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A bigger storm is brewing

By John Stone - posted Tuesday, 21 November 2006

In Brendan Behan's words: "Jasus, and it's a quare world." While doing almost nothing about the greatest problem now threatening Australia's future, the federal Government is throwing tax dollars (though less than the subsidy scroungers want) at a non-problem.

I refer, respectively, to Australia's Muslim problem and the climate change non-problem.

Our media's performance on these two matters, particularly the ABC-SBS duo and the Fairfax broadsheets, has been quite remarkable.


Taj Din al-Hilali's recent outrageous comments - comparing immodestly dressed women to meat left out for cats, and blaming them for sexual assaults - have been treated (though not by The Australian) as something to be swept quickly under the carpet. Indeed, The Age's front page effectively ignored the story throughout the controversy. Contrast that with the media frenzy over the apocalyptic Stern report on climate change, concerning the so-called pollution of our atmosphere by a gas, carbon dioxide, that's an essential building block for all plant life.

We have endured widespread exhortations, from the over-loquacious Australian Federal Police Commissioner to the foolish Anglican Archbishop of Perth, not to over-react to Hilali's medieval diatribe about Western women.

Meanwhile, discussion of climate change has degenerated from mild inanity into quasi-religious hysteria, with assorted opinion-formers demanding that we "get serious" in undermining Australia's main energy-producing and energy-using industries.

In short, we should remain officially complacent about the most serious threat to our future, namely the fundamental incompatibility of Islam with Western society, while adopting anti-economic growth policies to address a problem that exists chiefly in the fevered minds of its UN and Green proponents. (I set aside our sad federal Environment Minister Ian Campbell, who had been captured by his bureaucrats within a week of taking office.)

Corporate rent seekers also are angling for governmental subsidies for their economically hopeless wind farms, solar power toys and carbon sequestration follies. The kindest explanation for these people's views is that they are (as I think) merely another bunch of would-be corporate welfare dependants, much like the manufacturers before the Hawke Government (chiefly) got rid of their protective tariff rackets.

As to the real problem, if Hilali's remarks have finally set alarm bells ringing in Canberra, there is little sign of it. And even the Melbourne Herald Sun's outstanding commentator Andrew Bolt, while excoriating the mufti's maunderings, has proposed no specific policies to avert the threatening iceberg of which Hilali merely represents the tip.


But if the Government is guilty of a non-response to the real problem, the Opposition is guilty of a stupid response to the non-problem. It is demanding that Australia sign up to an international treaty (the Kyoto Protocol) that - like most things associated with the UN - has already demonstrably failed.

Meanwhile, the only semblance of government action on our Muslim problem has been the discussion paper on a possible formal test for citizenship issued in September by the parliamentary secretary to the Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, Andrew Robb. I don't wish to be too hard on Robb - after all, he reports to Amanda Vanstone, our worst Immigration Minister since Ian Macphee, and his paper at least puts the topic on the public agenda.

Since, however, it never states the problem to which it is really addressed - namely, that we are now at war with international Islamist terrorism, and that therefore our Muslim community, collectively considered, now regrettably constitutes a potential threat that renders a citizenship test not only appropriate but essential - we cannot be hopeful of the outcome even on this limited issue.

Among all the climate change clap-trap there are at least occasional grounds for laughter. When an honest former business leader, John Ralph, said recently that "climate change might be occurring naturally, rather than being primarily driven by human activities", federal Treasurer Peter Costello quickly rebuked him, saying that he "accepted the scientific evidence" to the contrary. This was laughably reminiscent of another bandwagon (the republic) on to which he climbed 10 years ago when he saw it also as a winner that would undermine John Howard.

Hilarious though the thought may be of Costello making an informed judgment about the science of climate change, there is nothing remotely funny about dealing with the clash between Islam and Western modernity, not to mention (as the recent British MI5 revelations underline) the real and growing problem of Islamist terrorism. The Government would do well to start reacting accordingly.

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First published in The Australian on November 17, 2006.

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About the Author

John Stone is a former treasury secretary and National Party senator.

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