Cutting through the bullshit.

Thursday, 22 January 2009

'Subliminal xenophobic behaviour'

In a comment on ‘No Turkish coffee’, two posts down, Ablokeimet alerted me to potentially confusing wording. When I wrote,

Australia’s Retailers’ Association has enthusiastically embraced a call from Brisbane radio 4BC shock jock, ex cop Michael Smith, to ban covered women from shops, banks and post offices.

I made the unwarranted assumption that there was just the one lobbyist representing shopkeepers in Australia. Apparently I am not the only one to fall into this trap. On 14 December, the ABC made the same mistake and had to issue a clarification.

It transpires that Scott Driscoll’s outfit, QRTSA – The Retailers Association, the one that endorsed Michael Smith’s call to ban the hijab from shops, is the rebadged Queensland Retail Traders & Shopkeepers Association. The QRTSA went national, opening offices in Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, and Adelaide early in 2008.

Nor are the The Retailers Association and the Australian Retailers Association the only ones claiming to represent Australian retailers on a national basis. According to, the list includes:

  • ARA – Australian Retailers Association.
  • ANRA – Australian National Retailers Association.
  • NRA – National Retailers [sic – should be Retail]Association.
  • NARGA – National Association of Retail Grocers of Australia.
  • NIRA – National Independent Retailers Association.
  • MGA – Master Grocers Australia.
  • FCA – Franchise Council of Australia

Anyway, the Australian Retailers Association put out a press release on 16 January distancing themselves from Driscoll. Richard Evans, Executive Director of the ARA, is quoted as saying,

… Mr Driscoll's comments are extreme and harking back to a day when xenophobia was rife and serves to create a culture of angst, anger and mistrust…No one who takes the rich culture of modern Australia seriously would diminish themselves by suggesting cultural or custom clothing is a security risk. This is subliminal xenophobic behaviour and it saddens to have someone from a respected Queensland retail organisation not realise the consequences of such lazy speech.

My apologies to the ARA and anyone who thought they were the ones who had taken this racist stand.

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