“Barely a day goes by where I am not asked on social media to justify my presence in Australia,” said Mehreen Faruqi, a senator for the Greens party who immigrated from Pakistan. “I will never be Australian enough for some people, simply because of the color of my skin.”
One of every two Australians is an immigrant or the child of one, and as the culture has become more diverse, immigration has continued to be a central political issue.
Interestingly, Australians’ attitudes toward immigration are, on the whole, positive, said Andrew Markus, a professor at Monash University who surveys public opinion on cultural diversity. Most recognize the economic benefits of immigration, even as they dislike perceived drawbacks like overcrowding, he said.
The “fundamental change” in public discourse about immigration has been in “the power of social media,” Professor Markus said. Prejudiced and bigoted statements, he said, are now “amplified.”
The “go back” insult is offensive because it is not about citizenship, said Susan Harris Rimmer, a law professor at Griffith University in Queensland. “It’s about your skin color,” she said. “You are seen to be more loyal or disloyal depending on whether you look like the norm.”
Although far-right lawmakers have stoked the fires of ethnic division here, commentators said this week that it would be hard to imagine an Australian leader emulating Mr. Trump’s comment.
But the phrase does appear. One expert said he had seen it on bumper stickers. I saw variations of it on a few hat tags at a rural festival last year.
Some Australian pundits wonder if the remark from Mr. Trump — who has since insisted that he doesn’t have a racist bone in his body — will embolden Australians who oppose immigrants to speak out more loudly.
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