June 15th 2019

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY Anthony Albanese: NSW left factional warlord takes charge

EDITORIAL Religious freedom: the political and legislative challenges

CANBERRA OBSERVED Will Bill Shorten emerge from the shadows again?

FEDERAL ELECTION Queensland voted for jobs, life and country

NATIONAL AFFAIRS Keating's 'nutters': Don't blame the messenger

ECONOMICS AND SOCIETY Health policy is not immune from neoliberal infection

HUMAN RIGHTS Canada accepts Asia Bibi and family as refugees

FAMILY AND SOCIETY Families keeping the faith: the Benedict and other options

IDEOLOGY Feminist claims for equality, Part 1: The context

HISTORY OF SCIENCE Faith and reason and Father Stanley Jaki, Part 3: More on science and ancient cultures

LIFE ISSUES Families, youth boost crowd at WA Rally for Life

MUSIC Muse of delight: The laugh ascending

CINEMA Asterix: The Secret of the Magic Potion

BOOK REVIEW Pioneering aviator's flights and fancies

BOOK REVIEW Catholic resistance in a forgotten war

BOOK REVIEW AFA patron's long life of public service


NATIONAL AFFAIRS Cardinal Pell's appeal, June 5-6, 2019: An account from the live streaming

Books promotion page


News Weekly, June 15, 2019

Welfare of children

In this age of disregard for truth in argument, the winning card to brandish in political or social policy dispute is “the welfare of children”, regardless of whether it is the real issue or will actually be served if the espoused policy is implemented.

An early example was the argument for easy, no-fault divorce: better loss of the intact family than exposure to squabbling parents (no suggestion that parents should exercise self-control). And the priority of the welfare of the children was written into the legislation.

In fact this priority was scarcely a starter, having no weight in the face of the wishes of either parent to dissolve the marriage.

 Forty years on, when there is ample evidence of the harm to children associated with divorce – ranging from their murder by a distraught parent, or suicide, with drug use, anorexia, depression, self-harm and every psychological ill in between (surely worse than hearing parents squabbling) – while the recommended psychiatric and counselling help are clearly futile, the welfare of children remains inoperable, as clearly not to be put before the parental wish for divorce.

So, whenever a pressure group waves the card of “the welfare of children”, I am suspicious of foul play.

Is this really the crux of the issue of Manus Island detention? Common sense should tell us that it is the parents rather than the children who would suffer mental stress. Their lives as adults are impoverished and in limbo, whereas little children’s lives have always a restricted sphere and in a detention centre need not be very different in quality from a suburban home. So far as detention is concerned, in fact, it could be beneficial.

A study on rat parent-child relations used a set-up in which each litter had its own home and there was a large shared area. Three arrangements were tested: in the first arrangement, both parents and pups had free access to the shared area; in the second, the parents were confined to the home cage but the pups had free access to the shared area and to their parents’ cage; in the third arrangement, the pups were confined to their parental home cage but the parents had free access to the shared area.

Subsequent testing found that the pups whose parents were confined grew up the most confident and intelligent of the three groups; those that were confined but whose parents could freely leave them were least confident and intelligent; while the group in which both parents and pups roamed free were intermediate.

The confinement of both parents and children together in a detention centre is probably somewhere between the joint freedom and parental confinement conditions, and if the emotional results are common to mammals, the situation bodes well rather than ill for the Manus island children.

Whereas our own children, under our child-care culture, are treated like the confined pups whose parents are free to abandon them at will.

If this is valid, if the children on Manus island are indeed suffering psychologically, it is more likely to be because of the effect of detention on their parents, rather than directly on themselves.

Can the adult inmates of the island detention centres be returned to their home countries if they so request? If so, is it not their’s the responsibility to make this request for their children’s wellbeing; and the Australian Government’s only secondarily, to enable this?

Lucy Sullivan,
Richmond, NSW

More on Hawke obituary

Peter Westmore’s obituary on Bob Hawke (News Weekly, June 1, 2019) does not address three key matters.

Why did his death just before the election not sway ALP voters? A substantial number, of course, had already voted. Nonetheless, his death did not seem to sway voters’ opinions; unless it swayed them to not vote for the ALP.

Two additional issues need some examination.

There was no hint of a Christian ending despite Hawke’s quirky interest in matters religious.

According to former Australian ambassador to the Holy See and Labor Party stalwart, Sir Peter Lawler, Hawke requested that Sir Peter ask the Pope to bless 50 Oggetti Sacri (sacred objects) that he could then give out to members of his cabinet.

For well over a decade, Hawke’s main occupation had been facilitating business deals with Chinese companies and, by the mid-2000s, he had become “seriously wealthy”, with a fortune of some $50 million, according to Charles Sturt University academic Clive Hamilton.

His dalliance with Communist China may prove to disadvantage our strategic position in Asia and alienate our enduring defence partnership with the United States of America.

John Barich,
Claremont, WA

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Last Modified:
April 4, 2018, 6:45 pm