Excising the mainland

Fiona Katauskas writes: Re. “The ‘excision’ that isn’t, and why it’s good policy” (yesterday). While I understand your arguments I completely disagree with the premise of them and the premise of Labor’s (and the Houston report’s) approach that “stopping the boats” is the only desirable and viable option.

Firstly, a policy based on stopping the boats assumes that deterrence is the key and that pull factors are the only thing driving people to get on boats. This is absurd. The boats will stop only when wars and oppression stop or Australia becomes as bad as where these people came from. Even if the boats do stop coming to Australia, they will go elsewhere, where they may not be our problem but people will still die at sea (although if they’re headed elsewhere, we don’t have to pretend to care).

Secondly, the high moral ground-ism of “we’re stopping people dying at sea” is yet another misrepresentation of the situation. While it is terrible for anyone to drown on a boat coming to Australia, the number of asylum seeker lives lost at sea is not 80% of boat arrivals, not even 50% but 4%. Four per cent.

Condemning 100% of people to a “no advantage” indefinite period in detention on a Pacific island (in which, I suspect, a significant percentage will die, commit suicide or have their lives otherwise destroyed by the psychological torture of indefinite detention) does not make sense and highlights the hypocrisy of the crocodile tears from both the opposition and government. If breast-beating concern for asylum seekers stops at the small number who might die at sea, this “concern” isn’t worth a pinch of shit.

The Houston report is not an objective approach to the beaten up issue of asylum seekers but a report with a strict remit — to work out ways to prevent boats coming to Australia. This was what it was commissioned for.

It’s time we looked at the whole issue afresh. The vast, vast majority of Australians will never meet an asylum seeker and, were it not for the politicisation of the issue and continued misrepresentation and dehumanisation of asylum seekers in the media, would know or care nothing about them. Instead we are constantly being prompted to be outraged by them, to see them as “queue jumpers” seeing unfair advantage.

Australia does not take a large number of asylum seekers nor attract a disproportionate number of people arriving by boat. It is an issue of politics more than anything else.

It’s also time to have a good hard look at how we appear overseas — insecure, ignorant and yes, racist.

Excising the mainland and stopping the boats might be the answer, but the question is entirely wrong.

John Richardson writes: Bernard Keane’s spirited defence of the Gillard government’s decision to adopt the former Howard government’s exclusion policy appears to be, at best, poorly argued and at worst, factually inaccurate.

Keane disingenuously suggests that criticism of the government’s decision isn’t justified because it is in line with the Houston report. Hello, all the criticism I’ve heard relates to the government’s decision to overturn its historical, long standing and rigorous opposition to the excision policy, regardless of anything contained in the Houston report.

Keane triumphantly claims that the government’s decision does not breach our obligations under the UN Refugee Convention, quoting from a UNHCR media release, which actually says precisely the opposite.

As to the merit of Keane’s broader support for the recommendations of the Houston report and his contention that the Gillard government’s actions are entirely humane, there are many others who have an entirely different view.

Of course, perhaps we could avoid accusations that the government’s decision will put us in breach of the convention, by using our lofty new chair in the UN Security Council to lobby for its amendment. Such that its requirements are more in keeping with the overwhelming climate of political expediency that seems to have overtaken the Gillard government in recent times.

Hurricane Sandy news coverage

David Hand writes: Re. “Crikey says: distracted in the Asian century” (yesterday). I found your editorial on the massive coverage of Sandy in the USA compared to the greater death toll from it in the Caribbean yet another superficial analysis that has become too common in Crikey.

To add the racist slur that it was covered because the victims were white is just plain offensive. Occam’s razor says it was the pictures. Blanket continuous feeds from about six American TV networks provided great dramatic pictures so beloved of TV news channels in 2012.

Add to this the event occurring in the final 10 days of an American presidential election campaign and news editors in Australia would be negligent to ignore it.

Trust Crikey to blame white people.

Google defo ruling

Niall Clugston writes: Re. “Google defames us all, but should we sue?” (yesterday). Stilgherrian argues that the Trkulja case “highlights the problems of applying existing laws on ‘publication’ to our new online wonderland”. But in fact the law has been successfully applied, and Google has been found liable.

He goes on to compare the internet to old fashioned conversation, as if this isn’t covered by defamation law. In fact the category of “slander” specifically designates spoken words and has existed for centuries.

This doesn’t mean that defamation law is good. Stilgherrian’s objections are valid but, like the law itself, equally apply whatever the medium.

Ten needs a kick up the bum

Romina Aquinchay writes: Re. “Glenn Dyer’s TV ratings” (yesterday). I was reading the TV section in Crikey and I must say I take issue with the review of Emily Owens MD.

It is a really good show. It’s not Shakespeare, but then again neither is Grey’s Anatomy.  The problem with the ratings being so low is the fact that Channel Ten does not know how to promote its shows.

It should take a leaf out of Channel Seven and promote the crap out of it, like Seven did with Once Upon a Time. I watched it after watching the ads (out of curiosity) and stuck with it for the first season — I won’t be going back though. The point is that they need better marketing people to tell them how to sell their shows. I could do a better job than the current crop.

The only reason I caught this new show was because I was flicking channels and now it is the only show I turn Channel Ten on for.

The show stars photogenic actors (Meryl Streep’s daughter — hello advertisers — use the connection to draw people in) with good storylines. I know that if Channel Seven had picked it up they would make a success of it. Channel Ten will probably yank it off and replace it with more Bolt Report repeats.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
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