Has racism in contemporary Australia entered the political mainstream?

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Or is its influence found only among the far right extremist groups?

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Tuesday 09 April 2019 06:15 pm until Tuesday 09 April 2019 08:00 pm (Add to calendar)
University Events
Presented by:
Professor Tim Soutphommasane, Tom Switzer and Emeritus Professor Judith Brett
Type of Event:
Public Lecture
$30 General / $20 Alumni & Staff / $15 Students

Has racism in contemporary Australia entered the political mainstream?

Or is its influence found only among the far right extremist groups?

Christchurch has revealed that even one well-armed racist can wreak havoc in any country anywhere. Although almost everyone in Australian politics and the media condemns racism, disagreement exists on the question of whether racism in Australia is widespread and structural or found exclusively on the far right extremist fringe.

This debate has unforeseeably assumed an even greater urgency and immediacy. The text that follows was written before the unspeakably tragic Christchurch events.

Australian history has a racial dimension. During the nineteenth century the indigenous peoples were systematically removed from their lands. Meanwhile, between federation and the 1960s, all non-whites were refused entry as immigrants. In recent years we have witnessed the rebirth of the One Nation party, the undisguised expression of hostility to the religion of Islam and Muslim citizens, the closing of our borders to asylum seekers from Central Asia or Sri Lanka who arrive by boat, the emergence on the far-right fringe of proudly racist parties, and campaigns in the mainstream media about African gangs terrorising the suburbs of Melbourne. Are these matters unrelated and of marginal significance? Or do they reveal a racist current beneath the surface of our supposedly successful multicultural society? The two most important voices in this debate are Professor Tim Soutphommasane and Tom Switzer.

Professor Tim Soutphommasane, the political theorist and former race discrimination officer at the Australian Human Rights Commission, and Tom Switzer, the director of the conservative think-tank the Centre for Independent Studies and well-respected former opinion editor at The Australian, are close observers of Australian political culture.

Join us at the second La Trobe Debate, to be moderated by the distinguished political historian Emeritus Professor Judith Brett. For those with an interest in Australia’s future, the Tim Soutphommasane–Tom Switzer racism debate is of the highest interest and fundamental importance, not to be missed.

Speaker bios

Tim Soutphommasane is Professor of Practice (Sociology and Political Theory) at The University of Sydney. He is a political theorist and human rights advocate. From 2013 to 2018 he was Australia’s Race Discrimination Commissioner. His thinking on patriotism, multiculturalism and national identity has been influential in debates in Australia and Britain. Tim is the author of five books: On Hate (2019), I’m Not Racist But …(2015), Don’t Go Back To Where You Came From (2012), The Virtuous Citizen (2012), and Reclaiming Patriotism (2009). He is also the co-editor of All That’s Left (2010).

Tom Switzer is executive director of the Centre for Independent Studies, a Sydney-based public-policy research organisation.

He is also a presenter on ABC’s Radio National and a columnist with the Sydney Morning Herald.

He has written for Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and The Spectator in the U.K.

Judith (Judy) Brett is an Emeritus Professor of Politics at La Trobe University. She joined La Trobe University in 1989 to teach and research Australian Politics, Political Biography and Political History, and retired at the end of 2012. Brett is committed to engaged political research, bringing the fruits of her enquiry to the general public through books written for a broad readership and through the media. Among her publications are the award-winning Robert Menzies' Forgotten People, three Quarterly Essays and Australian Liberals and the Moral Middle Class. In 2017 she published The Enigmatic Mr Deakin which won the 2018 National Biography Award. In March this year she published a study of Australia's voting system, From Secret Ballot to Democracy Sausage. She writes regularly for The Monthly on contemporary Australian politics.



Entry 3

Village Roadshow Theatrette, State Library Victoria, La Trobe Street, Melbourne VIC 3000

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