There are votes in race-baiting and that’s a stain on us all

About 10 years ago, we spent some time living in Moorooka while our old Queenslander was renovated. There were a lot of African families living out there too. I don’t know what part of the continent they came from, but chances are a fair number had arrived as refugees from the civil war in Sudan.

They were good neighbours. Quiet people, even shy.

There was a real problem with crime in the neighbourhood, but they weren’t the source. It was drunken bogans tearing around the streets at high speed, and junkies turning over houses for anything they could sell for a hit. The bogans and the junkies were white. Our dog chased a few of them off. I chased a couple more.

Peter Dutton is walking down a well-trodden path. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

Peter Dutton had left the Queensland Police Force by then, so we didn’t need his help securing the homestead, and maybe that’s a pity. Maybe if that potato-headed munter had been forced to work that beat for a while he’d know what a disgusting travesty the race-baiting of the last week has been.

But then again, why would he care?

John Howard didn’t care when he fitted up the Vietnamese in the 1980s, or the more generic brown people of his later years in government. Stirring up fear and loathing works. That’s why they do it.

There’s always a price to be paid though. Most directly by the targeted minority, who will find it even harder to negotiate the very difficult early years of their transition to a completely alien culture. But more generally by all of us. We all lose something of value when our politics is coarsened by crude ugliness of thought and deed. And there is nothing cruder and uglier than stoking racial fear and hatred.

It’s a hell of powerful distraction for a failing government with nothing else to talk about though. Or for an opposition party desperate to seize power, but lacking the policies or personnel to make their case.

That’s why you’ll see Dutton and his Victorian allies double down on their dark fantasy of an African gang uprising this year. Because they think it will work. There will be enough crime committed by young, black Africans, some of it handily caught on CCTV or phone cams, to spin up a powerful narrative for anyone cynical enough to do so.

But that doesn’t equate to an actual eruption of wide-scale ethnic violence or race-based gang wars. It’s merely evidence of the cold calculation of dead-eyed political operators that they can hold or seize power by smearing and vilifying a small number of people, to frighten a much larger group into voting for them.

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