Tim Soutphommasane is coming to the end of his directionless term as Australia’s Race Discrimination Commissioner. No doubt both he and the Australian Human Rights Commission will claim his tenure as an era of great success – an epoch of improved racial harmony and social cohesion (or something else equally nauseating).
Despite the time limit on his ridiculous sinecure rapidly approaching, Soutphommasane has found time to pen a few polarising commentaries and otherwise make a nuisance of himself in the Fairfax press. The typical Soutphommasane opinion piece can be emulated by any writer who can convincingly argue that systemic racism in Australia is both improving and deteriorating simultaneously – a thoroughly vacuous exercise in clichés and platitudes.
However, his latest missive Race politics is back – and the far-right are loving it has achieved a level of rank hypocrisy impressive by even his august standards:
Race looms large. It’s there in the panic about “African gangs”, the warnings about multiculturalism veering into “ethnic separatism”, the questioning of a non-discriminatory immigration policy, the alarm about foreign influence by China.
We need to restore some proportion and standards to our debates. On racism, we must stand against prejudice and discrimination.
On these points, most would agree. Prejudice and institutional discrimination are blights on our society, and the hysteria surrounding the African gangs issue does nothing to address the complex underlying causes. As for race ‘looming large’ – isn’t that exactly what Tim was campaigning in favour of only a few short months ago?
From his piece Australian leadership falls short on cultural diversity:
Our examination of almost 2500 senior leaders in business, politics, government and higher education shows only very limited cultural diversity…
If we are serious about shifting numbers, it may be necessary to consider targets for cultural diversity – if not quotas.
When considering the sheer weight of the empirical evidence that ethnic affirmative action quotas don’t work the position of the Racial Discrimination Commissioner becomes ever more untenable, irredeemably tainted by the same crude racial politics it ostensibly decries. Politicising race will always lead to resentment and reduces the basis of certain human relationships to the lowest possible level – skin colour.
Soutphommasane has made ethnicity and culture the focal point of his political discourse on the issue of corporate diversity yet has the temerity to complain when others do the same on topics such as immigration. There is no middle ground – either it’s acceptable to politicise race or it’s not. How is it that Soutphommasane doesn’t comprehend this?
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