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Asian values

August 28th, 2003

Absurd comparisons between Pauline Hanson and Nelson Mandela have not helped to advance the debate. But a more useful comparison might be made with legal harassment of opposition politicians in countries like Singapore. It is not illegal to oppose the government there, but somehow opposition leaders seem to run afoul of the law a lot, notably with defamation actions. In particular there are strict regulations on the constitutions and financial affairs of political parties, which cause big problems for opposition parties.

Australia is not the same as Singapore. Nevertheless, I imagine the Hanson case will be quoted prominently in reply next time anyone from Australia criticises restrictions on the political freedom of our Asian neighbours.

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  1. Greg
    August 28th, 2003 at 11:00 | #1

    John your link ‘Posted by John at’ doesn’t go anywhere at all and the immediately following link, ’8:14am’ goes nowhere much. While on this subject, can anyone please point me to somewhere I can learn to insert labelled links in my post comments?

  2. John Quiggin
    August 28th, 2003 at 12:25 | #2

    Greg, you just post the HTML code for a link. For example, here’s a link from the post. To get this, you insert the following code
    (a href=”http://web.amnesty.org/web/ar2002.nsf/asa/singapore?Open”(link from the post(/a)
    replacing all round brackets ( or ) with angle brackets

  3. Greg
    August 28th, 2003 at 13:01 | #3

    Thanks very much John. Sorry the rest of my comment was inexplicably sleepy but I suppose it happens to everyone sometimes!

  4. August 28th, 2003 at 17:15 | #4

    Comparisons between Pauline Hanson and Nelson Mandela aren’t absurd in themselves but can actually be useful, provided only people don’t overtstretch the analogy.

    The valid analogy is, that each was convicted and imprisoned by due process of law and that the law itself was where the problem area was expressed. Nelson Mandela’s early supporters could indeed be rebutted by pointing out that there were laws – at that point it took rather more to bring out that apartheid was intrinsically flawed rather than imperfectly implemented, a case for revolution rather than reform that respected ordinary procedures. And who is to say that the Australian system is capable of reform? And what kind of rebuttal is it merely to point out that there was due process, now we have seen that that rebuttal is not necessarily sufficient in itself?

    The point is, it’s cases like Mandela’s that show us now that mere legal due process is not a sufficient justification. That much is a valid parallel. To go further and suggest that therefore Hanson is right is going too far; but it is certainly enough comparison to tell us that the apologists for what happened to her are resting on a moral justification that is not as strong as we would have expected of someone who actually had a strong case – i.e., a mere claim that it was all perfectly legal, a different thing altogether.

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