In the face of dire poll ratings, Australia’s right wing prime minister Tony Abbott is resorting to an Islamophobic terror scare.
He’s talked up the threat of Isis and has publicly questioned Muslims’ opposition to terrorism. Cops have staged a succession of raids to disrupt supposed terror plots.
Meanwhile, the government is pouring fuel on the fire by sending another 300 troops to train the Iraqi army.
Abbott has tried to link refugees to terrorism, declaring the “terror threat” shows “why we have to stop the refugee boats…these people have been given the benefit of the doubt for too long”.
Under the government’s hardline policies, asylum boats have been turned back and even handed back to refugees’ persecutors.
Boats have been returned to the Sri Lankan government and most recently Vietnam.
But refugees dumped on the Pacific island Nauru are staging large protests as part of a non cooperation campaign with the local authorities. The strains on the policy are also growing.
Former and current detention staff and medical workers on Nauru have signed an open letter alleging the government covered up physical and sexual assaults for 17 months.
This state racism has encouraged the far right, which staged Islamophobic “Reclaim Australia” protests earlier this month.
The protests only managed to draw hundreds in each city, but it was the first time the far right has even managed to draw such numbers for some time.
But anti-racist counter-protests exposed their links to the far right. In Melbourne, where the racists were outnumbered, the organisers complained to the police about their treatment.
While it has encouraged the hardcore racists, so far the terrorism scare has failed to boost the government’s support.
There is still enormous anger at the health, education and welfare cuts in last year’s budget. Abbott caused further outrage with cuts that will leave 100 to 150 remote Aboriginal communities on traditional lands in western Australia without power or running water.
In March he dismissed Aborigines’ right to live on their own land as a “lifestyle choice” that the government wasn’t prepared to fund.
This continues the assimilation policies introduced in the Northern Territory in 2007, where remote communities branded “economically unviable” were denied funding.
Last year Abbott described Australia as “unsettled” before European colonisation, despite at least 60,000 years of Aboriginal presence.
Thousands of people have taken to the streets in protest at his racism against Aboriginal people.
“Moving Aboriginal people from their homelands will cause intergenerational trauma,” Aboriginal lawyer Tammy Solonec told one of the largest rallies in Perth, western Australia.
“It will break connections to land and culture.”
The protests have already had an impact. Australia’s federal government has been forced to back down and restore funding to 60 other Aboriginal communities in South Australia that were also up for closure.
Racist scapegoating is Abbott’s last desperate attempt to survive.
Resisting it can help make sure his government is forced out sooner rather than later.