Is there any point in double banning capital punishment?

The SMH reported yesterday that

LAWS prohibiting states and territories from reintroducing the death penalty are being seriously considered by the Rudd Government and could be introduced this parliamentary term.

Even for a government as hyperactive as the Rudd government this proposal seems excessive. After all, nobody has actually received capital punishment since 1967, and according to the SMH article the last state formally removed it from the statute books in 1985. The 2007 Australian Election Survey suggests that, for the first time, capital punishment has minority support. Neither regular appalling murders, nor the introduction of tough anti-terrorist measures, has seen any serious attempt to get the death penalty reintroduced. The issue is as dead as Ronald Ryan, the last man to go the gallows. For good reason, the Australian political class has lost the will to kill.

So why this proposal? According to an accompanying article

The move is intended in part to reinforce with Asia Australia’s opposition to the death penalty – given concern at the fate of three Bali Nine members on Indonesia’s death row.

But this proposal relies for its significance on a distinction between state and federal law that is barely understood within Australia, much less within Asia. I fail to see how an obscure constitutional point adds anything to our international advocacy, much less to the substantive debates within Asia about the advantages and disadvantages of the death penalty.

Double banning capital punishment seems to me to be soft left symbolic politics at its most ridiculous.

Is $12 billion a year being sent overseas for drugs?

According to a report in The Age,

The Australian Crime Commission’s estimates suggest authorities are drastically underestimating the quantity of drugs crossing the nation’s borders without detection.

“The estimates at the moment range between $4 billion and $12 billion a year. We are not saying at the moment which end of the scale is right or wrong, but what we are saying is it is significant,” [ACC chief executive] Mr Milroy said.

The most recent official estimate, for 2004, put the figure at $382 million.

$12 billion seems rather a lot for the nation’s drug users to be sending overseas. Doing a quick calculation based on the AIHW drug survey it amounts to about $4,200 per drug user.

But by far the most common illicit drug is cannibas, which is not a big import. Another Australian Crime Commission report says that low prices and plentiful local supply mean that it is not attractive to drug importers.

If we restrict the user pool to other drugs, $12 billion means about $9,000 per drug user (though presumably some people appear several times in the separate numbers for each drug).

I suppose that is possible, but the most common of the other drugs, ecstasy, costs only $30-$40 a pill, and for many people is an occasional party drug, not something they need every day.

I won’t give this number the dubious research category yet, but the range of between $4 billion a year and three times that amount suggests that at minimum this is a very premature release of the results.

Do men have ‘moral standing’ in the abortion debate?

I expect the right-wing blogosphere will be all over this op-ed by feminist Leslie Cannold.

The problem – at least for me – isn’t the fact that she supports a bill currently before the Victorian Parliament to formally decriminalise abortions that occur in the first 24 weeks of pregnancy.

Rather, the problem is that Cannold argues that

Men lack moral standing in the abortion debate — indeed are guilty of moral arrogance — when they push for control over a procedure they’ll never have to have because they can’t get pregnant.

Except that she’s serious, Cannold’s op-ed reads like a parody of self-centred feminism, with its characteristic refusal to accept that any of women’s interests can be put up for negotiation (if they complete the pregnancy, the rest of us must pay for their maternity leave, childcare, cover for their absences at work, and then pay and promote them as if nothing had happened).

Nowhere in her article does Cannold even contemplate the idea that killing an unborn child is morally problematic, even if (and here I agree with her) a convincing case can be made that, all things considered, this can be the better overall option in the earlier part of pregnancy. You don’t need to be a potential murder victim to stand up for the people others are proposing to kill.

The evidence of women in the abortion debate will usually be stronger than that of men, because as Cannold says they have a range of experiences that men don’t. But the moral standing of women to participate in the debate is the same as men’s.

Why is opinion on migration changing?

The Age yesterday reported claims that comments former Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews made last year about the reasons for slowing the African refugee intake led to more hostility towards Africans:

following Mr Andrews’ comments the NSW Immigration Department [sic] received reports of racial harassment directed at the African community.

“On 14 November 2007, the (deleted) reported that anecdotal evidence suggested an increase in racial harassment directed at Africans in the Parramatta area,” the department-in-confidence community update says.

As is usually the case with these claims, there is no real evidence here of either cause or effect. My own view is that politicians have little influence on subjects people can make up their own minds about. But what politicians say, and reactions to their comments (usually very heated where ethnicity is concerned), do alter the salience of particular issues. It is possible, though not very likely, that greater public discussion of the problems of African migrants had negative consequences for them.

But we can say that there is little sign in survey evidence that particular issues to do with African migrants, relating to gangs and crime, have had any influence on overall public opinion.
Continue reading “Why is opinion on migration changing?”

The decline of marijuana

The latest drug statistics from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare show that illicit drug use is becoming less common. In the last six years (the survey goes back to 1993, but only since 2001 have huge 20,000+ samples been used) the proportion of Australians using any illicit drug in the last twelve months has declined from 16.9% to 13.4%.

What’s particularly interesting is the way it is falling away in the teen group, aged 14-19. While this is still an age of experimentation (the overall statistics are helped a lot by all us sober 40 plus people), the proportion of young men using illicit drugs in the last 12 months is getting close to having halved in just six years, from 28.8% to 15.6%. Among young women it is down from 26.6% to 17.7% (making this the only age group in which females are more likely to use drugs than males).

The main driver seems to be declining use of marijiuana/cannabis, which has more than halved among young men (26.6%/13.1%) and is significantly down among young women (22.6%/12.7%). The girls use party drugs more than the guys, accounting for their higher overall figure.

There is debate at Harry Clarke’s blog and Andrew Leigh’s blog about what might be causing these changes.
Continue reading “The decline of marijuana”

Dob in a Trot

Clearly my hypothesis that the left is ruder than right has not won universal support. But I am sure the Victorian Police would agree with me. They have already charged 26 people with offences relating to the G20 protest that I linked to, and yesterday set up a Dob-in-a-Trot program by releasing photographs of 28 further persons of interest. I had been hoping to provide a name or two, but alas I don’t recognise any of them. But perhaps some student readers can help make life miserable for their campus foes?

The cops reckon they have enough, from one protest, to convict 26 lefties of criminal offences. I doubt that many names could be produced from a decade of Australian right-wing misbehaviour. On violence at least, in Australia the left is far more uncivil than the right.

And she was how old when she had her baby?

The Victorian police have laid charges over a fire that killed a man and destroyed 11 homes deliberately lit bushfire. But do the maths on the accused:

A teenage boy and his mother have been charged with arson after a fire in Gippsland, south-east of Melbourne.

The 29-year-old woman and her 15-year-old son also were charged with reckless conduct endangering life, allowing a fire to remain alight on a day of total fire ban and impeding an investigation.

There was something to be said for the old system in which such boys were put out for adoption, rather than following this all-too-predictable path to the criminal justice system, via educational failure.