November 2nd 2002

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY: Bali: after the dust settles ...

CANBERRA OBSERVED: Vultures circle Crean after Cunningham debacle

NEW ZEALAND: US links free trade to repeal of NZ nuclear ships ban

NEW ZEALAND: Kiwibank on target for 100,000 customers

STRAWS IN THE WIND: Global systems / The splitting of the West / After the earthquake

WESTERN AUSTRALIA: 'Unlawful' electoral changes: McGinty tries again

AGRICULTURE: Farmers' overwhelming support for alternate sugar package

LETTERS: Bush doctrine (letter)

LETTERS: Accepting responsibility (letter)

LETTERS: Drinking age (letter)

ECONOMICS: Getting to work on the world economy

COMMENT: Holding on to the centre

COMMENT: Monash shootings and the irresponsibility culture

COMMENT: Affirmative action illuminated

EUROPE: New members, new problems for European Union

ASIA: Behind Pakistan's Islamist revival

BOOKS: Marriage: Just a piece of paper?

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Monash shootings and the irresponsibility culture

by R.J. Stove

News Weekly, November 2, 2002
At around 11.30 am on October 21, amid a tutorial at Monash's Menzies Building, a student with a thick foreign accent stood up and opened fire, killing two fellow students and gravely injuring another five.

Thus, the culture of irresponsibility, which has dominated Australia's tertiary education ever since the Vietnam War era's anarchs prevailed, is now proclaimed afresh: this time in bloodshed, and in the reactions which that bloodshed has drawn from what passes for collegiate authority.

Gun control?

October 22's Melbourne Herald Sun cited National Union of Students (NUS) president Moksha Watts as saying: "Security at universities is probably not the issue here. This is ... a problem of gun control. The reason the American system is the way it is, is because of guns and high levels of crime."

As it happens, outside most big cities America's violent crime rates are now lower than Melbourne's, let alone Sydney's or London's.

Meanwhile, some prankster issued a statement on NUS letterhead accusing the Prime Minister of the shootings. And John Mullarvey, of the Vice-Chancellors' Committee, chimed in with the characteristic observation that "one of the things about university is free speech." Meaning, obviously, free speech for defamatory pranksters and the NUS nomenklatura.

Free speech for legitimate thinkers - for a Geoffrey Blainey, for a David Stove, for an H. J. Eysenck - is by no means so evident.

It is not as if multiple murders on campus are new. Back in 1966 at Austin, Texas, one Charles Whitman shot dead 15 people from the university's clock-tower before being himself killed by police. In 1989 a demented misogynist named Marc Lepine (shrieking "I hate feminists") slew 14 women at Montréal's École Polytechnique before he suicided.

One presumes that Monash still harbours individuals who purport to teach modern history. Were none of these individuals aware of such horrors? Did it occur to none of them that such horrors would have their antipodean counterparts unless the concept of elementary security was mooted?

Since the answer to both these questions is clearly "no", visiting students from Canada and the USA will continue to be as baffled by Australian security slackness as they ever were, and to interpret this slackness as criminal idiocy.

Perhaps a trifling personal example will provoke thought. Not once at Melbourne University's library network, which I visited on average twice per week last year while researching my recently published book - its title, The Unsleeping Eye, seems in retrospect decidedly ironic - did I undergo the slightest security check. Never was my (often capacious) bag searched; never were my passages along corridors questioned.

I now realise I could have wiped out at least half a dozen people, using some concealed firearm, and still not have been greeted with much more than yawns.

In such circumstances the potential pickings for any outright psychopath must be sufficiently rich to inspire, by and of themselves, lethally disturbed cognition.

Values extolled

We have known for years what "values" the secular Australian campus extols: pandemic plagiarism; philosophical gullibility that (in Malcolm Muggeridge's words) "must be the envy of African witch-doctors"; and a blistering scorn for simple moral courage.

To this formidable list of indictments we can now add a new item: the ease with which any gun-toting kook can turn the place into an abattoir.

If the nation's chancellors and vice-chancellors are too invertebrate to order basic safety procedures - procedures that any supermarket or fairground manager has had at his fingertips for years - then the government which subsidises them with our money should kick them out.

  • R.J. Stove

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