Why you shouldn’t force the kids to hug Granny at Christmas

Granny, who lives interstate and whom the kids haven’t seen since last year, is visiting for Christmas. She loves the kids and is eager to scoop them up and smother them with kisses. The young children, who only have a vague memory of who she is, are wary and would rather keep an eye on this strange woman for the next few hours before committing to any physical contact.

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Single parents are $271 per fortnight worse off

Thirty years after Prime Minister Bob Hawke famously promised that by 1990 no Australian child would live in poverty, Bill Shorten has promised that, if elected, Labor will use a “root and branch review” to lift the rate of the Newstart unemployment benefit.

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What’s your attitude to immigrants and refugees? It may depend on where you live

Dr Timothy B. Gravelle and Tamas Wells

Earlier this year, US President Donald Trump initiated his “zero tolerance” policy – detaining and prosecuting anyone who illegally enters the United States. The result, according to Human Rights Watch, was that more than 2000 immigrant children were separated from their parents.

After national and international outcry from the public and politicians, Donald Trump signed an executive order to end the separations, but a month later announced that he intended to end birthright citizenship – the principle that every child born on US soil is automatically a native-born citizen.

Political parties and the public are divided over attitudes towards immigrants and refugees in countries like Australia, the United States and Canada. Picture: Getty Images

These developments, alongside the US Supreme Court’s decision to uphold Trump’s travel ban which again brought with it global protest, maintains the position of border security and illegal immigration as one of the most divisive issues of our time.

The same is true here in Australia. It is clear to see in the government’s policy to detain refugees and asylum seekers in much-criticised and “life-threatening” conditions on Nauru and Manus Island.

Trump’s zero tolerance policy that led to parent and child separations, is mirrored by some of our own government’s policies, including the recent decision to settle children from detention in Australia, but only temporarily.

In countries like Australia, the United States, and Canada, political parties and the public remain sharply and vocally divided over attitudes toward immigrants and refugees.

But what influences these diverging attitudes toward immigration, refugee and asylum seeker policy? And what factors contribute to whether someone is open to, or opposed to, integrating ‘outsiders’?

It turns out that where we live plays a key role.


Recent surveys conducted around the time of federal election campaigns in both Canada and Australia, reveal a range of factors associated with open or closed attitudes to immigrants and refugees.

Some of these are common sense. For example, political party affiliation is important – if you identify with a Conservative party in Canada or the Liberal Party in Australia then you are far more likely to oppose higher immigration and refugee intake.

People who live in diverse neighbourhoods are often more likely to support open immigration or refugee policy. Picture: Getty Images

Perception of threat also matters.

This can come in two forms – the economic threat of immigrants or refugees competing for jobs, and cultural threat, with anxiety over the implications for national values, identity, and culture.

In Canada and Australia, both of these are important in shaping attitudes. The greater the perceived danger of losing your job or your identity, the more likely you are to be wary of immigrants or refugees.

The diversity of your neighbourhood matters too, but not always.

We might assume that the more experience you have with immigrants and refugees in your local neighbourhood, the more economic or cultural threat you might perceive, the more closed your attitudes will be.

But what we find is the opposite.


In both Canada and Australia, people who live in diverse neighbourhoods are more likely to support open immigration or refugee policy. The corollary is that if you live in an area with a smaller proportion of immigrants and refugees, you are more likely to have closed attitudes toward any newcomers.

This is not always the case though.

It’s also to some degree dependent on your political party identification. In Australia, new research shows that if you identify with the Liberal party then it doesn’t matter very much whether you are in a diverse neighbourhood or not, you are likely to have closed attitudes to immigrants and refugees.

In Australia, if you identify with the Liberal party, you are likely to have closed attitudes to immigrants and refugees. Picture: Getty Images

This differs for Labor voters, whose likelihood to have more open attitudes to refugees correlates with the percentage of immigrants and refugees living in their neighbourhood.


On the Australian side, the research draws on data from the Australian Election Study (AES) from 2010, 2013 and 2016 with between 2000 and 4000 respondents each year.

The AES is conducted as a post-election mail survey of the Australian voting-age population. The restricted datasets (containing respondent postcodes) were obtained from the Australian Data Archive.

These data allow us to link Census data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics to survey respondents, and so we’re able to measure not only the size of the foreign-born population in those neighbourhoods, but also how the foreign-born population has changed over time.

The Canadian data is from the Focus Canada study conducted in June 2015 (in the period leading up to the 2015 federal election) by the Environics Institute for Survey Research, involving over 2000 respondents in all 10 provinces.

The Environics Institute provided the survey data with postal codes and city names, allowing us to make the same link between the survey data and estimates of the local foreign-born population taken from the CensusPlus database created by Environics Analytics.


So, if you vote Conservative (in Canada) or Liberal (in Australia) and perceive economic or cultural threat from outsiders, then you will be more likely to have closed attitudes to immigrants and refugees.

The Australian Government’s policy of offshore detention has received significant criticism. Picture: Getty Images

Living in a context with a high concentration of immigrants doesn’t lead people to a greater perception of threat, in fact, the more that people live in the midst of cultural diversity, the more likely they are to hold open attitudes.

Still, reflecting our politically polarised world, political party identification can override all of this.

For some, the perception of economic or cultural threat from outsiders matters more than the actual threat posed. Some attitudes are impervious to experience.

This data provides us with a snapshot, and an insight, into the diverse range of views in both Australia and Canada when it comes to the politically fraught issue of immigration.

This research was funded in part by The Policy Lab at the University of Melbourne.

Banner image: Getty Images

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivatives 3.0 Australia (CC BY-ND 3.0 AU)

This article was first published on Pursuit. Read the original article.


World politics explainer: the Iranian Revolution

To understand what caused the Iranian Revolution, we must first consider the ongoing conflict between proponents of secular versus Islamic models of governance in Muslim societies.

It all began with the British colonisation of India in 1858, which precipitated the collapse of classic Islamic civilisation. By early 20th century, almost the entire Muslim world was colonised by European powers.

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Neighbourhood noise

What is music to your ears may just be noise to your neighbour. Try to make sure that your activities at home do not become a nuisance to others by showing them some consideration. Here are some things you can do to keep the peace in your neighbourhood:

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World politics explainer: the assassination of John F. Kennedy

Lloyd Cox, Macquarie University

This is the third in our series of explainers on key moments in the past 100 years of world political history. In it, our authors examine how and why an event unfolded, its impact at the time, and its relevance to politics today. You can read parts one and two here.

At precisely 1pm on November 22, 1963, the 35th president of the United States was pronounced dead at Parkland Hospital Trauma Room 1 in Dallas, Texas.

John F Kennedy’s personal physician stated the cause of death was a gunshot wound to the head. This was officially announced to a stunned public half an hour later. The shock waves of the president’s assassination, the fourth in US history, continue to reverberate today.

What happened?

While the events of that day have been the subject of numerous conspiracy theories, the basic facts are now widely accepted. The president’s motorcade was making its way through Dealey Plaza in downtown Dallas when, five minutes from its destination, three shots rang out from behind and above the presidential limousine.

Two of those shots found their mark, with the second being fatal. Texas’s Democratic governor, John Connally, who was seated immediately in front of the president, was also hit, though he would recover from his injuries.

Kennedy funeral procession, November 1963.
JFK Library/Wikicommons

Seventy minutes after the attack, Dallas police arrested Lee Harvey Oswald, a former US marine who had spent three years in the Soviet Union. However, before Oswald could be properly questioned on his motives, less than 48 hours after the assassination of the president, Oswald himself was also dead.

He was gunned down on live television by Jack Ruby, a Dallas nightclub owner with links to organised crime. This inspired generations of conspiracy theorists for whom the Kennedy assassination was an expression of unidentified malevolent forces threatening the United States.

The impact of the assassination – speculations about a second gunman?

One of the most ubiquitous and apparently plausible of the conspiracy theories floating around was that there was a second gunman, and that both he and Oswald were part of a wider circle of conspirators.

Despite the Warren Commission, which had been set up by new President Lyndon Johnson to investigate Kennedy’s murder, stating in September 1964 that Oswald was a “lone gunman” and was not part of any domestic or international conspiracy, this conclusion was not widely accepted until the mid 1970s.

Several developments that cast doubt on the lone gunman thesis include a Senate Select Committee established to investigate “Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities” in 1975. It asserted that investigations of the assassination by both the FBI and CIA had been deficient, and that some fundamental evidence had not been forwarded to the original Warren Commission.

Furthermore, Abraham Zapruder’s now famous 26-second silent home movie of the killing was also released to public scrutiny in 1975.

Warning: the video below contains graphic imagery

The heavily scrutinised final moments of Kennedy’s life.

To the untrained eye, the film seems to show that the fatal second shot came from the front of the president’s car. His head snaps back and bodily matter is projected to the rear. Viewed in conjunction with conclusions from the Senate and House Committees, this was presumed by many to validate the claim that a second shooter had fired from the infamous “grassy knoll” to the right and front of the presidential cavalcade.

Subsequently, the theory that a second assassin fired a fourth shot was conclusively falsified. The United States House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) had acquired a police radio channel dicta belt recording of a motorcycle officer who had been part of the cavalcade. When this evidence was reexamined by independent acoustic research experts, they unanimously agreed that the apparent fourth shot was not a shot at all.

Similarly, after reviewing the evidence, ballistic, forensic and medical experts have repeatedly drawn the conclusion that the entry and exit wounds on the president were consistent with having been shot from the rear rather than the front.

So we can conclude with a very high degree of certainty that Oswald was the sole gunman who shot Kennedy. But it does not follow that the conception and planning of the assassination was that of Oswald’s alone.

The JFK Act

As a result of renewed interest generated by the Oliver Stone film, JFK, Congress passed the JFK Act in 1992. This led to the public release of over 4 million pages of documents pertaining to the assassination.

It was on the basis of an exhaustive analysis of this material, in conjunction with all of the earlier government reports and secondary literature, that David Kaiser published the first book about the assassination written by a professional historian with all of the archival evidence available to him.

The Road to Dallas: The Assassination of John F. Kennedy cites archival evidence that firmly links Oswald to a network of organised crime figures, anti-Castro Cubans and far-right political activists, all of whom had motives for wanting the president dead. While its conclusions are not watertight, the book’s judicious judgements provide the most compelling account yet that Oswald acted as part of a broader conspiracy.

Kaiser’s essential argument is that a cabal of organised crime figures and anti-Castro Cuban exiles most likely recruited Oswald to be the trigger man in an attempt on the president’s life.

The interests of organised crime figures, many of whom had had commercial operations in Cuba disrupted by the revolution, coincided with those of wealthy anti-Castro Cubans who had been exiled to the United States.

Robert (left), Ted and John Kennedy posing for a photo together.

Both groups were profoundly hostile to Kennedy and his brother, Attorney-General Robert Kennedy. Their administration had not only failed to invade Cuba and restore mob and Cuban private property, it had also waged a relentless campaign against particular organised crime figures.

There is solid evidence that Oswald had direct or indirect contact with at least two such figures, while also being in contact with a wider group of anti-Castro activists.

Kaiser surmises that the overlapping networks of mobsters and Cuban exiles hoped that the assassination of Kennedy, for which Oswald would be paid handsomely, would provoke a US invasion of Cuba and the restoration of their private property and commercial operations.

This, of course, did not happen. Instead, there was a very different set of short and long term consequences.

Contemporary relevance

In the short term, the new president, Johnson, seized the opportunity offered by a nation’s grief to crush the Republican challenge at the 1964 election. He used that result as a mandate to vigorously pursue his liberal, Great Society programme and civil rights agenda, which greatly expanded the role of government and advanced the rights of African-Americans and other ethnic minorities.

Longer term, it was Johnson’s liberal programme that provoked a conservative, white backlash that would gather strength under the presidencies of Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan.

Lyndon Johnson taking the oath of office as Jacqueline Kennedy looks on.

In the 1968 and 1972 presidential elections, Nixon adopted his infamous “Southern strategy”. It deployed the coded racial language of “states’ rights” to split away white southerners from the Democratic Party whom they had traditionally supported.

Nixon’s law and order rhetoric simultaneously appealed to the anxieties of what he claimed was a “silent majority”, who had been shaken by urban turmoil and the assassinations of John and Robert Kennedy, and Martin Luther King Jr. Respectable fears and the politics of race converged with paranoia stoked by conspiracy theories involving all of these assassinations.

This white backlash and the realignment of many white working and middle class Americans to the Republican Party accelerated in the 1980s under President Reagan, and was consummated in the 2000s during the presidencies of George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

A significant sub-section of white America could not reconcile themselves to the legitimacy of a black president after 2008. This expressed itself in the “birther” backlash against Obama, and the generalised hatred that greeted the new president from the political right.

It is that same backlash, albeit taking new forms, that we today witness in the strange spectacle of Donald Trump’s presidency.

Trump had been a central protagonist in the birther controversy, and has consistently played on race-based fears and prejudice to energise his supporters.

Where once Nixon and Reagan spoke in the coded racial language of states’ rights, Trump now speaks in the forthright language of stopping Muslim immigration, kicking out Mexican murderers and rapists, and building walls between us and them.

The vindictive, emotional politics of fear and rage is his standard currency. He has concentrated in his rhetoric and actions the most noxious elements of American politics in the half century that has passed since Kennedy’s untimely death.

The political reverberations of the Kennedy assassination, then, continue to be felt in all sorts of unlikely ways.

The paranoid, racialised and faux anti-elitist politics of the American right did not begin with the backlash against Kennedy and his administration. But his presidency and assassination, and the anxious political forces it set in motion, are an important milestone in their development. The American right today, with Trump as its figurehead, is the direct political descendant of this dark chapter in American history.The Conversation

Lloyd Cox, Lecturer, Department of Modern History, Politics and International Relations, Macquarie University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

World politics explainer: The Great War (WWI

This is the first in a series of explainers on key moments in the past 100 years of world political history. In it, our authors examine how and why an event unfolded, its impact at the time, and its relevance to politics today.

Over four long years, the world collapsed in what was then the largest industrial war ever fought. The conflict left over 10 million soldiers and 6 million civilians dead.

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