A motion decrying the “deplorable rise of anti-white racism” was only narrowly voted down in the Australian Senate Monday, despite support from the ruling Liberal-National coalition and several senior ministers.
The motion, put forward by right-wing, anti-immigrant Senator Pauline Hanson, failed to pass the Senate 28 votes to 31, after opposition members from the Labor Party and the Greens voted against it. The government does not have a majority in the upper house.
In its entirety, the bill called for the Australian Senate to acknowledge “the deplorable rise of anti-white racism and attacks on Western civilization,” adding that “it is okay to be white.”
“People have a right to be proud of their cultural background, whether they are black, white or brindle. If we cannot agree on this, I think it’s safe to say anti-white racism is well and truly rife in our society,” Hanson said on Monday.
It follows months of controversy over Australian attitudes on race, including a controversial cartoon of Serena Williams which made headlines around the world and remarks by a far-right senator in August who called for a “final solution” to immigration.
Hanson, who has previously spoken out against Muslim immigration, grabbed headlines earlier this year for walking into the Senate wearing a full Islamic burqa to argue for it to be banned in public.
Speaking against the motion on Monday, Richard Di Natale, leader of the Greens, said Tuesday being white in Australia wasn’t just okay, it was “winning the lotto.”
“Just look around this chamber and see how many faces you see that aren’t white. Have a look in the privileged positions of Australian society, people who occupy these seats of the rich and powerful. How many of them are not white?” he said.
Independent politician Derryn Hinch, who voted against the motion, said on his Twitter he was happy to see it get struck down.
“Pleased to report that Pauline Hanson’s ‘I’m white, so I’m OK’ racist stunt failed in the Senate today. But disgusted the Liberals and Nationals voted with her,” he said on his official account.
Australia’s Attorney General Christian Porter said on his Twitter after the vote that the decision to support Hanson proved the government “deplores racism of any kind.”
An immigrant nation which likes to pride itself on being one of the world’s most successful multicultural societies, Australia has been accused of failing to tackle racism regularly over the years.
Amid the rise of far-right nationalists across the Western world, Australia has recently found itself locked in fierce debates over immigration and race.
Following a nationally-televised interview with far-right agitator Blair Cottrell in August, then-Race Discrimination Commissioner Tim Soutphommasane said there had “never been a more exciting time to be a dog-whistling politician or race-baiting commentator in Australia.”
“For the most part we are a highly cohesive and harmonious society but that doesn’t deny for a moment that racism continues to be a significant social problem,” he told CNN.
The Australian government did not immediately respond to a request for comment.