15 February 2011
Populist Politics At Its Worst: Tony Abbott, Foreign Aid, Islamic Schools...
Tony Abbott has shown his true colours while simultaneously showing why he is unfit to be Prime Minister of Australia; he simply does not have Australia's long-term and strategic interests at heart. The man who wants to become the man who makes "shit happen" rather than just talking about when and why "shit happens" has decided that an easy and populist target for cuts to the foreign aid budget is a successful Australian program that helps build and fund Islamic schools in Indonesia.
This racist and xenophobic policy about flip was cased in a need to strengthen Australia's natural disaster relief fund coffers in opposition to the Gillard Labor Government's attempt to introduce a special tax levy to fund the AUD 5 billion in repairs that flooding has caused in Queensland.
To be honest, I would rather not pay the levy. But, also in all honesty, I would rather pay the levy than see an aid program that has Australia's long-term interests and security in the region at its core disbanded because we might have to pay a few extra dollars a week in tax.
The reality is that Australia's involvement in building and providing ongoing support and funding for the Islamic schools program in Indonesia is a positive one. These are schools that provide an alternative opportunity and an alternative message to those being offered by the pesantrens of the fundamentalist and radical fringe of Islamic belief populated by the likes of Abu Bakar Ba'asyir (Bashir).
The Abbott proposal is nothing short of a race-based policy that takes money from a program based on the difference of the recipients. It is justified through the use of terminology that makes it sound as if these schools, and the aid program itself, are primary supporters of an Islamist network intent on destroying the Australian way of life. One almost gets the impression that Mr. Abbott is suggesting that there should be some degree of moral outrage on the part of Australians that their tax money is being channeled to those hell bent on destroying us. This is populist rhetoric designed to play to the fears of a select group of Australians.
Unfortunately, the Prime Minister wannabe is misrepresenting the facts and by default the truth. These schools are Islamic schools. They are not Islamist. I would argue that there is a difference, at least in terms of the connotation of the two words. Islamic merely indicates that the underlying belief is Muslim in nature. Whereas, and in contrast, Islamist suggests that these schools are breeding grounds for some sort of fundamental revivalist and ultra-conservative Islamic belief structure that is a "clear and present danger" to our free democratic ideals. Mr. Abbott has chosen his words carefully and to play to the base fears of those receptive to his message.
The withdrawal of Australian aid to these schools is narrow-minded and a step backwards.
Tony Abbott has already proven that he is not the man Australia needs with his finger on the button when the shit really does happen.