30, 2002 18:45 | ABC'S PM
Move over Johannesburg, Moscow and Baltimore. Adelaide is the murder capital
of the world. Well, it is according to a documentary called 'The Trials
of Joanne Lees', which has been shown in the UK. South Australians are
furious, and the tourism industry is crying foul.
DOCUMENTARY: It was meant to be the trip of a lifetime for British backpackers,
Joanne Lees and her boyfriend Peter Falconio. But that Staurday night,
in July 2001 in the middle of Australia, changed their lives forever. They
were attacked, suddenly and savagely.
That program aired in the UK two weeks ago, and claims to tell the story
of the disappearance, and presumed murder, of Peter Falconio. And it paints
a pretty rough picture of Australia.
DOCUMENTARY: Like most backpackers, Joanne and Peter would be unaware that
Australia is easily the world's most dangerous country for serious assaults.
If that sounds like a big statement, it probably is. But, strange as it
may seem, the figures do back it up. Keeping in mind, of course, that countries
like Mexico and Rwanda don't actually provide figures, but then, there's
DOCUMENTARY: ... that it has in Adelaide, the murder capital of the world.
DOCUMENTARY: The murder capital of the world.
Not surprisingly, South Australians are outraged, including talkback callers
like this one to ABC radio in Adelaide, this morning.
CALLER: I just
want to say if we're the murder capital, and it's so unsafe here, I'd suggest
that people shouldn't travel to England where all the doctors seem to kill
the people off.
But they have a right to be angry. According the Australian Institute of
Criminology, Adelaide is not the murder capital of the world. Its director,
Adam Graycar, says there are plenty of cities which are way ahead.
Just about everywhere, you know. It's much more dangerous in Columbia,
Croatia, or Camaroon, than it is in Australia. The United States has a
homocide rate about four times that of Australia.
So where would a reporter get the idea that Adelaide is some kind of murder
Well, when you look at South Australia, there have been some very bizarre
and very strange homicides that have achieved a great deal of notoriety,
and a great deal of publicity. But when you look at the statistics over
time, on average, South Australia has had a lower homocide rate than the
national rate for most of the last ten years or so.
It's been as
low as half the national rate in 1995, but then when bizarre homicides
like the Snowtown events occur, then the rate has been above the national
rate, but slightly above. Overall, South Australia has a much lower rate,
so this journalist must have just made it up.
The program is scheduled to be repeated in Britain this week. Nick Xenophon,
an independent state MP, wants the state government to step in, and stop
it going to air.
This is something that has to be rectified in the world media. This is
something that if we don't rectify and correct the record, it will affect
our tourism industry, and that's why it's important that we deal with this,
and in the next 48 hours stop the reference to Adelaide being broadcast
again on the Channel 4 Network.
But Tourism Minister Jane Lomax Smith isn't rushing into anything.
SMITH: At the moment, we have to mindful that all negative images are bad
for our self-esteem, and brand Adelaide, and the brand is important to
preserve and protect. When you get the facts, you can't respond.
And that, according to one expert, is the right strategy. David Foster
is an associate professor at RMIT's tourism department.
Well, look, from my understanding, whenever we've had a small crisis in
tourism before, it's had no long-term impact whatsoever. So, I'd suggest
the best thing they could do is, perhaps, let it lie, and just ignore it,
and it'll go away in the longer term.