Politics

A Sky News Presenter Told The Australian Race Discrimination Commissioner To Leave The Country

"if you don't like it, join Yassmin, hop on a plane and go back to Laos."

A presenter on Sky News’ Outsiders program has told Race Discrimination Commissioner Tim Soutphommasane to “hop on a plane and go back to Laos” after he pointed out the lack of cultural diversity in Australia’s corporate and media sectors.

Yep, a white media commentator seriously responded to accusations of a racial imbalance in the media with Australia’s unofficial national anthem: ‘Go back to where you came from’. Rowan Dean, a regular Sky News commentator and editor of The Spectator, made the comments on Sunday.

Dean’s attack on Soutphommasane appears to be have been triggered by Daily Mail rewrite of a report in The Australian, which itself was based on the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) submission to a Senate inquiry on strengthening multiculturalism.

The Australian reported the story with the headline “Too many Anglo-­Celtic faces running Australia: AHRC”. This is how the Daily Mail headlined its rewrite, which featured on Dean’s Sky News segment:

Screen Shot 2017-07-10 at 11.06.23 amThe actual AHRC submission cites a report released in 2016, in partnership with PwC Australia, Westpac, the University of Sydney Business School, and Telstra, that found “leaders with non-European cultural backgrounds comprised only 5 percent of ASX 200 CEOs, and 3.5 percent of federal parliamentarians, while accounting for over 10 percent of the general population.”

The submission also noted a Screen Australia report that found “an underrepresentation of culturally diverse, non-Anglo-Celtic groups on Australian television.”

Dean paraphrased the AHRC’s submission by suggesting Soutphommasane was arguing “there are too many Anglo-Celtics in the Australian media and Australian businesses”. He then went on to provide viewers with details of Soutphommasane’s family background.

“Tim’s family escaped from Laos via Paris and came and settled in Australia… and I’m sure they didn’t mind coming to a country where Anglo-Celtics had died, given their lives, to create the peace loving culture that we have.

“Tim, if you don’t like it, join Yassmin, hop on a plane and go back to Laos.”

While Soutphommasane’s family are originally from Laos, he was born in Montpellier, France. According to a 2012 profile Soutphommasane’s fled Laos in 1975 as refugees and lived in France for a decade before migrating to Australia, which Dean managed to reduce to ‘they came to Australia via Paris’.

Australia’s Public Debate On Race Is Deeply Broken

The issue isn’t so much Dean’s garbage attempt at getting his facts straight but more that we’re even talking about Soutphommasane’s family background at all. The AHRC’s submission is a well-researched document that cites independent studies to point out that Australia’s media, business and political landscape is still pretty damn white.

This shouldn’t be controversial, it’s pretty obvious to most people, and it’s backed up by the stats. The fact that Dean chose to respond by telling Soutphommasane to leave the country is an enormously depressing reflection on the current state of Australia’s discourse around race.

Are we seriously at a point where this kind of blatantly race-based attack is par for the course?

Anyone, but particularly people of colour, should be allowed to make an argument about the barriers to diversity without having second-rate, wannabe Fox News commentators using a national media platform to tell them to leave the country.

But sadly that’s not where we’re at. In fact, we’re very, very far away from any kind of sense when it comes to talking about race. Just last week we saw a major news network post a poll on Facebook asking whether Yassmin Abdel-Magied should leave the country.

Dean actually invoked Abdel-Magied’s decision to leave Australia for London when told Soutphommasane to “join Yassmin”.

We’re at a point where writing a seven-word Facebook post is enough to warrant months of condemnation and public abuse, if you’re a migrant Muslim woman, and endorsing a submission to a Senate inquiry on multiculturalism is enough to get you told to leave the country, if your family is from Laos.

But if you’re the white media commentators hurling the abuse and condemnation, and making the demands for people to ‘go back to where you came from’? Absolutely nothing. Compare the tens of thousands of words written in the aftermath of Abdel-Magied’s Anzac Day post to the literally zero words written so far about Dean’s attack on Soutphommasane.

Are we seriously at a point where this kind of blatantly race-based attack is so par for the course in Australia we just absorb it and move on? It seems like we are. What a pathetically sad situation.

Feature image via Australian Human Rights Commission

This post has been amended, as it incorrectly named The Spectator as the publication that ran a highly controversial piece about bombing the ABC. That publication was Quadrant. Apologies to The Spectator.