10 April 2013

Thatcher criticised over Australian immigration comments

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Former UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher has been criticised by current Australian Foreign Secretary Bob Carr over an 'unabashedly racist' comment she made to him regarding Australian immigration policy.

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Margaret Thatcher died this week but still manages to divide public opinion over 20 years after leaving office.

Senator Bob Carr said a conversation between the two after Baroness Thatcher had retired had left him 'astonished' after the UK's first female prime minister made comments about Australian immigration policy.

"I recall one conversation I had with her in her retirement where she said something that was unabashedly racist," said the senator.

"She warned Australia...against Asian immigration, saying that if we allowed too much of it, we'd see the natives of the land, the European settlers, overtaken by migrants.

"I couldn't believe it. I was astonished"

Senator Carr, whose wife is Malaysian-born, said Baroness Thatcher made the comments with his wife just 'out of ear shot'.thatcher-

The foreign secretary said he was so taken aback he struggled to form a suitable response, but added "one thing she said as part of that conversation, she said 'you'll end up like Fiji.' She said 'I like Sydney but you can't allow the migrants' - and in context she meant Asian migration - 'to take over otherwise you will end up like Fiji where the Indian migrants have taken over'.

Baroness Thatcher died this week following a stroke, triggering a deluge of reaction from around the globe, both positive and negative.  remains one of the most divisive figures of the 20th century, lauded for her staunch criticism of communism and her role in winning the Falklands War, acts that gained her the nickname the Iron Lady, and criticised for her dismantling of trade unions in the UK, acts which saw unemployment rise to as high as 3 million.

Senator Carr prefaced his comments by saying he admired Baroness Thatcher's forceful handling of the Soviet Union and said she was the UK's 'most significant leader' since Winston Churchill. However, he said her comments reminded him of a different era in politics.

"It reminded me that despite, yes, her greatness on those big questions, the role of the state, the evil nature of the Communist totalitarianism, there was an old-fashioned quality to her that was entirely out of touch and probably explained why her party removed her in the early 90s."

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