Asylum seekers:

Justin Templer writes: Re. “Enough of the hysteria … refugees are good for us” (Friday, item 10). A distressing aspect of the asylum seeker debate is that the strong emotions bring out a very ugly side of the Australian character — inability to frame a logical argument under pressure. As example, Sinclair Davidson (a professor in RMIT’s School of Economics) posits that: “Australia has an open-borders arrangement with New Zealand and, despite what they say, we are just not being over-run by Kiwis … It is simply ridiculous to imagine that we will be “over-run” by anyone else.”

It is possible that Professor Davidson writes in jest and is deliberately raising an amusing argument — linking New Zealand domicile with (say) the awfulness of Afghanistan. If not, the Prof should be made aware that in 2008 GDP per capita (IMF figures) was around $37,000 in Australia and $27,000 in New Zealand. In Sri Lanka it was $4,600 and in Afghanistan $760. The Economist Intelligence Unit puts the quality of life index for Australia at 7.93 against New Zealand’s 7.44. Being classified as a “least developed country” Afghanistan does not even achieve a ranking.

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It is not that the Prof is wrong in saying we will not be over-run — this is probably correct, given the Pacific moat. It is just the logical connection he makes which is so unappealing. There is, however, forgiveness for anyone who can with levity combine the concepts of schadenfreude and Kevin Rudd, as the Prof does.

Marcus L’Estrange writes: Alas Professor Davidson doesn’t gives us his professorial opinion on the validity of the following ABS unemployment surveys: The “Labour Force Australia” monthly or headline survey on unemployment, which shows that we have a monthly unemployment rate of nearly 7% or 680,000 unemployed or the ABS “Persons not in the Labour Force” survey which shows that we have a real unemployment level of 2 million (20%) chasing around 100,000 vacancies.

Additionally we have 1.75 million on one of the six different dole payments. No one in their right mind takes any notice of the monthly or “Labour Force” survey unless you live a sheltered academic life and on a guaranteed income such as Professor Davidson.

Former Victorian (ALP) Employment Minister, Steve Crabb (and himself an actuary), once said: “There are lies, damned lies and statistics. The monthly unemployment number is not only misleading; it causes real harm.” He then asked why the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) officials produced this “load of old cobblers”.

The answer is that the ABS has been directed to do so by politicians in order to come up with a political or more acceptable definition of unemployment and of course a lower rate. The harm being is that people like Professor Davidson want massive immigration at levels that can only damage the lives of 2 million unemployed Australians and their soon to be unemployed children whilst Professor Davidson continues on with business as usual lecturing away with his musty old, anti worker theories.

Nic Maclellan writes: John Goldbaum (Friday, comments) wrote “the Pacific Solution was cruel but it stopped the boats coming.” As with a lot of commentators, Goldbaum seems to ignore the “push” as well as “pull” factors that reduced the numbers of boat arrivals after 2003. The drop in boat arrivals under Howard came against a backdrop of lower asylum seeker applications around the world (i.e. in countries that didn’t introduce “cruel” policies like temporary protection visas or abandonment on Nauru).

UNHCR figures show that in the five years 2001 to 2006, applications for asylum to developed countries more than halved and the global refugee population decreased by a third. Between 2001 and 2006, Canada and the United States experienced a 47 per cent decrease in asylum seeker numbers and Europe experienced a 54 per cent decrease over the five year period.

In 2006, a number of countries without a “Pacific Solution” experienced the lowest level of applications in decades: that year, Denmark experienced its lowest level of asylum seeker applications since 1983, New Zealand recorded its lowest level since 1988, the United Kingdom recorded its lowest level since 1989, Norway recorded its lowest level since 1997 and France its lowest level since 1998.

So fans of Pacific solution-style cruelty would do better to look beyond Australian policy settings to the ebb and flow of international conflicts. This is not exactly rocket science – the majority of boat people in the Howard era were from Afghanistan and Iraq, the vast majority today are Sri Lankan.

For me, this says more about the Sri Lankan government’s policies since its victory over the LTTE than the quality of accommodation on Christmas Island.

Cubbie Station:

John Clements writes: Re. “Cubbie Station was never sustainable” (Friday, item 9). Bernard Keane’s latest effort to convert political hearsay and green leveraging to fact deserves response. Bernard says “That’s because Cubbie is based primarily on the interception of overland flows, drawing off flood events that would otherwise enter the Balonne and Culgoa Rivers. It is licensed to draw ‘only’ 70 GL out of the Culgoa itself, which is the basis for the claim — repeated by Joyce yesterday”.

Canberra expert Bernard Keene highlights the ignorance that the national water debate features, I was unaware the Culgoa passed through St George where the triggers and storage for the 70 gigs of Cubbie group river water licenses are held. Sorry Bernard where in all your quotes and previous efforts on this topic have you referred to science showing that the overland flow water is a diversion from the Balonne and Culgoa?

Hearsay, prejudices and green wishes underpin the ignorance of the current national water debate and Bernard is repeating what he has heard from the Canberra central players; this does not allow a process of alchemy to convert these views to a status of fact.

Cubbie are small bit players in the national water debate. Bill Heffernan, Bernard’s preferred expert, protects the huge southern NSW water diversions (30/40 percent of total MDB diversion) by focusing the debate on Cubbies pathetic .23 of one percent share of water actually diverted. Why is Bill so quiet on the southern NSW diversions; not protecting a constituency perhaps?

As for Cubbies’ sustainability; unfettered debt killed Cubbie. Whether Cubbie is a good thing or a bad thing I will leave for the ratepayers of Dirranbandi, the issue is not big enough to credibly get into the national water debate when politics and green leveraging are discounted.

Alan Carpenter:

Former Fremantle Herald editor Brian Mitchell writes: Re. Friday’s editorial. I could not disagree with you more strongly regarding Alan Carpenter. You are wrong to compare him to Brian Burke.

First, Carpenter has no ongoing links with WA Labor to speak of. He is an outsider who, unlike Burke, has no influential friends and no behind the scenes role in the party.

Second, Carpenter has proven his integrity with his volunteering to go on the less attractive parliamentary super scheme, even though he was entitled to a much more generous one. After serving nearly all his time in parliament as either a senior cabinet minister or premier he has easily foregone $1 million, if not more. This act alone I think should give him the benefit of any doubt. He will have to work many, many years to claw back the sort of money he willingly gave up.

Given his considerable financial sacrifice, and the fact he has no powerful friends to call to give him a cushy government or consulting job, he has to actually go out and earn a living to support his family, which includes three daughters (what’s that line in The West Wing about father of daughters?).

Carpenter is a relatively young man with a long working life ahead of him. This role seems to me to be perfectly above board and matches his pre-parliament talents. In all my dealings with him I have found him to be 100 per cent honest and on occasion uncomfortably forthright.

Yes, he must bear chief responsibility for stuffing WA Labor’s election last year — he decided to go early and he decided the campaign thrust — but that doesn’t mean he’s a bad guy.

Rudd and India:

Robert Johnson writes: I’m presently in India, and Kevin Rudd needs to get over here, and fast. There’s much coverage of the current annual Hindustan Times‘ Leadership Summit, with George W Bush puzzlingly appearing as key speaker for the session “America Re-engaging with the World”.

Under the headline “Manmohan Singh and I share the same values” (what does the Indian PM make of that?) on the cover page of Saturday’s HT, Bush is quoted as saying “I expanded the Group of Eight and made it the Group of 20 to bring India to the table”.

He does not clarify whether this was before (surely unlikely) or after Kevin Rudd apparently introduced Bush to the existence of the G20, or his own development of the 2.0 version.

Elsewhere in the same HT issue, Bush says that “history takes some time to be true”; Rudd may want to stake his own apparent claim to the Indian market and ensure that this particular loser doesn’t write the history.

A long service:

Doug Clifford writes: Re. “Tips and rumours” (Friday, item 7). Crikey published: “After 103 years of intermittent construction, the last Gothic cathedral to be built in the world was officially “finished” with the formal consecration of the Cathedral of St John the Evangelist in Brisbane .”

What about St Mary’s neo-Gothic RC cathedral in Perth which is now “finished” after building on it stopped in the 1920’s? It is due to be opened on 8th December 2009 (Feast of Immaculate Conception I’m told, although I long since ceased to be a practicing Catholic).

Don’t know the guest list … might be worth comparing it with that of St John’s.


Georgie Smith writes: Re. “Tips and rumours” (28 October, item 6). I have to call shenanigans on Crikey‘s tip that: “The Australian government will invest $5 million…”. You say that Audsley is working “a leisurely four-day week” and in saying so, imply that he is in some way a bludger for doing so.

As a professional who has also decided to avoid the rat race I am endlessly frustrated with the almost total absence of part-time, meaningful work. I have a masters degree, yet the most senior work I can find for less than 30 hours a week are junior roles that I could have done 5-10 years ago.

ABS statistics show there are hundreds of thousands of Aussie workers wishing they did fewer hours, as well as more hundreds of thousands wishing they had more. If more employers were willing to entertain the idea of part-time professionals, we could spread the workload much more sensibly.

As a final thought, think for a moment about how many mums you know who were professionals before they stopped working to have kids. I meet women every day who lament that they effectively can’t return to work because the choice is between staying at home or going back full time. Please don’t sneer at those professionals who are lucky enough to have negotiated a part-time career. Instead, start a conversation about why this isn’t common practice.


Jenny Hunterson writes: Dear Guy Rundle and Irfan Yusuf, there’s an excellent article in today’s AFR by someone you have both attacked for being a neo-con and a hard-line right-winger. Yet Tom Switzer, in today’s Fin, is agreeing with both you of you more or less about the folly of Afghanistan. Also, in case you missed it, Malcolm Turnbull called Alan Jones “stupid”. That would be akin to a Republican presidential candidate Rush Limbaugh “stupid”. It is political suicide. Or is it?

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