April 6th 2002

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY: Stem cell research: the way forward

The facts behind the 'people overboard' affair

Opinion: The banks' power over small business

STRAWS: Selective amnesia / Slow boat to China / Tower of Babel

TRADE: Sugar price collapse threatens future of canegrowers

MEDIA: Debating points

New Zealand faces winter of discontent

Manufacturing: an endangered species (letter)

Afghan specialities (letter)

The great water debate: facts and myths

COMMENT: Healthy disinterest no bad thing

UNITED STATES: Behind Washington's self-serving free trade rhetoric

Switzerland, Taiwan seek UN membership

HISTORY: Demons and Democrats: the story of the Labor Split

Books: JOHN GORTON: He Did It His Way, by Ian Hancock

MEDIA: Stem cells: what debate?

Books promotion page

Selective amnesia / Slow boat to China / Tower of Babel

by Max Teichmann

News Weekly, April 6, 2002

Selective amnesia

Some very important events have come to pass, concerning which there has been an astonishing silence from the Establishment. The number of Victorian deaths by heroin overdoses is now five for this year, a mere fraction of what it was when the drug decriminalisation blitz was in full cry. Whereas, for a time, deaths by road accidents ran neck-and-neck with drug deaths, the contrast now could scarcely be more eloquent.

For example, there were 33 deaths on Victorian roads in January alone. But, as regards the drug death decline, where are the congratulations, the big headlines for this great turn-around? The concessions from the decriminalisation lobby, viz enlightened doctors, parsons and politicians, that they were wrong? And glad that they were? Not a word.

In fact, I saw a wistful newspaper article, with photographs, of the state-of-the-art Wesley Mission doping suite. Unused; alas. But, who knows, hope springs eternal? Forget it.

To see how far the debate has moved here, have a look at Bruce Anderson's article (The London Spectator, March 9), "Let's legalise heroin" - 'We can't stop it, so legalise it and hash. But not crack. And tax marijuana.' (I often suspected the Bracks Government might have had that in mind - but then I'm a suspicious person.)

But read the Anderson article with a sense of deja vu. Blair's England is way behind us on this and other matters. For their chattering people have mouths like hippopotami.

Another remarkable event sedulously played down by the media and the ALP is the virtual drying up of the flow of boat people. The snakeheads seem to have got a message - touch wood. If so, we can return to reassessing our bona fide refugee program in peace - for it is an obligation freely entered into and widely accepted which is going to be with us for a long time. But the chagrin of Labor and the media at Howard's and Ruddock's success so far, probably accounts for a lot of the vehemence and the witch hunt being staged through the Services. Anything to deflect attention from Ruddock's remarkable steadfastness under intense fire including much personal calumny from quite odious characters.

Slow boat to China?

China bared her political caries at Mr Downer the other day on the occasion of another of those goodwill visits for which mainland China is justly famous. Australia should close down the Falun Gong movement here, for it maimed life and had caused 1700 deaths in China.

Not like the Great Leap Forward, which only cost 30 million, or the Cultural Revolution or Tibet - which have cost ... never mind.

And on Tibet, Australia should ignore the Dalai Lama when he comes here. The fact is, we quite like the Dalai Lama, whereas were Mr Tang Jiaxun not Chinese Foreign Minister and an official guest, we would most probably ignore him.

But if we go on as we are, "it will damage our reputation". Sounds like the wails from the shelter shed of the ABC, and we get some more chin-wagging about treating Taiwan as a real country, and the Taiwanese as real people.

It's not reported whether Mr Downer thanked Tang for his finely honed screwball sentiments, and asked whether China would like some advice from us as to how to conduct their affairs. I fancy not. But it's not to remember on such occasions that we have a good friend, called George Bush. Dubya should press on with his new ABM system with all celerity - though he needs no urging. In time, he can give Taiwan some.

There may be some kind of power struggle going on in Beijing, for this type of diplomatic hectoring smells of the hallucinogenic 60s when China was feeling really vulnerable.

None of this bad form and worse from Beijing will deter our China lobby - "Do as she says so we can sell things", is their foreign policy. The same old cargo cult of the vast China market - like Lassitter's lost reef. The usual ailing media conglomerates, the same stumbling local companies, who just can't get up and go like Italian or German or American companies - but who have to be carried over the line.

The only person of note, or notoriety, around to hear this was Senator Bob Brown, pressing the flesh of some cornered demonstrators. Bob had his usual problem - he wanted to attack everybody at once.

"The behaviour of Mr Downer and the Howard Government on this matter is cowardly. It's Beijing dictating to Australia. It's remarkable for a conservative government to be getting into bed with a communist Beijing dictatorship."

A statesman-like utterance, Senator. But ... Dean Mighell, don't jump into that Green pond with your electricians. There's nothing in it. It's a drawing.

The myth of the Tower of Babel

Bob Birrell, a most assiduous and perceptive demographic and immigration analyst, who heads the Centre for Population and Urban Research at Monash University, has given us, in concert with Virginia Rapson, a new study showing that "the image of Australia as a multicultural melting pot is more myth than substance".

Ethnic diversity, endlessly trumpeted by the public media and the multicultural lobbies, is found only in Sydney and Melbourne, where 23 per cent of the residents are foreign born. The gap between these two cities and the rest of the country is widening and greatly facilitated by the different types of migrant flows. 61 per cent of migrants settled in Sydney and Melbourne - whereas only 38 per cent of British and Irish chose the the two big cities. 92 per cent of Lebanese and 75 of Chinese settled in Melbourne or Sydney.

If we want to develop or restore our smaller cities and towns - and every one says that we do - we know which migrants to choose. But then ... they won't need carers, or translators, and notoriously resist political and cultural mobilisation: while being quite happy to assimilate. A bad CV, so far as the New Class is concerned.

Monash psephologist, Nick Economou, in commenting, said: "It's nothing new. The divide between Melbourne and Sydney and the rest of Australia has existed since colonisation."

Of course Australia, population-wise, has always been an urbanised society - one of the earliest - but the ethnic disparity imbalances - in effect, "there are now two Australia's", says Birrell, which are widening - are post-war. And only now being made public. Thus, this study was based on unpublished Immigration Department data.

In reality, there are quite important implications in Birrell and Rapson's data. City parties who push mass, indiscriminate migration and covertly anti-Anglo-Celtic values - be they ethnic or sectarian/religious - may be rapturously welcomed by the New Class and media, but are going against the grain in many places outside the main cities - culturally as much as economically.

But there is a further complicating factor in making electoral assessments of our country towns - especially those near some of our cities or holiday resorts. People from, for example Melbourne, have been settling there for a variety of reasons: retirees, single mothers seeking cheaper living, people with golden handshakes from universities, etc, and those, very often on welfare who spend a few years here seeking nature, a few years there sussing out the Meaning of Life.

Being on the whole Left Laborish or magic mushroom hobohemians, they can, when in sufficient numbers, change voting patterns. And they account for most of the "radical" activities, e.g., Green anti-loggers, etc, etc, which attract the city media, but which can divide small traditional communities. And they can take over small Labor Party branches and lead them in many a bizarre direction - for a time.

Having far more time on their hands than the locals who work for a living, they can introduce considerable dissonance into hitherto stable, homogeneous communities.

The newcomers and itinerants would say they are reformers: the locals, rather, would say that they were elitist stickybeaks.

But to return, one of Kennett's follies - and he committed many - was to spurn country and regional Victoria and make it fairly obvious that he was more interested in the City, and that his heart really rested with denizens of the Central Business District.

He compounded the folly with finishing up expounding some of the more glutinously libertarian ideas of the Beautiful Ones. Come the last State election, the regions and his party had had enough of him.

The Liberals' success in holding their ground in the City was as much a continuing memory by middle class people, of the economically lethal errors of the Cain/Kirner regime: and a deepening disenchantment with New Labor on the part of workers and many of the young. That worker disenchantment has helped fuel the new union breakaways; while the populist publicity-seeking antics of Bracks are steadily wearying all and sundry.

So the Victorian conservatives could do well next time - provided they don't quarrel over spoils they haven't yet got, and so long as they don't allow old lags from the Kennett system to hang onto seats meant for new uncompromised figures. That was, and to a certain extent still is, Federal Labor's undoing.

Nor should the Liberals' Denis Napthine's people have a bar of state funding of political parties and candidates.

It is a time-worn device to bankroll the small parties (Labor allies) and conceal their corporate funding base; and do the same for State Labor, whose branches are dying and whose unions are increasingly unwilling to cough up.

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