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 at Charles Darwin University, with research areas in public law (constitutional and administrative law) and teaching & learning theory and practice. He has been a legal academic for almost 12 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 he early 1990s.
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96 Responses to AUSTRALIA’S DAY OF SHAME

  1. 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

  2. Guido says:

    “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.

  3. Just Me says:

    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.

  4. Robert says:

    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.

  5. Seamus says:

    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.

  6. Lyn says:

    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.

  7. mangoman says:

    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.

  8. 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?

  9. Laura says:

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

  10. D Baggins says:

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

  11. Michael says:

    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.

  12. Bring Back CL's blog says:

    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?

  13. Backroom Girl says:

    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.

  14. Ken Parish says:

    Harry

    I’m not talking about “social worker wasteland” measures. I think Noel Pearson’s Cape York model is potentially excellent and is already proving effective there. It contains some of the measures Howard is talking about (tying welfare to school attendance, for example), but it’s an holistic program that tackles health, education, training and enterprise development as well. It also derives from real local community consent and active involvement, and is not just imposed from on high by politicians who neither know anything nor really care about the problems beyond the next election. Moreover, Pearson’s plan involves tying of welfare benefits at a local level and only after several warnings and less drastic interventions. Howard is proposing to intercept and “quarantine” 50% of the benefits of ALL parents irrespective of whether they are acting irresponsibly. How does one engender responsible behaviour by treating all adults in general as stupid, irresponsible, dependent children?

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  17. Phil says:

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

  18. 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

  19. jen says:

    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?

  20. 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

  21. Kina says:

    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.

  22. 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/

  23. ChrisPer says:

    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.

  24. Tony of South Yarra says:

    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.

  25. Tex says:

    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.

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  27. Robert says:

    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.

  28. Spiros says:

    “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.

  29. Geoff Honnor says:

    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.

  30. Geoff Honnor says:

    “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.”

  31. Backroom Girl says:

    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.

  32. Bannerman says:

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

  33. meika says:

    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.

  34. Tex says:

    “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?

  35. 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.

  36. Spiros says:

    “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.

  37. Spiros says:

    “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.

  38. saint says:

    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.

  39. MorningDude says:

    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.

  40. MorningDude says:

    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.

  41. saint says:

    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.

  42. MorningDude says:

    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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  44. Aaron Small says:

    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?

  45. Justin says:

    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.

  46. Sir Henry says:

    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

  47. Patrick says:

    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.

  48. Geoff Honnor says:

    “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/

  49. Listohan says:

    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?

  50. mangoman says:

    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.

  51. Paul Fisher says:

    Quite frankly regardless of the hastiness that this has been put forward by the PM and his government it is action and one hopes that it will evolve as it is put into motion which from a laymans observation is more physical then the rhetorical that has been. In short someone has finally got the ball rolling. Itll curve, and stall roll backward and forward, slowdown and speedup. But I think the PMs team is the one that will put the scores on the board.

  52. Will says:

    I am very impressed with Noel Pearson’s comments reported in the Australian blog http://blogs.theaustralian.news.com.au/yoursay/index.php/theaustralian/comments/politics_aside_an_end_to_the_tears_is_our_priority/

    Noel clearly agrees with the focus on alcohol and that it will have an immediate effect. This is a first step and needs to be followed by addressing the underlying causes. Regarding the alcohol consumption in the towns, Howard has indicated that this will also be addressed.

    I admired Howard’s preparedness to take this on. It is always better to do something, even if it is not perfect, than continue to pontificate, criticise everyone’s solution, and do nothing. I expect that Howard and Brough will modify their plan based on consultation and feedback. I get really tired of the cynics who believe that politicians are only driven by ulterior motives. I also admire Rudd’s preparedness to support this in principle- a far more mature approach than the kneejerk rejection by the WA premier.

  53. Geoff Honnor says:

    “How does a medical check find evidence of sexual abuse? Wouldnt 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 werent much older.”

    I don’t know where this meme about “the checks are only for evidence of sexual abuse” came from. My understanding is that every child will undergo a full medical check and it seems to me that, where indicated, swabbing for STI’s – which are endemic in indigenous populations – would be a pretty sensible thing to do given the Report’s findings. Chlamydia, Syphilis and Gonorrhoea are all highly infectious and also eminently treatable and it’s a no brainer that sexual health checks should be part of the general medical check package.

  54. Aaron Small says:

    One final input from me, the greatest of the problems on the communities is the selectivity in enforcing the law. I realize that this is a genuinely sensitive aspect of community reality, but perhaps people want the truth for once?

    Perhaps if the law was prosecuted somewhat less selectively, for instance, if those belonging to the protected class of most exalted and most preferred ‘coconuts’ were prosecuted for their shenanigans (predominantly financial) as quickly, harshly and remorselessly as those who belong not to this privileged class are prosecuted for their shenanigans (predominantly alcohol, property & violence related), there may be some prospect of the majority of individuals on Aboriginal communities having some, slight respect for the law.

    Unfortunately, this will never happen, because government’s want to deal with people who are easy to deal with, and when those self-same, easy to deal with, individuals transgress the efforts expended on ensuring that they avoid prosecution for those transgressions are truly extraordinary. As bad as this is, and it is corruption, possibly the worst aspect of it is the fact that it is so well known amongst the individuals within the communities. This and the almost endemic nepotism it appears to breed has truly made most members of communities understand that the system is a joke, and as they (and their parents) belong not to this privileged class, then they have no prospect of breaking into it.

    Yet the majority of Australians, despite having noticed the tragic sense of hopelessness and despair, seem utterly without a clue as to why their exists such a state of dejection, yet the answer truly is this simple. This hopelessness & despair are the cause of the drug and alcohol abuse, the violence, the property crime and the sexual offences (for the most part caused by the other symptoms). Getting rid of the alcohol will simply cause people to use other drugs to escape their reality, getting rid of the endemic corruption may give some of them at least, some real hope of escaping their present reality.

  55. backroom girl says:

    Mark B

    What I objected to in the tone of the LP discussion was the fact that many commenters simply reduced this whole issue to right versus left and seemed to take the view that because Noel Pearson has opinions that some in the Howard government would agree with that this means he is clearly in league with the devil.

    When I hear Noel Pearson speak about these issues, I hear a man who is desperate to do something to salvage the futures of the current generation of children in his communities. That is why he is not prepared to wait 15 years (which in indigenous communities is a generation, after all) for change to happen. I believe that he is so desperate that he is prepared to put the rights of children ahead of the rights of (some) adults, but he is also very strong on the message that parents who are doing their best to do the right thing by their kids should be supported.

    I would ask you, do you think it is not appropriate for strong action to be taken (by someone) to try to ensure that children’s basic needs are met and they are able to live in a safe environment?

    As to the Government’s motivation, I would not be so sure that it is entirely cynical. While I think it current policy prescriptions are poorly thought out in some respects and have a very authoritan and one-size-fits-all flavour that I don’t support, I think it is too easy to write it off as simply a political exercise. I do have doubts that the necessary effort will be maintained for the length of time needed to make a substantial difference, but unfortunately that is the way of many government ventures into solving intractable problems.

  56. Ken,

    Thanks for the post and thanks all for the great discussion. I’ve read Pearson’s response and am – as usual – impressed. I’d be interested in your view.

  57. melaleuca says:

    The purpose of removing the permit system is to allow proper scrutiny, and that includes media scrutiny, of what is happening on Aboriginal lands. This makes sense to me.

    If the Aboriginal communities in question are even remotely functional, the locals would quickly identify any white outsider who turned up to prey on the kiddies and report them to the police.

    Having said that, Howard’s plan does appear half-baked.

  58. Listohan says:

    It is a sad state of affairs that when the leader of the nation speaks, so many people don’t believe or trust him or assume he has an agenda. I hope said leader, like Kamahl, occasionally says: “Why don’t they like me?” There seems no shortage of people to tell him. It’s a bit like Rudd’s “dirt seekers”: don’t they read the Sydney Morning Herald letters page?

    Having said that, earlier I asked to hear from the victims, their parents or grandparents not “the leaders in the community”. And preferably here so we could debate what they say not the bits we remember of what they said somewhere else. If those who want to drink go to the towns is that not preferable so they will be more visible? Now that, allegedly, the nation cares?

    By taking this problem on in national fora, theoretically the PM becomes accountable to the nation not just the voters in the NT. Surely that is preferable.

  59. Rosemary Whocares says:

    Tampar revisited!!!!!! Re cheking on all kids for possible pedafile abuse, I can’t believe it, but South Park dealt very well with this very subject only recently! And now Howard behaves this way. Perhaps he should watch South Park and ‘learn’ something, or is that an oxymoron?

  60. Robert says:

    Grappling with the impact of all which has come to light and brought into focus these last days – why not a story; let’s tell.

    There’s a pub in Spencer, deep in the Hawkesbury, which you may not have heard about, though it does get mention in the press from decade to decade. It’s a great pub, apparently. I’ve never had a beer there. But you can’t miss it. As you drive past, heading west with that great river on your left, you’ll find it alive each night between you and the shoreline.

    It’s a tree.

    The locals gather there; a fire to keep warm, and talk.

    Driving on, you’ll find the sandstone cliffs move in, closer, until at a place called Gunderman their presence is physically and emotionally imposing: more than impossible to ignore, these cliffs move in and take over what matters to you right then. If you’ve been there, you’ll know what this feels like. It’s more than a physical imposition – there are greater cliffs a millionfold, elsewhere.

    But apparently this place has the largest number of Aboriginal carvings concentrated in one area. It’s this, I’m sure, which is felt. Spend some more time there, climb up amongst them, be taught by the living legend local man of knowledge and you change – your references of and for life, change.

    You’ll find predominantly white people in this story so far, if that matters.

    Perhaps, or more likely for sure, this call of concentration would live in other parts of our great country, too, but that is no matter. Not when you feel it.

    This Troppo reader lived there a while. One day, for no reason at all, I found myself with the desire to drive. Westward, on past the Wisemans Ferry ferry, past the old convict road which connected the colonial Sydney region to the north and opened up much of the country as we know it, driving deep into an arm of the Hawkesbury feeder. St Albans. Magnificent.

    Onward though, and up and out through the range on the way, I think, that would take you to Singleton – the home of the coal truck driving halfback Steve Merrick who would singlehandedly (but for his mates) defeat the All Blacks, not once, but twice.

    Yet a dirt track to the right up in the range held more attraction, and a wee sign, the details long lost. This is early 1990. And this was the time when National Parks and Wildlife in collaboration with – though who inspired who I do not know – an Aboriginal elders group decided to open very select sacred grounds for the Australian public.

    This is, I think, pre-Mabo. Or ‘Mabo’ was on its way, or at most just done. Gays were outlawed and disgusted upon. Keating was PM. Robert Tickner was the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs.

    Can you imagine? Passing maybe one car, maybe two, up and out through this gorge, to find a wee sign on your right, and a dirt track? Why take it? “Open Day” or some such! Here, all is open.

    At the end of the dirt track, after winding around trees nearly scraping your passenger’s door, or taking off a driver’s elbow, cars, parked, appeared. Heaps of them.

    Out here!

    WTF wasn’t invented in those days.

    But let me tell you about the magic. I was late, the occasion had begun. A crowd, in the middle of nowhere Australian bush, bent forward as one while Aboriginal dancers became emus, or lizards, or willy wag tail birds. Undressed in Aboriginal brilliant regalia, thrilled to perform and to tell, as is their absolute daily need, the world changed for us there that day. All of us.

    And the kids, from the cars, loved it. They do. Dancing along; pulling their mothers and fathers into a world none of them had known before. You could tell that was so, by the light in their eyes, and their hearts open and creating as all of us as one.

    And there was laughter. Much laughter.

    I’ve said before in this thread that I’ve cried unashamedly. I do so now, upon writing that word laughter.

    Gee it was an amazing afternoon.

    And how weird is this: a microphone in the bush! And an Aboriginal man, not quite with R M Williams, but good enough, with it in hand.

    It’s not possible to relate in words right now what he said, or more particularly how he said it. Such eloquence. A poet, for sure. And yet an orator, as one would have of, say, a great politician, or leader. In the months ahead, I would learn he was both.

    I’ll cut this short, now. The crowd dispersed. Cars manouvred, inching this way and that, giving and taking, finally to wind back down the track, carrying with them an experience they’d speak of to this day. What a great initiative, they’d say, in the very least, having learned of a touch of history – and a touch was enough, so grand through the ages that history is. What impact, in that.

    Then there was just me, and the man who spoke. I’ll spare the personal things, though we did hold hands, thumb to thumb, in the greeting. He’ll remember the time it took for us to do that.

    Over the months ahead, he would talk of many things. One day they’ll become known. It’s not for me to say. Nor is this to be said as to be teasing or otherwise. It’s just not my place to say. But there is reason, from what he said, to have hope, and to believe, in the magic – and that is one reason for this story.

    He also spoke of his counterpart in the animal world. Readers who know about these things will understand this. To others, the belief is simple: that there exists for you, yes, for you, in the animal kingdom a counterpart to your being, one which you can draw on for support, for knowledge, for experience and many such things. Of course, this is open to ridicule on first blush. But try it, first.

    My brother’s counterpart was the sea eagle. He would tell of experiences of him and the sea eagle. It was profound. And it was more profound for me, because I already knew my affinity, in my own way, that it was mine, too.

    I told him so.

    “Look up,” he said gently.

    There, in the middle of the eastern Australian bush, were two sea eagles flying overhead.

    When things like this happen, it doesn’t matter about how others might regard them, or disregard them.

    Let me finish this story with these words. We grew close in the times ahead, black man and white, somehow caught in heart and vision, entirely shared in one way, and entirely different in another. So much I wished to learn from him, and that great, vast history. And each time we met, two sea eagles would fly overhead.

    One day, our country will understand – and live – the magic and laughter of the Australian Aboriginal.

  61. Kina says:

    Did Noel Pearson feel mollified because Howard had actually done something. No doubt the phone call was to ensure no criticism from him. I can understand his reluctance to condemn the plan since it is at least making it a national issue.

    But just when he needed to hold his nerve, keep his guts he became mollified.

    Noel should have criticised fairly and taken the opportunity to say what really was needed to be done.

    Mr Howard never implements a policy without some power play and control play involved we see this almost all his policies. Under the cover of emotion and in the name of proctection the Govt has made inroads into removing aboriginal land rights and self determination.

    Noel has let himself be duped. He has shown courage from the begining but just when he needed it most it failed him. But it is not too late – he should reconsider and say what he thinks exactly should be done and who should be involved. Quite clearly, any plan that does not involved the local community participating is no plan at all.

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  63. Kevin Cox says:

    Another complementary approach inspired by Milton Friedman’s four ways to spend money (below) is to set up a system where the communities receiving funds are responsible for spending it and where the communities giving the money are responsible for giving it. Here is an approach that would cost little and may be worth trying.
    http://cscoxk.wordpress.com/2007/06/24/child-abuse-and-alcohol/

    Friedman’s Four Ways to spend money

    There are four ways in which you can spend money. You can spend your own money on yourself. When you do that, why then you really watch out what youre doing, and you try to get the most for your money.

    Then you can spend your own money on somebody else. For example, I buy a birthday present for someone. Well, then Im not so careful about the content of the present, but Im very careful about the cost.

    Then, I can spend somebody elses money on myself. And if I spend somebody elses money on myself, then Im sure going to have a good lunch!

    Finally, I can spend somebody elses money on somebody else. And if I spend somebody elses money on somebody else, Im not concerned about how much it is, and Im not concerned about what I get. And thats government. And thats close to 40% of our national income.

  64. Arbie Jay says:

    The Howard government has known of this problem for years, most of the issues have previously been raised before including at the inquiry into petrol sniffing.

    The petrol sniffing epidemic worsened after Howard put taxes on aviation fuel in 1999/2000 despite pleas from the aboriginal community not to do so as it was cheaper than petrol and was unsniffable.

    “When you look at the petrol excise of some $13 billion a year the Government’s getting and GST of more than $300 million a year on top of that, surely eight or $10 million to get rid of sniffable petrol from central Australia is not a hard ask of this Government.”

    SENATOR BOB BROWN, Australian Greens, ABC Online, August 12

    The inquiry was in 2005

    But most, including the Government, agree that petrol sniffing is a symptom of broader social problems in the isolated communities, and addressing the problems is central to a long-term solution.
    The inquiry was recently told that poverty and overcrowding are leading many to petrol sniffing. Life in the communities, it is said, is so horrible it is driving locals to substance abuse.
    The inquiry heard that two-thirds of houses in Mutitjulu have no working stove and a quarter have no flushing toilet. More than a quarter have no working laundry.
    Violence is widespread. Women are scared of taking a shower for fear of being raped. Children are being brought up to sniff by drug and petrol-addicted parents. Concerned community leaders are pleading for greater government assistance.
    Prime Minister John Howard says the Government cannot solve the problem alone, and any approach must involve close co-operation with state and territory governments and community leaders.

    The government has done little until now.

    “If people are hell-bent on self-destruction, they will find ways of acting self-destructively, regardless of the availability of petrol.”

    TONY ABBOTT, Federal Health Minister, The Australian, August 13

    The government response to child abuse is to be applauded but contrasts to its response to the reports of wide spread abuse by clergy, then Howard stood by Hollingsworth as governer general, ignored the Angilcan Church and state governments calls for a Royal Commission and said that we should remember all the good that had been done and not take a black armband view of history.
    Howard then followed this up by providing $90 million in funding to place priests in schools to provide counselling to vulnerable children.

    Government members in the past have said that the cost of maintaining remote aboriginal communities is excessive and unsustainable and that the communities should be moved closer to the cities and/or the aboriginies assimilated.

    I would not be suprised to see assimilation come to the forefront as part of government policy as one way of tackling the issues.

  65. listohan says:

    Arbie Jay says: “I would not be surprised to see assimilation come to the forefront as part of government policy as one way of tackling the issues.” And?

    Refugees and migrants come from all over the world and, while keeping as much of their culture as they want, on the whole, become true blue.

    Is what “Little Children are Sacred” has disclosed worthy of retention? Who thinks so? Aboriginal elites in professorial posts? Retired ATSIC folk? Lazy state Labor Premiers? The victims?

    If you were living in a remote settlement would you prefer a share in some land or the wherewithal financially and skills wise to live a comfortable life in the suburbs. Particularly if at the moment you can’t make that choice because you don’t even speak English?

  66. Kevin,

    I followed the link you provided. You sure are a fan of hypothecation. There might be some benefit in the ‘psychological’ ties that it generates – but there is no logical connection between alcohol taxes and child abuse related to alcohol consumption – except that there’s some word association going on.

    But if we took this to it’s logical conclusion the government budget would be balkanised into a thousand funding pots with some programs lavishly supported (the social services to gambling addicts funded from gambling taxes) and others starved (mental health services – where would their money come from)?

    Generally we should raise revenue as efficiently as possible and spend it as efficiently as possible and links between the two shouldn’t be a gimmick – which your proposal looks like to me.

  67. “Then, I can spend somebody else’s money on myself. And if I spend somebody else’s money on myself, then I’m sure going to have a good lunch!”

    On my corporate Amex card, of course!

    “Finally, I can spend somebody else’s money on somebody else. And if I spend somebody else’s money on somebody else, I’m not concerned about how much it is, and I’m not concerned about what I get. And that’s government. And that’s close to 40% of our national income.”

    It’s also wages and salary in the corporate environment – the CEO takes the company’s income – revenue that ought to go to the shareholders – and spends it on paying the staff and other operating costs. Nobody finds this objectionable, nor do they believe that CEOs are completely indifferent to what they get for their shareholders’ money. Curious that.

    And completely off-topic too.

  68. Tony of South Yarra says:

    This may assist some here who dont already have The Template.

    THE ANTI-HOWARD ARGUMENT TEMPLATE

    In the event that Mr John Howard (Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of Australia) should make a public statement that is subsequently reported in the mainstream news-media (particularly if that statement may be seen in a positive light by the uneducated majority of the Australian publicotherwise known as voters) the following template may must be used:

    1. First make the statement John Howard is a liar. (If challenged at this early stage the usual response is Well he lied about children overboard didnt he?.)

    2. Once you have established the veracity of Statement 1, it then follows that nothing Mr Howard ever says is true.

    3. Therefore everything is said to further another secret agendaa sinister ulterior motive if you will.

    4. Establish that motive using phrases like its just an excuse to, the real agenda is, only months out from an election, playing the wedge and so on.

    5. Now go on to attack the motive, thus avoiding the actual issue, or the substance of his statement. This will avoid the possibility of having to concede that Mr Howard may believe what he is saying, and is in fact sincere on this or any other issues.

    Simple.

    The Template

  69. I would ask you, do you think it is not appropriate for strong action to be taken (by someone) to try to ensure that childrens basic needs are met and they are able to live in a safe environment?

    Yes, I do, Backroom girl. But I can’t see the argument that “any action is better than none” is worthwhile when many, many people including those who are actually doing something on the ground right now have pointed to the fact that much of this plan will be ineffectual at best, counter-productive at worst:

    http://www.theage.com.au/news/national/black-aid-plan-could-do-harm/2007/06/23/1182019436617.html

  70. Patrick says:

    Geez, Gummo, I didn’t know CEOs paid themselves. I thought we had these board-thingies. And I don’t even want to go into the rest. Off-topic and off-planet.

  71. Thanks Tone – we love arguing by numbers (and slogans) on this site.

  72. Tony of South Yarra says:

    Yes Nick I had noticed. No thanks necessary though. Just glad I could help.

  73. Tony of South Yarra – Love him or hate him – you can’t ignore him.

    (How was that Tony? Not really an argument but a sound bite)

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  75. No further off the planet than Uncle Miltie’s tacit assumption that it’s only governments that spend other people’s money Patrick plus a few other tacit assumptions about who’s worth spending money on and who isn’t that come up in debates like this.

    But still off topic.

  76. Tom Semmens says:

    Here in New Zealand, where the white settlers quickly found that if you hit the indigenous people they hit you back, we are genuinely gob-smacked at the appalling racism of Australians towards Aboriginals. We don’t have perfect race relations – far from it, as a conversation with a large number of the white-flight Kiwis in Aussie would reveal – but at least here we have a dialogue built on some sort of genuine desire for inclusiveness.

    For all the ANZAC stuff, John Howard’s Australia and Helen Clark’s New Zealand seem frighteningly different places when you discuss with many Australians the xenophobia (Tampa), jingoism (war on terror) and racism (this latest thing) that he has used to stay in power.

    Howard’s legacy won’t be a pretty one. From gutting the public school system to institutionalising Pauline Hanson’s One Nation racism he has bequeathed an ugly legacy.

  77. Kevin Cox says:

    Nicholas what I am on about is the most efficient way to spend money. What is suggested is NOT hypothecation but a mechanism for spending efficiently. Taxes are an efficient way to collect money but governments spending money is not an efficient way of spending it.

    What governments do is to divide their expenditure into compartments called budget expenditures and then they spend it. I think it is politically more acceptable in the current climate to do some of the division on taxes on the reasons for much of the problem but I do not care how the money is allocated. I have no trouble with governments deciding how much goes into the compartments. Governments still divide the expenditures into compartments but they allow markets to be the mechanism for spending the money. The system we have at the moment is centralised planning with all the inefficiencies that that brings.

    I would rather have a say in how money collected by taxes from me is spent in my community rather than some government bureaucrat deciding for me.

    It is important to spend money on the problem but leaving it up to few bureaucrats to decide how the money is allocated and then how it is spent is asking too much of them and they will not do it very well as we have seen in the past.

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  79. MorningDude says:

    Sorry Tony you have no rights that template at all, it was first invented and practiced by one John Winston Howard (I believe it is patented). He has been applying it arduously ever since 1996 and has proven it works very well.

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  81. Robert says:

    On the politics of this, it is astounding to read views as such from people who are completely at ease to support a “policy” or “action” which consists of making an announcement and then working out how to do it. Milne today in the Australia is a classic case of having one’s head entirely up one’s fundingmental. It’s not worth the link.

    What happened to the days of working out how things can be done and then, if it is expertly considered to work, making the announcement?

    A brilliantly edifying thing to read is the leading letter at SMH today, here, which in a few sentences from someone who knows spears a major plank of Howard’s brilliant “action” in the guts.

    If only he’d asked her first. (For one example).

  82. paul frijters says:

    Ken,
    I’m with Patrick on this one: this is not one of your better argued blogs. Where is the analysis of the problem and a careful consideration of the most reasonable way forward?

    Robert,

    “On the politics of this, it is astounding to read views as such from people who are completely at ease to support a policy or action which consists of making an announcement and then working out how to do it.”

    :-) with usually reasonable people like Ken ready to shout ‘racist’ and ‘Day of shame’ even when it concern minor policies that are likely not to have much impact at all and which are supported by the vast majority of the political spectrum, what do you expect Robert? Only a naive politician would engage truthfully on this issue, and then only once. The emotions on this issue are simply too strong to have a reasoned debate.

  83. Backroom Girl says:

    If anyone wants to get away from the topic of John Howard’s dastardly deeds for a while, I would recommend listening to Noel Pearson on the ABC’s Big Ideas program (broadcast last night).

    http://www.abc.net.au/rn/bigideas/

  84. cam says:

    Paul, Where is the analysis of the problem and a careful consideration of the most reasonable way forward?

    There are ninety-seven recommendations in the report. The two that the news release announced, prohibition of alcohol and porn, were not in the report. Alcohol and porn only took up a small number of the recommendations too, and what was in the report was a liberal policy, not a conservative/paternalist one.

    More tellingly Fred Chaney is quoted prior to the report with:

    But I think governments persist in thinking you can direct from Canberra, you can direct from Perth or Sydney or Melbourne, that you can have programs that run out into communities that arent owned by those communities, that arent locally controlled and managed, and I think surely that is a thing we should know doesnt work.

    And if that isn’t sufficient; any announcement that has state of emergency or for the children in it, should be treated with political concern if not contempt. That language is designed to make reasonable people sound unreasonable. We have also seen a pattern of governance in the last five years where there is a big announcement of a problem, the determination from above that it is a ‘national emergency’ and the the centralisation of power along with prohibition of new kinds.

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  86. Michael in OZ says:

    Sexul abuse is commonplce in some socio economic groups
    I can take you to some white ones in Newcastle
    But just because it is acceptable does not mean that it does not stunt the growth and development of people.

    What is the link/deal with pornography?
    Have I gone to sleep and woken up in 1950?

    Bonsai is buying 10 Billion$ in Boats
    Where is the money coming for this?
    Where are the trained staff for the NT intervention?
    The doctors the police who know about aboriginal culture?
    You can’t get doctors to work in the bush now so how?
    You can’t get them for Sydney suburbs!
    He has 40 NT police working for federal police on border control.

    It would be good if all kids in Oz could have a free comprehensive medical/dental/optical/psychological check.
    it would be good if abuse in the white society could be addressed
    (See the new on-line British programme -very successful)

    What is he going to do with the people he finds need medical attention?
    Where are the NT drug /alcohol clinics?
    Where are the teachers/ counsellors/ education resources/ trained specialist psychologists and social workers?
    What is the $ budget for this exercise?
    How much money will be spent on Travelling Allowance (TA) alone for the Army ?

    I thought the Army was stretched to the limit?
    What about long-term solutions for the WHOLE Australian community-not just one easily identifiable ghetto-group?
    or
    is the whole thing got some other agenda?
    Why just the NT when he has the constitutional right to take over ALL states aboriginal affairs. Why are NT kid more at risk?

    Does he need a new mine or nuclear dump on aboriginal NT land?
    A new USA/OZ airfield/ base?

    In the cross-fire between left and right commentators on this ; did anyone notice he slipped though the Australian ID card in the dying hours of the Winter Parliament session?.
    +
    a tightening of the sedition laws?
    No? Perhaps that was the point?
    Howard gets some ‘right wing’ and ‘bleeding heart’ brownie points for the election in 3 months time? by being “tough” on aborigines.

    Give me a break!
    This whole thing will be lucky to last 12 weeks and then go the way of his various other silly pronouncements on History and/or English teaching.

    He is the master illusionist- “Watch here while I slip this one in over here”.
    The press, as usual, follow like the sheep& goats they are;
    and Bonsai is home free…

    Bonsai AKA Howard AKA Jackboot Johnny
    You have to admire his political astuteness.
    He is so devious and Machiavellian ++
    So clever!
    He could teach Machiavelli a thing or two about dealing with the media and silencing dissent -within and without- his “Liberal” Party.
    (Ask ex-PM Frazer what he thinks of Bonsai).

    It is a great pity that Bonsai/Howard is also a humourless, authoritarian, anti-democratic, anti-human rights, power-hungry, amoral, dissembling, evil, socially divisive, racist, gouging, opportunist liar of the First Degree

  87. Listohan says:

    We have had decades of reports followed by consultation. And the announcements thereof have sunk overnight without a trace.

    Now at last for the first time a few more people are talking about it: principally here. Let’s see if it makes a real difference.

    Meanwhile the people most likely to be most involved seem to be largely in denial there is a problem, are long on negatives and absent on solutions.

  88. paul frijters says:

    cam, you misunderstood. I wasnt asking for the government analysis, I was asking for Ken’s.
    The thread above shows exactly why you cant have a reasoned open debate on indigenous issues. A cursory analysis of the contributions above tell you the word racist is used about 10 times. The government plus opposition plus Pearson have been accused of unwittingly aiding child predation by whites, destroying communities and a whole host of hidden agendas; the word deceipt/untruthful or something like it has been used about 1 in 3 blogs; day of shame, embarrassing or something of that ilk disfigures another 1 in 3. Who in their right minds is willing to debate anything seriously amongst this torrent of ill-guided abuse?

  89. Backroom Girl says:

    “this torrent of ill-guided abuse”

    And this is the civilised blog, Paul – you should see the terms they use over at LP and Catallaxy. But it’s alright, apparently vitriol is only in the eye of the beholder, according to Mark B.

    All I can say is, Noel Pearson must have the patience of a saint to put up with the continual impugning of his motives.

    I think the Government reaction here has gone a little over the top in its authoritarianism, but that seems just to be its natural bent. When people have had enough of such approaches, presumably they will vote someone else in, though I fear that in the ALP we only have another version of authoritarianism. But I think strong measures of some kind are warranted – I would just prefer that there be a stronger emphasis on capacity-building for the longer term.

    One thing I have noticed is that most of the discussion has been around whether or not it is fair or appropriate for the government to infringe the rights of adults. Very few people seem willing to acknowledge that this is (certainly from Noel Pearson’s perspective and I hope from the government’s) about trying to safeguard the rights of children, not least to a future in which they can be functioning adults and bring up their own children to be functioning adults.

  90. Patrick says:

    I agree with BG and especially Paul about the form of this discussion. I agree that Paul should check out the other blogs for an illustration, as well!

    One of the reasons I actually read clubtroppo is that the debate is generally above a minumum level of civilisation. Even Tim D’s old roadtosurfdom became intolerable after a while.

  91. Michael in OZ says:

    No one can believe this is about Aboriginal children.
    The problem is rife throughout Australian society especially in some socio-economic groups. I have worked with some in Newcastle, NSW.
    Why am I daily seeing adds on TV about Australian abuse of women and children?
    This is the 13th recent report on the problem.
    What makes THIS report special?
    Its timing?

    Howard it past master at misdirection.
    He has taken the public agenda while we all ignored:-
    1. The new Aust. ID Card Bill- traditionally opposed by Australians & passed without comment 6 hours before the end of the Winter Parliament Session.
    Where has been the media coverage of this?
    2. The Federal search for a Nuclear Dump in NT.
    3. The new USA/Oz air base for big cargo planes in the NT.
    (“We built it because we wanted to see if we could.” !?)
    4. The tigtening of anti-terror laws (Laws which he promised to abolish about now)
    5.?
    “Trust me”-He (Bonsai/Howard) has another agenda

  92. Patrick says:

    Noel Pearson actually seems to think that the lefties represented here are absolute f**king wankers. I wouldn’t be so harsh myself, nor put it in such terms (ok, nor does he :) ), but…

    NOEL PEARSON: Well, you know, I think that – I mean, I’ve been taking the stick quite a bit to progressives in relation to Aboriginal policy. People on the – people who have always professed a regard for Aboriginal people, and you know, there’s something mad going on from in the midst of many of our traditional supporters because they’re putting quibbling about politics and putting all kinds of objections in the road. For example, the suggestion that this is about land rights. You know, I’ve got as much objections as anybody to the ideological prejudices of the Howard Government in relation to land, but this question is not about a ‘land grab’. The Anderson Wild Report tells us about the scale of Aboriginal children’s neglect and abuse. This is what this is about. It’s an absolute alibi to try and characterise this debate as being about land grabs and so on. Who wants a land grab in main street Hopevale, for goodness sake?

    You know, that’s the horrendous thing here. That the people who are nay saying any kind of intervention are people whose children, like my own, sleep safely at night. And I think that’s a terrible indulgence.

    When our children sleep safely at night, we seek to put road blocks in the way and we wish failure, we wish failure upon any decisive action that’s going to deliver some relief of suffering to vulnerable children.

  93. Robert says:

    Pearson’s responses to this are in ways heartening and, also alarming. Sadly, he’s reducing the issues, the national debate. We are capable of embracing much more in these drastic events than Pearson’s blustery take. It is valid to be concerned about land rights and uses in this, just as it is to be concerned about the preservation of the Aboriginal culture as a whole. Pearson is failing these. Worryingly, there is a strong element of Pearson seeming in love with the sound of his own voice when he talks these days. A lot less bluster, a little more expression to exhibit a lot more wholesome consideration would carry a long way.

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