Political xenophobia 2

A referee for my political expenditure laws paper pointed out that – contrary to the title of an earlier post – that someone doesn’t have to be a xenophobe to have theoretical concerns about foreign donors.

Perhaps not, though I am not entirely clear what concerns about foreign donors could not be dealt with via other provisions that do not distinguish based on nationality. There are some foreigners whose influence is plausibly seen as bad, but the disclosure regime can deal with them the same way it deals with undesirable Australian donors (for example, I think Labor refuses donations from tobacco companies).

But given the vagueness of concerns about foreign donors, xenophobia does seem like at least a plausible explanation of this proposed ban.

In a Canberra Times op-ed yesterday I noted how the media is repeatedly investigating people with Chinese names, with echoes of the ‘yellow peril’ fears of the White Australia policy era.

Perhaps the machinations of the Chinese regime justify this attention, but after following this issue for a couple of years it is striking how much attention Chinese-background people get.

The ‘xenophobia’ evidence here is stronger than other similar claims, for example about ‘dog whistling’. It directly targets foreigners and assumes that their desire to be involved in Australian politics is improper. It’s a big generalisation, with too many exceptions to justify a ban.