Monthly Archives: February 2011

Footballers are tall, so you will get taller by playing football

The extraordinary conclusion Verity Edwards draws in the opening paragraph of “Boat arrivals almost all get visas” (The Australian, 25/2), namely that the title somehow proves that people-smugglers are taking advantage of our immigration laws, is at odds with the facts presented in the body of the article.

The reasoning, parroted here by Scott Morrison, is that if more boat arrivals are accepted, then it’s a good strategy to come by boat. This is a logical fallacy akin to arguing that because footballers are tall, you will get taller by playing football.

The simple reason for the high acceptance rate is pointed out by others quoted in the article: boat arrivals come from different, more desperate circumstances and are thus more likely to be approved, because of those circumstances, not because of the mode of arrival.

The only sensible conclusion to be drawn here is that the policy of mandatory detention is unnecessary, as well as inhumane and costly.

Interact with this

Royston Mitchell (The Australian, Talking Point, 24/2) disputes the value of multiculturalism because “intelligent, erudite Australians do not need to be told how to think, act, or interact.”

That may well be true, but not all Australians fit that description. A recent study has about 12% of Australians describing themselves as racist; almost certainly there are many more who don’t acknowledge their racism.

Governments are rightly commended for their efforts to educate people on street violence, drink-driving and other destructive minority behaviour. Cultural intolerance is no different.

Democracy movements deserve unqualified support

A disturbing ambivalence is evident in some reactions to the popular uprisings in the Middle East. The Australian’s editorial “A balancing act for the West” (21/2) advocates unqualified support for rebellion against autocrats unfriendly to the West, but something less for the opponents of dictators convenient to us.

Their correspondent Greg Sheridan (“Revolts threaten to shake the world”, 19/2) even goes so far as to apologise for tyrants who nonetheless have “sophisticated methods of consulting their populations”, suggesting this is good enough for countries where real democratisation may result in a situation less manageable for the West, primarily meaning control of oil and security for Israel.

This equivocation is rationalised here and there as a paternalistic doubt over the readiness of the countries in question for democracy, a concern strangely absent in the case of West-unfriendly regimes.

Anything less than full support for democracy movements anywhere in the world makes hypocrites and liars of those who withhold it while supporting the wars that are now being waged ostensibly for the same goal.

Escaping a fire by the proper channels

Australia’s incarceration of refugees who arrive by boat is precisely analogous to jailing people who jump from the upper windows of a burning building because they have not followed orderly evacuation procedures.

Our continued defiance of U.N. calls to stop the practice betrays a greater regard for arbitrary lines on a map than for justice.

Pasquarelli’s purple piece

Beyond his notoriety, it is difficult to understand why The Australian chose to publish John Pasquarelli’s purple piece on multiculturalism (“Once here, they can cause a lot of trouble”, 19/2).

His fanciful digest of its history makes no attempt at balance or accuracy, including his claim that his estranged former boss Pauline Hanson “gave the mainstream a voice”: she received only rump support even at her peak.

But where he becomes downright venomous is his talk of “dangerous ethnic ghettoes that were once white working-class suburbs” and “ethnic criminals who are the direct product of multiculturalism”. As he does not and cannot produce any evidence of a connection between crime and a particular cultural group, this is simple vilification unworthy of publication.