Back in the race

PROTECTING statues of colonial figures, keeping Australia Day on January 26 and “removing vagrants and beggars” from city streets are top priorities for Perth council candidate Michael Sutherland.

He was the Liberal MP for Mt Lawley for two terms until he was ousted last year, and served as a Perth councillor and deputy lord mayor before that.

But his return to politics has been met with a lot of anger and accusations that he’s targeting Aboriginal people.

• Michael Sutherland says he’ll stop radicals from removing statues of colonial figures from WA’s past, like Captain James Stirling (pictured above). Photo by Steve Grant

Accusations

His campaign video about anti-social behaviour in Wellington Square showed shots of Aboriginal people sitting in the park, and his wording “clean up the streets” and stance to protect colonial statues has seen his campaign Facebook page bombarded with accusations that he’s “racist”.

“Piss off you racist dog,” Geoff Guymer wrote.

Another comment said they didn’t need his racist South African views in Australia.

Craig Hollywood founded the homelessness support charity Short Back and Sides, which gives free haircuts and shaves to homeless people.

He described the video as insensitively mocking “traditional owners”.

“Homelessness is obviously a very complex issue with no single solution,” Mr Hollywood said.

“Factors such as cost of housing, unemployment, and entrenched poverty need to be addressed.

“We don’t need people in power who see homelessness as something that needs to be ‘cleaned up’ or who share views such as, and I quote, ‘Government and business also spend millions every year trying to attract tourists, investors and students to live and spend in our city [Perth]. What is the point if they are going to end up seeing this when they arrive?’”

Should current lord mayor Lisa Scaffidi’s appeals against her disqualification fail and her job come up for grabs, Mr Hollywood says voters should steer clear of Mr Sutherland [if he puts up his hand as expected] because of his views.

Some of Mr Sutherland’s supporters haven’t helped his cause on on his campaign Facebook page: he’s even had the official Reclaim Australia account log in and cheer him on.

Mr Sutherland said “I’m not trying to be racist at all: there’s white beggars in the city too.”

“I think unfortunately people see it as an attack on all Aboriginals, it’s not.

“People make the most horrible comments and I’ve got to cop it.”

He says he’s been here for 30 years, after leaving South Africa to get away from the racist government, and was a member of the SA party that opposed apartheid, yet people still accuse him of importing apartheid views.

“It doesn’t matter what I’ve done: I was on the board of St Barts, I go to every ethnic community event, there was a Zambian boy who I knew who needed a guarantor for his fees, I guarantored for him…[but] you can’t tell these people anything.”

He’s copped flak because his Wellington Square video only featured Aboriginal people, but he said those were the only people there when he filmed and his priority is making the area safe for everyone to enjoy.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re black, white or brindle, if you’re not behaving yourself you’re not welcome.”

He says residents around the park are crying out for action: “I had a guy who said ‘I have a unit that overlooks Wellington Square. I can’t sell it’,” and another who told him he couldn’t lease his office space.

After statues of pro-slavery figures were pulled down in America, the issue of statues that commemorate colonial figures has generated a lot of debate.

“I don’t like that type of thing at all, this business of rewriting history and putting a 2017 slant on things that happened 150 years ago,” he says.

“If we do this we might as well go through all the old museums and destroy statues of Nero”.

by DAVID BELL

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