Monthly Archives: March 2011

Musical chairs

Tony Abbott’s brilliant idea of quarantining 50% of dole payments for “necessities” will have no practical effect: in metropolitan areas where most people live, the full dole plus rent aid is less than the average rent. It’s already quarantining itself.

His “reform” package will no doubt appease his fans in shock-jock land who believe the unemployed are living the high life at their expense, but with both major parties subscribing to an economic theory that regards unemployment under 5% (that’s one human being in twenty) as too low, what is gained by flagellating the losers in a game of musical chairs?

Forcing people into oxymoronic “Work for the dole” press-gangs is not going to improve their prospects or self-esteem. If there is work to be done, pay people to do it, if training is needed, provide it.

If Abbott really wanted to save tax money he would tackle middle-class welfare – but that would cost votes.

Pipes calling

In Daniel Pipes’ view, uprisings against Mid-East despots deserve support only insofar as the likely results – according to his speculations – suit U.S. or Israeli interests (“Blind to the Islamist threat in the Middle East”, The Australian, 30/3). This offends democracy, which must not depend on whether the destiny people choose suits our purposes. Anything less is to participate in despotism.


The many articles in The Australian linking the NSW election rout to Julia Gillard, the Greens, the independents, the carbon price and other recent federal issues are off-target, for the simple reason that the polls have been predicting that state result since before the last federal election.

Cat’s out of the bag

Christopher Pyne would prefer it had remained a secret that taxpayers don’t get value for money by funding private schools (“My School fuels politics of envy”, The Australian, 26/3).

His defence that any form of education must be tax-funded because “[e]veryone pays taxes” is perversely socialist and specious: can anyone who builds a road on their own property have it paid for out of the public purse?

No government is obliged to fund everyone’s personal philosophies. In the case of religion, our Constitution forbids it. That Australian governments fund private schools is an anomaly which My Schools has brought into focus, and it is too late for Pyne to put the cat back in the bag.

Down and dirty

Paul Kelly tries to resuscitate Howard’s phoney “culture war” and recycles his own “polarised nation” theme in “Abbott and Gillard down and dirty” (The Australian, 26/3).

But again he can provide no hard demographic evidence, because it doesn’t exist: there is no “insider-outsider” divide, except insofar as a climatologist may uncontroversially disregard the opinion of a radio announcer on climate.

As if Kelly’s characterisation of the progressive minority of the media as “insider” and the dominant commercial giants as “outsider” were not absurd enough, he goes further: “The ABC…has departed from its charter obligations to the Australian people” by not mimicking the far-right shock-jocks of Macquarie. Even if that charter were merely to uncritically reflect popular views, which it is not, Maquarie’s line does not fit that description any more than that of the pitchfork-wielding mob they sent to Canberra. If they are Kelly’s “outsider” cultural army, then the war was over before it began.

Fleeing war, one may not get a choice of itineraries

Greg Sheridan is absurdly hyperbolic to describe refugee boat arrivals as “a catastrophic loss of Australian sovereignty”, and to infer that because some refugees do not come directly from their home countries, there is an “illegal immigrant industry” (“ALP goes to water as boats threaten sovereignty”, The Australian, 24/3). This proves only that when fleeing war, one may not get a choice of itineraries.

It is becoming tiresome to have to repeat that it is not illegal to apply for asylum, yet Sheridan uses the word twelve times in as many pars, as if trying to hypnotise the reader into accepting its validity.

Sheridan blindly attributes increased arrivals to Labor policy changes. There is no evidence that the mouse of Australian policy has an effect, relative to the elephant of global events, in terms of applicant numbers. Temporary protection visas rightly earned Australia international condemnation, as mandatory detention continues to do, yet Sheridan ruthlessly slanders its victims by implying their desperate protests are somehow phoney “techniques”.

If he is unable to visit Afghanistan, I advise Sheridan to go to a detention centre and talk to some of the prisoners there. He may then be less willing to use their misfortunes as an aid to frivolous Labor-bashing.

Gratuitous quotation marks

When did job security stop being a legitimate IR issue and become “so-called ‘job security'” (“Unions must not dictate hiring”, 23/3)? The repeated use of gratuitous quotation marks shows The Australian’s contempt for the concept, and it seems, for the right to withdraw labor to protect such concepts. The latter has been a hallmark of democracy for over a century and not, as they imply, a recent product of the Fair Work Act.