Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Survey finds many Australians are critical of Muslims and Jews

This report was of course headlined as showing "racism". It does nothing of the sort. As psychologists have known for decades, negative attitudes about various groups do NOT predict any wilingness or intention to treat the groups concerned badly (See e.g. here and here. Andrew Bolt has some sarcastic comments )

Half of Australians harbour anti-Muslim sentiments and a quarter are anti-Semitic, according to the biggest survey ever done on racism in this country. One in three also admit some level of racist feelings against indigenous people, reported the Herald Sun.

The survey of 12,500 people, conducted by leading universities, found Victoria to be one of the most tolerant states. But comparisons between 15 regions statewide show stark differences.

People in Melbourne's outer north, including the shires of Nillumbik, Whittlesea and Hume, recorded Victoria's highest rates of negative sentiments against Jews (31.4 per cent), Asians (26.8 per cent) and Britons (12.8 per cent).

Anti-Muslim feelings were highest in outer western council areas of Melton, Wyndham and Brimbank, but these areas also reported the state's lowest rates of racist attitudes to Asians and Italians.

The 12-year study found 84 per cent of people have seen evidence of racial prejudice. And more than 40 per cent believed "Australia is weakened by people of different ethnic origins sticking to their old ways".

Study co-author Dr Yin Paradies, from the University of Melbourne, said racism against minorities was most common in areas that were more highly populated by those minorities. "There is a general finding across the world that ethnic density tends to be related to levels of racism, but not always," he said. "The inner (Melbourne) suburbs tended to have very tolerant attitudes, but there is quite a bit of ethnic diversity there."

The council areas of Melbourne, Port Phillip, Stonnington and Yarra boasted Victoria's highest levels of "cross-cultural relations" and fewest calls for "pro-assimilation". However, inner Melbourne residents surveyed for the Challenging Racism Project also recorded the highest rates of anti-Christian (21.3 per cent) and anti-Italian (12.6 per cent) sentiments.

Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commissioner Dr Helen Szoke praised Victorians generally, but admitted concern at some of the findings. "Multiculturalism isn't an end point. It's something we have to keep working on," she said.


Crooked NSW "crime fighting" body terrified of the light of day

In an extraordinary move, the NSW Crime Commission has turned to the courts to stop its oversight body holding a public inquiry into its handling of the assets of criminals and the conduct of particular officers. The Police Integrity Commission had been holding a secret inquiry into the Crime Commission, over which it was granted oversight two years ago.

In a private hearing in December it announced plans to extend the scope and purpose of the hearings to examine the Crime Commission's actions and practices when acting under the Criminal Assets Recovery Act.

The Herald recently reported on criticism of how the Crime Commission has used its powers to seize criminal assets.

On Friday, the Supreme Court issued an injunction against the PIC, ruling that the Crime Commission had a prima facie case in questioning the PIC's powers.

The Crime Commission's lawyer, Ian Temby, QC, had argued the PIC had exceeded its powers under the Police Integrity Commission Act in extending the scope of its investigation. But the PIC had argued the investigation was governed by another section of the act. Justice Monika Schmidt ruled there was ''a serious question to be tried'' in the interpretation of the act.

The PIC is also at war with its oversight body, the Inspector of the PIC, which has issued scathing reports criticising it for its lack of procedural fairness and accusing it of breaching officers' privacy. The PIC's last public hearings - into alleged misconduct of police officers - were held two years ago.


Senator Joyce slams 'budgie' bullbars

A PROPOSAL to change bullbars on vehicles from metal to polymer to improve pedestrian safety may increase the danger to car passengers, Nationals senator Barnaby Joyce said.

Senator Joyce said a proposed Federal Government review into manufacture of bullbars could affect the safety of car occupants in a crash. "Steel bullbars stop impacts with wildlife," he said. "They may also stop the car, the car might break, it might smash, but the people inside walk away. "In the past we had things with polymer which we called 'budgie bars', because we reckoned that was about all they could stop."

Under a review of Australian design rules, the Government is examining the case to apply a standard for pedestrian safety established by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe.

"It is designed around improving pedestrian safety in terms of any impact on the vehicle, in terms of trying to soften the impact on pedestrians," Department of Infrastructure and Transport spokeswoman Karen Gosling told a Senate estimates committee yesterday.

But Senator Joyce questioned the strength of an European standard polymer bullbar. "Without trying to sound trite, what do they expect to hit in Europe and is it a comparison to what we hit all the time over here?" he said.

Senator Joyce said drivers in the bush hit animals regularly, especially at dusk and dawn, so steel or aluminium bullbars were needed.

Vehicle Safety Standards general manager Robert Hogan said he was confident that building bullbars and vehicles to absorb more energy would reduce the risk of pedestrian deaths and injuries. "We are certainly confident that metal bullbars can be manufactured to meet the proposed Australian standard," Mr Hogan said. "We're very confident polymer bullbars can be manufactured to meet that standard."


Power sale inquiry condemns NSW Govt

An inquiry by a New South Wales Upper House committee into the sale of state electricity assets has called for the contracts to be rescinded. The committee, dominated by the Opposition and cross-benchers, has criticised Premier Kristina Keneally for attempting to shut down its investigations.

The Government's decision to prorogue parliament scared off some inquiry witnesses because of questions over whether their evidence would be protected.

The inquiry has found the rationale for the sale process is flawed and that taxpayers have been left exposed to significant risks. Committee chairman Fred Nile says even Treasurer Eric Roozendaal has admitted the $5.3 billion sale price is likely to be substantially reduced. "We estimate that probably the state's taxpayers are probably receiving between $600 and $700 million," Mr Nile said.

"So all the fanfare of the Treasurer was just based on a fallacy. Obviously it was an attempt to impress the voters of New South Wales as to how efficient the Labor Government had been, but it's been a disaster."

The committee has also called for a full judicial inquiry to examine the sale.

Ms Keneally dismissed the inquiry's findings, even before they were handed down. "What we will see today is a politically motivated report, one that could have possibly been written before any inquiry was held," Ms Keneally said.

Mr Roozendaal also pre-emptively attacked the report.

It is expected the committee's Labor members will issue a dissenting report.

Under the deal made late last year, the Government sold three energy retailers, Energy Australia, Country Energy and Integral Energy, to two private companies. The negotiations also included selling the generation trading contracts to take the output of power stations owned by Eraring Energy and Delta Electricity.


Note: I have two other blogs covering Australian news. They are more specialized so are not updated daily but there are updates on both most weeks. See QANTAS/Jetstar for news on Qantas failings and Australian police news for news on police misbehaviour

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