The Australian’s editorial (“The Anzac sentiment defies central planning”, 26/4) cheapens Anzac Day by using it to sell a populist anti-intellectualism at odds with the Anzac spirit. Was the First World War “a war that had to be fought”? Was it “patriotism” or British imperialism that decimated a generation? Should the ideals of “[h]onour, duty and mateship” be used to justify war? These are not the “tortured arguments of the intellectuals”, but questions that must be asked, especially on Anzac Day, out of respect for those who suffer in any war.
For sheer rhetorical chutzpah, it is hard to beat The Australian’s contention that Palestinian statehood is an obstacle to a two-state solution (‘UN bid has dire consequences’, Editorial, 16/4). Logic strongly suggests it is actually a prerequisite.
Michael Fullilove’s retrospective on the second Iraq war (“We stood by the US as it erred grievously in Iraq”, The Australian, 19/4) is insightful, but no more so than the prescience of the millions who took to the streets to protest the war at its outset. They were described at the time in The Australian by Greg Sheridan as “anti-American”, “hysterical”, “emotional and irrational”. But they were also correct, and not just in hindsight, because they could see the inevitability of the pointless bloodbath to come, just as others had with Vietnam and other past military misadventures.
That the “Coalition of the Willing” could so easily forget this, and thus be blind to what was so obvious to their own people, demonstrates the corrosive effect of national ambition acted out on the world stage. The ugly mess the war became was another unnecessary demonstration of the hard-learned reasons why international laws exist.
The international community now faces new challenges similar to those posed by pre-war Iraq. Let us hope that nations tempted to take the law into their own hands have now been cured of both their amnesia and their blindness to the wisdom of their own citizens.
Janet Albrechtsen (“No short cuts to gay marriage”, The Australian, 3/4) seems so uncomfortable admitting that the Left has been right on gay marriage all along, that she devotes most of her column to impugning their motives: they hold their views to “establish their hip credentials” or “moral superiority”, or as “absolution for sins”, and they work to achieve it the “wrong way”, which apparently includes anything aimed at actually legalising it.
In contrast, pro-gay marriage conservatives hold their views for the “right” reasons, like the Republican senator who had a sudden attack of empathy when his son came out. And they work towards it the “right” way, which apparently involves waiting until everyone who objects to it dies of old age.
This feat of mind-reading is impressive but irrelevant and over-complicated. The issue is simple: gay couples cannot be legally married; thus they are denied a legal right because they are gay. That is discrimination by definition. Albrechtsen’s confusion about that key point is demonstrated by this hedge: “Gay couples enjoy the same substantive rights as heterosexual couples. If they don’t they should.” She got it right with the second sentence.
Sharryn Wightley (The Australian, 30/3) is among several letter-writers who object to formal apologies to groups harmed by national policies because they were, as she puts it, “part of the times and had nothing to do with me”. Fair enough, but to be consistent she must also abandon any pride in national achievements she was not personally involved in.
The Australian’s editorial “All compassion, no solutions” (5/3) and Chris Kenny’s follow-up piece “Racism rant won’t wash with the public” (9/3) both attempt to apologise for Scott Morrison’s recent grubby dog-whistling, with misleading claims that “issues of identity, security and refugee status remain” for asylum seekers released into the community. In fact, normal identity, health and security checks are always done before moving people into community detention; any found to be a security risk are not released.
Morrison’s latest blunder has little to do with community policing, and even less with immigration, “border protection” or deaths at sea. “Behavioural protocols” and “tracking” for asylum-seekers, among other “commonsense” proposals conveniently omitted from Kenny’s list, trample democratic principles – including equality before the law, which applies regardless of residency status.
Kenny denies any racial element in Morrison’s position. But can anyone recall such radical suggestions during the influx of white refugees from the Balkan wars?
Kenny may regard these concerns as “moral posturing”, but even Morrison’s colleagues share them, and several have already wisely distanced themselves from his remarks. Kenny should do the same.
A recent slew of opinion pieces in The Australian declares that union involvement in politics is somehow inappropriate or even passé; but be careful what you wish for. History shows what happens when such notions have free rein, from the Polish Communists’ failed suppression of the Solidarity movement, to the recent edicts of Fiji’s military dictators.
Labour rights are inherently political. Despite decades of legislation aimed at fragmenting and disempowering the workforce, unions remain a mass movement founded on freedom of association. Attempts to stifle the natural political expression of this fundamental right are anti-democratic.
Scott Morrison’s view (“Advance the bold idea of diversity”, 25/1) that “cultural tolerance is not a license for cultural practices that are offensive to the cultural values…of Australia” overlooks the fact that our fiercely defended “freedom to offend” cuts both ways.
He further states “respect for diversity does not provide license for closed communities”, forgetting that freedom of association is an important plank of our democracy. Accordingly, there are already many non-migrant closed communities in this country, many of them Christian. Does he propose to outlaw them all, or only migrant groups?
Morrison’s view of immigration as on condition that “people have come to join us, not change us” jars with history. Immigration has already transformed Australia from the dull, smug, parochial monoculture I recall from my childhood, to the vivacious global citizen it is now. This was not achieved by social engineering, by telling people they must live according to some imposed template of Australian-ness. People came with their new ways, the old and new blended and adapted to each other or not as they chose, and our contemporary multi-culture was formed naturally. Long may we change.
N. Ford (The Australian, Talking Point, 22/1) counts three sources of information on climate change: mainstream science (which Ford provocatively calls “green”), the dissenting minority (mislabelled “sceptic”, as if all scientists were not), and “green propaganda”. But oddly, Ford omits the obvious fourth source, which is the politically-motivated anti-AGW publicity which floods the blogosphere, talkback radio and the opinion pages of The Australian. Only the two scientific sources are relevant to the debate; of those, the fringe view comes a distant second.
Don Aitkin (“Someone please tell the ABC it’s not all doom and gloom out here”, 19/1) is eminent in a number of fields, but nonetheless has a peculiar view of what constitutes media bias.
Aitkin points out that the values held by ABC journalists as a whole differ from the mainstream. But in this they are no different from the rest of the media or many other specialised fields. This does not imply bias. Nor, to use Aitkin’s example, does the use of the neutral description “asylum seeker” instead of the loaded epithet “boat people”, however popular that term may be on the street. That’s just good journalism.
The ABC’s charter does not require it to take some kind of survey of the beliefs of the average Australian and use that in place of editorial judgement. If the public already knew everything, they wouldn’t need the media at all.
As for AGW, the ABC is in fact following its charter to the letter by giving due emphasis to both the mainstream scientific view and the fringe “sceptic” opinion favoured by Aitkin, but as its own policies dictate: in proportion to “a balance that follows the weight of evidence”.