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We need to build a mature, tolerant, compassionate nation

Crikey readers debate the problems with Australian discourse, and the potential formation of a federal ICAC.

New York Times Australia

Is there something deeply wrong with Australian discourse? Bernard Keane asked this question last Friday, and Crikey readers have been passionately debating the topic since. It’s a talking point all the more relevant now, after Blair Cottrell’s appearance on Sky News. Elsewhere: would a federal ICAC work? Readers make the case either way.

On extremism in Australian discourse

David Leyonhjelm, Senator for the Liberal Democrats, writes: Bernard’s piece manages to sneak in a reference to what he calls my “disgusting smearing” of Senator Hanson-Young in an article about anti-immigrant racism. This is a tawdry insertion given that I and the Liberal Democrats oppose any form of racism, whether in relation to immigration or elsewhere, and also recognise the huge contribution immigration makes to Australia.

Keane should also know that Senator Hanson-Young is no longer claiming in her lawsuit against me that I “slut-shamed” her, despite whipping up support and donations — and scaring the bejesus out of Sky News — on this basis. Instead her lawsuit is merely objecting to me calling her a hypocrite and misandrist. Has anyone else noticed how much Keane supports what the Liberal Democrats and I stand for, but only ever finds time to criticise? The journo doth protest too much, methinks.

Linda Yoganook writes: This is happening in the vacuum that is left by imposing policies on people without explaining or justifying them. If we are to be a “Big Australia” we need to know why and we need to have some say in it. You would think that a high rate of immigration and rapid change would be explained and managed by our country’s leaders so that the nation could understand it and support it, if the arguments are convincing.

It’s not surprising that people are easily whipped up into a frenzy when they see their neighbourhoods changing and are pushed out of their comfort zones. A nation needs to be coaxed and guided through such change, not just left to deal with it and fight it out. People like Andrew Bolt are unconscionable exploiters of these challenges, feeding the fires of hatred and confusion rather than helping to build a mature, tolerant, compassionate nation.

Unimpressed writes: Immigration is a problem but not for the reasons Bolt is banging on about. This whingeing, rather characteristics of old conservatives nowadays, seems even more hypocritical coming from a descendant of immigrants. One very good reason not to watch Sky. Although, on the other hand, watching Sly (a deliberate typo) does keep one better in touch with the threat posed by the ranting, chanting masses they play to but it makes keeping one’s last meal down rather difficult at times. I’m just waiting for Bolt to start spouting stories from QAnon as if they are the “truth” – whatever that is in his universe.

Flash Nick writes: I agree with most of what you said but I find it strange that you used the Jews as an example not the Indians. Of course different cultures will band together because of language, religion etc — no different to Australians living overseas. If some don’t choose to integrate so what? Plenty of Australians living overseas don’t integrate into the broader community.

I remember when I was a kid after the second world war, there was a large influx of immigrants and most said it’s not this generation that’s important it’s the following generations. Maybe Australia has been isolated from the rest of the world for too long.

On the case for a federal ICAC

Robin Westcott writes: As you stated “politicians must face genuine and independent accountability for their actions”. This should apply whether or not the public is disillusioned.

Marilyn Peters writes: I would certainly support such an initiative. So many occasions have shown it to be necessary.  Just not sure how the people in such an authority would be appointed to make sure the politicians’ “mates” do not make up the numbers.

It takes my breath away to hear MPs from the Coalition talking about checking on a regular basis how the ABC money is spent but, for some reason, not many other things like what the dual citizenship debacle has cost the country, and the gift of $440 million written about in your article and of course the $30 million given to News Corp etc.  The duplicity is impossible to comprehend.

Richard Pallett writes: Thank you for taking up the cause for a federal ICAC. It is well beyond time that the people of Australia had a federal ICAC. Some states have seen the need for this type of court and it appears that the federal Liberals are frightened to implement one. What are they scared of?

I am an 81-year-old pensioner who doesn’t have spare money to donate to anything, but I would have to find something to donate to this cause.

Geoff Edwards writes: Bernard Keane has undermined his own argument for a federal ICAC by speculating that the handout to the Great Barrier Reef Foundation “involves no illegality or misconduct”, even if it is appalling public administration. Unless a federal ICAC could uncover criminal behaviour, it is difficult to see what kind of penalty it might impose. Maybe public shaming, but if ministers can’t see the impropriety of granting more than $400 million to a small private charity without due process, it is difficult to conclude that they are capable of being shamed.

If a government is not capable of being shamed, then it is probably not capable of constituting an ICAC with individuals sufficiently upright and strong-willed to call the government to account. In any case, the notion that parliamentarians can be called to account by an “independent” body outside parliament is highly problematic. Parliament is supposed to be the highest level of authority in the land (assuming that the Governor-General declines to intervene). If the parliament is not operating to bring forth a satisfactory standard of conduct among ministers, then parliament itself needs to be reformed.

Send your comments, corrections, clarifications and cock-ups to [email protected]. We reserve the right to edit comments for length and clarity. Please include your full name.

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3 years ago

“Keane should also know that Senator Hanson-Young is no longer claiming in her lawsuit against me that I “slut-shamed” her, despite whipping up support and donations — and scaring the bejesus out of Sky News — on this basis. Instead her lawsuit is merely objecting to me calling her a hypocrite and misandrist.”

Senator Leyonhjelm knows very well that there’s a difference between things which are allegedly defamatory, and things which are merely disgusting or offensive. “Slut shaming” Senator Hanson-Young over her sex life is not defamatory (well, not unless she’s actually a celibate monk) but doing so is disgusting.

3 years ago

Geoff Edards has hit the nail on the head, with the same quandry as his criticism.
Parliament IS the problem and needs to be reformed, but by the politivians?
Back to citizen action groups like GetUp to push for the “ not doing anything illegal” brigade to act in the National interests instead of their own.
Did Labor protest when Peter Costello set up their Federal Superanuation Fund disguised as a Nation Building Trust called “The Future Fund”? It was THEIR collective superanuation future but the sheeple were sold the story it was for all Australians.
Not illegal, just self serving by the usual suspects.