Back to All News

Speech: Culture wars

Speeches in Parliament
Mehreen Faruqi 23 Jun 2021

I have some bad news for people tonight. It turns out that the pandemic didn't kill the so-called culture wars, which are being manufactured again by the far Right in this chamber. There are a bunch of senators who will go to any lengths to appeal to the Sky News crowd, with frantic race-baiting and attacks on minorities, including trans people, and many other invented threats. It seems that nothing is beyond the pale for these senators. The playbook is straightforward: pick an issue of basic human rights or social justice and twist it to make it sound as terrifying as possible; create fear and division; paint the people's movements for black lives or antiracism or LGBTQI+ rights as some sort of apocalyptic threat. This isn't just a bunch of rowdy right-wingers jumping up and down on the back bench. Just last week, government ministers in here voted for an extremely hateful One Nation motion that targeted transgender children. We should make no mistake: this was a calculated approach to rustle up anti-trans sentiment. Twenty-one Liberals and Nationals, disgracefully, sat with One Nation and supported this attack on trans people.

What strikes me about the culture wars is how frequently they are directly imported from overseas, and specifically from the United States. You can draw a straight line from the right-wing establishment in the US directly to this chamber. Fox News aired 86 segments about trans people between January and March, with 15 of those stories targeting health care for trans young people. According to the US based Human Rights Campaign, more than 250 anti-LGBTQI bills have been introduced into state legislatures this year alone. They have said this is the worst year for LGBTQI rights in the United States, with many of those bills targeting trans people—brought to you in Australia courtesy of One Nation and their LNP mates.

Another obsession of the Right has been critical race theory, which is a study of systemic racism. The government teaming up with One Nation this week to pass a motion to reject critical race theory in the curriculum was an absolute disgrace. It's been only a few short months since the openly racist former President Trump signed an executive order targeting critical race theory and diversity training. Legislators in at least 15 US states have introduced measures this year that will prohibit the teaching of critical race theory or related concepts in school. By one count, in just the last 3½ months, Fox News has mentioned critical race theory 1,300 times. It is no coincidence that Senator Hanson put up a motion to ban critical race theory in Australian schools. It is no coincidence that we saw Senator Stoker attempt to use her new position as Assistant Minister to the Attorney-General to interfere in the Human Rights Commission's antiracism campaign.

We, of course, know that there's nothing new about this trend. The Liberals and Nationals have been borrowing heavily from the US right-wing playbook for decades, especially since former Prime Minister Howard started using migrants and refugees as scapegoats for political ends. We should not be complacent. These hysterics, however ridiculous, do not come without consequence. The imaginary enemies you and the Murdoch media create out of vulnerable people, minorities and their movement for justice are real people with real lives and human rights. The division you foster in this chamber becomes racist hate on the streets. The fear that you invent in your questions, notices and speeches becomes a physical assault on a gay person. The Murdoch media rhetoric you repeat in here becomes a bullying attack on a trans kid in the playground. You should be ashamed. Everyone has the right to be respected and safe. If you've got a moment to look away from Fox News and its local outpost of cranks, Sky News, I've got a news flash for you: we're not going anywhere. Our antiracism movement is only growing. We will continue to fight against racism. We will continue to stand up for trans kids. Your petty attacks will not stop us.


Back to All News