August 19th, 2007 at 03:54am
A lot has been said in the last few days about the comments made by John Laws on Friday morning about Chinese drivers, and in particular, a Chinese lady by the name of Helen who had driven through the Cross City Tunnel multiple times without ever noticing the prominent signage saying that it uses electronic tolling. Helen was calling because she is shocked that she has to pay for driving through the tunnel.
Anyway, as I was saying, a lot has been said about John Laws’ comments, but it would appear to me that the majority of people who have commented did not hear the entire segment, and instead heard (or read quotes) various bits of the segment which make up less than 30 seconds, and were therefore used out of context, at least to some extent. I have been asked for my views on the matter a number of times now, and I will outline it below, but first, I would like you take take six minutes and listen to the segment, and then make up your own mind.
I believe, and I’m sure ACMA (the Australian Communications and Media Authority) would agree, that you can only come to a reasonable conclusion if you have heard the entire segment. For your convenience I have included it below.
So, were John Laws’ comments racist? I don’t think so. I think he was generalising and I disagree with most of what he said, but the bottom line is that it was his opinion and based on his own observations. I personally think that there are a lot of very good Chinese drivers, and some pretty poor ones (like the one I met one night who was driving a taxi and thought that the lane markers were supposed to go through the middle of the car), and the same can be said for pretty much any other race.
If you do think John Laws was being racist, then please let me know, and tell me where you draw the line on racism. For example, if I were to witness fifteen robberies in the space of a year and 11 of them were done by people of a certain race, would it be racist of me to be a bit more wary of people of that race than people of another race? And would it be racist of me to come to the conclusion that people of that race were more likely to commit robberies?
As I said, I disagree with Lawsie’s generalisation, and to be perfectly honest I usually have better things to do than take notice of the race or age of the people driving cars in a manner that annoys me (I do notice the vehicle though, which is much easier to get a good look at than the occupants), but what he said was based on his observations, so I don’t think he was being racist.
And for what it’s worth, his caller, Helen, really shouldn’t be driving if she managed to miss all of the rather prominent signage about the Cross City Tunnel being electronically tolled on multiple occasions, and now wants to complain that she has been charged an administration fee for the time that various staff have spent reviewing footage, tracking down her number plate, putting together the list of fees for her number plate, and sending her an invoice, and the time they will have to spend processing her payment or chasing it up.
The Cross City Tunnel even has signs which say something along the lines of “Did you pay your toll? If not call (phone number)”. I don’t expect her to remember the phone number, but surely that would be enough of a reminder to find out who to ring. Helen, please read the signs or get off the road.
Back to Lawsie’s comments for a moment. I heard the comments when they went to air and it was instantly obvious to me that they were going to generate a lot of controversy. Personally I think Lawsie is taking advantage of the fact that he will retire soon in an effort to get some of his more controversial pet peeves off his chest, in which case his final few months should make for some very interesting and very provocative listening.
It is also interesting to note that it only took a few moments after Lawsie made the comments on Friday for people who didn’t even hear the comments to start berating him. If I had written the exact same things here as an editorial I would probably have received an angry email and a handful of angry comments, but it certainly wouldn’t have started a national debate. This, to me at least, proves that John Laws is still one of the most influential people in the country.