In a very funny episode of Kath & Kim tonight (including a great cameo by Matt Lucas as Sharon’s half-sister) both racist opinions (Kim) and racial identity based on a distant Indigenous ancestor (Kath) were enjoyably satirised. It was all far easier to take than a sanctimonious report More than tolerance: Embracing cultural diversity for health released this week by VicHealth.
But even tiresome bureaucratic documents can contain interesting data, this time a Victoria-specific study of racism, prejudice and discrimination. 12% of respondents agreed that they were ‘prejudiced against other cultures’, and 10% agreed with a conventionally racist proposition ‘not all races of people are equal’. A similar question in a national survey in 1998 found 16% of the population were racist, and 12% in 2001 in a Queensland and NSW sample.
Most of the questions on actual experience of intolerance or discrimination suggest that a only a small proportion of NESB migrants regularly experience it. It is by far the most likely to occur at a sporting or other public event (15%), perhaps because such events stir tribal passions and the offender is unlikely to see the victim again, easing social pressure pressure for tolerance, or be subject to institutional penalties. The next most likely location is the workplace (7%), though whether from customers or other staff it does not say; followed by education (6%), shops and restaurants (4%), and in housing and policing (3%). The low figure for shops, restaurants and housing perhaps shows again how the profit motive driving out other human sentiments can be a good thing.
Also out this week was an Issues Deliberation Australia report Australia Deliberates: Muslims and Non-Muslims in Australia. Its Newspoll survey suggests that support for the White Australia Policy is down to 5%, with that proportion thinking being white to be a ‘desired characteristic’ of migrants. But 40% thought that the number of Muslim migrants should be reduced, though as usual with these questions it is hard to sort out those who want to target Muslims from those who simply want less migration generally, but only 12% thought that there should be fewer migrants from Europe.
Half the Australians surveyed rarely or never had contact with Muslim people, which may or may not contribute to generally negative attitudes. 33% of the sample thought that Muslims made Australia a worse place to live, 15% a better place to live, with the rest neutral. Does this call into question the Victorian survey finding that only 12% of the population regard themselves as prejudiced against other cultures? Or do they think their negative views of Muslims are something other than prejudice? (Which I think is possible.)
The much smaller survey of Muslim Australians shows that they know how unpopular they are; with 64% claiming that they were discriminated against on the basis of religion and 35% on the basis of race or ethnicity. 4% of them thought that Muslim immigration should be reduced; with 9% wanting fewer Asians and 10% fewer Europeans.
IDA put on a deliberative session in Canberra for participants in their surveys, plus various other figures with views on the issues. As seems to always be the case with deliberative polling, after the session the respondents shift their views in the direction hoped for by the event organisers. The authors of More than tolerance would probably like to send the whole recalcitrant population off for such re-education.