From assimilation to Black Power to Gordon Gekko to where? (II)

closegapHEAD

This is the second of a two part article about Aboriginal affairs policy in the wake of Noel Pearson’s speech last week at Gough Whitlam’s funeral. See From assimilation to Black Power to Gordon Gekko to where? (I).  Then read on. NB A very long post. I hope at least some will persevere to the end

In the first part of this article I argued that the self-determination policies of the 70s, 80s and 90s were generally perceived to have failed. That perception, along with calculations of immediate partisan political advantage, led to the imposition of the Howard Intervention on Northern Territory Aboriginal communities from late 2007.

The Intervention policies drew on various strands of right-leaning thinking on Aboriginal policy (including the prescriptions of Noel Pearson) which I will outline below. Despite their cynical partisan origins, these policies met with bipartisan acceptance and were implemented enthusiastically by the incoming Rudd ALP government through Minister Jenny Macklin under the Abbott-esque three word slogan Closing the Gap. Seven years after their implementation, the kindest evaluation one can give to these policies is that they have met with very modest success.

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From assimilation to Black Power to Gordon Gekko to where? (I)

Noel Pearson delivers the Greatest Australian Political Speech in Recorded History

Noel Pearson delivers the Greatest Australian Political Speech in Recorded History

It didn’t take long for the Aboriginal knockers to start tearing into Noel Pearson in the wake of his delivery of the Greatest Australian Political Speech in Recorded History at Gough Whitlam’s funeral.

And Helen Razer (although not Aboriginal to the best of my knowledge) took the opportunity of tweeting a link to an old article about Pearson by 60s-70s wannabe Black Power activist Gary Foley.  It’s a fairly spiteful and juvenile effort in many ways  (I didn’t, for example, need to know that Pearson is allegedly known by “many in Aboriginal communities around Australia as the ‘Cape York Cane Toad’”), but nevertheless makes some points that are worthy of serious reflection and discussion:

 Noel’s speech launching Prof. Langton’s Boyer book was in part a reiteration of his assertions about what is the way forward for Aboriginal people. The familiar Pearson themes of the importance of individual home ownership and entrepreneurialism were there, as well as the tiresome chastising of those who don’t support these contentions as being ones who are tolerant of domestic violence and child abuse. This latter accusation is particularly disingenuous because it implies that the solitary way one can combat social dysfunction is through the path of individualism, materialism and free-enterprise entrepreneurialism. If that is the case, then it is clear that what Pearson’s ideas are ultimately about is pure and simple assimilationism.

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Storm saga that wasn’t

Ben Eltham’s cheap education funding shot at Tone and Chrissie

John Brumby: deregulated the VET sector while Premier.

John Brumby: deregulated the VET sector while Premier.

Ben Eltham has posted an article in New Matilda about the financial and regulatory travails of Victorian VET private mega-provider Vocation:

Christopher Pyne’s higher education legislation will channel hundreds of millions of dollars to private providers. When it happened in Victoria’s VET system, the consequences were dire, writes Ben Eltham.

The share price collapse of high-flying private education provider Vocation reminds us of the perils of privatising education.

On its website and Annual Report, Vocation asks us to “be extraordinary”.

… Vocation presents itself as high-quality and respectable. It boasts none other than John Dawkins, the architect of the Hawke government’s university reforms, as the chair of its board.

But the performance of ASX-listed private training provider Vocation in recent weeks has been anything but extraordinary.

The problem with a voucher-based portable funding system for VET is that it creates a situation that makes it very difficult to monitor and ensure quality of service provision.

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Dick Hamer: the liberal Liberal

Dick HamerScribe publishing occasionally sends me a catalogue of books it’s publishing asking if I’d like to have one to review. Looking through their long list I picked my friend Tim Colebatch’s biography of Rupert Hamer on which he’s been working for a good while now. It’s a very enjoyable book to read. Well organised with the strictly chronological narrative occasionally being interrupted for some analysis and/or a chapter or two on specific issues, it gives a great picture of an unusually accomplished person of decency, liberality and great, if somewhat aloof grace.

Hamer was a rat of Tobruk who was always a natural leader with a strong sense of noblesse oblige. He came from Toorak (St George’s Rd no less – one of the best for those who don’t know), though Colebatch tells us they were not rich or at least their wealth was earned, not inherited. Rupert’s mum, Nancy had been orphaned at a young age but spent many years as Vice-President of Victoria Women’s Hospital which the Hamer family had spent several decades the previous century helping to build though charity drives. It was the first hospital in the British Empire to be run by and for women.

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Very clever people being … not so clever

I just came across this hilarious story.

Trying to rescue Naomi Campbell from the overzealous attentions of Mike Tyson, the Oxford philosopher A J “Freddie” Ayer – according to Ben Rogers, his biographer – inserted himself between the boxer and the supermodel. “Do you know who the f*** I am?” Tyson objected. “I’m the heavyweight champion of the world.” The 77-year-old Ayer replied: “And I am the former Wykeham professor of logic. We are both pre-eminent men in our field; I suggest we talk about this like rational men.”

It reminded me of a conversation I had about thirty odd years ago with one of Australia’s prominent philosophers John Passmore. I used to go when I could to the seminars put on by the History of Ideas Unit at around 12.00 noon on Wednesdays (as I recall) and went along to one. After each seminar off we all went to lunch across the road at University House. I was sitting next to John Passmore and for some reason the subject of banking came up. He said that he couldn’t understand why Westpac wouldn’t give him better service. I said “John, that’s because you haven’t got any market power. They don’t care about you – they’ve got bigger fish to fry”. He said “But that’s where you’re wrong – I do all my banking through them.” Perhaps he was worth squillions, but I don’t think so.

Self-importance is one of the main engines behind otherwise intelligent people acting not so much.

British Film Festibule

Top Picks (Looks like a good crop!)

The young Vera Brittain, an irrepressible, intelligent and free-minded woman who overcomes the prejudices of her family and hometown to win a scholarship to Oxford. With everything to live for, she falls in love with her brother’s close friend Roland Leighton and together they pursue their literary dreams. But the First World War brings everything to a grinding halt, and tears the couple apart. As Vera experiences the heartbreak of one by one losing the most important men in her life, and of the horrors of working as a nurse to wounded soldiers, she determinedly resolves to create a world in which such a war can never take place again.
☆☆☆☆ Cine-Vue
☆☆☆☆ IMDB
☆☆☆☆ The Telegraph
Show Timings:
Set in contemporary London, a Cambodian-Chinese mother is mourning the untimely death of her son when her world is suddenly disrupted by the presence of a stranger. Without a common language, the two have difficulties in trying to communicate. But through a translator they slowly piece together memories of a man they both loved and realize that while they may not share a language, they are connected in their grief.
☆☆☆☆ IMDB
☆☆☆☆ The Guardian
☆☆☆☆☆ The Telegraph
Show Timings:
During ‘The Troubles’, a young British soldier is accidentally abandoned by his unit following a riot on the streets of Belfast. Unable to tell friend from foe, and increasingly wary of his own comrades, the raw recruit must survive the night alone and find his way to safety through a disorientating, alien and deadly landscape.
☆☆☆☆ IMDB
☆☆☆☆ The Guardian
☆☆☆☆ The Telegraph
Show Timings:
Mr. Turner explores the last quarter century of the great, if eccentric, British painter who lived from 1775-1851. Profoundly affected by the death of his father, this anarchic yet popular member of the Royal Academy of Arts lived a full and exciting life. From traveling and visiting brothels to being strapped to the mast of a ship so that he could paint a snowstorm, he was both celebrated and reviled by royalty and the public. Rich and immediately enjoyable, this is a portrayal both funny and visually immaculate, combining domestic intimacy with an epic sweep both lyrical and mysterious.
☆☆☆☆ IMDB
☆☆☆☆ The Guardian
☆☆☆☆☆ The Telegraph
Show Timings:
This daringly anarchic vision of British society follows nonconformist Mick Travis, along with his fellow students, as they lead a revolution against their school. Mixing colour with black and white as audaciously as it mixes fantasy with reality, this remains one of cinema’s most unforgettable rebel yells.
☆☆☆☆ IMDB
☆☆☆☆☆ Eye For Film
Show Timings:
A Hard Day’s Night is a lively trip back to an era of sensational music, marking the true birth of British Beatlemania. The Fab Four’s famous first foray into film is considered one of the most innovative and refreshing music movies ever made. Celebrating the phenomenon of Beatlemania in 1964 and capturing John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr in their unselfconscious and electrifying element, we experience a wildly irreverent journey through one day in the life of the world’s greatest rock’n’roll act.
☆☆☆☆ IMDB
☆☆☆☆ The Guardian
☆☆☆☆☆ The Telegraph
Show Timings:
Running from an unsympathetic working-class family, a pair of demanding fiancées and an insecure job at an undertaker’s, Billy escapes into a world of fantasy where he can realize his dream ambitions. As work and family pressures build to new intolerable levels, Liz enters Billy’s drab life and offers him the one real chance he’ll ever get to leave the past behind.
☆☆☆☆ IMDB
☆☆☆☆ The Guardian
☆☆☆☆☆ The Telegraph
Show Timings:
A flashy, fast romp that chases a team of career criminals throughout one of the biggest international gold heists to ever appear on film. Charlie Croker is a stylish thief fresh out of prison. He takes over “The Italian Job”, a complicated plan to steal gold bullion from Italy, right from underneath the noses of the Italian Police and the Mafia. Combining action, humour, and an incontrovertible sense of style, this is undoubtedly one of the quintessential British caper films of the 1960s.
☆☆☆☆ IMDB
☆☆☆☆ Eye For Film
Show Timings:

The middleware of democracy. Or from knowledge to wisdom: or at least knowledge 2.0

StyrelseSimon Heffer’s High Minds presents us with a portrait of the mid-Victorians in which they consciously set about building the world which became ours. A liberal democratic world.

To do so they recognised the need for all sorts of public goods. Those of education and health surely enough, an honest public service chosen on merit too (an idea they nicked from the Chinese who’d been at it for a millenium or so) and also civic virtue. It’s a stirring and a sobering story reflecting an age which I think had a more balanced understanding of the necessary ecology of public and private goods each reinforcing each other in building the Good Life.

Today for all manner of reasons – intellectual, sociological and economic - our contemporary vision is profoundly skewed toward private good and private endeavour as the paradigmatic category. That’s why I regard it as a happy hunting ground for low hanging policy fruit – a panoply of ways to drive productivity and economic growth that don’t even cost any serious government money.

But as Heffer makes clear, this Victorian quest was not just economic. It was a political project. As he argued in an interview with Geraldine Doogue – which I quote from memory because I can’t find on the ABC website – they knew that democracy was coming, so they needed to get The People a decent education before they used their vote to wreck the place. Continue reading

Demonising victims and understanding grief

Rosie Batty (insert son Luke)

Rosie Batty (insert son Luke)

I commend to you an article about homicide survivor, mother and crusader Rosie Batty by Martin McKenzie-Murray in the relatively new publication The Saturday Paper. I was particularly struck by the following passage towards the end of the article:

Rosie Batty is asking us to bear witness. She doesn’t want us to be intimidated by her pain, but nor will she edit it. “People won’t allow you to be angry,” she told me, “because it makes them feel uncomfortable. We have to act ‘normal’.”

Some of us have responded by blaming her, or questioning her motives, or wrapping our responses in incredulity because she upset our expectations of grief. These responses are mean and narrow. They’re unchastened by the lesson of Lindy Chamberlain, when we informally indicted a grieving mother because we didn’t like the form of the grief. “I thought about her a lot,” Rosie told me the first time we met. “They put her through hell. If people had treated me like that you’d probably get the same fucking anger from me. They weren’t treating her with compassion and belief. It was hideous.”

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