The soft underbelly of Australian multiculturalism
At the height of the troubles of the Whitlam government its Resources Minister Rex Connor declared, ‘Life is an equation in hydrocarbons’. For the past 18 months, Australians have had their existence defined by an equation in Covid cases. Intoxicated by the power of directly controlling people’s lives, state premiers have pursued the chimera of zero cases, believing that the tiniest of outbreaks justifies a harsh lockdown, in effect, the house arrest of entire cities in pursuit of Covid elimination. Inevitably, however, there was going to be a lockdown that didn’t work, where certain communities refused to comply with the gazetted Health Orders and, week after week, the Covid numbers kept rising.
Welcome to NSW. Not that Gladys Berejiklian would ever accept or speak this truth, but her Sydney lockdown has failed.
The worst thing you can do in politics is to believe your own propaganda. Gladys genuinely thought she had established a ‘gold standard’, some sort of magical NSW immunity to the Dan Andrews embarrassments south of the border. This complacency was reinforced by the success of the northern beaches lockdown earlier this year, when the residents of that isolated, mostly Anglo peninsula played ball and followed the rules. But Western Sydney is different. It’s easy to lock down the middle-class ‘insular peninsula’, with their ocean views, well-apportioned home offices and love of all things online. In places like Canterbury, Auburn, Greenacre and Merrylands, it’s a world apart.
For 30 years Australia’s political class has promoted the idea of laissez-faire, celebratory multiculturalism, with no boundaries, no rules and no English. The impact on the rule of law has been devastating. If someone moves to a country that doesn’t expect or even encourage them to speak the national language, they are likely to think, ‘This place must have no rules, they let you do what you want, plus pay welfare for it’.
When they established our national policy of multiculturalism in the 1970s, this is not what Whitlam and Fraser intended. They expected everyone to speak English, crossing racial boundaries to create a sense of social solidarity.
Communities need things in common, the glue of shared values and aspirations to hold them together. This is impossible when people live in the separatism of ethnic enclaves and have no means of talking to each other.
The Sydney lockdown has exposed the soft underbelly of Australian multiculturalism: people who either don’t understand the Health Orders or don’t want to comply with them. It has flushed out the strength of the cash economy in these parts of Western Sydney: people who look at QR codes and contact-tracing like that’s the real plague. We’re not in Palm Beach anymore, Gladys.
There’s a tight correlation between the map of Sydney’s Covid cases and its ethnic demographic map. The same thing happened with Melbourne’s second wave last year. These problems have been allowed to fester for 30 years, by both sides of politics. Inevitably, the modern failure of multiculturalism was going to bite Australia on the bum, and now it has.
In the millions of words written and spoken in the media about the NSW disaster, no one has dared to speak this inconvenient truth. The woke-PC threat of censorship has denied the people of our state an honest assessment of what’s gone wrong. The only comment from the government was when the Health Minister Brad Hazzard briefly lamented how people from ‘other backgrounds’ were not following the Health Orders.
How have Berejiklian’s policies failed so badly? One of the things that’s surprised me since coming into the NSW Parliament two-and-a-half years ago is the woke virtue-signalling and self-indulgent identity politics that defines the culture of the NSW public sector. I call it the Jim Betts Syndrome, named after the former British Communist party member who now heads the NSW Planning Department. There isn’t a LGBTIQ staff committee, harmony council, reconciliation talkfest, de-gendered language guide, Bruce Pascoe book club or Indigenous urban design fantasy that Betts hasn’t embraced. In fact, this is the bulk of his working day, soaking up his diary commitments until 4.55pm when he has just five minutes left to do the job NSW taxpayers want from him: approving high-quality development and employment projects.
Betts is not an anomaly. He’s indicative of a workplace culture that’s exclusively about the leftist politics of senior management, instead of the people of NSW and the customer service and value-for-money they expect.
Gladys thinks so highly of Betts she has promoted him to be the next head of the NSW Public Service and Premier’s Department. She might as well declare every state agency to be a Greens branch meeting. From this culture, the government has been ill-equipped to deal with the crisis of multiculturalism and Covid in Western Sydney. From day one, it needed to send the NSW police door-to-door in the hotspot suburbs, shocking people into compliance. Instead of this hard-policing strategy, the Premier’s daily press conferences have recycled useless PC rhetoric about ‘diversity being our strength’. Gladys is as woke as they come. She would have a heart attack if she had to say the things I’ve written in this column.
Memo to Sydney: Want to know the real reason why, for over 50 days, you have been under house arrest, losing your jobs and losing your minds? There are actually a couple of viruses circulating: the nasty one from Wuhan but also one from a place called Woke. Politically, it’s just as debilitating, paralysing the capacity of governments to implement practical, hard-headed solutions in Western Sydney.
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