Visa insult a betrayal of liberalism
Sydney Morning Herald
October 1, 2012
The Australian embassy in The Hague, at Carnegielaan 4, is a model of the functional blandness that dominates the Dutch city. An effort has been made to replicate a traditional steeped roof but it barely mitigates the sterility. On most days, a row of bicycles sits outside the front door, a very Dutch touch.
Six weeks ago, the leader of the Party for Freedom (PVV), which until recently held the balance of power in the Dutch parliament, applied for a visa to visit Australia. His name is Geert Wilders.
Members of his staff and security detail were granted visas after three days. Wilders received nothing. He is still waiting. The Dutch media are waiting for the insult the Gillard government appears to be preparing for a member of the Netherlands' parliament.
The Australian organisers of the Wilders trip are resigning themselves to being out of pocket by at least $10,000 if the Minister for Immigration, Chris Bowen, continues to stall. The trip was going to be cancelled yesterday but the organisers have decided to hold for a few more days. After six weeks of silence, the federal government hasn't had the courage to deny Wilders a visa. It prefers the back door.
This confirms, as if any more confirmation were needed, the gutlessness that lies at the core of Australia's multibillion-dollar debacle on border security, where the thin blue line on border integrity has been turned into a wide yellow streak. While the government blusters, the people smugglers keep thriving and the cost of processing asylum seekers soars well beyond $100,000 per person.
Wilders is an elected member of parliament, has never been convicted of a crime and is an outspoken defender of pluralism, democracy, feminism and freedom of speech. He believes these bedrock liberal values are being eroded by a steady, incremental challenge from Muslims in Holland. He now lives under constant police protection. Four prominent critics of Islam in Holland have been assassinated or threatened with death in recent years.
Wilders argues that the root cause of growing ill-liberalism in Holland, and also in Belgium and France, is driven by strict adherents of Islam. He does not think the problem is confined to an extreme fringe. Rather, he sees the stresses between Muslims and non-Muslims in Holland as rooted in a general insularity among Muslims because Islam is not only a religion but a social, legal and political system that gives Islam primacy over the state.
Wilders was to have given speeches in Sydney and Melbourne in two weeks, sponsored by a private group, the Q Society, which was funding his visit via private donations and ticket sales.
The Gillard government appears intent on stopping this visit, even though it recently granted a visa to an Islamic fundamentalist, Taji Mustafa, a spokesman for Hizb ut-Tahrir, the group implicated in the violent demonstration by several hundred Muslims in Sydney two weeks ago, while Mustafa was visiting the country. The Arabic script on headbands and T-shirts worn by many demonstrators were variations of the theme of jihad, such as ''We are your soldiers, Muhammad''.
An apologist for jihad was allowed into the country to speak while a member of the Dutch parliament has been stopped.
The reason for the Gillard government's willingness to find a cheerleader for jihad acceptable while an elected MP and cheerleader for Western values is tacitly deemed unacceptable would lie partly in a dramatic change in demographics under Labor. This, too, is a subject about which the federal government maintains a deafening silence.
During the five years of federal Labor governments, the ramp-up of immigration and boat people arrivals has helped a historic surge in the Muslim population of Australia, from about 350,000 to 500,000. The number of Muslim permanent residents has risen 75 per cent in the past decade. Labor holds several electorates in western Sydney with significant Muslim populations.
In 1972, when Labor introduced formal multiculturalism under the then minister for immigration, Al Grassby, Muslims represented just 0.2 per cent of Australia's population. This percentage has risen more than twentyfold in the ensuing 40 years. Grassby's reputation has been disgraced by revelations about his numerous links to Italian organised crime.
This would not surprise Wilders, a trenchant critic of multiculturalism, whose policies are much further to the right than those of the Coalition. The PVV rose to prominence after he expressed alarm about problems associated with the rapid growth of the Muslim population, which now exceeds 1 million in a country of 16.7 million and is growing about four times faster than the non-Muslim population.
Meanwhile, back at Australia's border debacle, the Gillard government refuses to embrace policies that have proved to be effective such as temporary protection visas for asylum seekers, or to set up an advanced interception line off Sri Lanka. So the boats keep coming - another three over the weekend with 333 asylum seekers - while the government expends $1 billion a year servicing its own impotence.