A couple of good pieces in the Weekend Oz

1. Tim Soutphommasane

Soutphommasane Profile Jun 10

According to his site bio, Tim is “Of Chinese and Lao extraction, and a first-generation Australian, Tim was raised in the southwest suburbs of Sydney. He completed a Doctor of Philosophy degree in political theory at the University of Oxford, from where he also holds a Master of Philosophy degree (with distinction). Tim studied at Oxford as Commonwealth and Jowett Senior Scholar at Balliol College. He is a first-class honours graduate of the University of Sydney.” I usually look at his regular column in The Weekend Australian.

Given his own background his comments on the current immigration debate have an added edge.

See The way we disagree will test our democracy.

…Can we have a measured dialogue about asylum-seekers when they provoke so much emotion? Can we have a debate without having people being accused of racist dog-whistling, without having facts distorted by hysteria about rickety boats overwhelming our northern shores?

The challenge of an honest national conversation concerns whether it is possible to have what political philosophers call deliberative democracy.

In a deliberative democracy, political debate can’t be reduced to a battle between interests. Citizens and representatives will exchange views in a spirit of fair play and reciprocity.

Admittedly, this kind of civic life involves an ideal or aspiration. But let’s imagine for a moment that we operate under its conditions. In such a world, the good citizen will enter into political debate with the aim of persuading others of their position, to be sure, but they will also aim to find common ground with their opponents….

2. Peter van Onselen

Again I found much to agree with in Peter’s column Julia at sea, but towaway Tony misses boat.

ONCE you get past the over-blown rhetoric designed to evoke fear and panic in the minds of voters over asylum boat arrivals – I am directing that criticism squarely at the opposition – there are two important as yet unanswered questions.

First, how on earth would Tony Abbott’s proposal to tow boats back out to sea actually work?

Second, if Julia Gillard is so keen to set up a regional processing centre in a country that has signed up to the UN convention on refugees, why does it have to be offshore? Given the sloppy way she approached East Timor and the consequent likelihood that they won’t agree to one being housed in their territory, Australia as the richest nation in the region should do it…

The not very creditable answer to that last point follows. Do read the whole article.