Boats versus planes

Here, a few things to keep in perspective next time someone starts banging on about queue jumpers and boat people:

Asylum applications in Australia correlate strongly with global asylum application numbers

A particularly enraged Possum put together a post clearly showing the statistical relationship between global asylum application numbers, and those applications received in Australia. Even a quick glance at this graph will illustrate the point:

It’s misguided to suggest that Australian policy toward those seeking asylum has a significant effect on the number of asylum seekers in Australia. Later in the year, Possum also analysed the numbers behind push vs pull factors. Unsurprisingly, he found push factors overwhelmed pull factors.

Greater numbers of asylum seekers arrive by plane than arrive by boat

The Sunday Telegraph reported last year that some 30 times as many asylum seekers arrived through Australia’s airports in 2008 than arrived by boat. It also reported that those who arrived by boat were more likely to be assessed as genuine refugees. In a blog post on the Daily Telegraph’s website, Malcolm Farr gave some hard numbers: 2008 saw some 4750 applications for asylum in Australia. Of those, just 179 applicants arrived by boat.

2010 is quite unusual in terms of high boat arrival numbers. Even still, we could guess that about the same number again who arrive by boat, will arrive by plane.

Asylum seekers make up a small proportion of our annual immigration intake

A media release from Unicef reports that in 2007-2008 there were 90,308 permanent additions under Australia’s migration program and a total of 149,400 settler arrivals. During this same period, 6,587 of these were granted for humanitarian reasons. Just 25 of these arrived by boat.

2008-2009 saw 1033 asylum applicants arrive by boat. The total settler arrivals during this time were 158,021. That’s well under 1%.

The Department of Immigration & Citizenship indicates a planned 168,700 places in the 2009-2010 migration program and a further 13,750 humanitarian places. Thus far this year, the Sydney Morning Herald reported on the 16th of June that 2,791 asylum applicants had arrived by boat. Thus far in the 2009-10 period, there have been around 5,500 arrivals by boat. Let’s assume that may mean around 6,000 arrivals by boat the end of this year. Certainly a high number in terms of historical arrivals of asylum seekers by boat, but here’s a picture to put that in perspective:

That’s 6000 possible arrivals by boat in 2010, in contrast to a total immigration program intake of 182,450, or just 3.29%. Or 5,500 boat arrivals in the 2009-10 period, a proportion of just over 3%. Not all of this year’s arrivals will be found to be genuine. In a year with record arrivals of asylum applicants, less than 3% of our total migration intake will consist of asylum seekers who have arrived by boat.

Most people have no idea what proportion of our annual immigration intake are asylum seekers

I’m with Grog on this one when he says:

“I refuse to believe that the majority of Australians think the way they do because they believe refugees will bring crime and murder and will change Australia into some Asian ghetto”

I have to think that community attitudes are shaped by a lack of understanding.

Possum broke down some polling taken on people’s understanding of the number of asylum seekers as a proportion of our migration intake. It’s a great post and you should read it – he showed that 38% of Australian voters are way, way off on asylum seeker numbers. Another 30% simply don’t know at all. Just 33% of voters could give an answer that was vaguely in the right ballpark.

As with climate change, I just wish people would go and seek out the facts instead of just repeating talking points they’ve heard.

Won’t happen though, will it.

More vuvuzelas! Vuvuzelas for everyone!

No doubt you’ve seen this on your favourite tech blog already, but YouTube seem to have added a new vuvuzela button to many of their videos.

I’m personally enjoying watching iPhone unboxing videos accompanied by the comforting drone of the vuvuzela. Makes the whole thing feel much more … celebratory.

Click the little football icon to enjoy:

Try it out for yourself here!

The pull of the planets. Pull pull pull.

I usually can’t be bothered pointing out superstition and debunking it. When people ask me what star-sign I am, I generally let them know I’m a Cancer. Such a question is generally followed up with some kind of observation about my personality that fits with the Cancer-ian dealy. Or an exclamation about some other reason why that’s meaningful.

Ultimately, people are just so pervasively superstitious that to run around constantly pointing out the folly would occupy most of my time and certainly wouldn’t win me too many friends. So I choose not to. However!

That doesn’t mean that I don’t get a bit of a smile on my face when someone else makes the effort. Today’s quick and entertaining lunchtime read comes from Phil Plait’s Bad Astronomy blog, taking a good hard look at astrology. He takes the time to dissect how:

  • There exists no known force which is a suitable candidate for creating astrological influence.
  • Based on astrology’s own set of conditions, there seems to be no possible unknown force either.
  • That cold reading and human pattern-bias explain accurate-seeming predictions.
  • That astrology’s claims are not consistent, nor even internally consistent – and utterly lack any predictive power.
  • Finally, that reliance upon astrology creates actual, demonstrable harm.

Scattered throughout, there are a bunch of links to help illustrate this position. Give it a read! If you’re wondering how I got here, it’s from a much more recent blog post of his about a nutjob named Terry Nazon’s attacks on an astronomer named Stuart Robbins following a good debunking. Check that out too, if you like!

Oh dear, another climate change post

I had a bit of a vehement chat with a few people at work yesterday about climate change. You see, a colleague of mine was saying that “of course the climate is changing, it changes all the time! We only just had the little ice age. The change has certainly got nothing to do with us though, and what a great big waste of money all this business is. “

Another added: “besides, it’s all based on dubious modelling anyway, there’s no actual evidence that any of this is happening. We don’t have reliable temperature records and the satellites have only been up for the last 30 years or so. What about all that time before modern temperature recording?

Al Gore got it all wrong, and there’s been a cooling trend for the past 20 years. Europe and the US have just had some of the coldest winters on record!”

Meanwhile as you can see above, Arctic sea ice is at record lows this year. 2010 looks set to be one of the hottest years on record. As of the end of May, the previous 12 months to May 2009 are the hottest globally in the past 130 years. 2009 ends Australia’s hottest decade on record. Very few scientists with credentials still disagree with the notion of anthropogenic climate change. At least one of those remaining appears to have been caught cooking the books.

It’s time to ignore the popular debate, it’s chock full of misinformation. Look at the fundamentals. Go back to the basics, and read about climate. I’m so sick of strong opinions backed by nothing but talking points!

performance bonuses – they, uh, don’t actually work?

I’m not terribly sure where I found this video, I think someone posted it on Twitter a while ago. Interesting food for thought though – is it a bit of a challenging notion that once people are paid enough to be comfortable and not be stressed about money, they don’t actually produce better work when financial reward is the motivator.

I hope nobody from work sees this and gets any bright ideas. I rather like my bonus, thanks very much. A lot of what’s here really rings true though… what do you reckon?