Sunday, May 08, 2016

A reluctant defence of Australia's illegal immigration policy

By Jonathan Holmes

Nick Riemer has a choleric response to the article below on New Matilda -- but I can't see that he offers any arguments that hold water.  I am amused that he waxes righteous about what is the "moral" thing to do.  Stopping unauthorized arrivals is immoral, apparently. I wonder how he deduces that?  And since he and his ilk would in other contexts argue that "there is no such thing as right and wrong", I can't see that he has any basis for his moral claims at all.  As I pointed out long ago, Leftists who use moral claims are just being manipulative and dishonest. 

And -- OF COURSE -- stopping the boats is RACIST!  Everything that Leftists disagree with is racist.  So how does Herr Riemer (Riemer is a German and Yiddish name for a maker of leather reins and similar articles) decide that it is racist?  Because the illegals are brown.  But they mostly are not.  Iranians and Afghans are white -- not as white as Northern Europeans but no darker than Southern Italians.  And seeing that Australia accepts immigrants of all races through legal channels, the racism accusation is patently absurd anyway.

So I can't see that Riemer has any basis for his opposition to immigration control at all.  He certainly does not show that it is in Australia's best interests to accept poorly educated arrivals who subscribe to a barbaric religion and who often hate us and who mostly become welfare dependent. All he has is his rage and his faux morality.   The rage could be faux too.

I doubt that he would be happy about a third world family moving into his house and living there without his permission -- but other Australians should accept the something very similar, apparently.  Australians are not allowed to regard their country as their home.  He wants to deny their government the selectivity that he himself would exercise.

But now for Jonathan Holmes. I have omitted the initial throat clearing:

During the so-called "Tampa" election in 2001, I was the executive producer of the ABC's 7.30 Report. Every time we aired an item that was in any way sympathetic to boat people, we would get a flood of reaction from viewers: outraged, furious, bitter. It gave me some inkling of the tide that was washing into MPs' electoral offices.

And nowhere more than in western Sydney and western Melbourne, the heartlands of Australia's post-war immigrant population, where to have parents who were native English speakers made you the exception, not the rule.

These were people who had stood in the "queue" that others called fictional, who had waited years for the family reunion scheme to bring their wives and kids and parents to Australia; who had relatives and friends hoping desperately to join them; who knew that every boat person allowed to stay was one fewer of their own people who'd be admitted through the off-shore humanitarian visa intake.

They are also the parts of Australia where most people know someone who arrived by boat. They know about the networks of agents set up by people-smugglers, have seen the phone calls to families in Malaysia and Indonesia.

In three Four Corners programs (links here, here and here) that made far less impact than they deserved, Sarah Ferguson revealed beyond doubt that the criminal people-smuggler networks are not just a fantasy dreamt up by immigration ministers. They exist. And a lot of Australians know it. They don't see why people who can pay criminals should be able to buy a chance at a life they themselves had to get by legal means.

I still see the opposition to boat people dismissed by refugee advocates as "racist". That's a fundamental misunderstanding. Australia is rightly proud of its immigration program. It has created one of the most diverse and successful multi-ethnic nations in the world. The reason the boat people had to be stopped was that – justifiably or otherwise – they were undermining Australians' belief in a fair and orderly immigration program.

But, say many of the current policy's opponents, there are other solutions. In this four-year-old blog on the ABC's Religion and Ethics site, Aly argues that it's just a matter of taking more refugees from Indonesia. If people could get here legitimately, they wouldn't risk the boats. The Guardian's Richard Ackland put much the same proposition just last week.

Both blithely ignore that the people in Indonesia and Malaysia who want to come to Australia are not Indonesians or Malaysians. Overwhelmingly, they are Hazaras from Afghanistan, and Iranians; if the way to Australia were open, they would now be Syrians too.

They've already travelled a long way – helped by people smugglers – to get to Indonesia, and there are hundreds of thousands, possibly millions, more where they came from.

Taking a large proportion of would-be Australian migrants from Indonesia would only induce more to follow; very soon there would be far more than any orderly migration program could accommodate. The Indonesians and Malaysians would not thank us for that. That's why we source so much of our refugee intake from camps close to where they've fled from: Somalis and Sudanese from Kenya, Afghans from Pakistan, and so on.

As Europe is discovering, there is an almost limitless demand, through the Middle East, and central Asia, and Africa, for a better, safer life. Whether these people are "genuine refugees" or "economic migrants" may matter to the lawyers, but is immaterial in policy terms.

The brutal fact is that we cannot take them all. We cannot, without risking social disruption, take more than a tiny fraction of them. And as John Howard famously said, it should be our government that decides who comes to this country, not a free-for-all scramble for a place on a leaky boat.

For the poor souls who are its victims, the "Pacific Solution" has provided a living hell. I doubt their agony can be justified philosophically. I don't believe we should be sheltered from it by censorship. I hope, somehow, that it can soon be ended.
But I don't know what the alternative policy should have been in the past, or could be in the future.


Mobile phones DON'T increase the risk of brain cancer, 30-year study concludes

Research relies on fact that all cases of cancer are recorded in Australia

By epidemiologist Professor Simon Chapman, of the University of Sydney

There is no link between mobile phones and brain cancer, a landmark study has revealed.  Researchers found no increase in tumours over the last 29 years, despite an enormous increase in the use of the devices.

In Australia, where the study was conducted, 9 per cent of people had a mobile phone in 1993 - a number which has shot up to 90 per cent today.  But in the same period, cancer rates in people aged 20 - 84 rose only slightly in men and remained stable in women.

There were 'significant' rises in tumours in the elderly, but the increase began five years before mobile phones arrived in Australia in 1987, the researchers said.

The study's author, Professor Simon Chapman, of the University of Sydney, said phones emit non-ionising radiation that is not currently thought to damage DNA - and his findings make him even more confident the devices are not liked to cancer.

Earlier this year, Australia saw a whirlwind tour from the electromagnetic radiation from mobile phones alarmist Devra Davis.  Davis is an international champion of the belief that populations bathed in radiation emitted by mobile phones face epidemics of disease – particularly brain cancer.

Davis' concerns were the focus of an ABC Catalyst program which attracted widespread criticism, including from me and Media Watch.  The Catalyst presenter Maryanne Demasi was nominated for the Australian Skeptics bent spoon award.

At the time of the Catalyst program for which I declined to be interviewed, I had my hands tied behind my back.

Along with colleagues in cancer research, I had a paper in preparation examining the possible association between the incidence of brain cancer in Australia and the inexorable rise of mobile phone use here over the last three decades.

Releasing our findings would have jeopardised publication, we could say nothing about what we had concluded.

Today the paper is published in early view in Cancer Epidemiology. Here's what we set out to examine and what we found.

We examined the link between age and incidence rates of 19,858 men and 14,222 women diagnosed with brain cancer in Australia between 1982-2012, and national mobile phone usage data from 1987-2012.

Extremely high proportions of the population have used mobile phones across some 20-plus years -from about 9 per cent in 1993 to about 90 per cent today.

We found age-adjusted brain cancer incidence rates (in those aged 20-84 years, per 100,000 people) had risen only slightly in males but were stable over 30 years in females.

There were significant increases in brain cancer incidence only in those aged 70 years or more.

But the increase in incidence in this age group began from 1982, before the introduction of mobile phones in 1987 and so could not be explained by it.

Some 90 per cent of the population use mobile phones today and many of these have used them for a lot longer than 20 years. But we are seeing no rise in the incidence of brain cancer against the background rate

Computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and related techniques, were introduced in Australia in the late 1970s.

They are able to discern brain tumours which could have otherwise remained undiagnosed without this equipment.

It has long been recognised that brain tumours mimic several seemingly unrelated symptoms in the elderly - including stroke and dementia - and so it is likely that their diagnosis had been previously overlooked.

Next, we also compared the actual incidence of brain cancer over this time with the numbers of new cases of brain cancer that would be expected if the 'mobile phones cause brain cancer' hypothesis was true.

Here, our testing model assumed a ten-year lag period from the start of mobile phone usage to evidence of a rise in brain cancer cases.

Our model assumed that mobile phones would cause a 50 per cent increase in incidence of brain cancer.

This was a conservative estimate that we took from a study by Lennart Hardell and colleagues (who reported even higher rates from two studies). The expected number of cases in 2012 (had the phone hypothesis been true) was 1,866 cases, while the number recorded was 1,435.

Using a recent paper that had Davis as an author we also modelled a 150 per cent increase in brain cancer incidence among heavy users.

We assumed that 19 per cent of the Australian population fell into this category, based on data from the INTERPHONE study an international pooled analysis of studies on the association between mobile phone use and the brain. This would have predicted 2,038 expected cases in 2012, but only 1,435 were recorded.

Our study follows those published about the United States, England, the Nordic countries and New Zealand where confirmation of the 'mobile phones cause brain cancer' hypothesis was also not found.

In Australia, all cancer is recorded. At diagnosis, all cases must by law be registered with state registries tasked with collecting this information. It has been this way for decades. So we have excellent information about the incidence of all cancers on a national basis.

The telecommunications industry of course also has information on the number of people with mobile phone accounts.

While touring Australia, Davis was confronted with the 'flatline' incidence data on brain cancer.  Her stock response was that it was far too early to see any rise in these cancers. She was here to warn us about the future.

Davis would appear to be arguing that we would see a sudden rise many years later. That is not what we see with cancer; we see gradual rises moving toward peak incidence, which can be as late as 30-40 years (as with lung cancer and smoking).

We have had mobiles in Australia since 1987. Some 90 per cent of the population use them today and many of these have used them for a lot longer than 20 years.

But we are seeing no rise in the incidence of brain cancer against the background rate.


Australia is now able to resettle genuine refugees from all over the world

Alexander Downer , Australian High Commissioner to the UK, replies to the Financial Times


I think we are all aware that in an era of unprecedented prosperity the rising tide against governments is at least partly driven by media hysteria drawing on half-truths and rumours. Your editorial "Australia must act to shut its offshore camps" (May 2), about Australia’s offshore refugee processing centres, is a case in point. You accuse a country that takes 200,000 migrants a year, including more than 25,000 resettled refugees, of "xenophobia" and claim, without any apparent knowledge of the terms of the 1951 Refugees Convention, that Australia is in breach of international law.

Australia is a country that is proud to uphold the rule of international law. It was Australia’s sense of humanity that drove it to setting up offshore processing centres in Papua New Guinea and Nauru. When Australians watched scenes on television of people who paid people smugglers being dashed against the rocks of Christmas Island, and when they heard of hundreds being drowned between Indonesia and Australia, they felt they’d had enough. Nearly all Australians agree: offshore processing is not ideal but it has destroyed the people smugglers’ business model.

We are now able to resettle genuine refugees in their thousands from all over the world, we are able to build our national population in an orderly way, and we have a public that overwhelmingly supports immigration and rejects extremist political parties.

Australia has handled the very difficult issue of irregular migration better than many. I will avoid the temptation to draw comparisons between our considered and orderly approach and the humanitarian chaos and loss of life elsewhere.


Wreckage of Clive Palmer’s legacy lies strewn across Australia

In most political obituaries of Australians who have served the ­electorate, it is possible to describe their positive contributions to public life. But not for the first time, Clive Frederick Palmer, 62, who yesterday signalled the end of his ­career in federal parliament’s lower house as the member for the Sunshine Coast seat of Fairfax, pending a possible switch to the Senate, breaks the mould.

The wreckage of his legacy is strewn across Australia.

It is in the homes and small businesses of his constituents in Fairfax, where his mismanagement of a resort caused it to close, costing more than 650 jobs and harming the fragile economy of beachside Coolum.

It is symbolised by the "For Sale" signs outside the homes of some of the 1000 employees who have lost their jobs over the period of his ownership and micro­management of a poorly run ­nickel refinery in Townsville.

It is on the edge of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park near his refinery’s ponds of toxic sludge that, through negligence and a cavalier defiance of regulatory authorities, spilled despite warnings of imminent risk.

It is in the public funds, stumped up by Australia’s tax­payers, that will need to be drained to pay for the refinery workforce’s lawful entitlements such as redundancy, long service leave and holiday leave, because Palmer siphoned tens of millions of dollars from the accounts for his own use.

It is in the relationship with China which, after being per­suaded by Palmer’s assurances about a very mediocre iron ore province, has spent more than $10 billion on this lemon, and now budgets millions of dollars a year on ­lawyers to protect its interests from his ­impulsive actions as a ­serial litigant.

And it is in much of the dysfunction of the Senate, to which he introduced Tasmania’s Jacqui Lambie, Western Australia’s Zhenya Wang and Queensland’s Glenn Lazarus in 2013.

While sowing chaos in Can­berra, Palmer also made a major contribution to the 2015 collapse of the Campbell Newman-led Liberal National Party government after the then premier and his deputy, Jeff Seeney, flatly rejected the tycoon’s repeated demands for preferential treatment of his coal province in central Queensland.

Fortunately for Labor’s Annastacia Palaszczuk, her minority Labor-led government, which has held the reins for 15 months, has not been buffeted by the Palmer United Party’s founder. His rocky relationship with the previous Labor government culminated in him issuing proceedings for defamation against then Labor pre­mier Anna Bligh and her treasurer Andrew Fraser, who were defen­dants in the Supreme Court before Newman and Seeney copped their defamation writs. All those cases are now settled.

But yet to be settled is Palmer’s political future. He knows that in Fairfax he is a shot duck. The ­voters cannot stand him. Those who voted for him in September 2013 are keeping their heads down — it is social death up there for his constituents to admit he was first choice on their ballot papers. He is, however, positioning for a tilt at the Senate.

He was pressed about it by Sky News hosts Peter van Onselen and former New South Wales premier Kristina Keneally yesterday, but Palmer first wanted to promote "some of our new policies for the Senate — one of them is that parliamentarians should leave parliament with no entitlements — that to serve the community is more important than serving your own pocket. So if people want to come to parliament they should come to do what good they can do and not leave with any entitlements at all".

It sounds eerily similar to the policy deployed at his Townsville nickel refinery, where the staff did their best and did indeed leave without any entitlements at all.

Asked about the Senate, he ­replied: "Well, it’s a live option. But, you know, I’m such an ­unpopular person in the country. And if I watch Sky News and Paul Murray, I’m just convinced that I’m a totally useless person and I’ve never contributed anything for this country or this ­nation, (so) why would people want to vote for me?"

It is a fair question. Why would anyone vote for Palmer? Three years ago when he announced himself as a "multi-billionaire" candidate for the federal seat of Fairfax — and the next prime ­minister — some of us at The ­Australian, and particularly in his stamping ground of Queensland, knew this would not end well.

Palmer had become very prominent, very quickly, aided by a great deal of free political ­advertising disguised as journalism from a fawning, unquestioning media. He racked up tens of thousands of kilometres a week in 2013, crossing Australia in one of his four jets, announcing candidates in 150 seats under the banner of the Palmer United Party, and getting prime airtime.

He could not be too choosy in his haste to leave a national political footprint. Several of his party’s candidates were members of his family. Others were ­members of the executive and management teams of his failing businesses.

One of them told the ABC’s 7.30 during those halcyon days that if Palmer instructed him to go to the moon, he would indeed try hard to go.

But for several Queensland watchers of Palmer’s juggernaut back then, it felt like history was on a repeating loop.

Palmer was a colourful character from the Gold Coast who, in his early years as a political maverick, had been in the ear of a deluded Joh Bjelke-Petersen, urging the then premier to run for PM.

Joh also made extravagant promises as he strutted the ­national stage but he fell in a big heap amid Queensland’s police corruption scandal and the ensuing Fitzgerald inquiry. ­Before being bundled back to Kingaroy, however, his "Joh for PM" campaign also doomed John Howard’s.

Palmer — like anyone running to be prime minister — was fair game for close scrutiny. And that was before you weigh the contradictions of a property and resources tycoon referring to himself, in private letters, media releases and serious financial documents, as "Professor" when he did not complete university; or promising in 2013 that he was building a replica of the Titanic at a shipyard in China’s Jinling when the shipyard’s owners saw no cash or contract for a half-billion-dollar undertaking; or calling himself a billionaire mining magnate when he does no mining and has never been a billionaire.

But he was fortunate because several of Australia’s most influential and widely watched media outlets had joined his cheer squad. Senior journalists granted unfettered access to him did not take ­advantage of multiple oppor­tunities to test his increasingly ­extravagant claims.

Completely spurious assertions from Palmer in his quest for attention on the way to building a political platform were accepted as gospel truth. The ABC’s Australian Story led the charge early on with profiles in which Palmer looked down the barrel of the camera and said a Chinese company, Citic ­Pacific, was paying him "royalty every year which is equivalent to about $500 million or something like that".

He added: "We developed a $7 billion project in the Pilbara, a new port at Port Preston. We ­employed about 8000 people at our joint venture."

It should have been an early clue to Palmer’s extraordinary propensity for telling huge porkies on a fairly regular basis. He ­repeatedly made these fanciful claims that he received a royalty of about $500m a year from the Chinese. He undoubtedly wanted it to be true. It was also a political boost — the appearance of extra­ordinary wealth in a maverick who wants to be a leader is attrac­tive to voters, as Donald Trump has discovered.

Those early claims about how he developed a $7bn project in the Pilbara in Western Australia, ­employing 8000 people, were fiction. The project and the employees were wholly funded by the Chinese, yet he peddled these ­untruths without challenge.

His other early claims of ­exquisite skill were said to be in ­litigation. Palmer boasted of a perfect ­record — almost 70 cases, and never a loss. These claims of great legal prowess were false, too. During an SBS interview when Ellen Fanning challenged his claim about his 100 per cent success rate in court — and reminded him that he had been trounced by Frank Lowy — Palmer’s response to being caught out was a classic: he reckoned he would have won if it had gone to appeal.

He has claimed that as a boy he sat on the knee of Mao Zedong in China. And that he had a plea­sant exchange in the rose garden of the last emperor of China, Puyi.

About my own journalism and a stint in London 25 years ago, he once texted me: "Remember when u use live Buckingham Palace and write stories that said ‘sources close to Buckingham Palace said’?

"And u use to make up stories about the Royal Family. Not interested in fantasy from a 4th class Jurno that we will be suing."

I tried to explain that for the two years I lived in London, I could not afford to rent anywhere but south of the Thames — right on Brixton Road at The Oval.

He has repeatedly claimed that our investigations of him only started because Rupert Murdoch, the chairman of News Corporation, wanted it.

We were accused by Palmer of involvement in a supposed Watergate-style break-in at his offices and the theft of a computer, which he said held some of the documents that fell into our hands.

One of these documents was a legal letter he instructed his lawyers to write to CITIC ­Pacific in March 2013, demanding the ­Chinese company pay him $200m ­urgently or everyone would be axed from their jobs. The letter’s forecast about the job ­losses and his financial crunch were prescient.

The claims about our connection to a break-in were rubbish but they did divert the media for a day in the news cycle.

But Palmer is often paranoid and conspiratorial. He has insisted in federal parliament that ASIO bugs his offices. When his former security chief, Mike Hennessy, told Palmer in 2013 that his ­luxury car was covered in bugs after a two-hour drive from the Gold Coast to the Coolum resort, the colour drained from the ­tycoon’s face.

Palmer’s purchase of the Hyatt resort from Lend Lease Corporation and his promises to keep things humming along were ­another large clue to his character shortly before he entered politics.

He renamed this respected destination the Palmer Coolum ­Resort, rebadged its restaurant as the Palmer Grill, hung framed photographs of himself on the main wall of the five star foyer, put the ABC’s Australian Story profile of him on a continuous loop on TVs in the holiday accommodation, and ordered fibreglass dinosaurs to turn the grounds into Jurassic Park.

He lost the annual Australian PGA Championship event after parking a bulldozer on the green and warning it would be torn up unless he got his way in the ­negotiations.

TripAdvisor’s published resort reviews were thrilling and funny. One guest wrote: "There are cars in restaurants and colour photocopies of Clive Palmer in the foyer, not to mention the once lovely PGA course ruined by Dinosaurs. I woke up on day 2 hoping I was dreaming."

Another guest wrote: "Every wall is covered with photos of Clive with various heads of state. His vintage cars sit all over the place, including the Captain’s Table and the reception. The golf putting green has been ripped up as a ­repository for more vintage cars.

"Dinosaurs are plonked on the resort and pieces of them are awaiting assembly stored behind a restaurant. Titanic II flags drape in odd locales, with vintage cars and dinosaurs.

"Should the Palmer Political Party get going and the same management style be adopted, Australia is doomed."

Palmer is changing horses now. From the House of Representatives, he is likely to try his luck in the Senate.

Even as regulatory authorities, liquidators, creditors, the Chinese, the sacked workers and others want him held to account, Palmer is still backing himself. It’s ­evidence that while he may have been the most disastrous politician in recent memory, he’s got the thickest skin.


Federal election 2016: Labor lays bare class warfare campaign

After months of subliminal sneers about Malcolm Turnbull’s personal wealth making it impossible for him to understand ordinary taxpayers, Labor has laid bare a campaign of class warfare in its response to the budget.

Two weeks ago Bill Shorten labelled the Prime Minister a "rich man’s Tony Abbott" in a double sledge at his wealth and continuance of 2014 budget cuts.

Labor intends to use Turnbull’s experience as a merchant banker and status as a multi-millionaire to brand him as defending the rich and being out of touch, and his first budget as unfair. Yesterday the Opposition Leader’s first two questions in parliament were not about the budget but bounced off comments Turnbull had made on ABC radio about wealthy parents "shelling out" to help their children buy a home. "Is that really the Prime Minister’s advice for young Australians struggling to buy their first home? Have rich parents?" Shorten said.

Earlier Shorten and Chris Bowen described the budget as unfair because it failed to give tax relief to 75 per cent of wage earners and was only good for "millionaires" and ­"billion-dollar companies".

Earlier Melbourne ABC radio host Jon Faine suggested Turnbull had ordered his financial affairs to avoid tax. Turnbull replied it was "unworthy" innuendo and he had "always paid a lot of tax".

"I am very conservative in the managing of my tax affairs, I can assure you, and the innuendo you made there is unworthy," the Prime Minister said.

Shorten further pursued the comments Turnbull made on the program about wealthy parents buying homes for their children by asking: "Can the Prime Minister confirm that in the past two weeks his advice to young Australians struggling to buy their first home is to have rich parents or to have parents who buy you a home when you turn one? Prime Minister, just how out of touch are you?"

Realising Labor’s basic attack would be over fairness and the lack of tax relief for those earning under $80,000 while those earning more — including MPs — would get $6 a week, Turnbull tried to deflate the ­attacks on him and the budget by declaring Labor was using the politics of envy.

"Labor is setting itself up for a war on business; they are setting themselves up for some kind of class war," he told ABC Radio National. "They are arguing that people who earn $80,000 a year are rich. Labor doesn’t want them to benefit from a tax cut. Labor presumably would like them to go into the second-top tax bracket. Now that’s the type of war of envy, the politics of envy, which absolutely stands in the way of aspiration and enterprise and growth."

After being asked twice in parliament about being out of touch, Turnbull picked up his earlier theme and said Labor was "sneering at aspiration" and conducting "a political war they wanted to ­foment against aspiration".

Scott Morrison also warned of Labor’s politics of envy and took an on-air shot at Shorten on the Nine Network when Shorten said to the Treasurer: "I guess it’s never been a more exciting time to be a millionaire".

Morrison replied: "You’d know all about that Bill, you’ve got plenty of mates in that category".

The class warfare tactic from Labor is not new although personalising it to Turnbull adds a new dimension.


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