Local residents have voiced concerns about xenophobic flyers distributed to inner city suburbs this week. Community activists have speculated that the federal government’s lenient approach towards discriminatory speech may have fostered this activity.
As City Hub goes to print, the federal government announced it would abandon proposed changes to Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act.
Greens for Newtown, headed by preselection candidate Jenny Leong, have organised a letterboxing campaign to counter xenophobic literature that has been distributed around Chippendale and Newtown.
The literature, delivered to letterboxes around the area early this week, referred to an Australia First Party (AFP) campaign to remove international students from Sydney’s universities and instead “give Australian university places to Australian people”.
Ms Leong said the counter-initiative was intended to show residents of the inner city that they would not tolerate racist attitudes in their community.
“This initiative was generated by local residents who really just wanted to show that the inner city community only accepts tolerance and diversity and is willing to stand up to racism wherever it occurs,” she said.
“We wanted to make clear that this kind of racism has not role to play in the type of community we want to live in.”
Independent MP Alex Greenwich agreed that the inner city community does not tolerate these acts of racism.
“These incidents do not reflect the views of inner city residents.”
This letterboxing campaign follows an incident late last week when the Australia First Party covered the glass shop-front of Glebe’s Resistance Bookshop with anti-immigrant signs and posters.
Green Left Weekly spokesperson Pip Hinman arrived at the bookshop early on Friday morning to find the posters covering the shopfront and called the police.
“This incident would have been very disturbing for international students who saw or heard about the posters. It would make them feel very unnerved and unsafe,” she said.
Shortly after this incident occurred, the Australia First Party called a meeting at their Tempe office on Saturday July 26. The meeting was titled ‘Ending the Ethnic Cleansing of Australians from our Education Institutions’.
Australia First Party chairperson Jim Saleam told City Hub the meeting resulted in a unanimous decision to launch a large-scale campaign against international students in Sydney.
Immediately following this decision, the Party began letterboxing houses in the inner city with flyers and posters calling for the removal of all international students and immigrants in the area.
Members of Greens for Newtown and Chippendale residents, Danielle and Tony, received the literature in their letterbox and decided to launch a campaign to assure Chippendale and inner city residents that this type of racism is not tolerated in the area.
The residents drew up a letter that read: “As Chippendale residents, we were appalled to receive last week’s pamphlet from the Australia First Party attacking International Students. We love Chippendale’s diverse and accepting community and think that racism has no place here.”
This, as well as other anti-racism flyers, has begun to be distributed to letterboxes around the area in an attempt to counter the Australia First Party campaign.
These incidents of anti-immigrant sentiment by AFP, in light of last week’s ‘Anti-Ramadan’ protests in Marrickville, have caused concern among Sydney residents that the prevalence of xenophobic acts is in the rise in Sydney.
Ms Hinman feels the current political climate is emboldening far-right groups to express their views.
“This government is pushing the atmosphere whereby sentiments of xenophobia are more tolerated,” she said.
Ms Leong also said the current political climate in Australia and in Sydney were contributing to the growth of this kind of discriminatory politics.
“It is clear there are some undercurrents of this kind of activity within the city,” she said.
“This is highly concerning to me – when national and state leaders choose to not oppose racism loudly and clearly when it occurs can mean this kind of action starts to surface.”
Dr Mehreen Faruqi MLC agreed with this concern.
“Although the intolerant views of emerging extremist right wing parties are a minority, there is no doubt that the government’s dog whistling, such as on asylum seekers, creates an atmosphere that is readily exploitable.”
Mr Greenwich said he feels these incidents are isolated and that it is important not to give this kind of extreme political activity much attention.
“It is always important to monitor this kind of radicalism but it is also important not to give it too much oxygen,” he said.
Greens for Newtown will continue their campaign in coming weeks.