ABC's Q&A panel for Monday, 27 May.
ABC's Q&A panel for Monday, 27 May.

Shameful moment slammed on Q&A

A question about rising anti-Semitism in Australia has divided Q&A; viewers and prompted a scathing assessment of the country's politicians.

Race and religion were two dominant topics during ABC's show on Monday night, with panellists asked about their views on rugby player Israel Folau's sacking for homophobic social media posts, and the constitutional recognition of Aboriginal people.

But it was a question about anti-Semitism and how Australia should tackle the problem, which inspired the most passionate response.

Labor frontbencher Mark Dreyfus said it was the duty of Australian leaders to speak out against racism in all its forms, including anti-Semitism.

"It is very, very important that everybody in a position of leadership speak up." he said.

University of Western Sydney creative arts lecturer Rachael Jacobs agreed with Mr Dreyfus, but said there was a need to call the country's leadership out.

She said One Nation Senator Pauline Hanson had appeared in parliament wearing a burqa and had also tried to pass a motion that it was "OK to be white", which Ms Jacobs said basically translated to "it's OK to be a racist".

"It's not some fringe groups that exist in the shadows … this is right in front of our face. And then we wonder why we see the rise of anti-Semitism and wonder why we see the rise of racism," she said.

However, she defended the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel as not being about anti-Semitism but rather targeting an Israeli state that was supporting an "apartheid regime" against Palestinians.

There were jeers from the audience in response to her comments about Israel, but Indigenous Studies Professor Marcia Langton brought the conversation back to the problem of racism.

Prof Langton said she didn't understand why Australia didn't follow the lead of Europe to make it a criminal offence to deny the Holocaust.


Senator Pauline Hanson wore a burqa in the Senate. Picture: Lukas Coch
Senator Pauline Hanson wore a burqa in the Senate. Picture: Lukas Coch

"When I saw those lunatic fascists in Melbourne on St Kilda beach giving the Hitler salute in our city … I was just enraged that there was no law to stop that," she said, referring to a far-right rally held earlier this year.

While there had been a counter-protest, Prof Langton said anti-Semitic filth had been plastered on walls around the suburb, including a Jewish retirement home.

"Imagine how terrifying that would be for those people and this kind of thing now is going on regularly."

Prof Langton there was also one moment that had particularly disgusted her.

"When our senators voted for Pauline Hanson's idiotic resolution 'it's OK to be white' - which is a Ku Klux Klan slogan - I felt sick. And I started to lose hope.

"I thought how can apparently intelligent people vote for that resolution? I was so disgusted. Just look at the list of people who voted for that resolution. It's shocking. It's absolutely deeply shocking.

"And to this day I'm going to find it very, very difficult to be civil to the people who voted for that resolution in the Senate."

Some Coalition senators voted in favour of Senator Hanson's motion last year to acknowledge the "deplorable rise of anti-white racism and attacks on Western civilisation", although it was still narrowly defeated.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison later described the move as "regrettable" and following a backlash, the Coalition's leader in the Senate, Mathias Cormann, apologised and blamed an "administrative error".

"This movement has brought disgrace to our parliament," Prof Langton said. "This filth is in our parliament. And there's barely an objection. What, why didn't the people responsible in parliament put a halt to this?"

(From left to right): Rachael Jacobs, Liberal MP Tim Wilson and Professor Marcia Langton on ABC's Q&A panel for Monday, 27 May.
(From left to right): Rachael Jacobs, Liberal MP Tim Wilson and Professor Marcia Langton on ABC's Q&A panel for Monday, 27 May.

Prof Langton questioned how anyone could let Senator Hanson's resolution go through the Senate chamber.

"I think, really, the whole of Australia needs to be re-educated and the Government had better start doing it.

"Do you know there are young Australians in school who don't know what the Holocaust is? They don't know anything about it. Most people don't know about the genocide convention. They don't know about the Nuremberg trials. And I could go on and on.

"I would like to see the Government take these issues much more seriously and I would like to see the responsible members of our parliament take the issue seriously enough to refuse to play games like giving visas to provocateurs who bring this Nazi filth into our country. I want that to stop."