Gillard and asylum seekers:

Julian Burnside writes: Re. “Gillard — deploying ‘values’ to deadly effect” (yesterday, item 10). Bernard Keane wrote that I have shown “contempt for ordinary voters” and that I had labelled my “fellow-Australians as racists”. How a quote out of context can escalate!

Julia Gillard said that I had called those who disagreed with me “rednecks”. Bernard Keane amplifies this to “racists” and general scorn.

Before this escalates into a suggestion that I have been advocating genocide, let me set the record straight. What I originally said at a public forum in Adelaide on Sunday was that there are people in Australia who advocate shooting boat-people before they can land, or turning their boats back at gun-point. (These people exist. A disproportionate number of them write to me).

I called them rednecks. That seems a reasonable description. A minute or so later, in the same speech, I referred to marginal electorates with such rednecks, and suggested that Gillard could survive an election despite rednecks in some marginal electorates.

No-one who heard my speech could have doubted that my reference to rednecks was a reference to the people I had mentioned who advocated turning back the boats at gunpoint.

Julia Gillard was not at the meeting.  Newspaper accounts of my talk did not mention that I had not described as “rednecks” those people who want to use force to repel asylum seekers.

Anyone who has heard me speak on the subject knows that I don’t have a problem with people who disagree with me on the treatment of asylum seekers, although I don’t have any time for those who advocate violence against them. On many occasions I have said that, in my view, most Australians are not racists, although I think xenophobia is a national characteristic.

All Julia Gillard did was to refer to what had been reported, out of context, about my speech in Adelaide. What Bernard Keane has done is to build an invention on a misconception. Gillard’s misunderstanding was fair enough, but Bernard Keane has let his imagination go wild.

Martin Gordon writes: Re. “The queue — where is it, and how do you take a number?” (yesterday, item 3).  I would have to say the overall tone of the article was disappointing. Around the world there are some 15.2million registered refugees (and Time magazine did a front page and feature story on it on 5 July). Almost all of whom languish in camps for 17 years on average.

The reason is they don’t have the money to buy their way into somewhere else. Australia’s current asylum regime is means not needs based. The pattern of arrivals is driven by the lure of permanent protection, permanent residency, citizenship and all you need is money. I have nothing against anyone trying to make a better life, but it should fairly treat all refugees.

I recall someone asking, tell someone to their face they are not welcome, my response was well try doing that to 15.2 million? And that is what we are doing now!

As Somalia is a good guide of what happens when Islamic Fascism prevails and there is a failed state and a haven for Al Qaeda, it is not hard to figure out what might happen in Afghanistan. J curves and hockey sticks are used to explain adverse trends. But it could get a whole lot worse quite easily.

Knowing Julia Gillard from way back, I am not surprised by what she has proposed for dealing with this political problem (asylum seekers) for her. I find the muted and toadying media reaction more disturbing.

Stephen Lipshus writes: Re. Crikey’s editorial. For years I have been wondering about our security, not just in terms of our resources  in the ground, but the expanse of ground we call home. So it is inevitable that we will have except more refugees and immigrants, which I agree with as long as they assimilate.

Because, like all of us, I am witnessing  an erosion of our culture as we are forced to accept “others” way of life, no more so insulting than by not playing Christmas carols in the shopping centres because it may offend a religion.

Well what about us. We are Australians and are a Christian country and if we accept refugee and immigrants, then they have to accept and respect our way of life in return.

In addition, we have lots of space and in the bush we desperately need staff to provide services, so can anyone tell me why immigrating medical personal are not utilised in these regions and also why are we not sending more refugees to these small towns where they will learn firsthand the Australian way of life.

Marcus L’Estrange writes:  Re. “Offshore processing plan: someone forgot to tell East Timor” (yesterday, item 1). I am not sure of Damien Kingsbury’s sources but my sources advise me that former Victorian Premier Steve Bracks and his crew, who now advises the East Timor government, has been working hard on this project and will surely bring it off.

All this kerfuffle about 4000 boat people a year, which is a trickle compared with elsewhere, wouldn’t have happened if Tony Abbott hadn’t been so grubbily chasing the redneck vote in order to get a few votes in the marginals — and a Tampa type election.

In trying to wedge Labor he has only managed to wedge himself. Serves himself right.

John Shailer writes: After her ‘et tu, Brute’ knifing of her leader, Julia Gillard is desperately readying for a dash to the polls before the electorate realises they are simply getting Kevin Rudd resurrected in drag.

Having fudged the figures on the tax grab from the miners to the tune of about $3billion, the smoke and mirrors continue with her half-baked return to John Howard’s Pacific Solution using East Timor. Under her watch as one of the “Gang of Four”, over 750 desperate souls drowned attempting to reach our shores.

Tony Abbott’s proposed restoration of  Howard’s effective border protection policies is the only way to stop this inhumane traffic!

Lleyton Hewitt and a trade mark rally:

Matthew Powell writes: Re. “Game, set and much at stake in ‘Come On’ trade mark stoush” (yesterday, item 4). Where does Lleyton Hewitt get off claiming the C’mon ‘salute’ as his own? As a young spud playing junior pennant tennis in the mid- to late-1980s, every interminable game I played was peppered with the “salute” following the winning of a point. Indeed, almost every kid I played in singles and doubles affected the action.

Following the end of each point (and game and set and match), an independent observer would’ve thought we had all been suddenly struck by some bizarre affliction as the elbow immediately and reflexively bent, the wrist cocked and the fingers of the (non-racquet) hand were held within an inch of the madly staring eyeballs of each spotty youth.

The reason for this curious affectation was Mats Wilander. Before the arrival of the automatons that constitute the archetypal modern player, the 1980s produced a disproportionate number of male players whose skills were matched only by their genuine individuality and supreme hipness. Bjorn Borg: ice cold robot; Ivan Lendl: slightly-thawed-out robot; John McEnroe: upstart yob with anger management issues; Yannick Noah: ultracool black guy with dreads; Stefan Edberg: lanky Mr Nice Guy possessed of power and touch. For a lot of tennis yoof like me, at the top of this pyramid was Mats Wilander.

Barely older than some of us, he was the shaggy haired underdog that had the weird hand gesture we could all copy. Also, the chicks in the girl’s junior competition would relate their occasional fantasies to us about Mats. So why wouldn’t oiks like me hold him up as some sort of superlative being?

No doubt the pre-pubescent Lleyton tuned into some of Mats’ matches and the image of the ‘salute’ lodged in his formative (and as it now appears, avaricious) young mind. Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery but personal gain from someone else’s individuality is the lowest form of grubby commercialism.

By the way, for the pedants, the “salute” is actually called a “vicht”. Interested Crikey readers can check out some historical stuff about it here.

Gillard dumps on traditional owners:

Dr Jim Green, Friends of the Earth, writes: Shame on Prime Minister Julia Gillard for stating on radio on Wednesday  that she plans to proceed with plans to dump nuclear waste on Aboriginal  land at Muckaty in the Northern Territory.

I wonder what Prime Minister Gillard would do if Muckaty Traditional Owners  went around to her house, uninvited, dug a hole in her back yard and dumped  toxic waste in it. No doubt she would be upset and angry so it’s no surprise  that Muckaty Traditional Owners — most of whom oppose the planned dump — are  upset and angry about her plan to do the same to them. All the more so since  the government plans to override the Aboriginal Heritage Act and the  Aboriginal Land Rights Act in order to impose the dump.

We deserve better than crass racist policies from the Prime Minister. More  to the point, Muckaty Traditional Owners deserve better. They are taking  legal action so perhaps the courts will deliver the justice and respect that  Ms Gillard is unwilling to extend to Traditional Owners.

Gay marriage:

Justin Templer writes: Having praised Marcus Vernon (Tuesday, comments) for the elegance of his comments on gay marriage I also join Gregory Long (yesterday, comments) in his rejection of Marcus’ comment that “gay marriage just doesn’t fit in Australian society”.

If this is true then surely it is time for Australian society to change?  And who better to carry the banner than our new Prime Minister — if one can only ignore the banality of her comment that “We believe the marriage act is appropriate in its current form, that is recognising that marriage is between a man and a woman.”

In her speech this week to the Lowy Institute the Prime Minister told us that we need to reject myths and make our decisions on what we know to be true, moving beyond false promises and simplistic slogans. This will require frank, open, honest national conversations, she said.  We should stop selling our national character short — because we are so much better than this. She continued that this means speaking frankly and seeking common ground, consistent with the values that Australians share — values of fairness, respect for the rule of law, tolerance, compassion and responsibility.

This was inspiring stuff but she was not speaking about the rights of Australian gays.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey