That the Federal Treasurer’s comments on the relationship between
fertility, immigration and “social dislocation” should trigger
instinctive disquiet is perhaps not surprising. But his comments in
launching the 2006 Census deserve thoughtful reflection, more than
knee-jerk accusations of xenophobia.
It’s hard to imagine a prime ministerial aspirant of Mr Costello’s
vintage lining himself up with the Klansmen! His agenda might be
better read as cohesion than alienation. We’d like to believe that
our national character of generosity and fairness will override
suspicion and bigotry always. But with memories still raw of the
Cronulla riots, unqualified trust in Aussie decency may not be wise
Throughout history, and still today in many parts of the world, the
picture is hard to deny: With the growth of new ethnic communities,
with shifts in electoral influence (real or perceived), xenophobic
reactions borne of insecurity are rarely far behind. Thoughtful
people would wish it were not so. But human beings have never
delighted in change, and some fear it more than others.
Costello deserves a hearing. Let’s celebrate ethnic diversity. But
let’s not be blind to hard lessons about human frailty.