Civilisation, white farmers and being a South African Australian today
Australian Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton’s call to prioritise a refugee intake of white South African farmers because they need ‘special attention’ and ‘help from a civilised country like ours’ has received a great deal of press coverage in both Australia and South Africa. It has garnered support from a number of leading Liberal Party figures, mostly MPs with right-wing leanings. Dutton’s most vocal supporters on the Liberal Party/One Nation Right have gone even further, accusing South Africa of white ‘genocide’, of expropriating ‘their’ land without compensation, and arguing that white farmers would be ‘great settlers’ with shared Christian values and would be unlikely to claim welfare. There has been repeated talk of widespread and brutal killings of white South African farmers. Former prime minister Tony Abbott claimed, inaccurately, that ‘something like 400 white farmers have been murdered, brutally murdered, over the last 12 months’. In public discourse and media coverage there has been heavy emphasis on the ‘barbarity’ of the killings. Indeed the binaries of civilisation/barbarism, white/black, Right/Left have been present throughout. The empathy shown for the plight of white South African ‘kith and kin’ stands in sharp contrast to the distinct lack of empathy for the many darker-skinned refugees arriving on Australian shores, or indeed for Aboriginal Australians.
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