Thursday, July 09, 2020

Diversity comes in many colours but we’re stuck on shades of grey

I had to report this week on some young writers who quit The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald to protest against their own whiteness.

To explain: the parent company, Nine Entertainment, had received some money from the Copyright Agency and the Judith Neilson Institute to hire some “emerging critics” for the arts pages. They chose five people, and all were white.

Two promptly quit, saying: “Our resignation is in opposition to the lack of diversity in the ­selection, which resulted in an all-white group of peers.”

A third, Tiarney Miekus, described the whiteness of the group as “completely appalling and shameful”. She did not quit but will give up some of her salary to encourage Nine to hire more writers who are BIPOC — that’s black, indigenous or people of colour.

A white critic, Cassie Tongue, is “in discussions” to do the same. The fifth, Chloe Wolifson, has not shown her hand.

Nine now has had to readvertise the positions, with the emphasis on “diversity”.

I was reading the comments on the story — yes, of course we read the comments! — and I saw one reader who said: “I am over 70 and would like the fifth still employed young critic to resign in protest against Nine not hiring enough older Australians. This is entrenched ageism. I am of course available for the position and could do with the grant as well.” I think she was being facetious but it’s actually fair enough.

There is a diversity movement under way but it’s a narrow definition of diversity being employed here. Why shouldn’t Nine hire a dynamic woman in her 70s to be an emerging art critic? Women of a certain age make up a goodly proportion of theatre-goers and art lovers. Women over 50 fill the seats at literary festivals and they buy most of the books.

The reader’s comment got quite a bit of support: “Totally agree … staggering that these grants go solely to the younger, less qualified, less experienced candidates … ageism is strangely a huge prejudice that the left overlooks.”

The Australian Human Rights Commission has done a report on this subject, and it says companies show a reluctance to hire older workers. And by older, I should tell you, it means over 50.

Diversity can’t mean only racial diversity, and there was a time when it didn’t. Back when I was starting out, it meant gender. Most firms were under pressure to hire more women, and most of the emerging critics were women, but that work is apparently done. We used to think also about diversity in age, and also — and here’s a subject that’s near untouchable in Australia — class.

What if some of the group had been working-class kids from state schools? Could they have then stayed? What if some had been same-sex attracted? And what about diversity in education, meaning fewer people who haven’t been able to go to university? It was fairly common a few decades ago for young people to start their careers straight out of school — famously, you’d get a burger flipper such as Australian Charlie Bell running McDonalds, or a former teller such as Ralph Norris running the Commonwealth Bank.

Now the focus is solely on race, with the aim, we are told, of creating a workforce that more accurately reflects the Australian community. But if we in fact insisted on that, how would the workforce look?

Well, the uncomfortable truth for many activists is that you’d end up with a lot of employees who are older, white, conservative — that’s ­diversity of political opinion — and Christian. Because that’s Australia, too.

According to the 2016 census, about two-thirds, or 67 per cent, of the population was born right here. Asked about ancestry, the English dominate, at 36 per cent; Australians are next at 33 per cent, then come the Irish (11 per cent), Scottish (9 per cent) and only then do we see the first Asian nation, the Chinese, at a tiny 5.6 per cent. Then come the Italians, the Germans, the Greek and the Dutch. Those identifying as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander comprise 2.8 per cent. Some people like to make a big deal about how we’re being “overrun by Muslims”, but Muslims make up a only 2.6 per cent of the population.

The reason you see a lot of white people in the workforce in Australia, in other words, is because there are a lot of white people around.

That said, if individual white people want to cancel themselves with the aim of creating a racially diverse workforce, well, they should, of course, be allowed to do it.

What troubles me is the cancelling of others. It has been happening for a while now: this actor or that person’s work being “cancelled” for being racist, sexist, homophobic and so on.

Here’s another example, from last week. There is in NSW a small, dynamic literary magazine called Verity La. It’ s run by a not-for-profit organisation that receives NSW government funds, through Create NSW, to pay writers $100 for each piece. In May, it published a piece of “creative nonfiction” called About Lin, about a white Australian male who travels abroad to sexually exploit a Filipino woman.

The writer was Stuart Cooke of Griffith University. He is a distinguished, experienced, award-winning, well-travelled, multi­lingual poet whose awards include the Gwen Harwood, Dorothy Porter and New Shoots poetry prizes, the BR Whiting Fellowship, and an Asialink Fellowship to The Philippines. He has translated a variety of ­indigenous and non-indigenous Australian and Latin American poets.

Cooke’s essay caused outrage in the Filipinx community — people of any gender, including non-binary, gender-queer and gender-fluid people from The Philippines — whose members described it as “narrow minded” and “dumbass”, racist, and misogynist, fetishistic and disablist.

In the face of early criticism, Verity La put a trigger warning on the piece, saying it aimed “to publish work that is strong, bold and provocative. At times, this approach runs the risk of us publishing pieces that some might find offensive.”

Cooke put up a note, too, saying: “I believe it is important to talk about these issues, rather than edit them for the sake of portraying a more palatable form of masculinity.”

They were determined to hold their nerve, in other words. But not for long.

Having endured a week of fierce criticism, Verity La in a statement on Monday apologised unreservedly for the piece, which it now describes as “grossly offensive. We acknowledge that it caused deep harm … We failed badly.” It also cancelled itself — or as the statement put it:“Verity La is taking a break from publishing so we can reflect on the ways in which the journal has been complicit with systemic racism, sexism and disablism … We can do better.”

We are now one literary journal down.

The contretemps left me, and probably others, intrigued to read the piece. What had Cooke said about Australian men who go to The Philippines to abuse local women? What would a reader learn about the cohort of men who do this?

Well, we don’t know.

“We made a grave error in leaving the piece on the journal’s website after that harm had been drawn to our attention,” the journal’s statement continued. “It has been removed from the website and will not be republished by Verity La in any form.”

And so, now, nobody can read it. And so, what do we learn? Nothing. And what does this achieve? I just don’t know.


Transtasman bubble could open to some Australian states before others

This is according to New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who told Newstalk ZB the decision depends on the Australian government.

"The test for us remains the same. And our test could apply state by state or at a federal level," Ardern said.

The Prime Minister refused to make any commitment on when this might happen, saying any moves were contingent on Australia's fight against the virus.

"We are in a good place at the moment," she said. "Australia is really the one who has to make some calls about when they'll be ready."

Australian Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham suggested last week that quarantine-free travel between Australia and New Zealand could be in place as early as September.

However, the escalating outbreak in the state of Victoria has cast some serious doubt over whether it would be plausible for widespread travel to open between Australia and New Zealand by then.

Ardern told Newstalk ZB she is open to the idea of incorporating a travel plan based on the status of different states in Australia.

"Obviously, we won't be doing that with Victoria while they are where they are," Ardern said.

"One of the criteria for us is that they need to be where we are in terms of there being no community transmission."

If the transtasman bubble were to be incorporated on a state level, Ardern said New Zealand would need to ensure that the travel routes of the visitor were really confined to a certain state and that they hadn't crossed the border at all.

Some states in Australia have closed their borders to non-essential travel within the country. The borders of Victoria, New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory all remain under strict restrictions and are being monitored by police.

Plans to relax these restrictions by July 20 were scrapped after the spike in the number of cases in Victoria.

The challenge for Australia right now will be to ensure the virus doesn't spread beyond Victoria into other states.

Ardern said that given there were still problems in certain states, any plans for a nationwide bubble including both Australia and New Zealand was some way off.


Pauline Hanson blames non-English speaking migrants for deadly COVID-19 spike as she blasts public housing residents AGAIN and says they highlight 'the failures of multiculturalism'

One Nation leader Pauline Hanson has doubled down on her extraordinary Today show rant about locked-down tower block residents which led to her being dumped from the Channel Nine breakfast show.

The outspoken senator was met with widespread criticism after saying on Monday residents confined to their apartments in Melbourne housing blocks were 'drug addicts and alcoholics'.

Former Labor leader Bill Shorten even refused to say her name as he condemned her comments on the program on Tuesday morning.

But in a fiery justification of her comments posted on her official website, Ms Hanson said they were simply 'an honest assessment' of Australia's inability to manage its multicultural society.

'The pandemic has revealed that the failure to assimilate into Australian culture and learn English can indirectly be deadly,' she said.

Hanson had sensationally stated in the interview with Today show host Allison Langdon locked-down residents were not social distancing because they could not understand government rules communicated in English.

In her statement published on Tuesday, Hanson re-emphasised that English-language health advice disseminated during the COVID-19 lockdown was lost on much of the immigrant population.

'Health advice during this emergency has been published only in English - our national language - so it meant many residents from non-English speaking backgrounds, who have rejected the English language, missed the safety message,' she said.

'We now have an emerging second wave and the Melbourne housing apartment harsh lockdown.'

Hanson also doubled down on her argument that confined residents 'should know what its like' to be locked down because of their war-torn countries of origin.

In her renewed justification of her criticism public housing residents, Ms Hanson said they were being more than looked after by the taxpayer.

'The two weeks in quarantine for the 3000 residents will be aided by taxpayer-funded food, alcohol and drug deliveries, government financial handouts, and more than 500 police guards,' she said.

'I have said many times that criticism is not racism. To reject certain opinions and stifle debate on the issues that affect our nation is an attack on free speech and also a roadblock to a better future for all Australia.'  

Nine executives ruled the ever-outspoken One Nation senator had crossed a line when she told Langdon residents complaining about being locked in their towers should 'know what it's like to be in tough conditions'. 

She said refugees should be accustomed to tough conditions having experienced life in their war-torn home countries.

Within hours Channel Nine announced she would no longer be a regular contributor on the show. A spokesperson for the network called her comments 'ill-informed and divisive'.


Campus kangaroo courts

Bettina Arndt

I am still up to my ears working to expose the most grievous example of unfair administrative decision-making in relation to sexual misconduct – through my ongoing investigation of our campus kangaroo courts.

Over the past few months my diligent volunteers have done a great job sending letters, firstly to Vice Chancellors and more recently to university boards, asking questions about how they are tackling the issue of investigating and adjudicating sexual assault on campus – particularly in the light of Dan Tehan’s instruction, via TEQSA, that universities should get out of this territory.

Many have passed on to me the glowing letters they have received in response, as the university administrators claim all is hunky dory, with accused young men being offered procedural fairness and having all their rights protected. That’s so much hogwash.

Over recent weeks I have talked to the parents of a final year student who had his degree withheld for over a year after a sexual assault allegation. Despite no proper investigation, his accuser’s degree was promptly awarded while his life was in limbo.

Another student was excluded from all university premises after being caught with a drunken girl who’d partially undressed him. Then there was the mother whose student son now faces criminal charges even though his accuser admits she thought she was having sex with another student. At a fourth university, a young man is being humiliated by accusations of sexual assault and harassment being circulated on social media by his ex-girlfriend. This is the same university which has suspended male students for singing bawdy songs at a college event. 

Across the board our universities are selling out young men through administrative decision-making which denies them proper justice. With the lawyers and researchers helping with this project, I’m putting together documentation to show how few of our universities allow access to lawyers to protect the accused during the secretive investigations being conducted on our campuses. How very few allow proper examination of the evidence, let alone opportunity for cross-examination.

 Unlike our criminal courts, none of this administrative decision-making has proper oversight. The decisions to steal these young men’s degrees, derail their careers, shame and humiliate them are made by unnamed people, behind closed doors, with no public scrutiny.

 Posted by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.).    For a daily critique of Leftist activities,  see DISSECTING LEFTISM.  To keep up with attacks on free speech see Tongue Tied. Also, don't forget your daily roundup  of pro-environment but anti-Greenie  news and commentary at GREENIE WATCH .  Email me  here

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