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Constructions of racism in the Australian parliamentary debates on asylum seekers
journal contributionposted on 06.12.2017, 00:00 by Danielle Every, M Augoustinos
The proliferation of the subtle and slippery nature of the new racism has made it increasingly difficult to define racism and to developan effective anti-racist rhetoric with which to challenge it. To explore theimplications of the new racism for anti-racist discourse, this article uses discourse analysis to examine the parliamentary speeches of politicians opposing Australia’s new asylum-seeking laws for what these refugee advocates challenge and make accountable as racist. Using a corpus of the 2001 Australian Hansard speeches on the MV Tampa, amendments to the Migration Act, and the Border Protection Bill 2001 as data we identify four ways in which the government’s representation of asylum seekers was constructed as racist. These included: the use of categorical generalizations in talk about asylum seekers, the unequal treatment of asylum seekers compared with other categories of ‘illegal’ immigrants, talk about the nation and cultural-difference-talk. We demonstrate how articulating these constructions of racism in political discourse (and no doubt, in everyday talk) is a socially delicate conversational act that was carefully managed. We suggest that anti-racism strategies must take this issue of the complex nature of making an accusation of racism into account, and search for ways to articulate such accusations in a hostile political climate.