A Queensland senator says the popularity of rugby league player Johnathon Thurston is proof racism is rare in Australia. Senator Ian MacDonald questions whether racism exists in Australia
A Queensland senator says the popularity of rugby league player Johnathon Thurston is proof racism is rare in Australia. Senator Ian MacDonald questions whether racism exists in Australia

JT proves racism is ‘very rare’ in Australia: MP

A QUEENSLAND senator says indigenous NRL star Johnathon Thurston is proof that racism doesn't exist in Australia.

"If only I could get him to run for a political party, he'd walk it in," the Liberal National Party's Ian Macdonald said.

Senator Macdonald used the example of Thurston to question whether there was an ongoing need for a race discrimination commissioner.

"I might live in a bubble perhaps, but I find it very difficult to find any but very rare cases of racism in Australia," Senator Macdonald said during a committee hearing in Canberra today.

"I mean in this building we have two senior ministers who … are clearly not white Australian male(s)."

Liberal Senator Ian Macdonald says the popularity of rugby league player Johnathon Thurston is proof racism is rare in Australia. Picture: AAP Image/Lukas Coch
Liberal Senator Ian Macdonald says the popularity of rugby league player Johnathon Thurston is proof racism is rare in Australia. Picture: AAP Image/Lukas Coch

Senator Macdonald described the North Queensland Cowboys captain as "the greatest hero, in fact the king" of his home state.

"I just don't know ... there are obviously isolated aspects of racism in Australia but I would think across the board they're very isolated."

Senator Macdonald also suggested an advertising campaign titled "Racism: It Stops With Me" is racist against white men.

Standing in for the attorney-general at the Senate estimates hearing, Michaelia Cash confirmed it was the government's position to hire a new race discrimination commissioner.

More than 50 people have applied for the senior public service role at the Australian Human Rights Commission, which some conservative politicians and pundits want scrapped.

The position is up for grabs as Tim Soutphommasane's five-year tenure draws to an end on August 19.

Johnathon Thurston in action. Picture: Gregg Porteous
Johnathon Thurston in action. Picture: Gregg Porteous

Mr Soutphommasane responded to Senator Macdonald's comments by tweeting: "Those who don't experience racism find it easy to say there's no need for public efforts to combat it."

He followed up with a picture of himself with Thurston.

 

 

 

 

A research brief written by Liberal-aligned think tank the Institute of Public Affairs, which was circulated to federal members of parliament, has called for the high-paid job to be axed.

The IPA argues the role serves no real function and promotes division. Short-listed candidates will be interviewed in the first week of June, before Attorney-General Christian Porter brings a decision to cabinet. The commissioner, who earns about $340,000 per year, was a vocal advocate in opposing changes to the Racial Discrimination Act put forward by the Turnbull government last year.

Confronting calls to abolish the position, migrant advocates have stressed the need to retain what they consider a vital role.

"Australia's race discrimination commissioner is an important figure in our national life, ensuring we are a country where nation-building and diversity is celebrated and protected," ethnic community advocate Mary Patetsos said this week.


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