Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Rise of right-wing politics harming Australia's reputation in Asia

The rise of right-wing political parties in Australia has damaged the nation's reputation in Asia, a prominent politician has warned.

Penny Wong, leader of the opposition Australian Labor Party (ALP) in the Senate, said in particular the return of Pauline Hanson, leader of the anti-Islam and anti-immigration One Nation Party, to politics has eroded Australia's key relationships in Asia.

"Leaders from both major political parties have worked to build and strengthen Australia's relations in Asia," Wong said in a speech to the National Press Club on Tuesday about the importance of maintaining tolerance in an atmosphere of rising xenophobia and protectionism.

"Their work, over time, has enhanced our standing in the region.

"So it damages us all when these voices undermine the positive reputation so many Australians, in government, business, academia and cultural institutions, have worked to build."

Wong, who was born in Malaysia, argued that Australian politicians, business leaders and community leaders needed to speak out against "Hansonism" to protect the country's reputation.

"One Nation wants to shut down migration to Australia based on racial and religious prejudice. It wants to turn back history, to restore Australia to some imagined earlier state as a uniform, homogenous, static society.

"This is not just a narrow-minded and impoverished vision for the future. It is also based on a myth about Australia's past."

Wong's speech came in the wake of the ALP announcement that it would oppose a government proposal, which was backed by One Nation, to ban asylum seekers caught trying to enter Australia by boat from entering the country ever again, even as a tourist or for business purposes.

"We are on a unity ticket with the government to stop the people smugglers, but we are not on a unity ticket to stop the tourists," Shorten said in Canberra on Tuesday.

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