Malcolm Roberts and the Dunning-Kruger Effect

By March 4, 2017Australian Politics

At hearings of the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee, Senator Malcolm Roberts, the staring-eyed climate change denier from One Nation questioned officials from the Department of Immigration and Citizenship. The 19 minutes plus on YouTube is worth watching, if only to see how idiotic Malcolm Roberts is, and how easily he can be skewered by an intelligent public servant, namely, Departmental Secretary, Michael Pezzullo.

Roberts initially asks if now that the boats have stopped has ‘the tide’ of Muslim immigration continued through legal channels. Pezzullo, picked Roberts up on the use of ‘the tide of Muslim immigration’. Roberts then asked the same question, again and Pezzullo explained that our immigration system was non-discriminatory on the basis of race, religion or creed. Roberts then asked him how many Muslims had entered Australia legally. In answer, David Wilden (Immigration Policy) stated that data on religion is not requested unless it has to do with assessment of a refugee, where it may be “pertinent to the nature of their protection claim”.

Roberts then asked that because of the growing threat of Islamic terrorism, shouldn’t the department have a responsibility to know this in order to protect us? Pezzullo then whacked him by saying: “Perhaps you might have been preparing to ask a question when I was giving my answer earlier on visa risk assessment.” This is a polite way of saying: ‘Listen, you idiot’. However, Roberts was too stupid to understand that he had been slapped down. Pezzullo, then went on to explain that all visas are subject to a risk assessment, and that risk assessment attaches to the person. Roberts then went on to claim that many Muslims are on welfare and many are in gaol, comparing the supposed rate of those on welfare or in gaol to the proportion of Muslims in the populace whereas he should have compared it to recent arrivals and whether they had arrived as refugees or immigrants. But that would require effort and discernment from Roberts who is never keen to let the facts get in the way of a good story. Pezzullo did not have that statistical data at hand, including the “composition of the prison population of New South Wales”. Yet another slap down that Roberts missed. Pezzullo then reiterated that every visa application is subject to a risk assessment. Roberts does not seem to realise that the proportion of Christians in gaol is greater than it is in the general populace. Would he let Christian immigrants in?

Roberts, on top of the bogus statistics he gave, asked why we keep “letting them into the country”. Yet again Pezzullo stated that a risk assessment is attached to every single applicant. He followed that as he is answerable to the government, he has a responsibility to mitigate risk. Then came a beautiful slap down: “And, frankly, it would be sending me down an Alice in Wonderland rabbit burrow to act on these sorts of information that you might come across in certain parts of the internet. My job is to take facts as I find them.” At this point, Senator Watts interjected stating that this was “where senator Roberts lives. Roberts then stated incoherently: “I take no regard of the implication that the internet makes – that is yours to make”. What this means is anybody’s guess.

Roberts than asked another question regarding the proposed acceptance of 12,000 refugees belonging to persecuted groups from Syria (i.e. Christians, Jews and Yazidis). For a third time, Pezzullo had to explain that as refugees, the religious affiliation would be a factor assessed as part of their application. Roberts then seemed to fail to hear much of this, so Pezzullo had to explain it to him again. Then Roberts again failed to understand what was being clearly stated, so Pezzullo had another crack at it, stating that the people being let in would be bona fide refugees, and that they were overwhelmingly non-Muslim.

Then Roberts got down to the nitty gritty, stating effectively that Muslims breed like rabbits, turning “12,000 Muslims into 100,000 or more Muslims”. Michael Manthorpe (Deputy Secretary, Visa and Citizenship), then stepped in, perhaps to save Mr Pezzullo’s mental health, because I am sure mine would have snapped by this time, and he stated (yet again) that “I think we have told you that there are not 12,000 Muslims”. Another slap down, but this time Roberts seemed to get it, because he changed tack and asked if it was true that the department claimed that they “supposedly have no idea how many Muslims are immigrating here”. Manthorpe stated “that was not a claim we made”. Slap. Then Pezzullo, unable to control himself, started with “Perhaps we were a little bit too forensic in our evidence”. I nearly spat out my coffee when I saw this. It is the politest way I have ever seen anybody say ‘You are too stupid to understand, so I will have another go at explaining it to you’, which he did. He then explained again how, if you are a refugee, religion is a consideration in assessing a claim for protection; if you are an immigrant, it is not a consideration because we do not discriminate. In the latter case, all risks are assessed. Then Roberts asked the same question again, so Pezzullo explained it to him again. Pezzullo is a better man than I am, for, at this stage in the proceedings, my hands would have to be pulled from around Roberts’ neck.

This drivel from Roberts continues for a while, but the questions are of the same inane tenor. Roberts is either mentally ill, or monumentally stupid. I suspect it is the latter, because it was he that actually put this up on YouTube, presumably in the belief that it shows his ability to ask pointed and difficult questions of these public servant types. He did ask pointed questions, it’s just that he asked the same question time and again, and the answer in most cases was either not understood, or was ignored. He is a prime example of the Dunning-Kruger Effect*.

The fact that an idiot like Roberts is on a senator’s salary of about $200,000 per annum, is an indictment of our political system. Specifically, it is an indictment of the two major parties, in that their performance has been so poor, so unconcerned with the welfare of the populace, except for their donors of course, that voters (74 of them at least) think someone as stupid as Malcolm Roberts is a viable alternative. That is the real disgrace.

*Dunning-Kruger Effect: is a cognitive bias in which low-ability individuals suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly assessing their ability as much higher than it really is.





  • Jon says:

    *Dunning-Kruger Effect: is a cognitive bias in which low-ability individuals suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly assessing their ability as much higher than it really is.

    Or to put it in ‘unforensic’ terms Roberts might understand: “when someone is too stupid to know how stupid they really are”. On forums this effect can be seen regularly, most often (but not solely) from people expressing extreme opinions of the unempathetic/pathetic “right”. It’s often accompanied by self-imposed ignorance, ludicrous bias and “reasoning” which defies (or at least should defy) human logic. On what we’ve so far from One Nation they could easily be christened DK Nation.

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