Beazley and values

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Phillip Coorey in today’s Herald praises the Opposition Leader for showing leadership in the debate over values. (In response to Howard’s critique of Muslims who won’t assimilate, Beazley proposed that vistors, including tourists, should sign a declaration on their visa form that they accept Australian values.)

I’m more convinced by Miranda Divine’s scathing appraisal of Beazley’s intervention, as is Alan Moir (my second link to him in two days). I vote Labor. And I generally abhor Divine. But paradoxically I enjoy it when she exposes the hollowness of the Federal ALP leadership.

All poor Beazley has done is demonstrate that he has neither the bottle nor the understanding to tackle the problem of radicalised Muslim extremists encouraging separatism and fomenting anti-Western sentiment among Australian Muslims. He is trying to talk the talk he cynically thinks will win him votes from anti-Muslim bigots. But it smells like a strategy designed by head office, dictated by focus groups and poorly executed.

She tells the story

…of the time before the last federal election when an adviser to Jenny Macklin rang out of the blue and invited me to lunch with the ALP shadow minister… …the lunch at a King Street Wharf restaurant went ahead and nothing of any interest or value was said. I had the distinct impression that Macklin was simply crossing me off a list of things she’d been told to do. “No. 8: Open lines of communication with hostile conservative commentators.” She’d opened the line all right, but didn’t say anything.

This rings true.

It’s a shame in this case, because values and immigrants is an important issue. Most Australians aren’t racists. In fact the term itself is so imprecise in the context of a society already as multicultural as ours, that it hinders constructive discussion. If a person from Mongolia or Eritrea turns out to be honest, law-abiding, friendly and considerate, ninety-five percent of other Australians will welcome him as a colleague, neighbour or fellow team-member at sport, and even as a son-in-law. On the other hand, no-one, not even the most unreflective defender of multiculturalism, wants people here who intend to practise foot-binding, suttee or honour-killing, campaign for the imposition of sharia law, or pursue feuds with enemy clans. I’d even exclude people who don’t flush public toilets.

We are talking not about Australian values, but liberal values, the core of which are elected governments, the rule of law, and the operation of the ‘harm principle’. Mateship is nice, but not the easiest thing to define, so we can probably skip that one. Even if it’s much easier to define the values negatively than positively, it would give people more faith in our immigration policy, if there was some kind of filter. I don’t think an oath or a declaration is enough, but I don’t have any concrete suggestion right now. This is exactly why I wish Labor could counter Howard’s mischief with serious and convincing proposals rather than just compete to grab headlines and push emotional buttons.
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Sorry James, but I just had to post the cartoon at the top of your post.   If Ken thinks it’s not cricket to do this with the SMH’s intellectual property, he’ll remove it I guess, but I don’t think they’ll mind too much.   Moir is a national treasure. Nicholas Gruen
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whyisitso
whyisitso
15 years ago

The idea of having tourists sign some ridiculous piece of paper proving their affection for nebulous values like mateship is just another indication of the lack of gravitas Beazley brings to his futile attempt to make himself a credible alternative PM.

We do have core values in this country that are generally adhered to by the vast majority of citizens, including tolerance of different races, religions and ideologies, the adherence to the rule of law and the equality of men and women. We argue among ourselves about the minutiae of these but those who seriously challenge them are a problem, including those who preach that women deserve to be raped because they wear relaxed clothing or enjoy a drink in a pub with their friends. Love of sport, mateship, a sense of “laid-back-ness”, an understated sense of humour etc etc are not core values, however much they may be part of our collective personalities. Beazley hasn’t lost the plot. He’s never had it.

You may call Howard’s proposals mischief-making but most people do believe we need minimum standards from incoming migrants to enable them to fit in. To call measures to ensure an adequate command of English and a willingness to obey our laws a reversion to assimilation is ludicrous.

Bring Back EP at LP
Bring Back EP at LP
15 years ago

I checked this out because it sounded silly and the values thing does not include tourists.

Ken Parish
Admin
15 years ago

Homer

This transcript linked from the ALP website clearly has Beazley talking about a statement of values ONLY for people who intend to make Australia their permanent home. But at least one of the article linked by James Farrell above quotes Jenny Macklin as suggesting that it was intended to apply it to “visitors” as well. Thus it’s very unclear what was intended. The confusion rather confirms James’ guess (and Miranda Devine’s) that it’s just an ill-considered “shoot from the lip” expedient response to focus groups showing they wanted Beazley to show a bit of ticker about Muslims who appear to exhibit values radically different from Australian majority norms (e.g. that women in bikinis or short skirts are sluts and fair game for rape).

whyisitso

How about the “fair go” principle? Is that a core or non-core Australian value? Gender equality, which you list, is certainly a part of the “fair go” principle, but most people would list numerous other aspects, I suggest. Does it just include procedural fairness/due process (which is part of most formulations of rule of law)? To what extent do new anti-terror laws comply with usual definitions of rule of law/due process? How does that fit in with “core Australian values”? Does a “fair go” include taking reasonable action to foster equality of opportunity in general and not just formal/legal equality between men and women? Broad-based equality of opportunity is part of social democratic values and many forms of liberalism as well.

And what of “mateship”? Why don’t you think that’s a core value? Howard talks about it all the time. Beazley certainly includes it in his list, and explains it as follows:

“Its origins lie, basically, in accepting responsibility for the person next to you. I can’t think of a better way of founding, if you like, the concept of mateship and that sense of responsibility and care for other people and another person in your community.

JEFFREYS: Well, ultimately, it says we’re all in this together.”

This sounds very much like a modern day evocation of Adam Smith’s core notion of moral philosophy, with the “impartial spectator” of conscience forming a “sympathy” which mostly ensures moral behaviour in a free society, at least towards family, friends and local community. As this concept is arguably one of the foundation stones of classical liberalism which in turn underpins Australia’s constitutional and economic order, why don’t you regard it as a core Australian value?

These sorts of questions strike me as rather more than just “minutiae”. Moreover, one can ask these sorts of questions about each of the core values you listed (tolerance, rule of law, gender equality). One possible conclusion might be that the only way to achieve any semblance of broad agreement on “core Australian values” is to keep the listed values so vague and anodyne that they’re not very useful. And whatever values the list contains, one suspects that it won’t in any event succeed in keeping out people who don’t in truth subscribe to them. Migrants will just sign the form in the same way most of us tick the box agreeing to Microsoft’s software licence conditions without even reading them.

This isn’t to suggest that debates/educational programs raising issues of shared ethics, values, and moral and legal rights and duties shouldn’t be pursued in appropriate situations. For example, in high school civics classes, TV debates, blog discussions etc. But I seriously doubt that getting migrants to sign up to some bullshit list on a visa application is of any use at all.

Geoff Honnor
Geoff Honnor
15 years ago

Homer, a somewhat irritated Tony Burke was telling Fran Kelly the other morning that tourists would “just get a, you know, a card on the plane with the values on it that they’d um read.”

I suspect that much of the caucus derision was directed at the tourist angle which is probably why it’s become less prominent.

Tony is my MP and I guess he’s used to dropping into branch meetings to sort out values and stuff for recently arrived folk.

I’m kind of hoping the whole whacky idea gets up. It won’t stop terrorists but with any luck it might prevent Germaine Greer from ever returning.

whyisitso
whyisitso
15 years ago

“Does a “fair go”

whyisitso
whyisitso
15 years ago

“Does it just include procedural fairness/due process (which is part of most formulations of rule of law)? To what extent do new anti-terror laws comply with usual definitions of rule of law/due process? How does that fit in with “core Australian values”

Ken Parish
Admin
15 years ago

“While you obviously believe we should sacrifice our rights to proceed with our daily business with safety to protect terrorists, I believe the majority of the Australian population doesn’t agree.”

Whyisitso, I assume you weren’t reading Troppo back when the anti-terrorism legislation was being enacted, or you wouldn’t make this comment. I posted on various aspects of the legislation here and here and here and here. My key attitude for purposes of your comment was:

“Where I differ from Ackland and other civil libertarian opponents of the anti-terrorism bill is in acknowledging that some such law is almost certainly needed. Intelligence assessments apparently indicate that somewhere betwen 80 and 800 Australian residents may have received some form of terrorist training in fairly recent years. Even if quite a few of those assessments are mistaken and other suspects have changed their minds and sen the error of their ways, it’s a fair bet that some still harbour murderous intentions. As Tim Blair noted the other day:

Mohammad Sadique Khan, the oldest of the four London suicide bombers, trained in a Jemaah Islamiah camp in the Southern Philippines during 2001 and was hosted on a visit to South-East Asia by the mastermind of the October 2002 Bali attack, Hambali “

Nicholas Gruen
Admin
15 years ago

And (carrying on where Ken left off) that was the point of it – to wedge the Opposition into opposing the excesses of the Govt’s legislation and then to scream that they were weak on terror. Shame. Playing politics with our security.

(Sorry, that was shrill and not showing proper deferrence. It may even have been un-Australian.)

Bring Back EP at LP
Bring Back EP at LP
15 years ago

golly gee fancy reading transcripts when one could you know actually contact the Opposition leader’s office and find out what he meant /said.
I have now heard Bomber and he has confirmed this.

Try primary sources fellas it always helps

Ken Parish
Admin
15 years ago

Homer

The fact that other shadow ministers have contradicted what you say Beazley’s office now claims indicates that, on the most charitable interpretation, this wasn’t a carefully planned or considered policy.

whyisitso
whyisitso
15 years ago

“powerful independent commission consisting of senior retired judges, to perform the functions presently envisaged for federal courts and judicial officers…”

Seems just like a lawyer’s picnic to me Ken. I’ve no doubt you can see a distinction between your commission and federal courts and judicial officers but it’s a bit like moving chairs about. How AFP or ASIO satisfies this commission of the security significance of its evidence without compromising the security of its operations is a major problem. As for “the suspect’s lawyer could view and contest the evidence as long as that lawyer held an appropriate security clearance and undertook not to disclose sensitive evidence to the suspect himself” well we all know pigs fly extremely well, but…

Oh and what a shameful thing to “wedge” the appalling Opposition we have in this country. I wonder how we can all sleep at night.

Bring Back EP at LP
Bring Back EP at LP
15 years ago

ken,

I am not saying it was well thought out. I had to contact the Leader’s office to find out what it is all about and Ruddy this morning certainly walked around it.

That said I would support all working visa holders agree to OZ values and all tourists understand them

Ken Parish
Admin
15 years ago

“Seems just like a lawyer’s picnic to me Ken.”

So when you say “There is a balance to be struck between the community’s right to go about its legitimate business with safety and the rights of those who would strike against this”, the sort of balance you actually have in mind is one where ASIO and AFP can do just about whatever they like and the suspect has few if any rights? How would you safeguard the suspect’s rights other than through legal means, rights to a fair hearing, appeal, review etc? Your criticism is analogous to a debate about some healthcare issue where someone proposes a particular treatment regime and you imagine you’ve made a telling, logical argument against it merely by saying “Sounds like a doctor’s picnic”. There may well be workable means of safeguarding people’s legal rights that don’t involve lawyers, just as there may well be workable healthcare regimes that don’t involve doctors, but you can’t just slag in those general terms if you expect to be taken seriously (except perhaps down at the local pub where your audience is half-pissed). You need to actually propose a particular safeguards regime and argue why it would strike a better balance between national security and individual freedom than the one I’ve described above.

Finally, the distinction between having control orders issued or reviewed by a federal court (the current system) and by a commission consisting of one or more senior retired judges is twofold:

(1) It avoids the potential constitutional problem of breaching the separation of powers doctrine (discussed in some of my previous posts); and

(2) It would allow for the commission to be staffed so that it can exercise an oversight role on the ongoing operation of the control orders, to ensure not only that they were being enforced effectively but that the suspect’s rights weren’t being violated. A court cannot (either constitutionally or practically) fulfil such an ongoing oversight role. This is simply an example of the normal checks and balances that are (or at least used to be until very recently) a core aspect of liberal democratic constitutionalism, to help keep the bastards honest so as to avoid an excess of unchecked power that can otherwise rapidly turn into tyranny. This is not some radical “leftist” notion, it’s a core aspect of classical liberalism.

whyisitso
whyisitso
15 years ago

We’re already sprouting oceans of unelected overseers overseeing overseerers. We used to have three arms of government – legislature, executive and judiciary. Served us well for ages.

Every tuppenny-hapenny government-linked body insists on its independence from our elected representatives – the Reserve Bank, the ABC, ICAC, the police integrity board, the DPP, ACCC, ASIC – the list goes on and on. We should just abandon elections. Why bother?

Nicholas Gruen
Admin
15 years ago

Good idea WIIS. Lets make the ABC an arm of Government and ICAC, ASIC and the RBA too. It’ll be terrific. True democracy. Mob rule here we come.

Jason Soon
15 years ago

I thought having an independent RBA and ACCC was a ‘right wing’ liberal idea. Would you prefer that monetary policy be run on populist lines, whyisitso?

whyisitso
whyisitso
15 years ago

The RBA’s independence is a fairly recent idea as I recollect, Jason. Didn’t apply before 1996 when the present government made it so. It is not independent as of right. Public servants like Macfarlane should just do their job and not enter into political debate as he’s done. If he wants to be a politician, stand for election.

Currently the ACCC appears to be doing a reasonable job, somewhat better than that self-promoter Fels. Samuels’ attitude to petrol retailing for example exhibits a good deal more common sense than that of Fels, the notorious ‘raider’. Its role as a quasi Prices Justification Tribunal is hardly right-wing, although I have to admit it’s closely following government policy in respect to Telstra, more’s the pity.

“Lets make the ABC an arm of Government”. No. let’s abolish it.

whyisitso
whyisitso
15 years ago

As for your ABC, Nick, it can’t really get much worse than this:

If we can’t abolish it then “Lets make the ABC an arm of Government” by all means. The sooner the better.

whyisitso
whyisitso
15 years ago