ABOUT 2000 people marched through Perth on the weekend, calling for the federal government to expedite asylum and immigration applications from white farmers facing violent attacks in South Africa.
Speakers included Liberal MP Andrew Hastie and Liberal Democrat Aaron Stonehouse, who’ve been accused by Labor of joining “extreme right-wingers” for the march.
But Mr Stonehouse said despite the taunts of racists, fear mongers and agents of division, the crowd were motivated by love.
“White farmers are being attacked in South Africa, their own government is fuelling the fire, and hardly any other government or organisation in the world are talking about it,” he told the crowd.
“I care about this issue because I am a Christian, a libertarian and a member of this extended family of nations that you’d call the West.”
Mr Stonehouse acknowledges he’s never marched for any other persecuted group, but says that’s only because he hasn’t been asked before.
“And here’s why I think that’s the case.
“One, there is a very large South African community within my electorate. They number somewhere around 10,000 if I’m not mistaken.
“So it’s completely normal for these people to reach out to me, as their elected representative, and ask me to lobby on their behalf.”
He says other persecuted groups are well represented by other lobby groups, particularly the Greens.
Mr Stonehouse said that anyone who shared the Australian values of a liberal democracy were welcome.
“We’ve welcomed a large number of Syrian as a result of the civil war happening over there, so it isn’t out of the ordinary for our refugee program to pivot towards a particular context based on need.
“But broadly speaking, I think our refugee and immigration policy should be colour blind and we should assess applications based on their merit.”
But others are not convinced and are planning a counter-protest when a petition raised at the march is presented to deputy prime minister Julie Bishop on Friday.
Organisers Sammy James and Tante Sabine accused the marchers of “flashing Nazi salutes” and waving crosses to invoke white supremacist imagery.
“You can’t have it both ways. You can’t stand with white nationalists and their symbolism and expect not to be considered one of them,” they wrote on their event page.
“[Home Affairs Minister]Peter Dutton has provided a means for our most repellant extremists to recruit and assemble. This will not be tolerated.”
The counter-protest outside Ms Bishop’s office has the permission and support of traditional owners, they note.
by STEVE GRANT