AUSTRALIA’S DAY OF SHAME

If Noel Pearson is a man of integrity (and I think he is), he will be appalled by John Howard’s just announced “plan” for Northern Territory indigenous Australians. Certainly, Pearson’s plans also involve breaking the cycle of welfare dependency in Cape York by tying receipt of welfare benefits to children’s school attendance, maintaining their houses and the like. But it does so in the context of a carefully developed, comprehensive plan for basic health care, education, vocational skills training and enterprise development. Contrary to Mark Bahnisch’s view, I think Pearson’s proposals have a great deal of merit.

But there is no sign of any of those careful, considered elements in the “plan” John Howard announced today. Like Howard’s $10 billion water “plan”, it appears to have been hastily cobbled together on the back of an envelope aiming solely at electoral advantage by playing to the “Howard battlers” and wedging the ALP. It appears to be little more than a cynical, desperate, Textor focus group-driven grab for redneck votes, by targetting the poorest , most vulnerable Australians. Sadly it may well work, judging by the supine response of Kevin Rudd and other Labor leaders to date.

What difference to child sexual abuse, availability of drugs, alcohol and pornography will 10 additional AFP officers (or even 10 from each State, assuming all State Premiers agree that the NT’s needs are greater than their own) make across more than 60 remote Aboriginal communities?

How will taking federal control of 40 community town areas for 5 years make any difference at all to housing standards? The Howard government sent military forces into a few Territory indigenous communities during its early years in office, and it made scarcely a dent in the housing backlog. In many remote communities, people live 15 or 20 to each house. The cost of clearing the indigenous housing backlog in the Territory alone is generally estimated at more than one billion dollars. The current Commonwealth-NT Indigenous Housing and Infrastructure Agreement commits a total of well under $100 million per year, scarcely enough to keep pace with existing maintenance and repairs let alone make a hole in the backlog. There is no mention of any additional funding in Howard’s announcement today, without which it’s merely empty tokenism.

What effect will banning alcohol from all remote remote Aboriginal communities have? I can tell you immediately, from 24 years living in the NT. All the drinkers would immediately move into town in Darwin, Alice Springs, Katherine and Tennant Creek, where there is no way they could be stopped from drinking without restriction. The electoral effects of this urban social chaos would certainly be fatal for Dave Tollner, the incumbent CLP federal member for the Darwin-based marginal seat of Solomon. At least some Liberal advisers (notably Territory born and bred senior Howard adviser and policeman’s son Mark Textor) would be well aware of the practical effects of such a policy, which is why you can guarantee it won’t actually be introduced before the election and will be quietly shelved thereafter whoever wins.

What will happen if, as announced, all Aboriginal parents living in remote communities have 50% of their welfare benefits withheld to ensure that their children are fed? Well, apart from the repugnant unfairness of treating all Aboriginal people indiscriminately as irresponsible children when the majority are responsible parents and only a minority of them drink at all (albeit that those who do are disproportionately serious alcoholics), how could any such policy practically be enforced across 70 or more very remote communities, without employing a large army of additional bureaucrats to dispense the withheld proportion and ensure that it is spent on food? And what would happen if they did somehow find an effective way to enforce such a policy? Again, lots of people (especially the drinkers) would simply vote with their feet and move to the major towns, abandoning their children with extended family members. Any such policy would simply worsen existing social dysfunction.

Today is a day of shame in Australian politics. Everyone deplores the appalling incidence of violence and child sexual abuse in indigenous communities. But there simply isn’t any quick, magical solution. The policy Howard has just announced is worse, more racist and more wildly impractical and misconceived than anything Pauline Hanson ever spouted. Kevin Rudd’s meek, kneejerk endorsement of it is almost as disgusting, and marks him unfit to lead Australia. At least Howard has the guts to announce policies of his own, however repugnant and ill-considered.

Further thoughts – I should also comment on Howard’s announced cancellation of the permit system for entry to Aboriginal townships. Not only does this abolish one of the most central attributes of private property (and therefore take a major step towards what one suspects is a covert ideological aim of abolishing land rights), but it has nothing whatever to do with Howard’s professed objective of tackling child sexual abuse in indigenous communities. In fact it is likely to prove counter-productive in that regard. The recent Wild/Anderson report highlighted the incidence of sexual predation on young Aboriginal girls by white miners and others. Removing permit restrictions will create open slather for these predators to enter indigenous communities without restriction, not to mention others trying to peddle alcohol, illicit drugs pornography and so on. Removing the permit system will make it much harder for the handful of additional police Howard is supplying to enforce the new restrictions he professes to wish to impose.

Howard’s plans also involve a proposal to deliver school breakfasts/lunches to Aboriginal children, at parents’ expense. In fact, such schemes already exist in many indigenous schools, but are currelty delivered free of charge. Far from assisting Aboriginal families in need, this proposal is actually reducing existing programs and imposing a “user pays” system on the kids Howard professes to want to help.

His announced taking of control of Aboriginal townships also apparently involves a commitment to charge “market rents” for housing. That too will cause drastic financial hardship among the very people Howard professes to be trying to help. Most indigenous housing associations charge their tenants concessional rents, because not only are many of those tenants unemployed, but the cost of food, transport and just about all other necessities of life is vastly higher than in major towns and cities. While a significant hard core minority certainly squander welfare money on drugs and alcohol, increasing the cost of living indiscriminately to the poorest Australians hardly seems a sensible way to address that problem.

About Ken Parish

Ken Parish is a legal academic, with research areas in public law (constitutional and administrative law), civil procedure and teaching & learning theory and practice. He has been a legal academic for almost 20 years. Before that he ran a legal practice in Darwin for 15 years and was a Member of the NT Legislative Assembly for almost 4 years in the early 1990s.
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Mark Bahnisch
14 years ago

Well said, Ken, though we disagree about Pearson.

Today is a day of shame in Australian politics. Everyone deplores the appalling incidence of violence and child sexual abuse in indigenous communities. But there simply isnt any quick, magical solution. The policy Howard has just announced is worse, more racist and more wildly impractical and misconceived than anything Pauline Hanson ever spouted. Kevin Rudds meek, kneejerk endorsement of it is almost as disgusting, and marks him unfit to lead Australia. At least Howard has the guts to announce policies of his own, however repugnant and ill-considered.

Spot on.

I’d also observe that tigtog has a very good post up also looking at some other aspects of how impractical and how repugnant the actual policies are:

http://viv.id.au/blog/?p=671

Guido
14 years ago

“Kevin Rudds meek, kneejerk endorsement of it is almost as disgusting, and marks him unfit to lead Australia. ”

I wouldn’t be so harsh on Rudd as yet. This is what he said in Parliament

“KEVIN RUDD, OPPOSITION LEADER: My question is to the Prime Minister. I refer to the Prime Ministers policy announcement just before Question Time.

May I indicate to the Prime Minister that I will do whatever I can to work with him to address this response, this response to the crisis of child abuse in Australian Indigenous communities. And on that basis Prime Minister, would the Prime Minister and his minister provide an urgent briefing to myself and the Shadow Minister on the proposals that he has put forward, their detail and the funding attached to them subsequent to Question Time?

JOHN HOWARD: Ill be happy to facility a full briefing. Ill speak to my Minister. I welcome what the Leader of the Opposition has said.”

It seems to me that Rudd hasn not agreed to Howard’s policy. He stated that he ‘will do whatever he could to work with him to address his response to child abuse in Australian Indigenous communities’ and asked for a briefing with details and funding.

Obvioulsy Rudd did not to be wedged immediately. We will see.

Just Me
Just Me
14 years ago

Well said, Ken.

All of Howard’s worst traits and beliefs came to the fore today, in a truly shameless, ignorant and deceitful act of self-promoting political manipulation, blaming everyone and everything else except him and his government. Like Ken, I have considerably more direct experience with the indigenous population than your average Aussie and there is simply no way this latest despicable charade is going to solve anything.

It is just very, very sad.

I also agree with Guido about Rudd, let’s wait and see. Rudd is a lot smarter than to sign up to anything Howard proposes without a good look at the detail.

Robert
Robert
14 years ago

It is almost too sad to comment – hard to find the words. I came across this from Ken after reading the hazy whitewash in the papers, and how good it is to get some passion and some hard hitting points. Welcome gold.

This from Howard will be incredibly popular, however. Snug away in their suburban homes, people will enjoy the power exerted, and find in it an absolution for their (our) own inaction and carelessness.

Politically, will it be a wedge? It can only be so if there is occasion to refer to it again and again, or have media do so. If the legislation is enacted during the break, and the move-in begins, that’s a running story. We can imagine the scenes now, and like it or not people are attracted to watching the disempowered being herded and powered over – the bandwagon.

Given the long known awareness of what the task is, the timing of this from Howard is a little scary.

Howard tonight on Lateline said something like “We know what the root cause of this is, it’s alcohol.”

That’s it right there: a boxed-up Easy Pack human solution and a complete inability to understand the Aboriginal spirit and what is really the root cause of their utter heartbreak, and all of that – sick and impoverished as his best humanity is – running a vast sunburnt expanse behind his political need.

However, on the positive, such dramatic focus helps bring the problem into the mainstream. But what can one do? Having had a small but deeply, deeply moving and precious involvement with Aboriginals, I am completely unashamed to say I’ve both prayed and cried for them, and yet my own gaping hole of inaction otherwise is just more heartbreak. It is very hard to find the positive, it seems.

Seamus
Seamus
14 years ago

Agree completely. It’s another bloody dogwhistle. And if I’m not mistaken I do believe I’ve heard the PM say something about not having to adhere to “constitutional niceties” both on last night’s 7:30 Report and this morning’s Radio National Breakfast interview.

Lyn
Lyn
14 years ago

The only part of this that I can see actually happening is the suspension of property rights – which has been a Howard dream since Mabo – and cutting benefits, which will only make the poverty related problems worse. The only way for people to get around that is not ticking the Aboriginal/Torres Strait box on Centrelink paperwork.

I can’t see how the rest of it can be implemented without literally sending in the armed forces. There’s no mention so far of who exactly is supposed to be actually doing anything.

Where will the health and education people come from? The police are already talking about problems with practicalities.

How come there was no mention of petrol? Will NT pubs just happily close their doors for six months? I don’t think so.

The land and the money seem to be the only achievable parts of this, which is truly disgusting.

mangoman
mangoman
14 years ago

After 25 years dealing with Aboriginal issues Ken I couldn’t agree more with your analysis.

The crying shame is that it wont work. It isn’t even designed to work. Just 6 or 7 of the 60 major communities on Aboriginal land allow access to alcohol now. Banning it on all ALRA land will force drinkers further away from their homes and, while this could stop the opportunistic drinkers, the dedicated ones will move to the grog.

Removal of the permit system and acquiring townships has nothing to do with child sexual abuse. They could be good things to do but they are nothing to do with this issue.

The family benefits proposal has merits I think although I can’t see how it can be made to work.

Sixty inter-State coppers running around the bush? Words fail me. The only good thing is that it simply wont happen.

Year after year submissions to the Federal government for assistance to deal with critical issues have been ignored. Finally, because he needs a wedge, Howard is paying attention. I guess we should be thankful that he has noticed. Maybe it can be turned into something worthwhile.

My only real hope is that the traditional owners of the communities compulsorily acquired make some good money out of the compensation package.

harry clarrke
14 years ago

Alcohol is a key independent factor in the sexual abuse and aboriginal health issues. These problems do not only reflect social disadvantage.

The use of alcohol is ‘availability determined’ at least in urban communities – many studies demonstrate this. Some people will go to urban centres to booze. Some won’t. Those left behind in grog free communities will be better-off.

Moreover as a high fraction of aboriginals are abstinent and despise grog – most aboriginals will like this aspect of the plan.

The 50% spending on food requirement amounts to a rationing scheme. Yes it is clumsy and bad economics but how do you not treat people as ‘irresponsible children’ when that is the way many are behaving. See what is front of your eyes. Ignore the obvious because you don’t want to be ‘discriminatory’?

A ‘day of shame in Australian politics’. Get off your soap box Ken and give this policy a chance. What’s your proposal to deal with the problem? Just gobbledegook – ‘a carefully developed, comprehensive plan for basic health care, education, vocational skills training and enterprise development’. Just social worker wasteland words.

It is a shocking situation where child abuse in these communities is systematic. It requires drastic measures and these will not work perfectly. Why white-ant attempts to deal with this real problem?

Laura
14 years ago

Thanks Ken, very welcome counterview to the guff in the papers today.

D Baggins
D Baggins
14 years ago

Everyone I know paid for their own home – why should the Government be obliged to fork out a billion for community housing?

Michael
14 years ago

Harry is right about namy people in remote communities being happy about the alcohol prohibition component of the ‘plan’. But Ken is also correct about the consequences.

This one issue is a sad microcosm of indigenous policy. Successive NT govts have found electoral appeal in “stomping” on Aboriginal people ‘long-grassing’ it Darwin. A solution was to encourage them to return home. If this new policy is enforced there will be a wave of people moving to Darwin, with the subsequent wave of demands that they be sent back to ‘their communities’, with all of this exisiting in a Federal Govt atmosphere of doubting the viability and desirability of remote communities (AKA “cultural museums”).

The hard ideological edge to the ‘plan’ makes me dubious. If there is a “national emergency”, why so much focus on permits and land tenure at this point? Surely if the house is on fire, it’s not the time to discuss changing the locks on the front door.

Bring Back CL's blog
Bring Back CL's blog
14 years ago

Can I ask whether the report this action is based on provided any actual evidence at all of the crimes being permitted or is it another bring them home report where there is no evidence?

Backroom Girl
Backroom Girl
14 years ago

I agree with Ken’s conclusion that Noel Pearson should be appalled by the Government’s announcement – does anyone know whether he has said anything publicly about it yet?

Noel Pearson certainly did not propose that anyone’s benefits should be cut – just that where it was apparent that children were not receiving the benefits of payments made on their behalf that money should be quarantined and managed by someone who would ensure that the children’s basic needs are met. As I understand it Noel also envisaged that this would be managed within the community by members of the community, not by the Centrelink bureaucracy. He was also proposing that it be implemented as a trial in the Cape York communities, not ‘jump in, boots and all’ across the whole Top End.

I’m interested that so many people (at least on the LP blog on Noel Pearson’s proposals) see making family benefits conditional on meeting children’s needs as an infringement of recipient’s rights. From my point of view, family tax benefits are the children’s entitlements, not their parents’. We just pay them to parents because in most cases parents are the people most likely to use the money to meet their children’s needs. So it follows that where this is patently not happening, something needs to be done to ensure that the children get the benefit of the money that is being paid on their behalf. I just think that the government’s proposal as it stands is way too broad-brush and that the more measured approach advocated by Noel Pearson (where parents would be given back the responsibility once they demonstrated that they were able to exercise it effectively) is preferable.

And of course everything I have said applies to parents of any other ethnicity who have ‘consumption preferences’ that get in the way of looking after their kids.

trackback

[…] Parish at Troppo calls it an Australia’s day of shame, while at Larvatus Kim calls it ‘Tampa 2007 […]

trackback

[…] Ken Parish at Club Troppo makes some excellent points, The Dead Roo team fisk the government’s media kit release, Tim Dunlop at Blogocracy calls for a rise above partisan politics to examine what could be measurably effective solutions. […]

Phil
14 years ago

Thank you for that Ken. A great piece and true too.

Christina Macpherson
14 years ago

Well said indeed. And what a tragic situation!
Howard’s action is a cynical election ploy. Among its other benefits to the Howard government is the fact that it subtly discredits aborigines in general – just as a group of traditional owners are travelling Australia, protesting against nuclear waste dumping on their land.
Another benefit to Howard – it takes public attention away from that plan to dump nuclear waste in traditional aboriginal land. Makes the government look like a benefactor to aborigines, when in reality iit is an exploiter of them, with its radioactive racism.
Christina Macpherson http://www.antinuclearaustralia.com

jen
jen
14 years ago

I have been thinking. Here are my thoughts.

The report, Breaking the Silence, Creating the Future, contains 119 recommendations. But almost no action by the NSW government

And there is the WA report acted upon within a week of the WA government receiving it.

And the Wild/Anderson report that took 8 weeks to even emerge from the printers and was destined to be cogitated over by some of the great minds in government for another 6 or 7 weeks – until John Howard seized the moment.

Can you imagine how happy General Brough is at the moment? Deep in humvee dreaming. The last hope for the little black children resides in him and his rough love.

God help us all! – including those 60 communities suffocating in good intentions and bad policy.

Do you notice tht Ken always takes the opportunity to be cynical about Mark Textor?

Mark Bahnisch
14 years ago

For the purposes of comparison with Howard’s plan, Guy at Polemica has posted all 97 recommendations of the Wild/Anderson report:

http://www.polemica.info/archives/2007/06/the_nts_inquiry.html

Kina
Kina
14 years ago

Ken, I am a Darwin boy and the Permits [for govt employees] is run from our area and we of course have some much association with Aboriginal land,community and cultural issues. We listened to the Minister on the radio [my friend with an aboriginal wife was mystified and wondered if we would need black and white ID cards to say who was what].

Needless to say we agree with almost everything that you said. But I would not criticise Rudd as yet. How could he not give ‘in principal’ support without examing the proposals and discussing it with the stakeholders. Of course he supports that it is an issue that needs urgent attention so he had to give approval.

The aboriginal lady Alexis, who won the Miles Franklin award yesterday, and was interviewed by Kerry Obrien last night, came out today and said she was dissapointed with Howards proposal.

Ken, you would rememeber the CLP playing the aboriginal card at election times.

Mark Textor gets more than my cynicism.

The days of campaigning on policies are gone.

Mark Bahnisch
14 years ago

I’ve posted a round up of links to blogospheric reactions as an addendum to LP’s post:

http://larvatusprodeo.net/2007/06/21/tampa-2007-edition/

ChrisPer
ChrisPer
14 years ago

Well, its patently clear that what WAS happeneing wasn’t working.

However its most likely that politeness and political correctness among the people who have to IMPLEMENT Howards new plan, plus reactance among the abusers will completely undermine it anyway.

Unless Aboriginal people do it for themselves it cannot succeed. But getting underminers out of the hair of the Aboriginals (especially women) who are trying to get on with a decent life would be helpful.

Drugs, alcohol, violence… individual choices of some Aboriginal people that can’t be fixed or made better by nice wishes from wodjilas.

Tony of South Yarra
Tony of South Yarra
14 years ago

Instead of debating John Howard’s motives I would like to address some of the issues:

1. ‘What difference to child sexual abuse, availability of drugs, alcohol and pornography will 10 additional AFP officers (or even 10 from each State, assuming all State Premiers agree that the NTs needs are greater than their own) make across more than 60 remote Aboriginal communities?’

Every additional police officer, by her presence alone, will make some difference.

2. ‘What effect will banning alcohol from all remote remote Aboriginal communities have? I can tell you immediately, from 24 years living in the NT. All the drinkers would immediately move into town in Darwin, Alice Springs, Katherine and Tennant Creek, where there is no way they could be stopped from drinking without restriction.’

This may have the effect of removing the most dangerous elements from the remote communities.

3. ‘What will happen if, as announced, all Aboriginal parents living in remote communities have 50% of their welfare benefits withheld to ensure that their children are fed?’

This may result in there being healthy, well fed children.

4. ‘Again, lots of people (especially the drinkers) would simply vote with their feet and move to the major towns, abandoning their children with extended family members. Any such policy would simply worsen existing social dysfunction.’

(See response to point 2 above.)

5. Howards plans also involve a proposal to deliver school breakfasts/lunches to Aboriginal children, at parents expense.

As well as providing the children an incentive to attend school (filling their empty bellies), see also response to point 3 above.

Tex
Tex
14 years ago

Today is a day of shame in Australian politics. Everyone deplores the appalling incidence of violence and child sexual abuse in indigenous communities. But there simply isnt any quick, magical solution. The policy Howard has just announced is worse, more racist and more wildly impractical and misconceived than anything Pauline Hanson ever spouted. Kevin Rudds meek, kneejerk endorsement of it is almost as disgusting, and marks him unfit to lead Australia.

Amen. The whole episode is a bloody disgrace.

This must be the kind of healthy government that compulsory-voting idiots are so proud of.

trackback
14 years ago

Tampa, 2007 edition…

Driving home from work, I was thinking about the political implications of Howard’s announcement of a “state of emergency” [details from Brough here] in the Indigenous communities of the Northern Territory. And don’t think for a…

Robert
Robert
14 years ago

I’ve been trying to get a hold of Rudd Labor reaction here. On first blush, it’s understandable why he chose to support the ‘plan’: it’s a populist Howard idea which is designed (to which degree is up to you to decide), in point form, to be consummable in one gulp. That happened on the evening news last night. The public got the bullet points, and down they went sweet and easy.

Rudd would have been lambasted had he rejected the ‘plan’.

However, reading this, which is a wake up call by the reports’ author, says enough is enough.

What if Rudd said he’d have to “consider it”? Nothing more?

That allows the typical kneejerk media to fill the papers with the easy print, and allows the first flush of public opinion one way or another, and creates for Rudd the opportunity to respond with decisive, instructive measure in due course.

For the life of me, I can’t see why modern Australian politics can’t handle a more considered approach. This tit for tat media game as played out now is just a joke, and people are over it.

That is not to say it’s effective – of course it is.

But we do need and require something more.

This was a brilliant chance for Rudd Labor to quietly create a change in engagement, and lay a gentle, subtle foundation for a better way of relating politically.

If only Rudd were more experienced, I think he may have realised this. Perhaps he’ll come good on it: it’s still possible. But the best chance has gone, and realistically nothing better from Labor is to be expected.

Further, by holding back his reaction, “in consideration”, creates an expectancy within the community – that’s power. He could have used that power to create a national dialogue, and suspend the Howard Easy Pack ‘solution’, and take advantage of the mainstream concern about the issues at stake.

The notion put forward that suspending the Easy Pack ‘solution’ further exacerbates and exemplifies the non-action is itself an easy-pack response, because this is really, right now, today, the first time mainstream Australia is feeling the pinch on this issue. This moment is a golden opportunity.

Rudd Labor could have presented, soon enough, an alternative policy direction (bearing in mind they can’t do anything until elected), something more wholesome but equally potent – we’ve got the money – and let the public dialogue wash through properly, fully. Because the issues are so powerful, Rudd could have called the nation to attention on it, and appealed to something better within the public.

It was waiting there to happen.

Spiros
Spiros
14 years ago

“notably Territory born and bred senior Howard adviser and policemans son Mark Textor”

As a point of irrelevant trivia, it was Textor’s father who took the call from Lindy Chamberlain that a dingo had taken her baby.

Geoff Honnor
Geoff Honnor
14 years ago

I agree with some of the excellent critique that Ken has offered – the uncharacteristic histrionics about our “national day of shame” not included – but in principle I support the notion of a major crisis intervention. Successive State and Territory reports have reiterated the need for urgent action and they’ve all pretty much vanished without trace. Noel Pearson floated some good, practical ideas a few days ago which are fundamentally sourced in the same idea of a dramatic, innovative and pragmatic break in the cyce of deprivation and received a not dissimilar torrent of abuse from some of the quarters from whence the current animus issues forth – but, presumably he’s used to being called “Uncle Tom ” by a bunch of whitefellas whose insight around the issue is framed pretty much by the Bangarra Dance Company on the one hand and Rolf De Heer saying “deadly” on the other. I noticed Mick Dodson this morning correcting Fran Kelly’s perception that he was anti the Howard plan. He too supports the in principle intent but, like Ken, forsees significant practical implementation difficulty on what we’ve heard so far.

As always, the devil is in the detail and we presumably won’t see it until Parliament reconvenes to consider the legislation.

I think a bold approach is needed upfront but it will inevitably be useless without a sustained, considered backup for the medium to longterm.

Robert: I think the ALP supported the initiative because it’s clear that we’re at the point where anything other than drastic action just looks like the last couple of decades of, pretty much, stasis. In the event, they’ve got a few weeks to craft some detail around what their preferred course of “drastic action” looks like and doesn’t look like.

You can’t be wedged on an issue where both sides agree on the scale of the challenge and the need to engage with it on a scale to match. I think Rudd would be quite right to see this development more as an opportunity rather than a threat.

Geoff Honnor
Geoff Honnor
14 years ago

“As a point of irrelevant trivia, it was Textors father who took the call from Lindy Chamberlain that a dingo had taken her baby.”

It’s a little known – but uincanny – fact, Spiros, that “Azaria” means “dark prince offspring of a Territory cop.”

Backroom Girl
Backroom Girl
14 years ago

Yes, Geoff, I think it’s quite ironic that the commenters at LP were heaping such vitriol on Noel Pearson’s much more moderate and considered approach at the very moment that Messrs Howard and Brough were preparing to launch their bombshell.

Bannerman
14 years ago

I can’t help but agree with Seamus. The whole thing’s just a sight too convenient for mine.

meika
14 years ago

When I first heard the anouncement I thought the PM John howard had resigned to take up writing for the Chaser’s War On Everything.

Tex
Tex
14 years ago

“As a point of irrelevant trivia, it was Textors father who took the call from Lindy Chamberlain that a dingo had taken her baby.”

ROFL…. and where exactly did you get this factoid from?

Mark Bahnisch
14 years ago

Backroom Girl, vitriol is in the eye of the beholder. There may have been a few comments about Pearson’s plan which were ad hominem, but the majority sought to question the authoritarianism (yes, it’s in his too, though not to the same extent) of his ideas and the degree to which many other voices in the Indigenous community are effaced in favour of one whose policy prescriptions fit well with the current right wing (and centrist) thinking on welfare generally.

The current situation is horrendous, and I’d also point out that it’s something that’s been the subject of discussion and calls for action on LP since early last year. But I am disturbed by the attitude of many that “whatever might work” is appropriate in the face of what are clearly, in many instances, very ill thought out and probably ineffective measures.

I’m also disturbed by the fact that very few care a fig for any notion of self-determination and autonomy and are so willing to clap their hands at fundamentally illiberal measures.

I’m also disappointed that people aren’t prepared to consider as an alternative the implementation of the Wild/Anderson report as an alternative. Wild/Anderson believed that at least fifteen years might be needed for significant progress to be made. Suddenly, many seem to think that the Commonwealth, now that whitefellas are on the job, can wave a six month magic wand and make it all better. That won’t prove to be the case. And I think that the attitude of “well it is an emergency, perhaps we should give all this stuff a go with no detail, no consultation and no ownership by the people affected” is problematic.

On the question of a “wedge”, what’s more important about the politics is the degree to which it enables Howard to get back on the front foot as a strong leader, etc.

Spiros
Spiros
14 years ago

“ROFL. and where exactly did you get this factoid from?”

Same place I get all my factoids, the internet. I don’t remember exactly where, but it seemed convincing at the time.

Spiros
Spiros
14 years ago

“whats more important about the politics is the degree to which it enables Howard to get back on the front foot as a strong leader, etc”

It won’t work. The electorate doesn’t care about aboriginals unless they are sports stars. If they did, the problems wouldn’t have been allowed to get this bad. (Remember Richo wiping a tear on 60 Minutes as he visited some remote Aboriginal community? That was the early 90s. Did anything come of it? Of course not.)

This story will be fish and chips wrapping before the weekend is over.

saint
14 years ago

OK I am not really at a point where I can make a sensible comment, but
(a) comparing the reports recommendations with the Howard announcement and
(b) given that Mal Brough announced quarantining of family payments in Nov 2006 I hate to say there is a bit of opportunism here.

On the other hand if this delivers some good outcomes (and here we are talking long term) I am not going to complain.

MorningDude
MorningDude
14 years ago

Two of the measures proposed are the banning of alcohol and all forms of pornography in Aboriginal townships. As the report has identified that a good portion of the abuse against Aboriginal children is being carried out by white men, including miners from nearby mining camps, is John Howard going to ban all alcohol and pornography from any white camps in industries near or in Aboriginal centres?

Also the point has been raised that permits to enter prescribed Aboriginal areas will be abolished. Won’t this allow easier access by these white predators on Aboriginal children?

This policy is yet another being made on the run and as with all Howard’s other politically expedient cobbled together mish mash policies it will fail in the long term. But don’t expect to hear that from Howard, within a month he will have his PR machine running full steam telling everyone about the successes. The templates will have already been constructed.

MorningDude
MorningDude
14 years ago

Two of the measures proposed are the banning of alcohol and all forms of pornography in Aboriginal townships. As the report has identified that a good portion of the abuse against Aboriginal children is being carried out by white men, including miners from nearby mining camps, is John Howard going to ban all alcohol and pornography from any white camps in industries near or in Aboriginal centres?

Also the point has been raised that permits to enter prescribed Aboriginal areas will be abolished. Won’t this allow easier access by these white predators on Aboriginal children?

This policy is yet another being made on the run and as with all Howard’s other politically expedient cobbled together mishmash policies it will fail in the long term. But don’t expect to hear that from Howard, within a month he will have his PR machine running full steam telling everyone about the successes. The templates will have already been constructed.

saint
14 years ago

Morning Dude – I think the answer is yes.

TONY JONES: As you know, the Northern Territory’s sex abuse report confirms many of the perpetrators were, in fact, white men, among them white miners in remote camps. Will your bans on pornography and indeed alcohol apply to white mining camps?

JOHN HOWARD: Of course, they will apply to any areas that are affected by these decisions.

TONY JONES: So white miners will be banned from having both pornography and alcohol for six months at least?

JOHN HOWARD: In these areas they will be, yes.

MorningDude
MorningDude
14 years ago

Good. I hope this is followed up on but I really don’t see miners or other heavy industry workers giving up porn. I wait with bated breath to hear about the first AFP raids on mining camps and the seizure of computers to get rid of the porn from these areas.

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Aaron Small
Aaron Small
14 years ago

Ken,

I have lived on a number of the ‘problem’ communities, both in the NT & QLD, and I have serious problems with the idea of banning alcohol in them for a start. In the communities in which Alcohol has been banned there has been no decrease in Alcohol related crime, in fact what is normally seen is a massive surge in crime whenever the ‘Hot Grog’ gets through. This however is beyond the scope of what is at stake here.

I have friends who have lived in Mutijuulu, and I myself spent several months in Armata, and I have first-hand experience of what has happened down there. Petrol sniffing is absolutely rife and the extent of the problem within those communities is absolutely staggering, I have personally seen several generations of certain families walking along the roadside with the seemingly ubiquitous sunshine milk tin held to their faces. The petrol was not from the local area, all service stations in the local area having long-since changed to Avgas to prevent theft. The majority of the petrol in those areas had been carried in over several hundred kilometers, and was being sold for $50/liter.

Unfortunately, as was mentioned even by the miners, contractors and truck-drivers who have dealings in those areas (and are much maligned without a great deal of evidence being presented to support the slurs upon the character of the majority), the extent of the petrol sniffing in these areas foreshadows a humanitarian disaster that is potentially far greater even than the ‘stolen generations’, as within a couple of years those communities will be veritable ghost-towns, their future leaders either dead or hospitalized as a result of petrol sniffing. Fortunately, the ready access to alcohol elsewhere in the Northern Territory has precluded widespread petrol sniffing taking hold in the other, less isolated communities.

However, in what I suspect truly is a well intentioned, but truly short-sighted move, we look like providing the catalyst necessary to spread petrol sniffing far and wide. I reject this plan as I foresee the likely consequences of the same falling little short of genocide, but at least, within 5 years there will probably be no-one left for little johnny to apologize to?

Justin
Justin
14 years ago

The entire Aboriginal portfolio is ‘racist’; Australia’s race-based laws are ‘racist’. The entire Aboriginal portfolio depends on the paternalism that you call shameful.

You have a confidence in government ‘plans’ that is entirely misplaced.

Sir Henry
Sir Henry
14 years ago

Aaron and Harry Clarke are both right in the sense that alcohol is an unfortunate fact of life that has completely destroyed many communities, as well of course, urban Aboriginal communities; and that something drastic should be done to undo the misery.

Having seen it first-hand, I am convinced many of the problems stem from abuse of alcohol on a truly gross scale.

I have travelled to the Northern Territory on a number of occasions, after living there for a year (Pine Creek and Darwin) in 1969 and the grog situation has not got any better since then.

There are many everyday horrors that one can stumble upon daily: walking in the park one day in Alice I was approached for a smoke by a mother with a baby that had an amputated stum of an arm. She told me that the baby fell into a campfire while she was drunk. When I related this to a white person a short time later, he shrugged unconcerned.

One of the major problems is that liquor licencing laws are simply grotesque. Such concepts as “responsible service of alcohol” are martian concepts at “take-away” liquor shops, which can be any grocery or servo. Takeway grog shops, peppered throughout the outback are in the business of “farming” Aboriginal people – i.e. they take their pension cheques and hold them in lieu of a “tick”, i.e. an account against which tobacco, foodstuffs and of course grog is bought. This is a never-ending transaction, with many families in debt and beholden to the enrepreneurs.

The NT Liquor Commission acts on behalf of those businessmen selling grog and has made alcohol trading very easy. It goes without saying that selling alcohol in backroads and remote places is very profitable and the businessmen concerned have political connections to the NT and federal governments.

Therefore I am somewhat dismayed that the Howard government is seeking to hop into the victims rather than make some hard yards up the middle with regard to licencing – making the conditions for selling grog at the very least as rigorous as they are in NSW and Victoria, with real sanctions of fines and losses of licence. And then police it.

But I can’t see it happening real soon because the businessmen have political clout. Therefore I suspect that Howard is indulging in a major political stunt.

Let me recommend this journal article. It is from 1991 but it is as pertinent today as it was then. http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/journals/AboriginalLB/1991/39.html

Patrick
Patrick
14 years ago

Noel Pearson must not be a man of integrity.

He actually makes many of the points that this coments thread has made – but he does support this program, for the very pragmatic and moderate kinds of reasons I would normally associate with KP.

Geoff Honnor
Geoff Honnor
14 years ago

“If Noel Pearson is a man of integrity (and I think he is), he will be appalled by John Howards just announced plan for Northern Territory indigenous Australians.”

Well I’ve read him. He isn’t appalled, is still a man of integrity and as Patrick points out, covers much of the same ground that Ken has, albeit with different conclusions. His take is blogged in today’s Australian –

http://blogs.theaustralian.news.com.au/yoursay/index.php/theaustralian/comments/politics_aside_an_end_to_the_tears_is_our_priority/

Listohan
Listohan
14 years ago

I got tied of reading all this negative carping. Can someone tell me if there was any contribution by an elder in the affected communities so I can read his or probably her response?

mangoman
mangoman
14 years ago

Listohan said
‘I got tied of reading all this negative carping. Can someone tell me if there was any contribution by an elder in the affected communities so I can read his or probably her response?’

A number of leaders of remote Territory communities have been commenting on the plan during the day in radio interviews here in the Territory. I have also talked directly to a few.

There seems to be a mixture of bemusement, amusement and developing frustration. The alcohol ban is pretty much a joke. There are only a few communities where grog is available now. 60 extra coppers chasing grog runners will create some fun for all but no-one really expects it to make much difference. If you want to drink seriously you go to town anyway.

How does removing permits or taking over townships have anything to do with child sexual abuse? Hard to work that one out although everyone knows that the Feds have wanted to do that for a while.

How does a medical check find evidence of sexual abuse? Wouldn’t most of the evidence found be the same as if the 12 or 14 year old was engaged in sexual activity with her lover? The average age of first birth at Wadeye a couple of years ago was 12. The proud ‘husbands’ weren’t much older.

Money for education and better housing could be really useful. Nothing much about that in this package so far but everyone seems hopeful that, now they have the attention of the Feds, there could be some action.