I note that Greg Sheridan has taken to using the term “boatpeople” to refer to asylum seekers (most recently in “Neighbour asks for a hand to tame Tiger”, The Australian, 22/6). That tabloid epithet first gained currency in this country 40 years ago, when it expressed an ugly xenophobia towards Vietnamese refugees. It was wisely ignored as a basis for policy by governments at the time .

But it is slightly preferable to the inaccurate and inflammatory “illegal immigrants” previously favoured by Mr Sheridan, who recently announced that the Australian Press Council “has ruled that I may not call people who arrive illegally, illegal immigrants” (“People are fed up with continued growth in asylum-seeker numbers”, 13/6). Well, yes they did, over two years ago! That did not stop him wearing the phrase out until he abruptly switched boo-words a week ago.

But I have a simple question for Mr Sheridan: why is it so difficult to use a neutral, fair and accurate term like “asylum seeker”?

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