Liberal Democrats leader David Leyonhjelm has slammed comments from Greens senator Nick McKim, who claimed that the Liberal Party “still has a White Australia policy”, and accused Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton of being “racist”, “fascist” and “regurgitating speaking points from neo-Nazis”.
Mr Dutton has sparked controversy and diplomatic tensions when he last week argued the “persecuted” farmers needed help from a “civilised country” like Australia, following disturbing reports of extreme violence, land theft and murders.
Senator Leyonhjelm said Senator McKim was “living in the past”.
“South Africa used to be a thoroughly obnoxious, racist society,” he told Sky News.
“I lived there for a little while and I saw it. It was totally abhorrent, but it’s not any more, and it’s a multicultural society, it’s not racist at all, it has an anti-racist constitution, and yet here we have a group of people who are being persecuted, murdered, chucked off their farms because they are white.
“That is racism. That is plain and simple racism. The fact that the racism used to work the other way 20-odd years ago does not justify racism in the opposite direction today.
“(Nick McKim) is totally up the creek on this whole issue.”
Greens leader Richard Di Natale meanwhile defended Senator McKim.
“What we do know is he certainly holds, I think, racist views,” Senator Di Natale said.
“We’ve got 700,000 people fleeing the border from Myanmar to Bangladesh at the moment, this crisis that is the ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya people, and yet what does Peter Dutton say about any of those things?
“He doesn’t say anything about the crisis in Myanmar, no, he goes in to bat for South African farmers. What’s the difference here? The difference is that they are white and that the other communities who are suffering, and we’re talking about an ethnic cleansing in Myanmar right now, that they’re not white.”
South African farmers ‘fascism 101’: Greens
Asked whether he believed it was reasonable to suggest the Liberal Party “still has a White Australia policy”, Senator McKim stuck by his claim.
“Absolutely. It’s naked, and it’s transparent and it’s out in the open,” Senator McKim told Sky News.
“I mean basically we’ve got Peter Dutton who is regurgitating speaking points from neo-Nazi or Nazi or fundamentalist white nationalist websites around the world who are now out there bragging that they’ve captured Peter Dutton and they’re very happy that he’s repeating the speaking points that they’ve been putting on their websites,” he said.
“You’ve got Mr Dutton and others supporting him now nakedly and clearly suggesting that Australia’s immigration policy should be conducted on the basis of the colour of somebody’s skin, and it’s a simple reversion to the White Australia policy which was actually adopted by both the Labor and Liberal Parties back in the day, and I thought we’d gone past that and I think most Australians thought we’d gone past it.”
Senator McKim claimed Australia’s offshore detention policy was motivated by skin colour.
“Of course it’s got things to do with skin colour. I’ve been to Manus Island many times as you know and I can assure you there’s no white people locked up on Manus or Nauru,” he said.
“Those people are exclusively from races and countries that they’re non-white people.
“I can be absolutely certain that if a South African person arrived by boat to seek asylum in Australia, they would not end up on Manus Island and Nauru under Peter Dutton’s regime. I can give you that guarantee 100 per cent.”
Asked whether he was accusing Mr Dutton of being a “closed neo-Nazi”, Senator McKim said he had “exhibited racism right through his public career”.
“When he boycotted the apology to the stolen generation and walked out of the house of assembly in a huff just before that apology was given, his regime in terms of Manus Island and Nauru is clearly race based, and he’s also exhibited some of the things that we know through human history are associated with fascists, I mean for example, setting up an enemy to try and scare the Australian people, and he’s done that with Muslim people, and then seeking to undermine the rule of law on that basis,” he said.
“I’m mean it’s fascism 101 that we’re seeing from Peter Dutton.”
Asked whether he was disputing that white South African farmers were being violently attacked and murdered, Senator McKim said: “I don’t know the issue on the ground. I’m not the one advocating on their behalf.”
“I’m not saying they shouldn’t be accepted,” he said.
“I’m saying let’s assess them on the basis of need and let’s prioritise on the basis of need in a way that doesn’t take into account the colour of somebody’s skin.”
‘ABC lefties are dead to me’
Peter Dutton earlier said he was staring down fierce criticism from “crazy lefties” at the ABC as he pushes on with plans to bring white South African farmers into Australia.
The Home Affairs Minister said he was unperturbed by “mean cartoons” and negative media coverage.
“I think the ABC and others report these things how they want to report them, and how they want to interpret them,” Mr Dutton told 2GB. “Some of the crazy lefties at the ABC, and on The Guardian, Huffington Post, can express concern and draw mean cartoons about me and all the rest of it. They don’t realise how completely dead they are to me.
“We just get on with making decisions that we need to.”
Mr Dutton said he was blind to skin colour and would continue to bring in migrants based on the national interest.
“It concerns me that people are being persecuted at the moment — that’s the reality — the numbers of people dying or being savagely attacked in South Africa is a reality,” he said.
Mr Dutton likened the latest backlash to the reaction over his comments on African gangs in Melbourne over summer. “Stick to the facts and you’re on safe grounds so all of the criticism over the last week has meant nothing to me,” he said.
“We’re looking at ways we can help people to migrate to Australia if they’re finding themselves in that situation.”
Mr Dutton said he had been inundated with messages of support and references to particular cases of white South African farmers in need of help. “We’ll start to work through those and if people meet the criteria under the program then they’ll settle under the program here,” he said. “If people think I’m going to cower or take a backward step because of their nonsense, fabricated, fake news criticism, then they’ve got another thing coming.”
‘Food shortages if farmers leave’
One of his coalition colleagues Nationals MP Andrew Broad, has called on his Coalition colleagues to reconsider their support for resettling white South African farmers in Australia, warning it could result in food shortages in the country.
Mr Broad, who visited South Africa several years ago as president of the Victorian Farmers’ Federation, said he was convinced white farmers were essential to South Africa’s economy.
“The black South African farmers certainly have not proven themselves,” Mr Broad told ABC radio. “They need the skill-set of the white South African farmers if they’re going to have any chance of feeding the population.
“If we take away the farmers from South Africa, we rob them of the capacity to farm that ground and ultimately feed the population.”
Mr Broad urged Mr Dutton and others who are supportive of resettling large numbers of white South African Farmers in Australia to be cautious.
“I would say it’s always easy to speak in ignorance and it’s important to be going over and having a look and seeing what’s happening on the ground before making policies,” he said.
WA Liberal MP Andrew Hastie, who first raised the issue with Mr Dutton, said he disagreed with Mr Broad.
“I’ve had nothing but very, very positive feedback. I have a lot of South African constituents,” Mr Hastie told ABC radio.
Mr Hastie said he had heard horror stories about the violence inflicted upon white South African farmers.
“A husband and wife had people walk onto their property, bash them, blowtorch them, stuff plastic bags down their throats, and then shoot them both, the husband dying,” he said.
The WA MP said he did not share Mr Broad’s views about food shortages.
“That’s entirely speculative. Andrew Broad is entitled to his position,” he said.
Liberal Democrats senator David Leyonhjelm, who has previously lived in South Africa and Zimbabwe, said Mr Broad’s concerns were valid and fears of a Zimbabwe-style land takeback were legitimate.
“If it continues, the productive white farms will be taken over by black farmers, and the history is, as Zimbabwe shows, they don’t know how to run the farms productively and produce food, not because they’re not capable of being productive farmers, but because it tends to be the cronies of the political elite who take over the farms. They don’t know how to farm,” Senator Leyonhjelm told ABC radio.
He said special visas should be a last resort, and he would prefer to see Australia work with the South African government to reduce the violence.
Senator Leyonhjelm unsuccessfully moved a Senate motion yesterday calling on parliament to show its moral support for farmers affected.
“I’d like to think the South African government would be embarrassed by the fact that we in Australia are taking an interest in this issue,” he said.
Citizenship Minister Alan Tudge is due to travel to Mr Hastie’s electorate next month to talk to concerned white South African constituents.