Asylum seekers:

David Hand writes: Re. “The big issue is how many refugees we accept, not boats” (yesterday, item 1). It is clearly distressing for all your lefty writers to reconcile their compassion for desperate asylum seekers compared to the less than open hearted actions of their patron saint Kevin of Brisbane.

First we have Jeff Sparrow on Tuesday, sitting up there in the clouds with Jesus, condemning middle Australia to hell and damnation in the best tradition of evangelical fire and brimstone preaching.

On Wednesday we had Guy Rundle firing all barrels at the Howard government, channelling a tearful “What about the Children” Stephen Smith, calling the “sadistic delight in their suffering” a “unique achievement of the Howard Government” when even a cursory review of historical facts (isn’t Google a great thing?) would show that children started getting locked up under Keating in 1992 and it was the Howard government through the efforts of Petro Georgiou that caused Amanda Vanstone to end the practice in 2005.

And Thursday we have Bernard Keane running interference for the government by suggesting that the real issue is Australia’s overall humanitarian intake (and dog whistles, of course), not the boats.

Fellas, I’ve just got to say it. Middle Australia doesn’t want the boats to come. Maybe it’s a dark aspect of our national character. Maybe Australia is mostly racist xenophobes. Maybe middle Australia are the “many on the wide road to destruction” and the left elites are on the “narrow road to paradise” that so few find. And that’s the problem.

Bernard, Guy, Jeff, David Marr et al may have the media megaphone to preach at Australia with righteous fury about how uncaring we all are but they are insignificant at the ballot box, more like a telephone box. Middle Australia voted ALP in 2007 and they don’t want the boats to come. I’ll just say it again, so we are clear. They don’t want the boats to come. Kevin Rudd is behaving in a way that shows this to be true.

Do any of your writers have an insight about why this is? Moral outrage is only effective so far and soon people get sick of being told how evil they are. So what is it? Why does middle Australia feel so strongly that the boats must not come? Do any of your clearly intelligent writers have anything to say about it? Or are we just in for weeks of spiteful political left wing polemics?

Humphrey Hollins writes from Phnom Penh, Cambodia: I read Ken Lambert’s criticism of Guy Rundle (yesterday, comments) and gave it a bit of thought. I have mixed feeling about asylum seekers but generally I am supportive of anyone who has the nous to get the dosh together to escape persecution. I am sure that any Australian worth his salt would do the same if the boot were on the other foot.

Ken worries about the refugees who are patiently waiting their turn in camps all over the world — those who cannot raise the dosh or do not have the same motivation. If one looks at our immigration policy for non refugees I think one would see that we tend to take the skilled, the moneyed and obvious self starters. Now call me a bluff, old conservative but if I were running refugee policy I would be looking for the same sort of people.

I live in a country where I see starving people sleeping on the streets right outside my door every day of every week, we don’t accept these sort of people as immigrants-do we. Is that unfair?

Income management:

Professor Mark Harris, Executive Director of the Centre for Primary Health Care and Equity at the University of NSW, writes: Re. “Intervention’s welfare management to extend across Australia” (Wednesday, item 1). While there have been reports of pilot projects in WA and Queensland, it comes as a surprise to us that the Rudd government is considering extending compulsory income management to all Australians who find themselves in need of welfare support.

What is being reported is a blanket measure to apply to recipients even if there is no evidence of neglect. This is despite a lack of evidence of widespread neglect or misuse of welfare funds by recipients.

It appears that this has arisen as the government moves to correct its previous mistake in suspending the Anti-discrimination Act to allow 50% of recipients’ income to be quarantined as part of the Northern Territory Emergency Response in prescribed Indigenous communities.

While there may be instances where some feel they have benefited from income management, we have yet to see independent evidence that these measures have significantly improved the life quality of children in the affected communities or that this is a cost effective social policy. Many reports have expressed concern at the stigmatization and loss of autonomy associated with income management.

The Federal Government is under pressure to re-instate the Anti-discrimination Act from a wide range of groups including the UN and their own backbench. It proposes to correct this error with the widespread roll out of the income management policy. This is not an exit strategy either for the government or for the families involved.

There may be a case for time-limited income management in situations where there is clearly established abuse or neglect.

However, on its own, this unlikely to succeed in improving the capacity of disadvantaged parents or families to solve their own problems and find their way out of poverty. The assumption that all people who find themselves dependent on welfare payments are unable to manage their finances or care for their children is profoundly disrespectful.

First Dog on the Moon:

John Goldbaum writes: Re. “First Dog on the Moon” (yesterday, item 6). I wondered when FDOTM was going to blame Kevin24/7 for his pets’ weak and pathetic natures. How can any self-respecting dog or cat blame a fair, fat and flatulent fifty-something owner for their tummy aches?

Alright, the PM may be manic, but his staff can fix that just by taking out his Eveready Energiser batteries. What sort of Institute are you running? Don’t just abandon him. Can’t you see the man needs lithium batteries?

Dennis Whelan writes: For God’s sake don’t give up First Dog, hang in there, without you my day would not be complete. I wish I had Malcolm Turnbull’s hair. Best wishes to Kevin’s cat and all its mates.

Corporate speak:

Nicolas Brasch, Writers in Residence Pty Ltd, writes: Corporate executives such as Telstra’s Jules Scarlett (yesterday, comments) will never be taken seriously by their customers as long as they insist on communicating outside their organisations in “corporate speak”. As a practitioner and teacher of corporate writing, I would have advised Jules Scarlett to respond with, “We know our customer service has been below par in the past but have recently introduced major changes throughout the company to ensure things will be much better in the future.” Just 31 words.

Now, isn’t that better than, “We have a strong focus cross company on improving our customer service and are driving initiatives to deliver that improvement. We have also set new targets across the company in regards to how we handle complaints. It will take us some time to improve our performance across the entire company, but in the meantime, we want you and other customers to know we don’t take your business for granted and we understand that we need to earn your support going forward through providing improved customer service.” 86 excruciating words.


Scot Mcphee writes: Re.”Tips and rumours” (yesterday, item 7). Your anonymous correspondent wrote about Telstra broadband:

So I now have a useless email address I will never use just so my 15-year-old can download her music. Even worse, I am locked into a contract I can’t get out of, so I won’t be getting any home emails for at least two years.

Well the first thing they should do is shrug a huge “who cares?” and get either of a Gmail, Hotmail, or Yahoo webmail account. The web-based clients are excellent, it can be checked from work or internet cafes on the other side of the world, or even whilst on holiday over your friend’s wireless broadband, and they never have to worry about what email address their broadband provider chooses to give them — it’s even portable from one internet provider to another!

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