Culture

Dear Australia, Before Losing Your Minds About Donald Trump Have A Look At Our Own Backyard

Before you start lecturing Americans about how dumb they are, pay more attention to what's going on closer to home.

It’s hard to come to grips with yesterday’s news. We always knew there was a chance that Donald Trump could emerge victorious. Respected analysts even gave him a one-in-three chance of winning the election.

Looking at the odds is one thing but seeing it play out in real life is another. Judging by the conversations I’ve had, lots of Australians are struggling to come to grips with the result. My Facebook feed is full of anger, despair and frustration. People are anxious about what this means for the global economy, the rights of minorities and foreign policy.

This kind of reaction isn’t surprising. Polls in the lead up to the election showed an overwhelming majority of Australians supported Hillary Clinton. For many of us, especially those of us living in our comfortable, lefty, middle-class bubbles, it’s hard to accept a candidate like Trump managed to amass so much support.

“How could America be so stupid?!” people are saying. But the panicked, worried tone of most Australians in the aftermath of Trump’s success ignores one important thing. When it comes to some of his most outlandish, offensive and divisive policies, we’ve got form.

Trump’s policies on illegal immigration, a ban on Muslims and attacks on women and minorities have attracted the most attention in Australia. But we don’t have much of a moral high ground to stand on when it comes to condemning Trump or the voters who swept to power. In fact, in some cases our policies are demonstrably far worse than what Trump has put on the table.

Illegal Immigration

There’s no getting out of this one. When it comes to hard line policies on so-called “illegal immigration” Australia is a world leader. For the past two decades our major political parties have been trying to outdo each other when it comes to new, inhumane responses to people trying to get our country. Our “stop the boats” regime has even been endorsed by Germany’s neo-Nazi movement.

Let’s remind ourselves of what Trump promised he would do. He wants to build a wall along Mexico’s border to stop illegal immigration and he wants to invest more resources in deporting unauthorised immigrants living in the US. It sounds pretty intense.

But what do we do? Well luckily we don’t have to build a wall because we’re an island. The ocean is our wall. But when people try and cross it, we lock them up in detention centres on remote Pacific Islands for indeterminate amounts of time. Even if those people are found to genuine refugees, fleeing war and persecution, we keep them locked up. We’re now trying to stop them from ever coming to Australia.

Amnesty International has described the process we put refugees through as “torture”. Donald Trump wants to stop illegal immigrants getting into America. We torture them.

While Trump’s policy of physically deporting illegal immigrants might sound harsh and shocking… we do exactly the same thing, even if people have lived here for decades. We routinely round up and deport immigrants staying in Australia without a valid visa. We also deport long term residents if they have a criminal record.

Australia’s immigration policy, particularly as it applies to refugees and asylum seekers, is demonstrably worse than what Trump is proposing. If you find this difficult to believe it means you haven’t really been paying attention to how we treat people coming to us for safety and protection. Both of Australia’s major parties endorse these harsh policies and they continue to receive the votes of the vast majority of the public.

So how we can act shocked when Americans vote for Trump’s immigration crackdown?

Banning Muslims

Trump is the godfather of the Muslim ban policy. But again, if you think this idea isn’t being taking seriously by politicians in Australia you aren’t paying attention. During the campaign Trump announced he would block all Muslims from travelling to US. Since then he’s moderated his position and now wants “extreme vetting”. No one is really sure what he’s going to do, and he’s even deleted the policy from his website over night.

It’s definitely one of Trump’s most outrageous and obviously discriminatory policies. And it’s one that’s been adopted by Australian conservatives, including influential members of the government.

Pauline Hanson and One Nation are calling for a Muslim ban in Australia. But Liberal MPs have started adopting it as well. Prominent conservative Liberal MP George Christensen wants Australia to block migration from “Muslim countries” including Syria. Donald Trump has proposed exactly the same thing.

Another Coalition politician wants migrants to be “quizzed on their religion” before being let into the country.

A Muslim ban might not officially be policy in Australia (and it isn’t yet in the US) but there’s a growing political campaign for it. Oh, and there was that poll that showed nearly half of Australians supported it.

Attacking Women And Minorities

There’s a real concern that Trump, through appointing Supreme Court judges, could overturn a woman’s right to choose in the US. We might like to pretend that we’re more progressive and civilised over here, but in NSW and Queensland abortion is still in the Crimes Act.

Proposals to fully decriminalise abortion in both those states are currently being blocked by both major parties. In fact the situation for women in regional Queensland is about to get much worse, following the closure of two clinics.

People are also worried that if Trump manages to stack out the Supreme Court with conservatives, it could mean an end to same-sex marriage. We probably don’t need to remind you of the dire state of the same-sex marriage campaign in Australia. We could still be years away from legalising it due to political deadlock and a lack of courage on the part of our Prime Minister.

There’s a significant amount of cognitive dissonance on display right now from Australians who are shocked and appalled at a Trump presidency. Yeah, it’s probably going to be pretty bad for a whole bunch of people. But right now Australia is doing some very cruel things to a lot of desperate people, and most Australians are voting for it.

So before you start lecturing Americans about how dumb they are, pay more attention to what’s going on closer to home.