February 21, 2015 | Graham

Dog whistles must be on special

I’ve been shocked and disgusted by the racism incorporate in the reaction to the Hepatatitis A contaminated frozen berries sold by Nanna’s and used as a weapon by those seeking to advance restrictive trade practices.

While plenty were keen to accuse John Howard of allegedly “dog whistling” to racists through his tough on illegal entrants campaign, how would you describe the campaign against the frozen berries imported from China if not as “dog whistling”?

There is a confluence of interests. Old school protectionists and agrarian socialists want to protect Australia’s agriculture against overseas imports, and non-tariff methods, such as quality controls, are an old favourite.

And the green left just hate free trade agreements.

But neither side can just come out and say this. Under WTO rules you can’t just slap on protection because you feel like it, either to allow you to jack up domestic prices, as per the producer organisations, or to destroy free trade agreements, as per the left.

So you whistle up the dogs and get them upset because these are imported berries, and if they weren’t imported then Hepatitis A wouldn’t be an issue.

If you listen to the Buy Australian crowd, merely buying Australian guarantees you won’t get ill, so labelling becomes not just a matter of information, but a health imperative.

Let’s put aside the fact that Australia’s rural industries don’t actually produce the number of berries that we consume.

Where is the proof that Australian products are inherently safer? And if they aren’t, isn’t the argument based on a stereotype of overseas products that is inherently racist?

Afterall, lots of imported products have high cachet – how many cars, let alone prestige cars do we produce domestically? And when was the last time someone called for clearer labelling of imported cars from Germany just because one of their products had to be recalled, or implied that the problem with the car was that it wasn’t made in Australia?

So what is the problem with foreign produced berries, except they come from a part of the world that some of us have a problem with because they are not like us (well those of us of European extraction)?

If you Google “food poisoning cases australia” you will find any number of examples of poor health and hygience from Australian products, particularly restaurants. In fact apparently Salmonella poisoning is on the rise.

There are probably no statistics on the comparative risks between domestic and imported food in this regard, but it might be the case that an “Australian Made” label could be a warning that this product might be unsafe too.

Probably as unsafe as imported berries.

But not in the world of dog whistling, where the fact that foreigners, of an Asian character, have touched this product is enough to make it suspect. That’s why we need the labelling.

And if callers to talk back radio are to be given any credence, not only with respect to berries, but farmed fish and everything else that comes from Asia.

In another complication, it might not be that the berries in question came from China at all. As the SMH reports, the berries are sourced from China and Chile. I know they both have five letters, start with “Ch” and end in a vowel, but they have quite different ethnic origins.

Could the reason Chile doesn’t get a mention be because they are well, European, like us?

Meanwhile, the left plunges on accusing others of racism with the most recent charge from Brisbane’s resident savant manque John Birmingham, who claims that we don’t care about the impending executions of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran because we are racist.

Is he serious? At the same time as others of his confreres on the left are berating Abbott because he’s been too strong in his approach to the Indonesians?

There was an element of dog whistling in Howard’s attitude to refugees, as well as hard-edged practicality. I wasn’t afraid to call that in 2001.

But Howard’s policies were necessary, and were always going to appeal to racists not because the measures were racist, but because racists were likely to find them comforting. You can’t help that.

And I’m going to call the dog whistling now, and I’m calling it as far worse than Howard’s.

At the same time as Howard was tough on illegal entrants he ran an expansive and entirely colour blind immigration policy.

These dog whistlers aren’t attracting racists mostly inadvertently through a colour blind policy. They are attracting them by targeting the very races they disapprove of.

Posted by Graham at 10:50 pm | Comments (9) |


  1. Sadly Graham, you’re probably right.

    That said, we do need better quarantine laws to prevent more of the same.

    And we should start here at home, by automatically shutting down any establishment that poisons its clientele with preventable pathogens. With the principles forever denied a food licence anywhere in Australia; and a proscribed persons register should make that happen.

    I mean, salmonella is the result of hygiene cross contamination and a propensity to under cook some food, but particularly chicken!

    And cold deserts should only ever be prepared by people wearing full face covering surgical masks, that must cover the nose as well, and then be kept cool and undercover!

    Just breathing on some foods is enough to contaminate them. Given many cold deserts are simply marvelous culture mediums!

    Look, the nose often plays host to more dangerous pathogens than many a slaughterhouse; and I remain horrified, each time I see a doctor in any operating theatre, with the nose left uncovered!

    And a way to transfer Hepatitis A B or C to the patients i.e., when they’re open and at their most vulnerable!

    We require NZ i.e., to plunge their uncooked fruit exports to us in bleach, which usually kills all bacteria; but not that transferred by later handling by the importer’s staff or agents!

    Even so, that’s what should happen with all imported fruit and raw vegetables, regardless of the source.

    And then once thoroughly sterilized should not then be subject to re- contamination by rinsing with contaminated or untreated water.

    Frozen food products need to be properly scalded/blanched or part cooked, with at the least a three minute rolling boil.

    And that could be followed by a thirty second plunge in liquid nitrogen, to thoroughly sanitize or pasteurize the food.

    And something that would also make raw berries safe to use in say a smoothie, if not as palatable as freshly picked.

    And where we can’t establish acceptable hygiene standards, maybe a commercial boycott could be placed until safe standards are applied.

    There is a very valid reason why many Asians prefer our food, made even more palatable by our clean green image and reputation.

    Something we lose every time any Asian tourist is poisoned in one of our eateries.

    Chopping boards i.e., need to be thoroughly cleaned, with a thorough stiff bristle scrubbing with soap and water and then rinsed under running hot water; but further, should be routinely left overnight in a bath of half bleach half water!

    And we shouldn’t have to tell anyone not to use the board we just used to chop raw meat, to then prepare the salad!

    Enforced mandatory standards ought to require that pickers, [ours and theirs,] wash their hands before handling food, and with treated and therefore safe water!

    And again after using the toilet. Moreover, drying the hands afterwards with hot air ought to be mandatory.

    And packaging must identify the farm or orchard, [ours and theirs,] so that we can isolate any problem, rather than apply a blanket ban on a country, or a race!

    I believe the victims themselves are part of the problem, which could have been remedied, by them only ever using these imported raw foods, in thoroughly cooked products only.

    If I buy a chicken i.e., as cooked food from any outlet, it goes into an oven safe bag and thoroughly heated through at at least 130 degrees. The lowest temp that still results in some cooking, while tenderizing the meat. And frozen berries always end up in a baked pie.

    Keeping meat in an oven bag, preserves the moisture and aids in ensuring any marinade is further absorbed and for not less than a full hour, two is preferable!

    And food should only ever be reheated once! [Mother was a qualified Chef, who cooked for the Queen and had a spot on the radio!]

    That said, there is an irrefutable case for better labeling and true choice!
    Alan B. Goulding.

    Comment by Alan B. Goulding — February 22, 2015 @ 10:38 am

  2. Rubbish Graham. You want lassie faire capitalism whereby under the rules of the TPP, there will be no disclosure of where the goods come from or their contents.

    Also under the TPP agreements our Govts can be sued for objecting or stopping negative health effects on our people.

    Comment by Ross — February 22, 2015 @ 9:43 pm

  3. Eggs are another possible source of salmonella, and if in doubt of the freshness, they should be subjected to the float test.

    If an egg floats its rotten!

    If it more or less stands on an end it’s stale and a nice treat hard boiled for the dog.

    If however it does none of these things, it’s probably safe to eat?

    Even so, a three minute rolling boil is still the best way to guarantee a presumably fresh egg won’t create a “tummy problem”.

    Other than that, try frying them much more slowly for longer, and spoon some of the hot oil over the egg; finish them with the lid on, to ensure complete cooking.

    This way, I can almost guarantee, a nice soft egg that is still thoroughly cooked, and without any of the burnt edges, that usually mark a fried egg.

    And one that doesn’t stick to the pan; if it does, you’re using a tad too much heat.

    Ross; even in rereading Graham’s article several times, I’m unable to find, where he says any of the things you say he says, or advocates?

    Comment by Alan B. Goulding — February 23, 2015 @ 9:55 am

  4. “Could the reason Chile doesn’t get a mention be because they are well, European, like us?”

    Umm, isn’t Chile in South America?

    Comment by Pedant — February 24, 2015 @ 3:07 pm

  5. In further geographical pickiness, we (i.e. Australians) are not European either (although admittedly mostly of European descent).

    Comment by Pedant — February 24, 2015 @ 3:10 pm

  6. “And the green left just hate free trade agreements.”

    Most of the so-called “free trade agreements” really are not free trade agreements, let’s get some perspective.

    “Could the reason Chile doesn’t get a mention be because they are well, European, like us?” Chile was also mentioned as a possible source of contaminated berries in the reports I saw in the media.

    Comment by RussellW — February 24, 2015 @ 6:35 pm

  7. Pedant, your name is well-chosen. So if we are not European what are we? Asian, African? Well, you might say Australian, but all of these are geographical distinctions and mean nothing. Geography isn’t destiny, and neither, parenthetically is history, but culture is. And we are culturally European, as are our friends in Chile.

    So what was your point any way?

    Comment by Graham — February 24, 2015 @ 10:23 pm

  8. Well I don’t know about you, but if people ask me what I am I do say I am Australian. Geographically, historically and culturally. I also say that I am of European descent. I certainly don’t say “I am European”. Further I don’t think may Australians go around saying “I am European”.

    Culture is destiny? Isn’t it a bit racist yourself to suggest that the only culture is Chile is European? Chile is multiethnic and multicultural. My point is, where geography, history and culture intersect it is appropriate to us a more nuanced explanation.

    Here’s an example in your article above where you used a more nuanced explanation:
    “except they come from a part of the world that some of us have a problem with because they are not like us (well those of us of European extraction?”

    Looking forward to reading more interesting articles from you – and being pedantic 😉

    Comment by Pedant — February 25, 2015 @ 9:48 am

  9. Sorry,should be “many Australians” not “may Australians”.

    Comment by Pedant — February 25, 2015 @ 9:49 am

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