"there is a section, a small section, of the Islamic population which is unwilling to integrate"On subsequent days he did not retreat from the comments, but did expand it to include all migrants.
There are, however, some questions we Australians need to ask of ourselves, and Mr Howard:
- are we, as a nation, racist? Or are just some of us racist?
I don't know, but there have been incidents at sporting events, and some patterns of intolerant behaviour that might indicate that SOME of us are racist.
- IS Mr Howard racist because of the comments he made? Was hejust plain stupid to mention Muslims?
He has played "wedge politics" very well. Consider the political skill used to sell the IR Laws and the political capital he made from:
- the Children Overboard affair
- the Tampa Affair, where Australia deliberately broke International Maritime Law.
- the attack dogs on the wharves
- the "aspirational" politics of tax cuts, even if it drives inflation through retail spending
- the "I'm a better economic manager" repetition (As an aside we now owe $500 Billion overseas)
- there is a State election in March 2007 and a Federal Election due before November 2007
- Australian voters tend to be conservative (previous Labor Governments were often elected with less than 50% of the primary vote, relying on preferences from minor parties)
- anything controversial he can say about the Muslim community will be divisive. A divided Australian electorate will more likely vote for conservative parties (his)