Friday, August 18, 2006

Duffy v Adams on your ABC? No contest!

Paul Gray’s column of yesterday drew only a single response in The Australian’s Letters page today. A reader from Coorparoo, Qld complains that Gray

...only makes passing mention of the one conservative jewel in the ABC’s somewhat unbalanced crown – the weekly Counterpoint on Radio National. Its host, Michael Duffy, is the long-awaited conservative Phillip Adams, though far more polite and not at all concerned with trying to demonstrate how clever he is.

Well gee, Duffy can present some interesting material, but ... a “conservative Phillip Adams”? I do listen in on Counterpoint occasionally, but to equate Duffy with Adams is just a comparison too far.

Take the program I heard a few weeks back, where Duffy discussed urban planning, specifically the question of more freeways v. more public transport. During the discussion, which unsurprisingly took a pro-freeway slant, Duffy offered the following observation:

There’s a certain religious element to this anti-car feeling I’ve found in people I talk to. One of the things I’m often told here is that if you build more freeways it will just encourage more people to use cars. There’s a sort of anti-choice philosophy at the background of all this, isn’t there?

It’s puzzling how Duffy can discern a “religious element” from a perfectly reasonable inferential statement like “if you build more freeways it will just encourage more people to use cars”. Whether the inference is a correct one or not is beside the point. If he means to say that particular statement is a common misconception, then why doesn’t he just say so, rather than attributing some kind of sinister religiosity to his opponents.

Of course, from Duffy’s point of view, the great sin of his opponents is that they are purportedly “anti-choice”. Duffy’s polemic is as disingenuous as if his opponents were to argue that there’s “a certain religious element to this pro-choice feeling”. But, of course, Duffy’s listeners will know exactly what he means.

Duffy’s guest in the discussion was “the world’s best known critic of urban consolidation”, Wendell Cox, who runs a consultancy called Demographia. At one point in the program, Cox established himself as a prime contender for Most Specious Gynaecological Analogy since the “Telstra Can’t Be Only Half Pregnant” foolishness of the Howard Government:

This whole idea that building freeways creates traffic is sort of like the assumption that building maternity wards would raise the birth rate.

No, Wendell, it’s not “sort of like” it at all. There’s a causative relationship between building freeways and traffic flows that doesn’t obtain between building maternity wards and human fertility. Adams would have put a stop to that sort of nonsense, quick smart.


UPDATE 19/08

Michael Duffy has a feature article in the Sydney Morning Herald today that further discusses Wendell Cox’s critique of urban consolidation. It’s actually not a bad article, giving reasonable space for opposing views. Of course, Duffy leans towards Cox’s view on the topic, but that’s cool.


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