Hanson was right, our ethnic communities have a problem
It was barely a month ago that Senator Pauline Hanson invoked the wrath of Channel Nine and the custodians of political correctness when she committed the gravest of all political sins in saying what she thought.
Referring to the COVID-19 related lockdown of public housing apartment blocks during her regular spot on the Today Show, Senator Hanson said "a lot of these people are from non-English speaking backgrounds, probably English is their second language who haven't adhered to the rules of social distancing.
"So the fact is you've got to look at why they are in that situation. Why is it they are in that situation? Why has the government gone to this high-rise building and shut it down? Possibly because a lot of these people weren't doing the right thing," she said.
Channel Nine was quick to show her the studio door with news and current affairs boss Darren Wick saying she had been sacked for her "ill-informed and divisive" comments.
"We don't shy away from diverse opinions and robust debate on the Today Show. But this morning's accusations from Pauline Hanson were ill-informed and divisive. At a time of uncertainty in this national and global health crisis, Australians have to be united and supportive of one another. We need to get through this together," he said.
A month on and with infection rates in greater Melbourne soaring, it has become evident from Victorian government figures that the highest rates of infection as a percentage of people tested are in those areas where there are large ethnic communities and that we're not all in this together.
In late June, infections started growing in Brimbank and Hume, both local government areas in north-western Melbourne with large migrant populations. Hume recorded 25 active cases on June 26 and 280 on July 17 with similar trends evident elsewhere.
Hanson was pilloried for her comments, freedom of speech only applying when you run with the mob, keep your thoughts to yourself and refrain from sticking your neck out.
I'm not a supporter of One Nation and, as far as I can recall, have never endorsed Senator Hanson in any way in the past but she was on the money when she pointed out that there was a problem with some ethnic communities.
Griffith University's Professor Hamish McCallum from the School of Environment and Science wrote last week that the number of positive COVID cases does not provide an accurate measure of its prevalence in Victoria.
"It's clear that there are some parts of the community that are taking the disease less seriously than others. People from those parts of the community are therefore less likely than others to come forward to be tested and probably will not do so unless their symptoms are very serious. So we have a biased sample and may be missing major clusters of infection," he wrote.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews ties himself in knots during his daily doomsday briefings in attempting to avoid suggesting that some communities bear greater responsibility than others for the situation in which the state finds itself.
"Some people aren't doing the right thing," he says, stating the painfully obvious. It's difficult to deal with a problem when you lack the political courage to admit that it exists and it would be naive to suggest that the problem is Victoria's alone.
This crisis will pass but it would be a brave soul who would suggest that there will not be other challenges to the nation's health and well-being. What has become obvious is that there are significant dangers in having sections of society which are walled off from the mainstream by language and cultural barriers.
Following the outcry over her remarks, Hanson attempted to explain her position in more detail on her website. It's not likely that many people read it, which is a pity for she attempts to bring some reason to the argument.
"My comments in the media reflected an honest assessment of failures in the management of our multiculturalism that have now come back to bite us during the Covid-19 pandemic.
"The pandemic has revealed that the failure to assimilate into Australian culture and learn English can indirectly be deadly. Governments of all persuasions are guilty of being soft on promoting assimilation and the need for English language proficiency, for the benefit of the individual and society as a whole.
"Many who come to Australia are happy to enjoy the good things - our safety and stability, our friendly way of life, our relatively good government services, our generous welfare support - but then believe it's acceptable to reject the culture and common language of their adoptive nation, and we now see the consequences," she wrote.
It is beyond dispute that a lack of engagement is now costing lives. We have been given a painful lesson.
Whether anyone has the fortitude to heed it is another matter.
Originally published as Hanson was right, our ethnic communities have a problem