Should the Christian Brethren be tolerated?

The Sunday Age reported yesterday that the small religious group the Christian Brethren (not, apparently, to be confused with the Exclusive Brethren), is refusing to permit a gay support group, Way Out, to use its camp ground (the pun cannot be avoided).

Way Out is likely to lose its anti-discrimination case before the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal, but I expect that they will be one of the last groups to do so.

Exemptions for religious bodies under anti-discrimination law, which the Brethren will use as their defence in this case, are under sustained attack from human rights advocates, with a review of the Victorian legislation under way, and the federal Sex Discrimination Commissioner also calling for religious and other exemptions to be removed.

Though I doubt the exemptions will long survive, as with The Peel case last year I prefer a tolerance to a rights-based approach to these issues.
Continue reading “Should the Christian Brethren be tolerated?”

How prejudiced are you?

In 2005, an American implicit association test revealed my views about black American males. These computer tests infer your ‘implicit’ attitudes by how quickly you link positive or negative concepts with photographs of persons of particular ethnic groups, or ethnic names where these are easily linked to particular groups.

Back in 2005, the conclusion was that:

Your data suggests a moderate automatic preference for white people relative to black people.

One of the things I really did not like about my trip to the US in June was the way I absorbed the racial culture. I quickly fell into the habit of doing quick risk assessments on young black men. I could not recall the precise statistics, but I was well aware that they are massively over-represented in the criminal justice system. Most times I concluded that they were no threat and I never actually found myself in a worrying situation (unlike my first trip to the US in 1992, when I am pretty sure I at least would have been robbed, had not the police arrived and arrested the guy who was harassing me and my friend – they had been looking for him anyway).

I wanted to take a moral shower every time I thought this way, but my self-defence instincts were too strong to stop the thoughts entering my mind.

In a new Australian implicit association test, organised by Andrew Leigh and Alison Booth, I was spared any need for a moral shower. Continue reading “How prejudiced are you?”

WorkChoices and work-life balance

I am copping some flak for suggesting that falling divorce rates are inconsistent with left-familist complaints that WorkChoices undermine the family. It is certainly true that divorce rates are the most extreme indicator of family stresses, and would not pick up lesser harms to families. But are any indicators at all matching left-familist claims?

Commenter Michael Kalecki suggests that:

Work can be bad for families without divorce coming into it. An obligation to work longer hours for example.

That is true, but are people working longer hours since WorkChoices came into effect? Australian Social Trends 2008, published by the ABS, reports that they are not.

In 2005, the year before WorkChoices started, the average full-time employee spent 40.6 hours per week at work. By 2007 it had dropped to 39.4 hours – the lowest it has been since 1986, back in the days before any significant labour market deregulation. Part-timers also worked less, on average – though the drop for them was only small, from 16.2 hours to 16.1 hours.

What about full-time employees working more than 50 hours per week? This number is also trending down, from 23.8% in 2005 to 21.6% in 2007. I can only find trend data going back to 1994, but this is the lowest number since then.

The left-familists assume that employees are powerless in the face of employers indifferent to their other obligations, and that only regulation and unions can protect employees. In reality, the market functions much more effectively than that. As the HILDA data shows, employees rarely experience long-term dissatisfaction with work-life balance. Their job changes or they change their job.