Canberra attacks MP's racism campaign

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The Independent Online
The Australian government yesterday launched a renewed attack on Pauline Hanson, the independent MP who opposes Asian immigration and welfare for Aborigines, when it released a white paper on foreign policy repudiating Ms Hanson's policies, writes Robert Milliken.

The white paper, Australia's first such document on foreign and trade policy, is the latest and strongest move by Canberra to counter the political impact of Ms Hanson, particularly among Australia's Asian neighbours, where there has been mounting concern over her campaign. Ms Hanson has been the centre of a political storm in Australia ever since she made her maiden speech in parliament almost a year ago calling for an end to Asian immigration and public spending on Aboriginal welfare. Her mixture of raw nationalism, isolationism and racial bigotry has divided Australians and caused problems for the conservative coalition government led by John Howard, who has come under fire for his failure to repudiate Ms Hanson decisively enough.

A few weeks ago, the government set up a special information unit in the department of foreign affairs and trade in Canberra specifically to counter the Hanson agenda in Asia. It will spend millions of dollars mounting exhibitions in Hong Kong, China and other Asian centres, from which Australia has been drawing increasing numbers of its skilled immigrants, to emphasise Australia's commitment to racial equality.

The white paper that Alexander Downer, the foreign minister, released yesterday, followed up this latest campaign by placing racial equality and human rights at the centre of foreign policy, and warning that any damage to Australia's reputation from the race debate could seriously damage it in the Asian region, the focus of most of Australia's trade and the source of about one-quarter of its annual intake of immigrants.

It says: "Racial discrimination is not only morally repugnant. It repudiates Australia's best interests."