Postmodern van Gend

Christian anti-marriage equality campaigner David van Gend (‘Pity the child of same sex union’, The Australian, 4/6) is confused about the role of the law in a civilised society. It is not the case that ‘marriage laws … exist to reinforce [a] biological foundation’. Biology takes care of itself. The law exists to ensure a stable, just and fair society. All are equal before it; this is the principle at stake.

Van Gend’s emotive talk of “abuse of a child’s birthright” is a smokescreen: married and unmarried people of all sexualities can already raise children, or not, as they choose. Marriage law reform will not change this. 

Van Gend blithely quotes social scientists like Claude Levi-Strauss (who held a very different view!) to further his jarringly postmodern theory of law as anthropology, yet rejects as ‘shallow’ studies which consistently show that children of same-sex couples do just as well as others. If his concerns for children are not based on fact, then what? He should remember that the law is also secular.



Nick Cater is entitled to his opinion of the recent Whitlam doco “The Power and the Passion” (“Warning: this program contains sexed-up history and very few facts”, The Australian, 4/6). He is entitled to accuse its makers of being too young to remember the events it covers, even though he himself arrived in this country fifteen years later. He is entitled to question its historical neutrality, even though his own book (“The Lucky Culture”) attempts to shoehorn the distinctly collectivist history of Australian egalitarianism into his preferred but quite alien neoliberal view.

But Cater crosses the line by belittling participant Andrew Denton on the basis of his educational background. This is especially demeaning coming from someone who, although tertiary educated himself, has written an entire book complaining of educational snobbery.

Cartoon investigation

The APC’s investigation into The Australian’s 2012 Budget front page splash has triggered a belated explanation from the paper.

The splash featured the headline “SMASH THE RICH”, humourless portrayals of the government as Stalinist Communists, and three opinion pieces, all utterly negative, in place of analysis. This to cover a Budget perceived by the rest of the universe as safe and even rather dull. No dispassionate observer could see this as balanced.

The widespread dismay it caused, expressed only in the non-News media, was never acknowledged at the time.

An editorial (1/6) stated of the splash, “the “cartoon’s theme is a considered editorial decision” made by “senior leaders…such as Chris Mitchell, Paul Kelly, Clive Mathieson and Dennis Shanahan”.

The Australian’s “it was only a joke” defence is rather lame, but the fact it was at last forced to offer one at all demonstrates the APC’s valuable role in ensuring that the media do not allow internal agendas to outweigh their responsibilities to the public.

Science or hoax?

Janet Albrechtsen counsels respect for the achievements of mainstream science, and for its proven methods for averting large-scale disaster (“Zealots forget the epidemics”, The Australian, 29/5). In this case she is talking about immunisation, but presumably when it comes to anthropogenic climate change, which she once described as “the hoax of the century”, she will now follow her own advice.

Free ride

The Australian’s story “Poor slugged for court fees as boatpeople get free ride” (3/5) falsely implies that new court fee rules favour asylum seekers over “ordinary Australians”. This is reminiscent of the nonsense we were once accustomed to hearing from a certain Ms Hanson.

In fact, it is long-established practice to waive court fees for important cases where money would be a barrier to justice. The refugees we imprison generally have no income, and their cases often turn on issues of life and liberty. Any citizen with comparable legal problems will receive the same treatment.

Feminist conservatives

Enforced gender division has always been deplorable. But it is ironic that conservatives, whom it never bothered before, are now howling over the Muslim version of the practice almost as loudly as they howled when the Left fought them to eliminate it from Western culture. While it is gratifying to know that conservatives are now suddenly feminists, it is clearly time for another lesson: religious tolerance.

Anzac not anti-intellectual

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.

Fullilove on Iraq

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.

Impressive mind-reading

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.