Open Letter to Australia's Prime Minister & Political Leaders

Sonia Kruger comments on Muslim immigration on The Today Show, 17 July 2016. Image: ABC News

Sonia Kruger comments on Muslim immigration on The Today Show, 17 July 2016. Image: ABC News

Over 60 doctors and professors from a remarkably diverse range of disciplines have urged Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, Leader of the Opposition Bill Shorten, Leader of the National Party Barnaby Joyce, Leader of the Greens Richard Di Natale, and Senator Nick Xenophon to take a strong stance against hate speech in Australia. In an Open Letter to Australia’s Prime Minister & political leaders, the academics voiced their opposition to recent statements made by several public figures which followed a disturbing trend of religious discrimination, especially towards those of the Muslim faith.

Read on for the full letter and list of signatories below:

To Australia’s Prime Minister & Political Leaders

The signatories of this open letter are academics and scholars from across Australia who wish to lend their support to the chorus of Australians speaking out against recent statements by several media personalities and politicians which have instigated and accentuated a worrying trend of hate speech in Australia, especially towards those of the Muslim faith.

We fear that such speech, if left unchallenged and allowed to fester,will deepen divisions in this country, increase racial intolerance and discrimination, and, at worst, culminate in serious social tension and conflict. History is replete with cases of how the expression of extreme views against vulnerable minorities have escalated into hate crimes and violence, ripping apart the very fabric of society.

We maintain that freedom of expression is a vital and core value for a vibrant democratic country such as ours. However, we hold the view that an expression that incites hatred, or fear, against a section of our citizenry, or advocates and promotes discriminatory action, or implicit violence, against such a group, must be summarily challenged and rejected.

As educators we believe it is of the utmost importance for our leaders to be alert to the damaging implications for social cohesion and harmony. We call on you to act decisively to expose the fallacious and misconceived nature of some of the views being expressed and to make a decisive and definitive condemnation of hate speech. While we appreciate that there have been some efforts made in this direction, a far stronger stance is needed. History teaches us that the appeasement of bigotry is a dangerous and self-destructive strategy.

What we need to foster and nurture in Australia is respectful and genuine dialogue, intercultural understanding and empathy. We believe that spurning hate speech and bigotry is the first step.

We urge you as the leaders of our nation to unequivocally condemn hate speech and oppose campaigns of vilification by adding your voices to the overwhelming majority of Australians who reject such a culture of scapegoating, bigotry and hatred.

Yours faithfully,

Dr Phillip Ablett, University of the Sunshine Coast

Dr Gregory Acciaioli, Anthropology & Sociology, University of Western Australia

Associate Professor Panizza Allmark, School of Arts and Humanities, Edith Cowan University

Professor Dennis Altman, Professorial Fellow in Human Security, La Trobe University

Dr Julie Andrews, Convenor of Aboriginal Studies, La Trobe University

Dr Kristine Aquino, Department of Sociology, Macquarie University

Dr Paul Bauert OAM FAMA BSc MBBS FRACP, Head of Paediatrics, Royal Darwin Hospital & Senior Lecturer, Flinders University

Professor Louise Baur AM, University of Sydney

Dr Bijou Blick MBBS MPH Dip Paeds, NSW Institute of Psychiatry

Professor Gary D. Bouma AM, UNESCO Chair in Intercultural and Interreligious Relations – Asia Pacific, Emeritus Professor of Sociology, Monash University

Professor Linda Briskman, Professor of Human Rights, Swinburne Institute for Social Research

Emeritus Professor Joseph A. Camilleri OAM, La Trobe University, Managing Director, Alexandria Agenda

Dr Dean Chan, Faculty of Humanities, Curtin University

Professor James Chin, Director, Asia Institute, University of Tasmania

Dr Sky Croeser, Department of Internet Studies, Curtin University

Professor Caroline de Costa AM, College of Medicine, James Cook University

Professor Bassam Dally, School of Mechanical Engineering, University of Adelaide

Dr Helen Driscoll, Consultant Psychiatrist, Victoria

Dr Caroline Fleay, Centre for Human Rights Education, Curtin University

Emeritus Professor Alberto Gomes, La Trobe University, Director of Dialogue, Empathic Engagement & Peacebuilding (DEEP) Network

Emeritus Professor Kerry Goulston, University of Sydney

Associate Professor Patrick Guinness, Australian National University

Professor Ghassan J. Hage, Future Generation Professor of Anthropology and Social Theory, University of Melbourne

Associate Professor Ken Harvey, Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine, Monash University

Professor David Isaacs MBBChir MD FRACP FRCPCH, Department of Infectious Diseases & Microbiology, University of Sydney

Professor Paul James, Professor of Globalization and Cultural Diversity, Institute for Culture and Society, University of Western Sydney

Dr Bert Jenkins, Convenor of Peace Studies, University of New England

Professor Jon Jureidini, Research Leader, Robinson Research Institute, University of Adelaide

Dr Elizabeth Kath, Lecturer, School of Global, Urban and Social Studies, RMIT University, Honorary Research Fellow with the UN Global Compact Cities Programme and Co-Director of Global Reconciliation

Dr Thor Kerr, School of Media, Culture & Creative Arts, Curtin University

Professor Ian Kerridge, Professor of Bioethics and Medicine, University of Sydney

Professor Damien Kingsbury, Director of the Centre for Citizenship, Development and Human Rights, Deakin University

Professor Paul Komesaroff, Professor of Medicine, Monash University, Executive Director of Global Reconciliation

Professor Marilyn Lake FAHA FASSA, Professor of History, University of Melbourne

Emeritus Professor Stephen Leeder, Public Health and Community Medicine, Sydney University

Professor Helen Lee, Professor of Anthropology, La Trobe University

Dr Julian CH Lee, Senior Lecturer, Global, Urban and Social Studies, RMIT University

Associate Professor James Leibold, Department of Politics and Philosophy, La Trobe University

Dr Debbi Long, Department of General Practice, School of Primary Health Care, Monash University

Professor Christopher Mackie, Professor of Public Scholarship, La Trobe University

Honorary Associate Professor David McKnight, School of the Arts and Media, University of New South Wales

Dr Michális Stavros Michael, Honorary and Adjunct Senior Research Fellow, La Trobe University & Faculty of Medicine, Nursing & Health Sciences, Monash University, Director, Centrefor Dialogue

Associate Professor Jane Mills, School of the Arts & Media, University of New South Wales

Associate Professor Christine Morley, Queensland University of Technology

Emeritus Professor Ross Mouer, Monash University

Dr Yamini Narayanan, Senior Lecturer, International and Community Development, Deakin University

Emeritus Professor Kim Oates AM, Sydney Medical School, University of Sydney

Professor Baden Offord, Director of Centre for Human Rights Education, Curtin University

Dr Haruhisa Handa, Chair of Human Rights Education, Curtin University

Professor Kaori H. Okano, Professor in Asian Studies, La Trobe University

Associate Professor Brigitta Olubas, School of the Arts & Media, University of NSW

Professor Suvendrini Perera, John Curtin Distinguished Professor, Curtin University

Dr Robbie Peters, Director of Development Studies, Sydney University

Dr Jennifer Philip, Honorary Associate Professor, University of Melbourne & Deputy Director of Palliative Medicine, St Vincent’s Hospital

Professor Leon Piterman AM, Pro-Vice Chancellor, Monash University

Professor Joseph Pugliese, Department of Media, Music, Communication and Cultural Studies, Macquarie University

Professor Graham Seal AM, Director of Australia-Asia-Pacific Institute, Curtin University

Emeritus Professor Yoshio Sugimoto, La Trobe University

Dr Lisa Tam, Assistant Professor of Strategic Communication, La Trobe University

Dr Gwenda Tavan, Head of Department of Politics and Philosophy, La Trobe University

Associate Professor Savitri Taylor, Law School, La Trobe University

Dr Antonio Traverso, School of Media, Culture & Creative Arts, Curtin University

Emeritus Professor David de Vaus, Former Executive Dean, University of Queensland

Dr Selvaraj Velayutham, Department of Sociology, Macquarie University

Professor Adrian Vickers FAHA, Professor of Southeast Asian Studies, University of Sydney

Associate Professor Deborah Yates, Senior Staff Specialist in Thoracic Medicine & Conjoint Associate Professor, University of NSW

Associate Professor Amanda Wise, Department of Sociology, Macquarie University

Dr Alex Wodak AM, Emeritus Consultant, St Vincent’s Hospital, Sydney

Dr Shannon Woodcock, Sextures Institute, Melbourne

Professor Spencer Zifcak, Allan Myers Professor of Law, Australian Catholic University

Emmanuel Economou