Dangerous ideas:

Michael O’Hara writes: Re. “Rundle: you want dangerous ideas? These are dangerous ideas” (Tuesday, item 5). Guy Rundle makes my cerebral day. Were he to run for prime minister I’d vote for him just to see what he would do from the other side of the barricade. His discussion on the misuse of the word “dangerous” in recent Ideas Forums has been a rollicking good read.

Being a financial planner, and therefore the equivalent of a golfer’s NAGA when it comes to politics and dangerous ideas, the ongoing debate is a good peek into another world. One thing that perked interest of late is some off-hand comment on dissent or violence. Clive Hamilton recently suggested it was time for civil dissent owing to the lack of action on climate change. That strikes me as a strange comment from a Professor of Public Ethics.

Guy Rundle stated that there is a case for political violence and terror. If there is, what would it look like? How about a cage match for your contributors to put forward their ideas on “the justification of violence”? When is it right to move from agitation for change to propaganda by the deed? When is it right for public figures to put out a call for radical activism knowing that violence could result? Is disagreeing with a government stance on single issues sufficient cause to draw blood? If there is a case for political terror then precisely where is the line drawn? Is it right to agitate for violence if you don’t intend participating?

Or is exposure of personal opinions on this issue a dangerous idea?

Indian students:

Sandi Logan, Department of Immigration and Citizenship spokesman writes: Cambridge International College’s Phil Honeywood’s comments (yesterday, comments) about Indian students in were misinformed, factually inaccurate and inflammatory.

The Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) has made no move to stop “virtually all student visa grants from India”. What it has done over the past two months is introduce strengthened checking for high-risk segments in the student visa program, especially in relation to markets where there has been high growth and the vocational education and training

(VET) sector for Indian students was one of these areas.

The government is committed to a high-quality international student program which attracts genuine students. Similarly it is concerned about fraud, integrity and ensuring the processes we have in place are not abused.

A stronger vetting process of visa applicants for targeted segments including the VET sector was introduced in August. Mr Honeywood claims many Indian visa applications are rejected on “contrived” grounds. That’s something we reject outright. Our interview process in India has found many applicants have little knowledge of their intended course, including why they’ve chosen to study the course and how it will benefit them in the future. In many instances, local (Indian) education agents have chosen the course for the student, and provided very little information on the course or life in Australia. High levels of document fraud, largely relating to financial capacity, have also been detected.

These enhanced measures are already working. Apart from DIAC uncovering widespread instances of fraud itself, the message to non-genuine applicants is getting through. Since visa screening was tightened, there has been an increase in the number of applications being withdrawn, from 5 per cent in July to 17 per cent in September.

Further, in the past three months, 6804 student visa applications have been granted to Indian nationals, with 4193 applications being refused.

Mr Honeywood’s assertion the Australian Government is using the Indian student safety issue as a smokescreen to wind back Indian immigration is fanciful. India has been one of the top source countries for migration to Australia in recent years and we expect that trend to continue. As we have said all along, genuine applicants for any class of visa have nothing to fear, but we make no apologies for stamping out fraud in our student visa program.

Interest rates:

Tim Longwill writes: Re. “Ask the economists: did Glenn Stevens jump the gun?” (yesterday, item 1). The problem with raising rates this month is what happens next month. Presumably we are still in emergency rates territory. If the RBA doesn’t raise them again next month,  is it because the RBA made an error? Or is it saying that the economy is still too fragile to cop another 25 points?

The economy is driven by the sort of optimism that flowed from this rate rise. What does it mean the RBA retreats to conservatism even only for the next month or two?

Howard and the NRL:

Peter Burns writes: Re. “John Howard transforming NRL: there goes the black fan base” (yesterday, item 6). If John Howard ever heads up an NRL commission to run the game, I can already imagine the spin in jostling for market prominence: AFL supporters throw their kids off buses in their scramble for good seats at the footy; the NRL will never ever increase ticket prices; soccer players have funny names so (nudge, nudge — wink, wink) they must be potential terrorists; we will decide who plays for which team and the circumstances under which they play; points awarded for a try will always be lower under us than in Rugby.

And the Kangaroos would be sent on unwinnable overseas tours. But how long would it be before American Football administrators determine NRL policies and rules? What role would there be for Hyacinth — social secretary for the WAGs?

Puleeese, spare us. The NRL needs someone of the highest ethics and credibility, not a divisive, failed political has been.

Surplus women:

Marion Diamond writes: Re. “Trad: My humble contribution to the polygamy debate” (yesterday, item 16). Dear Mr Trad, Thank you for explaining your argument for polygamy so coherently, and outlining why surplus women are a problem that needs addressing.

You may be interested to know that this isn’t a new problem. A very similar argument was used by the journalist William Greg in the London National Review — “Why are Women Redundant?” — in 1862. Yes, Mr Trad, that’s 1862.

Most people thought Greg’s argument was pretty silly in 1862, not least because if you dig down into the census data, you find that the surplus exists because in most countries — though not, sadly, in countries like Afghanistan where polygamy is common — women live longer than men, so your second wives are going to be a bit long in the tooth. But it was kind of you to take such an interest in our welfare, all the same.

I do think, though, that you should put your mind to a similar solution for all those surplus men in China and India.

Richard Farmer’s silver lining:

Daniel Patman writes: Re. “Richard Farmer’s chunky bits” (yesterday, item 12). The International Energy Agency’s pretty and positive report contrasts strongly with what we’re hearing from its sister organisation. The IPCC tells us that aiming at 450ppm CO2 means raising global average temperature by more than 2.8 degrees.

The IEA is aiming at disaster and the may not even achieve that because part of their method rests on dubious technology like carbon capture and storage. This is bad. We need to set a target based on what is scientifically necessary — 350ppm — and work like hell to achieve it.


Chris Luz-Raymond writes: Having recently visited Ireland I was more than stunned to see what an economic mess the country is in due in most part to the Global Financial Crisis or whatever name it now goes by.  The Irish government has decided to use the “good bank” “bad bank” system to attempt a recovery! The “bad bank” is the National Asset Management Agency (NAMA) which will be saddled with €54 billion plus of bad debt.

Why am I telling you all this? Perhaps we can convince NAAM to accept Peter Costello as its Chair. All things considered he did a reasonable job as Treasurer of Australia for so many years. And the Irish need all the assistance they can get on this one.

Can you spread the rumour that Kevin67 (Kevin has consigned me to work till I’m 67!) is looking to appoint Costello to NAMA? Just a thought…

Tie power:

Sara Shortt writes: Interesting tie juxtaposition below. Red is the colour for leadership and purple the colour of healing. What does the party need because a certain leadership style isn’t cutting it?

The Judean People’s Front:

David Whittingham writes: Re. The controversy over the Judean People’s Front/People’s Front of Judea (yesterday, comments), it sent me back to watch the movie and now I can’t get that damned song Always Look on the Bright Side of Life out of my head. Thanks a lot! Still a great movie, though.

Post modernism:

Sean Hosking writes: Though I subscribe to that great post modernist aphorism of tolerance and acceptance: “opinions are like bums, we’ve all got one”, having read Kevin McCready ‘s letter (Tuesday, comments) in which he equates post modernism with religion and states that “it has nothing to do with humanism” I was sufficiently stirred out of my relativist funk of moral, rational and psychosexual equivalence to write a response which I hope is relevant if not “true”.

A Gauloise smoking existentialist type friend of mine (who funnily enough always managed to avoid disappearing up his back side) once said to me that post modernism as a big broad philosophical orientation in essence really gets down to one thing — the tacking of a tentative question mark at the end of each assertion. That is, acknowledging the always potential wrongness or plain stupidity of human beliefs … He said this like he really believed it.

There’s nothing particularly modern about this, the ancient Greeks when making their laws, rather than evoking the imprimatur of some supreme authority prefaced them with a humble disclaimer “we think this is the right way to go, given what we know at the current time, but we could be wrong” … or words to that effect. In this way the political process was made more open and responsive to genuine enquiry, critical deliberation, and choice. It’s the difference between talking to someone who is considered and humble versus getting a gobful of spit from a ratbag or zealot. Anyone who equates this with nihilism should get themselves to a church or seek out the latest charismatic American prosperity guru with big teeth.

Ideology and religion — the two belief systems which have wreaked more havoc on the world than anything else are essentially about the opposite of this approach — the imposition of power relations masquerading as “neutral” and “inevitable”. Humanism historically countered this deference to supreme authority — particularly of the religious kind, but it did little to stop the headlong march into secular ideologies — be it fascist, communist or free market.

Post modernism — (of the more authentic type, not the pastiche that periodically turns up in the Oz’s editorial) counters the perpetual idiotic tendency towards passive and mindless deference to imposed authority. It’s the reason why the Oz and every right wing cultural warrior on the make are so comically obsessed with it. As such it’s profoundly political and humanist. Equating it with religion is, dare I say, wrong.


Alex Mitchell writes: On Monday Crikey published my item on the private prison management firm GEO, whose global corporate headquarters is in Florida, being awarded the contract to run Sydney’s Parklea Jail. I linked GEO to the British-based security giant G4S. On Tuesday Ken Davis, communications consultant to GEO Group, wrote to Crikey saying my article was based on the wrong company and that there was no connection between GEO and G4S. While not disputing his letter, certain other details should be placed before Crikey readers. In 2002, G4S made a 100 per cent takeover of the US security firm, The Wackenhut Corporation. Shortly afterwards, G4S on sold Wackenhut Corrections, the corporation’s private prisons portfolio, to George Zoley and Wayne Calabrese’s GEO.

According to Ken Kopczynski, executive director of the Private Corrections Institute, “Part of the agreement was that they (GEO) could no longer use the name Wackenhut.” Now let us turn to the latest GEO annual report. It lists four of its Australian subsidiaries as well as Wackenhut Corrections Corporation NV and Wackenhut Corrections Puerto Rico. Turning to G4S’s annual report it records that the company holds 100 per cent ownership of The Wackenhut Corporation, Wackenhut Services Inc and Wackenhut de Colombia.

Confused? So was I. Mr Davis tells Crikey readers that the two companies, GEO and G4S, are “active rivals in the marketplace” and I have ascertained that both submitted tenders for managing Parklea. Nice to know that these two corporate rivals are fighting tooth and nail in competitive tendering in NSW, especially where taxpayers’ money is concerned.

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