A possie in Aussie

March 3, 2010

Angry Anderson and friends: please share your statistics!

I’m not Angry, but I am frustrated.

Gary ‘Angry’ Anderson yesterday added some petrol to the fire of racism in Australia by telling a Parliamentary Inquiry that there were racial and cultural reasons behind increases in weapon assaults.

(And gave “Aussie Kids’ a strange commendation: “Aussies use their fists”.

How does he know? How does he get the confidence to make such claims? Does he have access to sources the rest of us don’t?

Of course, Andrew Bolt is always there when there is a sniff of fuel being added to a fire.

Bolt ‘just’ raises the issue, and then lets the moral panic do the talking:

“Peter of Adelaide’:

“Angry is 100% correct.

“The Vietnamese were the first in Adelaide to use weapons and the machette seemed to be the weapon of choice.

“Today it’s knives, machettes (sic) and anything else available.

“Vietnamese, Sudanese, Lebonese (sic). You name the immigrants and you will find weapons within their gangs.

Another reader supports Peter of Adelaide:

“Peter of Adelaide makes points about the propensity of ethnic groups to use weapons. Supported by statistics.”

PLEASE PLEASE tell me, where are these statistics? I really want to know. Every time I have asked police for an idea of which groups are committing crimes I am met by silence. (As it should be.)

The only statistics that I know of that are publically available are from the ABS, and they are currently from 2005, and only of ethnicity of prisoners. (If you know of any others, please tell me).

And, unfortunately for those of us who would l.ike a quick answer to these things, the frequency of incarceration does not equal the frequency of crimes committed.

To take just one example, the wealthy can hire QCs to represent their children, as in a case of friends of mine whose sons didn’t like someone’s attitude in a street one night, and ended the night by killing the guy with a tyre lever.  The sons were ‘Australian’, of Anglo-Saxon descent, by the way.

‘Atatistics tell the story’ also turned up in recent discussions of the crimes against Indians. Commenters told me that the ‘statistics’ showed that the crimes were racist. But the ‘statistics’ turned out to be media reports.

Angry Anderson is clearly an idiot to say such things, and we could just write his comments off as so much hot air. But there is nothing like a ‘devil’ to increase sales of tabloid press and listeners to talkback radio. Especially if that ‘devil’ has a machete.


February 13, 2010

Canada looks set to win the brain drain from India with fast track citizenship

Canada is bidding for the ‘brains’ that are now draining out of Australia and Britain.

Australia has made things harder for foreign students to get PR (permanent residency) through their studies by ending rorts that used study simply as a visa opportunity and encouraging the growth of shonky ‘colleges’ and shady ‘education agents’. International students and temporary workers suffer because of Australian immigration mess

This, along with the recent focus on attacks on Indian students, is drastically reducing student visa applications to Australia. The ‘Indian Issue’ is creating racism

Students from Northern India, Bangladesh and Nepal are also now facing a temporary ban on entry to Britain, which feared foul play after it faced an alarming increase in student visa applications.

Taking the opportunity, the province of Quebec is giving out “certificates of selection” to foreign students who graduate from universities there, putting them on a very fast-track to Canadian citizenship. Quebec Fast-Tracks Citizenship for Foreign Students . Any student who secures a bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree from any university in Quebec will in effect be awarded citizenship after undergoing security and health checks.

The premier of the province, Jean Charest, told Times of India that

“Our vision is that of an open society. Globalisation is not just about economy and numbers; we need to put a human face to it.’’

This ‘globalised human face’ is not just about people, but about exam scores and qualifications.

February 3, 2010

Indians jump to racist conclusions and get burnt

I caught a lot of flack because I objected to all the crimes involving Indians ion Australia being branded as ‘racist’, and said that there was no proof that they had been. People took this to mean that I was on ‘white Australia’s side’ and against the ‘Indian side’.

I tried to explain that I was not denying any suffering of the Indians involved, and was worried that racism could be created by crying ‘racism’ – but my words seemed to fall on deaf ears.

Perhaps the following news stories will help my case against jumping to conclusions?

  • The NSW police have arrested three persons in connection with the murder of a 25-year old Indian man, whose burnt body was found in the NSW town of Griffith on December, 29, 2009. Gurpreet Singh, 23, and his 20-year-old wife Harpreet Bhullar faced the court on January 29. A third man was arrested on the same day and will also be charged with Mr. Singh’s murder. Burned Indian man ‘faked attack in insurance scam’

It is clear that racism was not a factor in this crime, even though it has been widely reported in the Indian media as a racist attack.

Concerning the same case, in January The New Indian Express reported the Victorian police as saying “there is no reason at this stage to consider this racially motivated” and commented:

“If the statement had been calculated to enrage, it could hardly have been more provocatively phrased. Perhaps, in Australia, opportunist crimes also involve setting the victim ablaze. In any other country, this would prima facie be considered a hate crime, in this case racist.”

with making a false report to police and criminal damage with a view to gaining a financial advantage. He allegedly burned himself while torching his car for an insurance claim, police allege. A man suffered burns when he tried torching his own car in an insurance scam, police say

Concerning the same case, in January The New Indian Express reported the Victorian police as saying “there is no reason at this stage to consider this racially motivated” and commented:

“If the statement had been calculated to enrage, it could hardly have been more provocatively phrased. Perhaps, in Australia, opportunist crimes also involve setting the victim ablaze. In any other country, this would prima facie be considered a hate crime, in this case racist.”

January 31, 2010

How are racists made?

How are racists made? Through stereotypes.

How are stereotypes made? Through:

Reducing complex information to one idea, and

Using one example to represent a pattern

For example, a Korean backpacker is killed in Australia.

Here are a few patterns of thought that could be elicited by this small piece of information:

Koreans are violent people

Australia is a violent place

Backpackers are easy targets

Where do the patterns come from? In most cases the media.

But it is not that the media is conspiring to create harmful stereotypes. It’s just that they are perpetually in the hunt for a ‘story’.

One Korean backpacker killed would probably feature only in state news, and not on the front page, unless it’s a very slow news period, or the killing was macabre.

Two backpackers killed in close succession is a ‘bigger’ story, and gives writers more to work with, i.e. ‘Is this a pattern?’ ‘What is it with backpackers/ Koreans anyway?’ ‘Are we a violent state?’ and so on.

The Korean Association speaks out – even better story opportunities.

From now on, any violence involving a Korean is reported, even minor incidents. And no matter whether the numbers of violent incidents hasn’t increased, or have even decreased, it will seem as if there are more and more incidents, just because they are being reported.

The Korean government speaks out? Even better story. Now we are on the front page, not only in Australia, but in Korea, and possibly in most of Asia.

If ‘Australians are racist towards Koreans’ hasn’t been thrown into the mix, it certainly will be now.

(And if Australians hadn’t thought of being racist towards Koreans before now – they may feel left out ;-))

And if Koreans have never before thought of Australians as racist – they will now.

This cycle of stereotyping is completed.

And for fun – here is a stereotyping test:

January 18, 2010

The ‘Indian Issue’ is creating racism

These are reports of Indian taxi drivers attacked in Victoria in Melbourne newspapers. Passengers attack Indian driver and attempt to steal his cab) (Booze not race behind cabbie bashings in Ballarat: cops)

I am willing to bet, though, that if Afghan taxis drivers had been bashed, or Chinese, or other new settlers, the reports would not have made it to the Melbourne newspapers, and, if they did, they would have appeared without the ethic identity of the cab drivers.

An ‘Indian Issue’ has been created, and now created is being fed because reporters see a story in incidents that would otherwise not be news.

So now it increasingly looks as if there is a mass vendetta against Indians.

I do not believe that Indians were particular targets for racism in Australia before the ‘Indian Issue’ was created.

People in Australia seem to prefer people with darker skin to taunt and attack. As well as aboriginals and Africans, Muslims, particularly women wearing a head covering, are the usual targets.

Indians, particularly northern Indians, are just not black or Muslim enough.

But the ‘Indian Issue’ is, I fear, likely to cause racist behaviours directly targeted at Indians.

I reckon that if the Indian Issue is beaten up enough, even blockheads will hear of it, and this will trigger some fresh racist ideas- and action.

I am not a ‘racism-denier’. I have, however, studied how media can create and sustain issues of racism, however, and this issue seems to be rapidly heading in that direction.

January 12, 2010

Indian students, Shapelle Corby: Having a go, Part 2

Are Indians hysterical?

India’s External Affairs Minister, S. M. Krishna, calls the murder of Nitin Garg a ‘heinous crime against humanity’.

Minister Krishna threatens: ‘if attacks of this nature continue, we will have to seriously think what course of action lies with [the] Government of India; India will not tolerate [it] any more.’

Australian police are depicted as members of the Ku Klux Klan in an inflammatory cartoon in an Indian newspaper.

Indians  reacting hysterically? What about the Corby case? Remember that hysteria? And she was a person correctly charged with importing drugs into Bali. The only interest the Corby case had for Indonesians was the Australian media’s coverage of it

Jeff Sparrow at the ABC Drum asks, ‘why were the Indonesians mystified and fascinated? Because the news coverage here was utterly and bizarrely – what’s the word we’re looking for? – hysterical.’ Home grown hysteria

Are Australian’s racist? How about this excerpt from a transcript of a show on Radio 2GB about the Corby case:

Presenter: The judges don’t even speak English, mate, they’re straight out of the trees if you excuse my expression.

Sarah Hanson-Young points out that in India, where both families and the media are hysterical, and the family is burying Nitin Garg, the Australian Government’s indignant dismissal of the suggestion that racism exists in Australia can only be seen as ignorant and insulting.

As Miranda Devine says, ‘If I were a mother in India, I wouldn’t want my son going to Melbourne to study’ Feelgood sops from politicians are no help in healing a mother’s heartbreak

OK. Now I am going to have a go at making sense out of this:

It is inflammatory and inaccurate to talk about ‘racism’ (see Why Indian students are attacked in Australia: Having a go, part 1.)

But there are racist behaviours in Australia.

The attacks on Indian students were most likely a result of opportunity plus a high crime situation, and it is likely that racist epithets were tossed in too.

The Indian media is over-reporting and over-reacting to the situation.

Public debate about whether Australia is racist misses the point: some areas of Melbourne and Sydney are unsafe for anyone

Australia could calm the hysteria by a passionate focus on making the streets safe

The reaction in India is to be expected, and Australians have proven themselves to be at least as hysterical about Australians overseas.

Public debate about whether Australia is racist incites racism in itself

As Paul Colgan says in the Punch, blaming racism for crime breeds fear and anger. And once that starts it can be difficult to control.

December 15, 2009

Unanimous: international students need better conditions

The Senate Committee Report ‘Inquiry Welfare of International Students’ has been released.  The report does not directly address the issue of attacks on students,  and does not agree with suggestions that many of the attacks on Indian students were racially motivated, but makes recommendations that address student safety through initiatives that include  improved information about rights and supports available.

As Andrew Bartlett points out, the report is unanimous across all the political parties represented, and while this unanimity does sacrifice some strength of opinion, it also means that it will be harder for the government to ignore the findings. Senate committee reports on international students issue

A few findings:

More flexibility in number of hours available to work each week (currently limited to 20) and a less draconian response when the rule is broken (if a student is caught working more than this in a week, they are likely to have their visa cancelled, even if it is a one-off)

Concessions to be available for international students on public transport

Develop a comparative information tool on education providers. This information tool should differentiate between the capacity of providers by comparing such things as the level and quality of support services available to students.

October 31, 2009

Want child abuse? Night raids? Summary justice? Just ask your Immigration official

Actions taken against people suspected of violating migration legislation are decided and applied by decision of the Australian Department of Immigration and Citizenship.

These ‘compliance’ actions are mostly taken against ‘aliens’ who have no resident status, but as we have seen in recent years, the Australian Immigration Department has also acted against Australian citizens such as Cornelia Rau.

Residents and citizens of Australia are protected by the Rule of Law, and so, once her status was discovered, Rau had to be released immediately and had recourse to compensation.

(Notice that protection against summary actions of the immigration department depends on those actions coming to light.)

When migration officials decide to take action, however, it seems that residency or any other status have little deterrent effect. This blog has reported about the child in immigration detention who was separated from her father and flown to Iran without his permission, Australian immigration officials investigated over child abduction, and overseas students who have been subject to compliance raids in the middle of the night and had their homes searched by immigration officials.  Failed your exam? Go to jail!

It is not only in Australia where immigration is a law unto itself. Human Rights Watch reports that, in 2008, airport police deported or removed one third of the 1,000 unaccompanied migrant children who arrived at Roissy Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris and who were denied entry into France.

“Airport border police place detained children in the same facilities as adults, putting the children at risk of abuse. They routinely threaten children as young as age six with deportation, subject children to strip searches, handcuff them during rides to hospitals, and order intrusive age examinations even when there is no doubt the child is under 18.” France: Abolish Airport Limbo for Migrant Children

There are of course international treaties that proclaim guidelines for the treatment of aliens. Some people refer to these as ‘laws’, but a law is not a law unless it can be enforced, and there is no body that can sanction nations for their treatment of people who are not official residents or citizens.

The wonderful Hannah Arendt more than half a century ago saw that the concept of human rights ‘collapses in ruins’ in the face of the stateless, the refugee, and the asylum seeker. To these we may add ‘those in the hands of immigration departments’.

October 5, 2009

Pass the IELTS? Do not learn English if you want a visa

Why do so many international students have problems with the level of English language they need for their studies?

Why do so many people on skilled visas not get jobs in Australia, even though they are highly qualified?

Because it is possible to pass the IELTS at a high level with barely a word of English.

International students and skilled migrants are required to have high-level IELTS (International English Language Testing System) scores to get Australian visas.

In a submission to the senate inquiry into international student conditions, the University of Melbourne Graduate Student Association advocacy service argues that more funding should be allocated to language support for international students and that it is the responsibility of the University to provide this support.

In another submission, N. K. Aggarwal raises the question “do the students really come to Australia to study or simply use the Governments’ permitted method to attain permanent residence? Nearly 95 % of the overseas students attending vocational courses, settle down in Australia permanently”.

Study and employment are indeed secondary goals for many, whose primary aim is PR (permanent residency).

It is because of the PR Holy Grail that many scams have developed, including the one I was made privy to this weekend – books published in Chinese that give all of the questions that a candidate will come across in the IELTS exam, with the answers. Imposters. Secret documents. That’s the Australian visa business

There are for example 200 Reading texts used for the IELTS, which cycles through those randomly to produce each ‘unique’ test.

Chinese candidates can learn to look for two or three key words in the texts which alert them to which answers to give. This of course requires a lot of dedicated rote learning, but is much quicker than trying to actually become proficient in English at this level.

It would be a good idea to find a better testing system, rather than spending millions on remediation once the students and migrants are ion Australia.

Post script: A quote from Andrew Bartlett’s submission, which I wholeheartedly approve, but also want extended to the Chinese who arrived in 2005-2006 on 457 visas:

“It is grossly unfair to encourage international students to come on the promise of permanent residency, and then change the rules after they have arrived.”

September 25, 2009

Australia or India: both exploit foreign students

In Australia, up to 37 foreign students have been packed into a two-storey Brisbane suburban home by a Korean education agent. The rent the students paid was being used to cover the lease for education agents’ upstairs home-office. See Students to march for foreign student rights

When the local council raided, they discovered 27 students, including three Asian girls asleep in a double bed, with beds for a further 10 people. Asian students lived three to a bed

There have been similar incidences in Sydney and Melbourne, where one house had 38 students.

In India, 200 visa agents had their licences suspended by Australian after reports of fraudulent behaviour. The agents are meant to help students gain visas to live, study and work in Australia.

There are also concerns that a lack of student visa checks are taking place to ensure students are living in Australia on valid Australian visas obtained through legal means. 200 Australian student visa agents suspended in India

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