September 11 matters in Europe, almost equally as it does in the US,
because while the US Muslim
population is relatively small and well integrated, Europe has 15
million Muslims, and they’re not nearly as well absorbed into Europe as
they are in the US, says James Button in The Age. There’s high
unemployment and many feel
“weak, embattled, even despised,” and publishing those cartoons is
“likely to feed
their sense of grievance and victimhood.” We need to remember that “the
right to free speech does not exist in isolation from
other values, such as empathy and respect.” It is tough to argue that
the publishing of those cartoons pushed the move towards a form of
Islam that’s “comfortable with secularism,
pluralism, dissent and women’s rights” in the right direction.

After the cabinet reshuffle and the McGuaran
defection, the Howard Government is “displaying the frailties of an
administration suffering from a collective loss of discipline,” says
Steve Lewis in The Australian.
“McGauran’s
shock move has triggered an outbreak of verbal warfare,” which has only
increased the disquiet over the lack of any big ticket reforms in the
coalition’s arsenal. AWB was a free kick to Beazley, and the PM can’t
expect the level of state co-operation he’s had at previous
state-federal love-ins when premiers meet Howard at the Council
of Australian Governments in Canberra on Friday. The Prime Minister
“needs to get things back on track – soon.”

“We are slowly solving the problem of older workers,” says Tim Colebatch
in The Age. But with all the hand-wringing that went on over our ageing
population, we’ve overlooked an emerging problem that’s far more
serious: “a rising number of Australians in the
prime of working life have no job.” 14% of Australian men aged between 25
and 54 are unemployed, while 31% of women in the same age bracket are
out of work. “We need to invest more
in our people, especially those at risk of going through life
without steady work.” Fix this and you don’t have to worry about an
ageing population.

As with the transition that Iraq and Afghanistan are
currently going through, “Palestine, like Iran, may have to pass
through a period of Islamist misrule before it arrives at something
better,” says Max Boot in the Christian Science Monitor. And the US
President has been right in deciding “not to
play the dictators’ game anymore,” says Boot, because all it does is
eventually lead to repression and a brutalised way of society in the
Islam world. And the world “should work to avoid that outcome in Egypt, Saudi
Arabia, Azerbaijan, Pakistan, and other Muslim states by getting
serious about human rights now – before it’s too late.”

The world’s infatuation with the Chinese economy is a little overdone,
says Guy de Jonquières in the Financial Times (subscription required). What would happen
if China – or, more precisely, its domestic economy – took an extended
holiday? Well, not as much as everyone thinks. In terms of growth,
China’s
contribution is relatively small (5% or 6%) and a small collapse isn’t as
disastrous – especially for the US – as some markets are betting. The
important point is: “the world
has become so mesmerised by China, oscillating between greed
for its market and fear of its growing might, that the euphoria is in
danger of parting company with reality.” We need a more “sober
perspective.”

Worth reading Highly recommended

Peter Fray

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