March 4th 2006

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY: NATIONAL SECURITY: The sum of all our fears - betrayal

AUSTRALIAN EXPORTS: AWB Iraq wheat sales debacle - whose responsibility now?

CANBERRA OBSERVED: RU-486 vote highlights MPs' moral confusion

EDITORIAL: Drugs: can we prevent more 'Bali Nine' trials?

SOUTH AUSTRALIA: March 18 election - personalities not policies

PUBLIC ISSUES: Reflections on the abortion wars

SCHOOLS: Time to close teacher-training schools?

ECONOMICS: UK report calls for halt to supermarket takeovers

TAIWAN: From plastic keyboards to camera phones

STRAWS IN THE WIND: Sordid message of Leunig's cartoon / The RU-486 debate / Religious beliefs

POLITICAL IDEAS: Alasdair MacIntyre and the bugbear of liberalism

Kevin Rudd for PM? (letter)

Senator Joe McCarthy's 'shameful vendettas' (letter)

Health risks with imported food (letter)

Engineers unfairly stereotyped (letter)

CINEMA: Ignorant critics slam Spielberg's latest, 'Munich'


BOOKS: SADDAM'S SECRETS: How an Iraqi General Defied and Survived Saddam Hussein, by Georges Sada

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Sordid message of Leunig's cartoon / The RU-486 debate / Religious beliefs

by Max Teichmann

News Weekly, March 4, 2006
Sordid message of Leunig's cartoon

The story of Michael Leunig's cartoon - comparing an Israeli detention centre or prison camp with Auschwitz - seemed extraordinary. And, remembering the very long political experience of the various actors in this little drama, one fully understands the Melbourne Age editor of that time refusing to run the cartoon.

It is astonishing that anyone is able to forget what the Nazis did in Auschwitz and many other camps, and what their policies were intended to accomplish, vis-à-vis the Jews, the Gypsies and the Slavs.

  • The Germans killed Jews and Gypsies and culled Slavs, because they were Jews or Gypsies, etc. They had no automatic right to live. Is this what the Israelis do, or plan to do? Only now that the new Iranian régime is calling for the destruction of Israel, and the rooting out of Jewish influence everywhere, are we seeing a return to earlier Nazi attitudes, and intentions.
  • Do Israeli camps have gas ovens, for killing Palestinians? Do they work and starve the prisoners to death?
  • Do they conduct medical experiments on the inhabitants?
  • Do they kill children, routinely - as Islamic terrorists do (a school, or school bus being just as good and valid a target as a restaurant or a checkpoint)?
  • Do any of the above activities go on in Israeli detention centres or prisons? All the actors and commentators in this sordid episode know the answers to these questions.
  • And do Israelis, or other Jews, anywhere call themselves the Master Race and call Arabs or Palestinians "human bacilli"? Auschwitz was simply the logical consequence of such attitudes.

The Jewish community spokesmen were quite right to ignore the "hoax episode", and to ask us to consider the original cartoon and its message. They would have been remiss in not drawing the public's attention to the cartoon and the cartoonist, and criticising both.

I notice that the Fairfax management demanded an apology from the Jewish critics. Quite rightly, they refused. This Fairfax management intervention will cause some people to reflect anew on some members of that organisation.

The RU-486 debate

The debate on the RU-486 Bill has passed, and so has the Bill. After it was all over, the media - which, the Murdoch press aside, had been grossly partisan throughout - said it had been an uplifting experience, for the participants had spoken from the heart, across party lines, without fear or favour, and we have been given much to think about.

That may, or may not, be true - I simply could not say - for one had virtually no access to most of the participants' speeches; only to people and bits on whom a headline could be attached, or a beat-up contrived.

In fact, it was a disgraceful media performance, the whole matter obviously beyond the professional competence of most of the journalists.

Federal Health Minister Tony Abbott was more or less vilified throughout, for the usual qualities: political courage, intellectual integrity and indifference to calumny. Morally speaking, he won that contest hands down.

And Liberal MP, Mrs Danna Vale, was set up for a grand press Show Trial, until some heavyweights weighed in to support the quite sensible, though profoundly disturbing, things she said. (As an ex-serviceman I remember her as a good minister, as was her predecessor Bruce Scott).

She said we were aborting ourselves out of existence (in addition to the refusal of more and more women, and hence the inability of more and more men, to produce children).

Danna Vale, citing one of our radical Muslim clerics, said that in 50 years we could be a Muslim state because of our refusal to have children, and Muslims' readiness to have plenty of them.

Mark Steyn, a columnist with the English Telegraph Group including The Spectator, has written a long article, "Salute Danna Vale", in The Australian (February 16, 2006), in which he deploys some quite striking statistics.

The Australian anti-child disease is, as we have often said, part of a general Western malady. Steyn says:

"Seventeen European nations are now at what demographers call 'lowest-low' fertility - 1.3 births per woman, the point at which you're so far down the death spiral you can't pull out."

Italy has only 14 per cent of its population under fifteen, the United Kingdom 18 per cent and Australia 20 per cent. Compare that to Saudi Arabia's 39 per cent, Pakistan's 40 per cent and Yemen's 47 per cent. Similar figures, or higher, exist for the rest of the Middle East (except Israel) and, of course, for Africa and Latin America.

Steyn believes that China, because of its one-child policy, will find that its population "will get old before it gets rich". So they are not going to rule the world. Japan, with its ageing static population is not going to repeat its early post-war economic feats. Russia is collapsing - demographically, politically and socially.

Whereas the United States and Islam are not. Australia is on a borderline, with 1.77 live births per woman.

To return to Australia, Danna Vale was talking in terms of the next 50 years, not five, and there she gains support from figures produced by Angela Shanahan (Weekend Australian, February 18-19), who wrote:

"The first wave of Islamic immigration from Lebanon in the 1970s established large Islamic pockets, particularly in Sydney, where 48 per cent of Muslims live. By 1981 there were 76,800 Australian Muslims. By 2001 there were 281,600 Muslims - 1.5 per cent of the population."

That was five years ago. Partly immigration, partly fecundity.

According to ANU demographer Peter MacDonald (quoted in Shanahan's article), Australian Muslim women have at least 40 per cent more children than do average Australian women, i.e., 2.68 per woman, compared with just over 1.7 per cent generally.

I am reminded of two societies - there would be many others - where demography has changed the face of politics in my lifetime.

In South Africa, the victors of the Boer War, the English, controlled the society and had virtually created the non-agricultural economy. The Boers were a minority who, together with another substantial minority, the Cape "coloureds" (Indians and all other Asians), had electoral rights shared by relatively few educated Africans. The franchise did not extend to the majority of blacks. From 1909 to 1948, this demographic situation and political settlement remained in place; but by 1948 the Boers had, by consistently producing larger numbers of births than the English, gained a majority. They won power, kicked the Cape coloureds and enfranchised blacks off the rolls, gerrymandered Parliament so as to favour the rural farming seats, then introduced apartheid. We know the rest.

In Israel, the majority of Jews were of European origin and kept the Labour party in for 44 years. After 1948, with the expulsion of the Sephardic Jewish communities from Egypt and the Maghreb, Iraq, Syria and the Yemen, the demographic balance changed and a new right-wing party - very anti-Arab - arose and, with the help of much higher fertility rates than the Ashkenazi, was able to gain power in the 1970s.

This party, Likud, was the party of Begin, Shamir, Sharon and Netanyahu. Israel has become divided in ways it never was before, and its policies have been heavily influenced by hardline religious parties, whose members crowded into the settlements and who must take responsibility for much of what has happened in recent years. They have even larger families than the Arabs. So demography matters.

Irrespective of Danna Vale's quite reasonable fears, there are some very serious contemporary problems of disadvantaged Australian Muslims, as Angela Shanahan has shown. She says that Monash University sociologist Bob Birrell has noted "a welfare dependency rate in the largely Muslim Lebanese community three times the average". This comes from the 1996 census.

Religious beliefs

Now Katherine Betts and Ernest Healy, using the 2001 census, have focused on the disadvantages still observable in the second and third generation of Muslim Australians, and what these authors see as the links with this community's religious beliefs.

Compared to Australian households, there are almost double the children in Islamic households, and endemic unemployment. The average age of the Muslim community in Australia is 25 - that of the rest of us is 35. The age for first-time Australian mothers is 30; for Muslim women, much younger.

Ernest Healy, in his monograph in next month's People and Place journal, remarks: "One only has to look at the crime rates in southwestern Sydney and what happened after Cronulla to see the possible results."

About the third-generation unemployed, he asks: "What if fundamentalist Islam gets hold of these young men? ... It is in the interests of all Australians to remove our PC blinkers and look at this growing, disaffected population of young people."

This, I think, is at the root of Muslim disaffection and instability everywhere - and the wound which explains what Al-Qa'eda and the whole anti-American protest is about. But back to the "debate" in Parliament.

First thing: the vicious religious sectarianism of many MPs, with the little parties excelling. So, if a minister is Catholic, you remove the powers going with the office.

What kind of precedent has been established here? What would an authority dealing with discrimination - in this case, religious discrimination - normally have to say? Australian Catholics probably never realised they would come back to this.

Second: the co-option, or successful intimidation, of most women parliamentarians, by what is fundamentally the familiar feminist lobby is bad news.

It shows why Howard has been trying to walk on eggs - and failed; why he baulks at tackling the iniquitous Family Law Act or recounting the comprehensive personal and social disasters which have flowed like a cataract through society, and one that is still running.

He fears, rightly, that he would split his party, as would the ALP were it to do the same. And our parties remain silent; for too many people benefit from these injustices.

The same applies to demanding ever-more childcare facilities, and processes to take all baby/child caring and emotional support relationships from women, who don't like these restrictions on their freedoms. The state will take over - and has.


A piece of news for admirers of German social democracy.

Gerhard Schroeder, a long-time ally of Chirac, Putin and Kofi Annan in the fight against the hideous Anglo-Americans, has gone as Germany's Chancellor, but has now "taken a job on Putin's payroll" - as the The New York Review of Books (February 9, 2006) puts it - as chairman of a Russian pipeline company.

That must really cheer Germans who have loyally supported the Social Democrats all this time. I wonder where Kofi Annan will go next, after all his triumphs?

  • Max Teichmann

All you need to know about
the wider impact of transgenderism on society.
TRANSGENDER: one shade of grey, 353pp, $39.99

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