October 20th 2001

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Articles from this issue:

EDITORIAL: Issues for the forthcoming election

TESTIMONIAL: Digger James: Why I support 'News Weekly'

CANBERRA OBSERVED: The 'other' election on November 10

ECONOMICS: Who's looking after world trade

BIOETHICS: Cloning: a mixed bag

Straws in the Wind: Come in, Spinner

SOUTH AUSTRALIA: Parents call for increased penalties for drug trafficking

TERRORISM: Why the Muslim world hates America

AFGHANISTAN: Australia must protect the innocent victims of war

Letter: Refugee analysis wrong

Letter: Free trade challenge

Letter: Marriage costs

PACIFIC: After the civil war: Bougainville looks ahead

MEDIA: Mutual admiration / "Beazley-class" subs

COMMENT: Baddies are not always cowards

DOCUMENTATION: Latest data show mothers' preference for home

COMMENT: Don't hurt us, we're men

Books: 'THE LITTLE ICE AGE: How Climate Made History 1300-1850', by Brian Fagan

Books: 'One in Thirteen: The Silent Epidemic of Teen Suicide', by Jessica Portner

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Letter: Refugee analysis wrong

by Richard Congram

News Weekly, October 20, 2001


Bob Browning made an impassioned plea for compassion towards "boat people'' in his Comment (News Weekly, September 22, 2001).

Certainly I have no argument with the need for compassion, but I do question some of his assertions.

Like many others I try to keep abreast of current affairs and politics, but I must admit that I am not aware that our Government demonises trade unionists, the unemployed or refugees.

The fact is that there are significant numbers of militant trade unionists, unemployed people who do not want work, and refugees who would jump the queue. The difficulty lies in separating the wheat from the chaff; particularly as regards the so-called "boat people".

If, as Mr Browning's article states, our current annual immigration program provides for a humanitarian component of 12,000 people, and about 3,500 of those places go to "illegals", then I suggest that the status quo is grossly unfair to "legals".

The article also implies that confining illegal immigrants in detention centres, while their applications for asylum are assessed is inhumane. In those centres the detainees are fed, clothed, housed and given medical aid at Australian taxpayers' expense.

Surely our treatment of them is extremely humane by comparison with the conditions from which they are allegedly fleeing: and, sadly, we are sometimes repaid for our help with riots and wilful destruction of the facilities provided.

Further, as Britain and other countries have found to their cost, non-detention results in very many illegal immigrants simply melting into society, never to surface again with the same identity.

I am not an avid supporter of our present Government, but I do think it quite unjust of Mr Browning to infer that Government members salivate at the prospect of boat people en route to Australia being taken by "sharks, crocodiles, pirates and cyclones".

Perhaps ironically, the following extract from the "Canberra Observed" report, on the same page of News Weekly as Mr Browning's "Comment", tends to belie his position:

"Australia is one of a handful of nations which have been extraordinarily generous to hundreds of thousands of the scarred and displaced flotsam of Europe and Asia since World War II. No matter who is in government that generosity is likely to continue ...".

My remarks are not an attack on Mr Browning. My views usually coincide with his, as expressed in so many News Weekly articles in the past.

In this instance, however, I suggest with respect that he has not quite got it right. In sensitive areas like this, the head must be involved as well as the heart.

Richard Congram,
Holland Park, Qld

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