August 15, 2013 3 Comments
“Compared to any other English-speaking people, Australians (or a great many of them) are openly, astoundingly racist,” writes Gwynne Dyer, a Canadian newspaper columnist based out of London, in his latest commentary. “You’d have to go somewhere like Russia or China to find people expressing their racial prejudices in such an unselfconscious, almost naive way.”
“And here’s a clue: New Zealanders, similar to Australians in so many other ways, don’t talk like that at all.”
That last sentence might not sound so bad to Canadians, who rarely give much thought to either country. But in the context of the traditional (but generally good-natured) rivalry between Australia and New Zealand, neither side appreciating being unfavourably compared to the other, those are fighting words.
Yet the comparison to Russia and China is perhaps the more unfair one. The following table shows the results from the most recent wave of the World Values Survey on a question which asked people around the world who they would not want to have as neighbours.
Only five percent of Australians — who do tend to be fairly direct in saying what they think — said they would not want people of a different race as neighbours. This is comparable to other English-speaking democracies.
By contrast, Russians were significantly more likely to say that they would not want a neighbour of a different race (17%), though even then this seemed to be a less common sentiment there than it was in France (27%) or South Korea (36%).
Likewise, on having immigrants or foreign workers as neighbours, Australians (6% of whom would consider this undesirable) were on par with their Canadian and New Zealand peers. Furthermore, Australians were slightly more accepting of immigrants next door than the survey’s British or American respondents, and considerably more charitable once again than the French and the South Koreans.
Immigration does occasionally come up as an issue in Australian politics, and even prompted a soul-searching documentary series on race relations on Australian television, called Drunk, Dumb and Racist. But immigration also comes up as an issue in Canada sometimes, just as it did 20 years ago when the Reform Party campaigned vigorously on a less-immigration platform, and more recently when academic-turned-broadcaster-turned-activist David Suzuki called Canada’s immigration policies “disgusting” and “crazy”, declaring that “Canada is full” in the process.
Contrary to Dr. Suzuki’s opinion, there is a more convincing case to be made that immigration makes countries like Canada and Australia better places to live, and benefits the originating countries as well. Good thing then that, despite the occasional intemperate remarks, citizens of both countries are relatively comfortable having people from different backgrounds as neighbours.