The people of Camden, a small town on the outskirts of south western Sydney, have every right to debate the merits or otherwise of any major development in their town. No doubt many will be concerned about a new McDonalds restaurant as much as they would be worried about a 1,200-pupil school.
Sadly, the legitimate concerns of Camden folk are being hijacked by wacky far-Right types. The Winds of Jihad blog of Muslim-hater Sheik Yer'mami includes a number of posts from Darrin Hodges of the self-styled Anglo-Australian National Community Council. Hodges has been distributing hate material in the Camden local area. His blog includes links to far-Right racist groups including MEMRI and anti-Semitic American commentator Ann Coulter. One post on his blog claims that Islam is in the process of invading Camden.
When outsiders try to infiltrate local debates with a view of spreading sectarian hatred, the results can be a divisiveness that can be difficult to control and that diverts attention away from the real merits of the debate.
Already, issues of race and religion have entered the discussion, as can be seen on the online forums here and in the Camden Advertiser's blog here.
If only this could be treated simply as an issue of local community involvement in Council planning decisions. But sadly, rednecks are busy spreading their infantile prejudices on the rest of us. Now all we need is for John Howard to see a possible wedge and parachute himself into this debate with a view to scoring some desperately-needed votes. Then again, maybe Camden voters will realise that Howard's pet prejudices are not going to help them make their mortgage repayments increased due to interest rates Howard's 2004 election promise couldn't keep down ...