Culture of Grief Never Resolved

By Andrew Bolt
Herald Sun

Juky 23, 2008,21985,24062550-5000117,00.html

HERE'S just the latest example of how our victim industry works, feeding on problems and starving on solutions.

Flying to Sydney for World Youth Day, the Pope told reporters he wanted to express regret to victims of priests who abused them.

But Broken Rites, the victims' group, said this was not enough, and he must "formally apologise". Said spokesman Bernard Barrett: "He made some general remarks about regret to reporters and that's not good enough."

All right: in Sydney, the Pope gave a formal apology.

But Broken Rites said this was now not enough, and he must apologise directly to a few representative victims. Said another spokeswoman, Chris MacIsaac: "It really needs to be delivered directly to the people who suffered that abuse. They could have looked some victims who represented all victims in the eye and said, the Pope could have said 'I am truly sorry'."

All right: the Pope then looked four representative victims directly in the eye, and said: "I am truly sorry."

But Broken Rites said this was no longer enough, either. MacIsaac again: "I'm afraid that what they've done is selected victims who have agreed with what the church's policies are."

Can we cut to the chase? What does Broken Rites actually want?

Can the Pope really ever do enough to please it? And bear in mind that the man is being made to jump through endless hoops to apologise for crimes he didn't commit, never condoned and says offend the most solemn teachings and practices of his church.

But isn't this in a microcosm the story of professional victimology?

Here's another example, also from this month.

Dr Helen Szoke, head of Victoria's Equal Opportunity Commission, has apparently had trouble finding enough real discrimination to stamp out and wants to rewrite her job description in ways that guarantee her endless work.

She no longer wants to work for "equal opportunity", she declared, because "treating everyone the same does not deliver real equality".

Oh. So it's no longer enough that Victorians treat people the same, regardless of gender, race, religion or age. Szoke now demands we instead work to produce equal outcomes.

To achieve this means, of course, a complete reversal of what we thought Szoke first wanted, as summed up in the very title of her commission: Equal Opportunity, not Equal Outcomes.

Specifically, it means some people must now be treated differently on the basis of gender, race, religion or age, to achieve Szoke's Equal Outcomes. For instance, if there are not enough African women graduating as engineers, we must find more and push them through. If half our police aren't women, we must hire fewer men.

So Szoke's EOC would encourage precisely the crime it was first asked to stamp out: discrimination.

Still, I must applaud. This is the most creative fix I've seen from the EOC to a problem that's dogged it for years - the fact that we are actually too nice to discriminate much, and don't produce nearly enough victims.

Already in March 2001, for instance, the EOC's then chairman was complaining: "I am not aware of any conclusive evidence that suggests that discrimination is increasing."

But observe again how the victim industry feeds on problems, and starves on solutions.

Instead of closing up shop with our thanks for a job well done, the EOC pushed the Bracks Labor government to pass draconian new laws against religious and racial "vilification".

New laws create new criminals, of course. And with this new law the Government hoped to create all those racists and bigots the EOC couldn't find, but was sure were there.

But what a blow. Victorians kept being so nice to each other that a year later the EOC admitted just five people in the state had complained of religious vilification in 12 months.

And the only people it managed to get convicted under the new laws against free speech were two Christian pastors, found guilty of making their parishioners laugh at the Koran - an absurd conviction later quashed.

But you can't ever convince the victim industry its problem is fixed. Desperate for victims, the EOC then tried to drum up business by teaching almost 10,000 Victorians, particularly Muslims and Arabs, how to complain about vilification and discrimination.

Yet even that failed, and with still not enough people to punish for discrimination, here's Szoke now arguing for the right to harass people for refusing to discriminate.

That's astonishingly imaginative, even from this industry famous for finding fresh reasons to complain.

I'd long thought Zita Antonias, then our federal Race Discrimination Commissioner, had set the gold standard a decade ago, when she admitted complaints had fallen by more than a third, but explained away that reassuring data by telling us to put our faith in dark rumours instead, claiming: "The figures are incongruent with anecdotal evidence."

But I'd seen nothing yet. In April this year, Antonias' successor, Tom Calma, faced the same lack of victims, with The Age complaining he was held back by laws which "made it difficult to prove there had been discrimination".

But, rather than celebrate a lack of real racism in Australia, Calma had a remarkable idea to create instant racists: Why not reverse the burden of proof so that anyone who is accused of racism is guilty until proven innocent?

After all, explained Calma, "you don't get vexatious complaints for the sake of complaints".

Changing the law as Calma recommended to the Rudd Government would, of course, keep him in work for the rest of his life.

An activist could accuse all 20 million Australians of racism, and - bingo - you'd overnight have 20 million guilty racists who'd have to be dragged into Calma's commission to prove their innocence.

Calma and Szoke's invent-a-victim creativity should shame another leader of their industry, federal Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick, whose own attempt this week to get more business seems positively timid.

Broderick's answer was to butt into areas not her business, to solve problems that don't need fixing: calling for changes to her Sex Discrimination Act so she could punish bosses who didn't promote dads who worked less and stayed home with their children more.

Excuse me? What does promoting men who work hard, rather than men who don't, have to do with discrimination on the basis of sex?

Well, nothing, really, but a sex discrimination commissioner with little sex discrimination to fight has to find victims somewhere.

And so the victim industry bounds on, finding ever more sins than solutions, and never daring to declare it's fixed the only small problem we ever asked it to check.

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