Monthly Archives: August 2011

The kids are alright

On gay marriage, The Australian employs its favored two-pronged strategy: feigning neutrality in editorials, but lets its right-wing catholic cohort do the dirtywork. Some examples:

Like many in the anti gay marriage lobby, David van Gend (“A dad does matter to a child, whether gay couples like it or not”, 29/8) is unwilling to “come out” as anti-gay, but paints himself into a corner by trying to equate marriage with reproduction. Such arguments will always fail because they apply equally to childless or adoptive heterosexual couples. Angela Shanahan is a serial offender in this regard.

“A bigot is someone who refuses to see the other point of view” says Van Gend, a doctor who is still looking for causes and cures for homosexuality. If he is uncomfortable with that label, he should rethink his denial of people’s civil equality because of who they are.

Arguments were frequently made last century against interracial marriage, which, like Alice Woolven’s against gay marriage (Letters, 27/8), hid behind concern for the well-being of the children. But if Woolven had bothered to look at actual studies of same-sex parenting instead of irrelevant data about dysfunctional heterosexual families, she would know that those children do as well as any others.

Christopher Pearson errs by equating a change in tradition with relativism (“Vote against gay marriage”, 26/8). Traditions are not the same thing as absolute values; in fact, they may even stand opposed. Changing the tradition of marriage to include same-sex couples extends the universal value of equality before the law, just as it did when sanctions against mixed-race marriages were lifted. Not all traditions “persist for good reasons”.

When Bob Katter or others on the Right spout hateful anti-gay invective and are criticised for doing so, The Australian defends the invective as an expression of free speech, but condemns the criticism as suppression of it (“Same-sex marriage debate must not be shut down”, 26/8). Either they don’t understand what free speech means, or they can dish it but not take it.

Mystic market

Brad Orgill counts the real costs of thirty years of “an uncritical belief in free markets” and their “self-regulating nature”: social inequality, overcrowded prisons, crumbling infrastructure and environmental destruction (“Economic challenges should not polarise our egalitarian society”, The Australian, 26/8).

It is time we recognised that the “invisible hand” is the right-wing version of the Gaia hypothesis – a mystical, untestable notion which asserts that a complex system will arrive at some equilibrium, but with no guarantee that such a state will be of any benefit to human beings. As such, it is mere ideology.

Shooting the messenger

I’m not sure which is more illiberal: The Australian’s insistence that the Queensland government censor a literary competition (“Hicks shines in Bligh’s parallel literary universe”, 24/8), or its silence on the subject of the book it wants suppressed: that the world’s greatest democracy was running a prison camp on disputed territory in order to suspend most of the fundamental principles of law, including habeas corpus, the right to trial and the proscription of torture. This travesty has implications for civilisation more serious than any book royalties, and dwarfs any alleged crimes of the messenger they are so eager to shoot.

Their description of the book’s author David Hicks as “convicted” is wilfully false: the Guantanamo Military Commission which wrote his confession – signed under torture – was declared illegal only months after its creation and all charges against Hicks rendered void.

The Australian plays as loose with fact as with law when it claims Attorney-General Robert McClelland “confirmed that any literary ‘benefit’ will be covered by the Proceeds of Crime Act”, when what he actually said was “it’s for the court to determine what constitutes a literary proceed of crime”. For the Act to apply, presumably someone will first have convict Hicks of something.


The stark contradiction at the heart of conservative politics was neatly demonstrated by The Australian’s twin editorials “Building a level playing field” and “Separating boats and planes” (23/8), one advocating the free flow of capital, the other calling for restrictions on the movement of human beings. One freedom without the other is tantamount to people-farming.

“Cloaked in the raiment”?

The Australian attacks those who oppose Australia’s world-beating cruelty to refugees because they “take the moral high ground”, or in this case more floridly put, “strenuously cloak themselves in the raiment of moral righteousness” (“Separating boats and planes”, 23/8). Aside from its ad-hominem irrelevancy, this line of argument contains a telling implicit admission that its targets are correct in terms of ethical considerations, but attempts to belittle those concerns.

To the champions of arbitrary indefinite detention, forced deportation, separation of families and other “solutions”: you want the moral low ground? It’s all yours.

Lazarus repeating

Former Prime Ministers tend to start talking sense, or at least with sincerity, once unconstrained by the party machine. Not so John Howard, who uses his own biography to run the Liberal line on global warming.

With his familiar populist rhetoric, he tries to paint the carbon price as a GST-like impost on consumption: “People know, deep down, that it will cost them”. Howard, on the other hand, is well aware it won’t. Equally disingenuous is his folksy line that accepting scientific conclusions “challenges the common sense of the average citizen”. So it should: science is not about “common sense”, a slippery notion which changes with time and place, and which is sometimes the enemy of science, and even of reason itself. Again, Howard knows this.

Evidently it will take more than four years out of politics for John Howard to discover a capacity for sincerity.

Shop till you drop

Regarding the recent whining from retailers about having to pay their staff: retail is driven by demand, which is driven by wages. Every business wants low-paid workers, but high-paid customers – as long as they’re paid by someone else. Every worker you pay less will buy less at someone else’s shop, every worker they pay less will buy less at yours. It’s a downward spiral you don’t want to start.

Banning bias

Only in The Australian could one read a letter (5/8) which solemnly proposes “complete abolition of the ABC” because “overwhelming Left-progressive bias” has rendered it “beyond reform”; because only reading nothing but The Australian for a long, long time could render someone so far removed from reality.

Putting on the mockers on Marilyn

Marilyn Shepherd’s angry, passionate letter to The Australian (Letters, 5/8) encapsulates the despair felt by many Australians as their country deservedly becomes an international pariah because of its remorseless and pointless cruelty towards the tiny number of refugees it is asked to shelter. That they chose to give it the mocking title of “And another thing..” reinforces her point that the media are complicit in this disgrace.

You’ve got your own column in The Australian

Accusing the Right of giving encouragement to extremists is not “a muzzle to close down free speech”, Janet Albrechtsen (“Mad march of political correctness”, The Australian, 3/8). Nor is calling anti-immigration brigades racist, or mocking climate deniers. It’s simply more free speech. If you don’t like the criticism, go ahead and answer it, if you can. No-one’s stopping you – you’ve got your own column in The Australian.