March 31, 2005

Is the Glass Half Full or Is It's Semi-Completeness Being Used to Oppress Minorities and Destroy the Earth?

One of these sentences was written by Reuters, and one by me. See if you can guess which is which:

The defence contractor Boeing has won the right in NSW to discriminate against employees whose nationalities do not meet US security requirements.

The defence contractor Boeing has won the right in NSW to protect sensitive military technologies by granting access only to employees whose nationalities meet US security requirements.

This matters because:

A three-year exemption from the anti-discrimination act allows Boeing to exclude employees at its Bankstown plant from working on projects using US technology. Only Australians and other nationalities approved by the US will be issued tags granting them security clearance.

But notice how some people confuse nationality with race:

Robin Banks, director of NSW's Public Interest Advocacy Centre, said Boeing's application to the Anti-Discrimination Board should have been rejected. "We think there are much more tailored ways to protect national security, and that is through appropriate employment checks. You'd hope that would be sufficient to catch any problems than attempts to tag everybody of the same racial background."

Despite being, presumably, from Australia, I gather Mr. Banks is unaccustomed to nationality and race not being hopelessly intertwined. Trust me, the US is quite adamant about preventing racial discrimination while at the same time limiting the access to sensitive military information when it comes to foreign nationals.

In a submission to the Anti-Discrimination Board, the Public Interest Advocacy Centre argued that not all of Australian Defence Industries's contracts were sensitive, and that exemptions could be obtained from the US State Department.

Really? How could he possibly know either of these statements to be true? As someone who held security clearances for over 20 years and worked on multiple foreign military sale procurements from the United States' side of the table, I can safely say that Mr. Banks does not know what he is talking about. But, of course, he keeps talking anyway:

"The rationale for the exemption is not related to Australia's national security, but to the national security and trade interests of the US," the centre said.

I'd argue there's a fair bit of overlap between the US' national interest and Austalia's national interest, but even so, this is why the request was made in the first place since:

Australian Defence Industries has already been granted a broad exemption from anti-discrimination laws in Victoria. Because the company holds government defence contracts, and because many Australian defence armaments are based on US technology, it is necessary to enter into licensing agreements with US firms.

Thank you Mr. Banks for making the argument on the behalf of the United States. I'm trying to be culturally sensitive, so can any of my friends and readers from Down Under help me out here? What do Australians call someone so hopelessly out of his depth?

Posted by Charles Austin at March 31, 2005 04:42 PM