At his blog Planet Irf, Irfan Yusuf claims that I – along with Michael Duffy, who was interviewing me – am guilty of inconsistency. As readers may have gathered, I do not like inconsistency. Irfan says:
During the interview, Norton and Duffy discussed the relationship between racism and immigration. They both seemed to agree that opposition to immigration during the latter half of the twentieth century in Australia wasn’t necessarily to do with racism but was more an issue of the fear among Australian workers of migrants taking jobs….
Later in the conversation, Norton Duffy state that immigration increased under the Howard government. This, they alleged, meant that the Howard government (and presumably John Howard) were therefore not racist.
So if you support the pursuit of policies that lead to an increase in immigration, you simply cannot be racist. But if you oppose immigration, you aren’t necessarily racist. Go figure.
It seems fairly simple to me: the Howard government and the Australian people are accused of White Australia style racism. But support for an immigration policy that includes record numbers of people with dark skins and exotic beliefs is inconsistent with this interpretation of the last decade. A strong racist would always oppose a policy that let in so many people from cultures they did not like. Because there are few strong racists, migration opinion is driven by other factors.
Support for the migration policy is, however, consistent with lower-level prejudices. Social distance surveys show that letting people into the country is one thing, but letting them into your life another. There can be large attitudinal gaps between migration and marriage. So while I can’t recall what I said to Duffy in that interview, I very much doubt that I claimed that ‘if you support the pursuit of policies that lead to an increase in immigration, you simply cannot be racist.’
After all, I was being interviewed about an article that showed why that was not the case.