Monthly Archives: July 2011

Biting the fist

The obvious reason George Fishman (The Australian, Last Post, 30-31/7) does not recall “post-war European migrants” burning detention centres is that they weren’t detained. But like today’s refugees, they aroused some ugly resentment and bigotry. The governments of the day, Liberal and Labor alike, quietly ignored this and went about doing the right thing, with exemplary results for the immigrants and the nation.

Today’s political parties seem so busy running focus groups, and generally breathing their own exhaust, that this same ugliness is dictating a policy of pointless, expensive arbitrary detention and deportation, with predictably ugly, violent results. With bitter unintended irony, Fishman terms this “biting the hand that feeds” – it is in fact the gaoler’s fist.

Exonerate yourself

By all means, The Australian, let’s investigate privacy abuse, including that of government (“A privacy probe? Yes indeed”, 28/7). But it will take more than “a few days of investigative reporting by The Australian” to convince anyone that “the culprits are not media outlets”. You don’t get to exonerate yourself. That’s not how inquiries work.

Illustrated dictionary

It is Scott Prasser’s baffling contention that the Greens are hypocritical to advocate privacy safeguards because they discuss some policies in, er, private (“Greens challenged to ‘grow up’ on right to privacy”, The Australian, 28/7). He needs to look up “hypocritical” in the dictionary. If it’s illustrated, he may find a picture of Rupert Murdoch decrying phone hacking.

Terror is a what, not a why

Greg Sheridan is right for the wrong reasons to deem Anders Breivik a terrorist because “his terrible violence was motivated by political ideology” (“The unheeded steps of a psycho killer”, The Australian, 28/7). Analysing motives can help us understand and perhaps prevent such events, but Breivik is a terrorist because of what he did, not why he did it.

A pro-democracy activist who blows up a bus is a terrorist. A fundamentalist Muslim soldier in battlefield combat is not. Terrorism is defined by a particular kind of lethal strategy, not a set of beliefs.


International press-freedom watchdog Reporters Without Borders ranks Australia 18th in the world, behind Estonia, Lithuania and Malta, mainly because of the competition-strangling hold of a single corporation on our media. An inquiry is overdue, however much that corporation bleats, ironically, about press freedom.


With all the moral cogency of a blackmailer, The Australian warns the government against implementing privacy protections on the grounds that such rules would hurt the government more than they will hurt media (“Double standards on privacy”, 25/7). They need reminding that two wrongs don’t make a right.

I’m not a homophobe, but…

“Opposing the idea of gay marriage does not make a person a homophobe”, says Angela Shanahan (“Cheap emotionalism stymies debate”, The Australian, 24/7). Let’s exchange the word “gay” for “interracial”, and “homophobe” for “racist” – as others have done in the past – and see if that sentence still makes sense.

Shanahan’s arguments from “common sense”, “nature” and “fundamental and bedrock values” are the same meaningless generalities used by opponents of marriage between couples of different races, and indeed religions, to justify their prejudice.

We live in a democracy, so Shanahan is entitled to her religious beliefs; but we don’t live in a theocracy, so they have no place in law.

If the cap fits

Curbs on operational aspects of the media – such as unscrupulous methods, unhealthy political associations and monopolies – are not curbs on freedom of expression. Advocates of the former are being accused of the latter, and this muddies the debate.

No-one is suggesting the legislating away of bias. Not that I’m saying there is any; but if the cap fits…