May 18th 2002

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY: U.S. Farm Bill ends free trade illusion

EDITORIAL: Paid maternity leave: who benefits?

Languishing Labor fills its quota

East Timor becomes independent on May 20

Straws in the Wind: Le System / Apocrypha: Dave's lost column / Ides of March / Sin

LAW: US repudiates International Criminal Court

MEDIA: Jonestown

Refugee response (letter)

Middle East (letter)

Swift solution (letter)

Neighbourly aid (letter)

Quarantine: NZ suspends California grape imports

HEALTH: The politics of AIDS in South Africa

OPINION: Media diversity: should the market decide?

TRADE: Oxfam report shows rigged rules of world trade

ASIA: Taiwan comes in from the cold

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Refugee response (letter)

by Dr Michael Barr

News Weekly, May 18, 2002


I am amazed at Dr I.C.F. Spry's response to my letter on refugees (NW, 4 May). Far from defending News Weekly's stance, as the headline suggests, he has merely repeated the offence about which I was complaining. Truth be told, Dr Spry cannot have defended News Weekly's stance on refugees, because it does not have a clear position.

The half-defence of the Government offered by News Weekly, and now Dr Spry, are - to be quite frank - baffling, since their policy purpose is completely unclear. Under the guise of reporting on the Senate Inquiry, they have attacked asylum seekers as a group, showing, quite correctly, that some of them have acted indecently in their desperation.

This is hardly a surprising revelation, and the Government might even think of using it as a defence of its own actions towards asylum seekers.

Yet I worry when I see stereotyping being used as a ladle to cast mud over all asylum seekers - including those who have been granted asylum and now face resettlement in Australia as refugees.

Are they defending the Government's lies about "children overboard"? Are they saying Australia should push refugee boats (with children aboard) out to sea? Shoot across their bows? Should we incarcerate asylum seekers (including children) in detention camps? Or pack them off to Nauru?

This, of course, was the point of my original letter. It was a challenge to News Weekly to articulate a cohesive position on refugees.

I believe that News Weekly is capable of articulating an intelligent and defensible policy position, with which I might or might not agree. Given News Weekly's proud history defending the rights of refugees I still retain a fond hope that I might find myself in at least substantial agreement with the end result.

Dr Michael Barr
Nundah, Qld

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