Senator questions whether racism exists

A Queensland senator has raised the popularity of indigenous NRL star Johnathon Thurston to question whether racism exists in .
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The Liberal National Party’s Ian Macdonald heaped praise on Thurston as he quizzed senior bureaucrats about the need for a race discrimination commissioner, as incumbent Tim Soutphommasane’s tenure comes to an end.

“I might live in a bubble perhaps, but I find it very difficult to find any but very rare cases of racism in ,” Senator Macdonald said during a committee hearing in Canberra on Thursday.

“I mean, in this building, we have two senior ministers who … are clearly not white n male(s).”

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

“If only I could get him to run for a political party he’d walk it in,” he said.

“I just don’t know … there are obviously isolated aspects of racism in , but I would think across the board they’re very isolated.”

Senator Macdonald also suggested an advertising campaign titled, “Racism: It Stops With Me” was racist against white men.

“It’s hard to see how it promotes racial cohesion in an which as far as I’m aware there is very, very, very little actual racism around,” he said.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner June Oscar told the committee of her own experiences with racism.

“I too have had personal experiences of taxis not taking my fare, for whatever reason,” Ms Oscar said.

“I have witnessed – and this was in Darwin at night at the Mindil Beach markets – four Aboriginal women approach five taxis lined up in the taxi queue and they all locked their doors.”

Dr Soutphommasane responded to the senator’s comments on social media, posting a photo of himself with Thurston.

The commissioner spoke of a survey showing 20 per cent of ns had experienced discrimination in the past 12 months.

“Those who don’t experience racism find it easy to say there’s no need for public efforts to combat it. Unfortunately racism does harm to many people,” he posted to Twitter.

Representing the attorney-general at the Senate estimates hearing, Michaelia Cash confirmed the government would be hiring a new race discrimination commissioner.

n Human Rights Commission president Rosalind Croucher said she might restore the title “commissioner for community relations” for the position.

More than 50 people are being considered for the senior public service role, which some conservative politicians and pundits want scrapped.

The position is up for grabs as Dr Soutphommasane’s five-year tenure ends on August 19.

Dr Soutphommasane, who earns about $340,000 per year, was a vocal opponent of changes to the Racial Discrimination Act proposed by the Turnbull government last year.

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