment to the overall unity of the working class and its leadership of the movement for anti-imperialist independence and socialism.
Online petition presents a reactionary viewpoint
Let us look at one specific case, the use of an on-line petition attacking a “Middle-Easterner,” a shopping mall owner who stopped the sale of Anzac Day badges on his retail premises. The only outcome of this petition is division in the community through using fear of cultural difference based on ignorance, political naivety and racial prejudice.
Mr Katter and party know if they can manipulate some ignorant, xenophobic voters to support them, they can gain seats in parliament thus entitling themselves to hundreds of thousands of government taxpayer funds for future political campaigns, some of which will undoubtedly contain echoes of Pauline Hanson’s bigoted ‘One Nation’ Party.
Online campaign petitions appealing for support based on prejudicial stereotypes or perceptions of any particular culture’s differences assist a tiny minority who already wield enormous power in order to further damage unity and good-will that exists between most Australians. They must not succeed in doing this, as it would exacerbate inequality, unrest and economic misery particularly for poorer taxpayers, who would suffer most, both socially and financially.
Advocate for inclusivity and class unity
Advocating for inclusivity and acceptance of cultural diversity in society and encouraging your friends and contacts to have an internationalist view is the just and ethical way to advance. Sure, some individuals are xenophobic, prejudiced, ignorant and intolerant, but this is to be expected since the two main political liberal-conservative parties in Queensland and nationally have in the past continuously discounted public education funding whilst plundering the public purse to turn elite private schools into virtual club meds for affluent electorates.
However, revolutionary optimism is required to continually dispel prejudicial myths and erroneous ideas and consequently practice open-mindedness and advocate for cultural harmony. Incidentally, the monopolised corporate print and electronic media’s shock jock sensationalist reporting and bias, in collusion with far right-wing nationalist agendas has been an influential part of the underbelly of both Queensland and neo-conservative national political life.
We have mentioned the Pacific Islander (Kanaka’s) slave trade and the dispossession and oppression of Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islands’ peoples from their land. Queensland also experienced the undemocratic period of the Joh Bjelke-Petersen regime, when Australians who opposed the South African Springbok rugby tours were attacked and arrested. These tours were opposed by Australian anti-apartheid and anti-racist workers, students and other citizens who fought against the racist regime in South Africa and its racially selected teams. In addition, examples of reactionary and racist activities from the 60’s-80’s continued on with Comalco’s violent dispossession of the Aboriginal inhabitants of Weipa to make way for bauxite mining and campaigns opposing Japanese business ventures in Cairns and the Gold Coast regions that often wrongly took on a racist quality. Queensland was also the birthplace of Pauline Hanson’s racist One Nation party.
Finally, if as Katter and his party say, the owner of the Mt. Warren shopping centre made a decision against selling Anzac badges at his shopping centre, the badge-sellers could have taken their concerns to their council (Local Government Association), to appropriately put their concerns to be discussed and arbitrated on, and sold their badges on public property near the Centre.
In conclusion, rather than stir up tension and racist, inter-ethnic rivalry as the Katter Party’s online petition suggests (through its reference to the owner’s non Anglo-European Australian cultural background, the badge-sellers should have campaigned by:
· Writing letters to the local press, speakers on local radio / TV to convince the centre’s patrons to embrace unbiased and not racially prejudiced ideas. Refer to justice and equality and not attack the owner’s cultural background
· contact the suppliers of goods and services to the centre with the purpose of having a deputation to get the owner to negotiate a satisfactory response that meets the badge-sellers’ wishes (such as approving badge-selling between car parks and retail areas)
· contact union representatives of the centre’s workers to discuss industrial action such as strikes, slow-downs, walk-outs, rallies, demonstrations and bans against the shopping centre management’s decision ( instead of the owner’s cultural background) till discussions are held with the owner to arrive at a mutually agreeable outcome or change the owner’s mind.
· contact other service groups to petition the local community through fair means (delete the mention of the owner’s ethnic back ground).
The working class has suffered in the past from so-called ‘patriots’ trying to usurp people’s patriotic sentiment and imposing their own supposed racial ‘superiority’ to generate support for wars initiated by either the British, European and United States of American imperial empires.
· Unite for a culturally inclusive, independent, non-aligned republic!
· Recognise the Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islanders’ and Eureka Southern Cross flags - the original indigenous and truly Australian symbols from the land rights, reconciliation and workers’ (miners’) struggles against corporate and governmental tyranny both past, present and for the future!
· Demand and accept cultural diversity and inclusivity to unite the working class!
· Stand up for and defend intercultural harmony!