Claiming asylum seekers were after jobs misses the point

Andrew Bolt:

…Every passenger I’ve seen interviewed so far say nothing about having been “persecuted”, with just one vague exception. All have said they were on their way to Australia or New Zealand to search for work…

So? Firstly, it hasn’t been proven that the 41 asylum seekers that were sensationally returned to Sri Lanka hadn’t been persecuted, or that their primary intention of going to Australia or New Zealand was to search for work. Just bringing up a few quotations where asylum seekers said that expanded economic opportunity was something they hoped for doesn’t prove that jobs was their primary motivation to hop on a boat. Omitting to mention persecution doesn’t mean persecution never happened.

But secondly, and more importantly, even if it is proven that these were not “genuine refugees”, that in no way excuses the government’s disgraceful disregard for its obligations to asylum seekers. Even if a person is later shown to not be a refugee, they still have the right to seek asylum, the right to have that claim processed fairly and speedily, and the right to be treated with dignity while they wait for the outcome of that claim.

On all those counts, the federal government has performed atrociously. In no way was the rushed process fair, with no reasonable access to legal advice. Nor was much attention paid to proving that there would be no serious risk in just sending them back to Sri Lanka. And from all accounts, their dignity as humans with a right to access basic necessities of life was not fully respected.

The debate as conservative commentators see it needs to be broader than just speculating on answers to a narrow question of whether a specific group of asylum seekers arriving by boat are “genuine refugees” or not. The real debate should be whether Australia expends any effort on being a decent global citizen by setting a process that respects the rights of those who attempt to arrive here by boat.

Honesty too much to ask from Andrew Bolt

It’s really hard to believe that this guy is so widely read in our country. His latest attempt at contributing to public debate — drivel, I tell you — doesn’t even try to be intellectually honest. In support of his argument associated race and religion with increased fear and crime, virtually all that Bolt does is attack the Attorney General for not living in his electorate (relevance unclear) and present very specific cases where the perpetrators of violence were religious.

Yes, because specific cases magically prove the rule!

But Bolt does make a  half-hearted attempt at dumping some statistics, hoping he can dupe readers into thinking he’s actually doing his homework. His point comes out like this:

  • Dandenong has crime statistics 40% greater than the Victorian average.
  • Dandenong has lots of Muslims and other minorities.
  • Therefore, it’s their culture that’s responsible for the crime statistic.

You can see just how flimsy that is. All you have to do to throw it into real question is actually do research, maybe lift some 2011 Census statistics from the ABS. Let’s take the Greater Dandenong local government area and compare it to, say, the City of Frankston.

Dandenong has lots of Muslims, Africans — whoever Bolt is targeting. 13,610 people identified as Muslim in 2011. Frankston? Hardly any.

Frankston has twice the number of Australian-born residents as Dandenong.

Frankston has just over nine tenths the population of Dandenong.

But Frankston still has nearly nine tenths the number of crimes, and over eight tenths the number of violent crimes.

In other words, Dandenong only has slightly more crimes per resident. Given Bolt’s scaremongering about everpresent ethnic strife, you would expect the vast gulf in numbers of Muslims and Australian-born residents to correspond with a vast difference in crime. Instead, an ethnic correlation is on pretty weak foundations.

Without proving anything, other explanations, such as higher crime being linked to a lower socioeconomic status, seem much more plausible at first glance. Incomes in Dandenong are only 84% of those in Frankston. And incomes in Frankston are quite a bit lower than in inner eastern local government areas, where crime is also quite a bit lower.

Not that looking at the whole picture would stop Bolt’s racially tinged “analyses”.

I hope to do more than rant about this excuse for a columnist in future, I really do. But it’s simply frustrating to know that this is mainstream stuff in a mainstream publication.

Andrew Bolt as victim of prejudice

Yeah, Andrew Bolt is a pretty soft target. But it was amusing to see him complain that white males like him were being called names without harsh punishment. And invoke “Afghan female lawyer[s]” to elevate the double standard to the status of Real Social Problem.

I don’t suggest that the people he quoted weren’t being rude. (For that matter, as we know, there’s been far worse hurled at minorities.) But Bolt’s belief that he and people like him are actually the victims of Multicultural Australia is just so much more devastating. It acts a distraction, an excuse to not act on the prejudices that actually harms real people — prejudices that affect whether they hold down good, secure work and move up the ladder.

Look at it this way. Nothing that Bolt quoted substantially affects opportunities for people of his demographic. They’re overrepresented in Australia’s elite and will be for years. But the lack of urgency against discrimination that Bolt creates — and frankly, encourages — actively ensures that opportunities for disadvantaged demographics remain far more limited. The pay gap between men and women has stopped shrinking. It’s accepted wisdom that non-Anglo names are seriously disadvantaged when employers go through CVs.

In other words, Bolt’s regular drivel makes solving Real Social Problems (as opposed to the slights that drives him to such outrage) that much harder.

Of course, people of his political persuasion will remain influential for a long time. Until then, we should get used to foreign comedians joking about how “comfortably racist” Australia is.