“What more can I do? I have condemned it. I’ve dissociated myself from it. I think it’s stupid, it’s offensive, it’s wrong, it’s untrue. For heaven’s sake, get a sense of proportion,” he said.
Maybe so, but commentators pointed out at the time that since the 2001 election campaign – when the government deliberately conflated asylum seekers with the September 11 terrorists – the conservative side of politics had been dog whistling over Muslims. The pamphlet scandal was the end result of tacit approval at the highest levels.
The scandal resonated beyond Lindsay. Other ethnic communities were appalled. Maxine McKew, who took Howard’s seat of Bennelong in 2007, says it was the final straw for the local Chinese community.
More than a decade on and conservative politics no longer dog whistles over Islam. For years now, it has been using a loud hailer.
Obsessive pursuits of Halal certification, specific calls for bans on the burqa and Muslim immigration, wearing a burqa in the Senate as if it were a joke, or moving a motion saying “It’s OK to be white”, knowing full well the broader connotations of that language.
Conservatives demand hate preachers be banned but cry free speech when their own hate preachers, like Milo Yiannopoulos, are denied visas. They lionise Donald Trump without reservation.
All of this gives succour to dangerous and fanatical people like the Christchurch terrorist and gives rise to people like Fraser Anning infiltrating the Parliament.
Anning slithered in on the coat-tails of One Nation following the section 44 dismissal of Malcolm Roberts. He is their candidate.
He fell out with One Nation and has been talking hate ever since in a bid to get re-elected. He used the term “final solution” in the Senate during a rant against immigration and then revelled in the controversy. Just as he is doing now following his reprehensible response to the Christchurch terrorist massacre.
Imagine if an Australian politician blamed the victims if those slaughtered were Christians worshipping at church and the terrorist was a Muslim? What Anning did was no less appalling. Murder is murder, and there is something especially evil when people are gunned down in a place of worship.
Parliament, when it resumes briefly for the budget, will censure Anning. It has to, but he will revel in that too, like a martyr.
Anning will be gone come the election in May but the problem of tacit legitimisation will remain.
Media outlets, like the TV networks that give Hanson a free kick every week, should take a look at themselves, as should those that report every fringe policy utterance as though it could become law when it has no chance.
Mark Latham’s proposal to genetically test Aborigines to ensure they are legitimately entitled to welfare is one such example.
Everyone’s actions have consequences.