Clarification: asylum seekers

Archbishop of Brisbane, Primate of the Anglican Church in Australia, Dr Phillip Aspinall writes: Re. “Church leaders turn to offshore processing” (yesterday, item 8). I am seeking to clarify the comments made to The Australian which are referenced in Caz Coleman’s opinion piece yesterday.

There is an assumption made in the article that I expressed support for off-shore processing which I did not.  I spoke about the need to deal compassionately and humanely with those that arrive on our shores.

I also called for more investment in resources to process asylum seekers in the countries they are fleeing from before they resort to placing their lives in the hands of people smugglers.

The exact quotes from the statement were:

“We need to adopt a bipartisan approach in order to achieve an equitable balance between demonstrating compassion towards asylum seekers and discouraging the unscrupulous practice of people smuggling.

It is devastating that more lives have been lost as a direct result of the action of people smugglers. To avoid such tragedies, more resources need to be applied to support the processing of asylum seekers in their respective countries of origin.”

Clarification: butter

Barbara Eden, senior manager of food supply at the National Heart Foundation of Australia writes: Re. “Butter not margarine, si vous plait” (Dec 16, item 14). Last Friday Crikey published an article criticising the National Heart Foundation’s position on butter.   The main criticism was of the margarine manufacturing process, referred to as hydrogenation. This is no longer the process used in Australia.  The level of trans fats in Australian margarine spreads is now less than 0.1%, significantly less than the 4% trans fat found in butter.

The article also claimed that it is trans fat, not saturated fat, that causes heart disease. This is a dangerous assertion because the evidence on this is strong — both forms of fat can clog your arteries. The “good fats”, polyunsaturated and monounsaturated, do not. These are found in healthy quantities in most plant and seed oils and in margarine, which also has significantly less saturated fat and trans fat than butter.

The article also made the point that our cholesterol level is influenced by a range of factors including genetics, exercise and weight, which is true. However, the evidence on this is also clear — eating saturated fat and trans fat increases your blood cholesterol levels, which is a major risk factor of heart disease. Heart disease is still Australia’s number one cause of death, responsible for 46,000 deaths a year.

We are very proud of our 50-year history of providing information to Australians who wish to make healthier choices and reduce their risk of heart disease. Reducing the amount of saturated fat and trans fats we eat is essential to lower our risk of heart disease.

The asylum seeker stalemate:

David Edmunds writes: Re. “A year on, what has changed in asylum-seeker policy?” (yesterday, item 1). Regardless of the High Court decision, the Nauru policy was never going to work again, for the simple reason that Nauru turned out to be but a staging post en route to Australia.

A solution to the issue of boat people was never that difficult, at least since the sinking of the SIEV X with the loss of 353 lives, but was obscured by the rhetoric from the Right: “We will determine who comes to this country …” Had the discussion swung, as it should have, to the potential loss of more human life, then we might not have seen the subsequent tragedies. Until the Howard government we would have expected to see the Liberals take the moral lead on this issue, but no longer.

Julia Gillard outlined the obvious policy at the 2010 election, that is, a regional processing solution and then tortuously developed the Malaysia policy. The reaction from the right and the strange media analysis failed torecognize that the policy, after being intitially tested by people smugglers, should ensure no more boats, no more deaths, no need for the appalling TPVs, no need for detention centres, and an increase in refuge intake.

While we could not expect a more ethical approach from Tony Abbott, we might have expected the Greens to see the problem with their existing policy. At least they should have been forewarned when they observed the company they were keeping. It is as much in the hands of the Greens to allow the policy change as it is in the hands of the Coalition.

David Hand writes: I must apologise to Crikey. My letter (comments) on Monday regarding your silence about the loss of life in an asylum seeking boat on Saturday was driven by a belief that these deaths are an inconvenient truth to the protagonists of on shore processing. But Tony Kevin’s conspiracy theory piece yesterday (comments) that it is all the government’s fault contained the pearl that he had submitted an op-ed to you and you had chosen not to publish.

Your sense of balance in this serious matter is to be commended.

Terry Mills writes: For Tony Abbott’s advisers, an exquisite dilemma; agree to talks with the government, with the possibility of reaching a bipartisan agreement on offshore processing and you lose one of your key election planks: that Labor has failed in border protection. Leaving only: Labor cannot handle the economy and as a proposition that one is looking decidedly shaky.

Greg Markey writes: The problem with asylum seeking is that it has been made illegal and it should be obvious to all and sundry that once something desirable becomes illegal it immediately becomes very expensive, is taken over by  the criminal element and leads to a multitude of deaths. One merely needs to look at marijuana, heroin and prohibition of alcohol in America all those years ago to understand this. The asylum problem could be solved by legalising it (asylum-seeking) immediately and then organising proper ships to pick them all up wherever and whenever and making the processing quicker and simpler by removing all the red tape/bureaucracy. The death rate should then fall to roughly zero and the associated expenses reduced by something in the region of 90%. I quite realise that this is a ridiculous comment, but it happens to be what I believe.

Qantas tip for tat:

Lucas James writes: Mark Edmonds said (comments, yesterday): “I seriously can’t believe a Qantas 747 captain said that the pax capacity of a 747 is 260. According to Wikipedia QF aircraft are all 400 series — the last 338 has been retired. And if you want Qantas’ actual seating configuration go here.”

The QF 747s are actually 438s, which are the same physical size as the 338s (the 100 and 200 series had a smaller upper deck IIRC). And the original text was “Pax on board” not capacity.

“Now it might have been that that particular flight only had 260 passengers — that’s another issue. I think you will find that the Dreamliner is supposed to be Qantas’ solution to long-haul, light-load legs.” The 787 Dreamliners are going to Jetstar, not Qantas — see page 109 of this investor presentation from the 2011 strategy day. The 777 also is long hall, fuel efficient aircraft which Qantas mangament rejected.

“I think you really should ask yourselves when you get these tips, ‘Is it true?’ and, more importantly, ‘Why is this person telling me something if it isn’t true?’. The story here could be Qantas pilots sink to new lows of deception to support their industrial campaign.” The story of your reply could be management stooge tries disinformation, but fails.

Peter Fray

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