Saturday salon 24/9

1. Survey on Muslims

Probably the biggest story of the week was the Essential survey asking people whether they would support or oppose a ban on Muslim immigration to Australia. Overall support/oppose was 49% to 40%, with Labor voters 40-48, the LNP 60-31, the Greens 34-59 and Other 58-35. Essential were so shocked they ran the poll again, with the same result.

Just about everyone is shocked, including the higher than expected support amongst Labor and Greens voters. Peter Lewis, the Essential man, says he was floored by the result. He thought Pauline Hanson represented a rump, but not so.

Shakira Hussein at Crikey (paywalled) was completely unsurprised, and thinks Crikey readers may join in too. Anti-Muslim racism (she thinks it’s humbug not to call it racism) has long been the respectable dinner party racism, she says.

What to do?

Lewis says, listen and engage constructively. Good luck if you think facts will make a difference.

Essential polled the reasons people gave. Top with 41% was They do not integrate into Australian society, followed by 27% for Terrorist threat and 22% for They do not share our values.

BTW on voting intention Labor has been 52-48 ahead for three straight weeks now in the Essential poll.

2. Backpackers tax rebellion

One of Joe Hockey’s bright revenue measures was to make backpackers pay 32.5c in the dollar for every dollar they earn. Currently they get a $18,200 tax-free threshold, then pay 19c up to $37,000 like the rest us. The new regime was to be implemented from 1 July 2016.

The Government kicked the can down the road before the election, promising an inquiry, now underway, with the outcomes to be implemented from 1 January 2017.

Tourists of course plan well ahead, as do farmers and others relying on backpacker labour. Already there are reports that backpackers are increasingly giving Australia a miss.

Now LNP Member for Dawson, George Christensen, lovely man, has given the Government a don’t argue.

“I believe the Government is going to axe the backpacker tax and put in place arrangements that farmers can accept,” he said. Otherwise he’s off, out of the LNP.

You’ll remember he has form in forcing changes to super legislation.

3. Marriage equality plebiscite preview

It’s easy to say we are a mature people capable of civilised debate, but it doesn’t take many to spoil the whole show. It only takes one kid to disrupt a classroom.

Now we have been given a sample of what could happen:

    The group “Children’s Future”, which has firm links to the secretive Catholic religious society Opus Dei, has made the false claim in leaflets that legalising same-sex marriage would trigger the controversial Safe Schools program becoming “compulsory” in all Australian schools, even if parents objected.

Fairfax Media say the three directors of Children’s Future Ltd are members of the NSW Liberal Party in the Hills Shire. They were described by a senior Liberal as part of the “lunar right”, and the faction is known locally as “the Taliban” due to their hardline religious views. Too far right even for the Right, apparently.

However, it shows what is likely to happen outside the funded campaign, which will be supervised.

Meanwhile Bill Leak has depicted anti-plebiscite campaigners as goose-stepping Nazis. Not sure of his exact point but he explains:

    The Gay Agenda(™) has become Stasi-esque, supported by jackbooted thugs

BuzzFeed suggest that Labor may be open to a binding plebiscite with no public funding. I do hope they are wrong.

4. Saving money on access to justice

Funding of community legal centres has been in the gun for several years now, and I know that there has been recent lobbying before and after the election to stave off a 30% cut due next year. Apparently 16,000 people seeking assistance are already being turned away each year, only 64.4% are being given assistance.

George Brandis’s alleged failure to consult stakeholders is behind the legal battle to gain access to his diaries, which he has just lost in the Federal Court.

The Law Council says that lives are being destroyed, and every dollar invested in legal aid returns $6 in productive output and carnage avoided. Even the Productivity Commission says that legal aid should be boosted.

I heard on the radio this week that the lobbying had failed, the cuts will go ahead, but I can’t find a news item.

A just society requires equal access to the justice system. We are heading the other way.

Introduction to Saturday salon

Because of the way the blog currently presents posts on the home page I think it’s better to remove the introductory material to a different place. For new readers, here’s the rationale for this space.


An open thread where, at your leisure, you can discuss anything you like, well, within reason and the Comments Policy. Include here news and views, plus any notable personal experiences from the week and the weekend.

For climate topics please use the most recent Climate clippings.

The gentleman in the image is Voltaire, who for a time graced the court of Frederick II of Prussia, known as Frederick the Great. King Fred loved to talk about the universe and everything at the end of a day’s work. He also used the salons of Berlin to get feedback in the development of public policy.

Fred would only talk in French; he regarded German as barbaric. Here we’ll use English.

The thread will be a stoush-free zone. The Comments Policy says:

    The aim [of this site] is to provide a venue for people to contribute and to engage in a civil and respectful manner.

16 thoughts on “Saturday salon 24/9”

  1. Richard Marles called out Peter Dutton, and his unfortunate spray during the electiom, which criticised asylum seekers. Marles is calling for leadership, and finds Dutton’s remarks unhelpful.

    Dr anne Anne Aly, the first Muslim woman elected to parliament, says that the Essential poll does not represent the Australia she knows. She says the questions were too negatively worded.

    However, she says our social cohesion is fragile and we need to keep working on it.

  2. It would have been interesting if the poll had asked at the same times questions about the extent to which people know Muslims personally or are part of an immediate work group that included Muslims. It may also have been interesting to ask those who know/work with Muslims if they wished that these Muslims had been prevented from coming to Australia.
    Perhaps part of the problem is that the small number of Muslims (2.2%) means that, for many australians they are the threatening unknown.
    On the other hand no other migrant group has a vocal faction that is clearly hostile to Australians in general.

  3. John, I think lack of personal knowledge is a big thing. When the women dress differently they are an easy target for saying they don’t integrate. Also fear about violence and terrorism around the world.

    The recent swathe of lone operators is making things worse. Which causes fear, although the chance of being involved in an incident is vanishingly small.

    I do work for a Muslim woman from Indonesia. The other day, more or less out of the blue, she apologised for all the trouble Muslims are causing.

    I told her, don’t worry, Christians had done lots of awful stuff to each other.

  4. Some progressevs try to coerce the silent majority of people into accepting their beliefs (phrases like “we’re here, we’re queer! Get used to it!” are coercive in nature). Coercion leads to resentment, which leads to anger, which leads to resistance.

  5. Durable sub-cultures often maintain their sub-culture by having rules that tend to separate them from the broader community. Clothing, food, complicated rules about who talks to who and rituals and events that tie up the faithful all help.

  6. John H I tend to think the power relations run the other way and what you describe is rebellion rather than coercion.

  7. Some of the rules i am talking about have a very long history and have applied in countries where Islam or Judaism were the dominant culture.
    In some cases the distinction may have started as an adaption to climate conditions or fashion that traveled as a religion moved to other places. Think of white colonials imposing ridiculous dress rules in Aus.
    My understanding is that the hijab started as something worn by upper class women.
    My original point is that durable sub-cultures may survive in part differences in dress etc. imposed by the subculture itself or the dominant culture. (Only the ruling caste can……)

  8. John D, you probably saw the second and last part of Howard on Menzies. Not everyone liked the first part, some thought it was propaganda.

    There was a bit of boosterism, I thought, and of John Howard too, with a surfeit of selfies.

    Still, it was good to see footage of the times and be reminded of a few things.

  9. Menzies’ opening to trade with Japan was politically brave and economically beneficial. It may rank as high as Whitlam’s opening to China.

    Both former enemies.

    BTW the reference to “anti-Japanese propaganda” in the 50s was a bit rich; many Aussie families were still grieving over lost loved ones, cruel imprisonment of POWs, etc. in that period.

    (I’m not glossing over Hiroshima, Nagasaki. War is hell.)

  10. Brian: I watched both the Menzies episodes and enjoyed them partly as a nostalgia kick, partly for some of the insights, opinions and reminders of problems of the past.
    For example, during the Menzies era the were problems with a particular religious group that discouraged intermarriage and tried to insist that children of mixed marriages be brought up in their faith. They also tried to school all their children in schools that they ran and made an attempt to take over one of our major parties (and currently) have an unhealthy influence in the other major party.) Tony Abbott and his ilk need to be reminded of this when they are attacking Muslims.
    The episodes were all a reminder that, in many ways the Menzies era was better than the current era. Worth putting the effort into trying to understand what was better and why.

  11. John D, in my youth I was going out with a Catholic for a while. The Irish Catholics took a hard line. If their faithful stepped inside a protestant church it was basically a mortal sin.

    A bit earlier when I was at St Peters, a Lutheran boarding school, we had a part-time teacher who was a Catholic and preferred to go to the Lutheran service on Sundays, because he felt more at home than with the “bog” Irish Catholics.

    I know that when the Lutherans landed in the Barossa Valley they splintered into a number of groups who wouldn’t talk to each other. When I was young there were still two Lutheran churches in Australia.

    The Uniting Church I think dates from about 1975.

    We’ve moved quite a long way in general, but there are still noisy and aggressive fundamentalists about.

  12. Brian: Bog Irish Catholicism was also linked to a terrorist organization for quite some time. We tend to forget this when we claim there is something special about the Muslims.
    The other problem of course is that an extremist ranting is a lot more newsworthy than a moderate behaving sensibly.

  13. Protestant vs. Catholic sectarianism was so strong during most of 20th century Australia, that it’s hard to believe nowadays.

    Menzies, Whitlam, and State Premiers forced through State Aid for religious schools through. That helped to change attitudes, I feel.

  14. Ambigulous, on reconciling with Japanese, Richard Flanagan’s novel The narrow road to the deep north is worth a read. There’s a fair bit I didn’t like about the novel, but there’s a lot that is superb. He takes you inside the story of those who lived and died on the Thai-Burma rail saga. He also takes you inside the heads of the Japanese oppressors, and what they did to integrate with post-war Japanese society.

    There was also a superb interview with Richard Fidler on how he researched the novel.

    It included finding a Japanese survivor who was one of the tormentors and persuading him to smack him on the chops, the way he used to do all those years ago.

    My daughter taught English in Japan for four years, and my nephew followed her, married a Japanese woman whose parents have been out to visit several times.

    I could obviously say more, but I’ll leave it for now. Time heals and we find we have much in common.

  15. Yes, indeed Brian.

    I was objecting to the term “propaganda” as if Australians in the 50s were somehow being hoodwinked about events in WW2.

    My feeling is that emotions must still have been very raw, after (true) stories of atrocities and cruelty by aggressor forces.

    I welcome the healing with time, the Occupation of defeated Japan, the opening to trade by the Menzies govt, the vast improvement in Japanese industries and living standards since 1945, tourism and family links with Japan and all Asian countries.

    I mourn Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

    Sorry to have let my pedantic reaction to the term “propaganda” set me off on a side issue.

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