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Multicultural food can't mask divisions

By Ben-Peter Terpstra - posted Thursday, 5 May 2011

The Labor-sounding ActNow website hopes you'll buy the big M. It asks:"Where would you be without the local Chinese takeaway? Or your daily cappuccino? These are just a few food clichés that help to identify what multiculturalism means to Australia, but what's actually beyond butter chicken and pad Thai?"

More about Labor later. For now, let's face the facts: associating superior food with multiculturalism is more than a cliché – it's misleading. Why? Because one can live in a nation where there are great cappuccinos and superb Chinese takeaways, without multiculturalism. I have at least.

Leaving Japan aside though, such arguments irritate many Australians for other reasons. Take the experiences of (say) Sydney's more representative working-class families (worlds apart from the upper-middle classes).


While a Labor bureaucrat eats a jolly good Indian meal in an upmarket eatery, his gardener is unable to order a rash of bacon on his KFC chicken burger because it "offends Muslims." Will he come away with an unedited view of multiculturalism?

Also, in economically depressed suburbs and struggling regional towns, many Australians simply can't afford a cappuccino, let alone a meal at a takeaway Chinese restaurant. That is their reality - not ActNow's.

Sheltered politicians

On Thursday, February 24, 2011, I was also confronted with the fact that approval-hungry Liberals love their made-for-television multicultural scripts. Or to quote Malcolm Turnbull's spin on our ABC News: "We have achieved an extraordinary degree of harmonious integration of people from every possible culture in the world," he boasted. "It's a great achievement. We're proud of it. We are committed to a multicultural Australia - that is a reality. That's part of our life."

However, the critical-thinker outside will ask: To what extent does wealth protect the political class from reality? Or to quote from a 2009 Fairfax piece: "Mr Turnbull, a former merchant banker, is listed by BRW among Australia's richest 200 people."

You see, I know many Australians can't afford to tell the ABC (as Turnbull did, mind you) that, "We share in the Chinese New Year, the lunar New Year festival. We share in the Greek and Italian festivals. It is part of our way of life."


Outside of Turnbull's convenient world, the forgotten Australians share inter-ethnic street gang violence, misogynistic religions, and a general sense that not all is so peachy, beyond upper-middleclass food courts. That's part of their life, their untold story.

Moving forward

Sound familiar? When John Howard questioned the cult of multiculturalism our Labor-first press and even some liberal Liberals turned on him. After all, he was "old-fashioned" a curious accusation made by the nonjudgmental lovers of ancient and modern cultures.

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About the Author

Ben-Peter Terpstra has provided commentary for The Daily Caller (Washington D.C.), NewsReal Blog (Los Angeles), Quadrant (Sydney), and Menzies House (Adelaide).

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All articles by Ben-Peter Terpstra

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