Politics, Race and Crime
9 May 2012
Associate Professor Gail Mason says the Primer Minister and other federal politicians studiously avoided references to race during the Indian student crisis of 2009.
In an article in today's The Australian, based on her paper published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Criminology, Associate Professor Mason suggests both Julia Gillard and former Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd preferred not to mention racism because it would have seemed defensive.
"They seemed more comfortable saying we have a crime problem rather than saying we have a race problem," she says.
Associate Professor Mason contrasts this approach with former Prime Minister, John Howard's direct denial of racism after the 2005 Cronulla riots."It may be that one of the political lessons of the Cronulla riots is an appreciation that literal denials of racism are largely unpersuasive," she writes.
Her paper, on the political response to international coverage of assaults on Indian students, acknowledges the argument these crimes were opportunistic - Indian students often worked in late-night convenience stores, for example - but says there is evidence suggesting an overlapping racist element in some cases.
She recalls media criticism of the then Victorian premier John Brumby for not always being willing to acknowledge the racial dimension but says the response of federal MPs attracted less scrutiny.
"This is remarkable because the present study found that it was rare for federal parliamentarians from the two major parties to acknowledge any racial element to the victimisation in the 12-month period following the May 2009 demonstration," she writes.
Contact: Greg Sherington
Phone: +61 2 9351 0202