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Monday message board

June 25th, 2007

It’s time, once again for the Monday Message Board. As usual, civilised discussion and absolutely no coarse language, please.

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  1. Andrew
    June 29th, 2007 at 16:18 | #1

    Gordon – I’m not sure I understand your point. You seem to be saying that because we subsidise farmers in times of drought that it’s ok to fund non-productive townships? I’m not sure I see the link.

  2. Paulkelly
    June 29th, 2007 at 18:49 | #2

    Andrew, Gordon’s point is bleedin’ obvious.

    We subsidise people to live in country towns and on farms, as do many European countries, because it’s good for the nation’s soul or identity or something.

    But we shouldn’t subsidise black communities because it doesn’t make economic sense.

    Who knows which costs more per head of the people being subsidised. It comes down to a value-judgment.

  3. gordon
    June 30th, 2007 at 10:20 | #3

    Andrew, my point is that your statement about the non-viability of Aboriginal settlements without Govt. assistance is discriminatory. There are lots of townships in Australia – a few of which are predominantly Aboriginal – which aren’t viable without Govt. assistance. Without the redirection of Federal tax dollars, whole States (I’m thinking of Tasmania and S.A.) might not be viable in their present forms. In such a situation, to say that paying for Aboriginal townships is a “bad thing� is discriminatory unless you also show why Govt. assistance to white townships (and predominantly white States) is OK, and do so on grounds which aren’t racist.

    Turning to law enforcement, if the recent reports of assaults, child abuse and gang activity in Aboriginal settlements are right, then I think you probably have good grounds for asking why law enforcement in Aboriginal settlements has been so lax in the past. That question implicitly accuses many past Govts. (both the N.T. and Federal) of discrimination – such a situation wouldn’t have been tolerated in predominantly white settlements. (I suppose that a defense of past inaction on law enforcement might be made on the grounds of Aboriginals’ inability to comply with the laws, but it might be an uphill job). Politically, however, it would be you who has the uphill job; law enforcement costs money, and without some kind of payoff to politically influential whites (like removal of land rights) it’s unlikely to happen. Which brings me back to my first comment (#1).

  4. Andrew
    July 2nd, 2007 at 08:43 | #4

    Odd comment from Paul Kelly “We subsidise people to live in country towns and on farms, as do many European countries, because it’s good for the nation’s soul or identity or something” -

    and because perhaps it’s because these communities provide something that the nation values such as food, commodities and tourism?

    We are subsidising these communities where there is productive employment being pursued. If we were subsidising these folk to just sit around all day then I suspect they’d also start have law and order and alcohol problems.

    What is the functional purpose of these aboriginal townships? They seem to me to be a terrible no-man’s land between a traditional aboriginal lifestyle and modern western living – with perhaps the worst rather than the best of each.

  5. Andrew
    July 2nd, 2007 at 08:46 | #5

    And yes Gordon – my comment is discriminatory… I do not resile from that. This is generally an aboriginal problem and so needs a specific aboriginal solution – by definition that is going to be discriminatory.

    For too long we have be scared about coming up with solutions to help aboriginals for fear of being labelled racist.

  6. July 2nd, 2007 at 11:51 | #6

    Andrew,
    Subsidies to farmers in time of drought or any other time should (IMHO) stop. If any business (which is what a farm is) is not viable then it should not have a call on the public funds.
    To put it bluntly – if a business is viable then it does not need subsidies. If it is not viable then it does not need subsidies.
    The current system of propping up uneconomic farms is a sop to the National Party. Nothing more, nothing less.

  7. Andrew
    July 2nd, 2007 at 12:26 | #7

    AR,

    I don’t totally disagree with you – in general, I am very anti-subsidising anything from public funds. However, there may be cases for keeping ‘marginal’ businesses going when they are providing necessary products/services for the nation that can’t always be replaced (or should be replaced) from overseas.

    However – these subdidsies shouldn’t be used to prop up long term unsustainable businesses that are generating products we could source more efficiently from elsewhere.

    We’re getting a bit off my main point though – which is that I think these aborginal townships are destined to be long term ghettos if all we are doing is propping them up with public funding when there is nothing productive for people to do in these towns. What we do with farm subsidies is a separate topic.

  8. gordon
    July 2nd, 2007 at 17:11 | #8

    Andrew, I think you will need to open the whole can of Aboriginal policy worms if you want to try to address the problems of Aboriginal settlements specifically in Aboriginal terms (ie. not as examples of funding non-viable settlements). And don’t forget that they’re citizens. I’m happy to stop at a law enforcement response to lawbreaking for the moment. I think that is also Little Kev’s (kevin rudd) response – first time I’ve agreed with him for months.

    For drought relief, have a look at the Productivity Commission’s Trade and Assistance Review 2005-6, Sec. 3.1. There is (was?) a risk management strategy relying on individual responsibility – which was hastily abandoned when the drought got really bad; “exceptional circumstances” just means money outside the policy framework. The PC has some interesting things to say about Farm Management Deposits, too.

  9. Andrew
    July 3rd, 2007 at 08:01 | #9

    Yes Gordon – consider the worm can opened.

    I think we’re continuing down a path to disaster for Aboriginals if we continue to prop up these outback ghettos. I’d be very happy to cede a large amount of territory back to Aboriginals on which they can return to a traditional lifestyle – let’s spend billions reclaiming land from white landowners and then ‘giving’ it back to ‘Aboriginalia’.
    Let’s also close down these ghettos and properly integrate those Aboriginals who would like to live in a modern western society.

  10. gordon
    July 3rd, 2007 at 10:15 | #10

    Andrew, I look forward to your upcoming long and insightful essay on Aboriginal policy. You will have to address land rights, under pressure both from the mining/radioactive waste lobby and the agricultural lobby – which seems to be being led Northwards by Bill (“Andries Pretorius�) Heffernan. I shall read your proposals with moderate interest, as I don’t see Aboriginal policy as being as important as the growing social inequality in Australia and the rest of the Anglophone world. That is the big policy issue for us and for our children, to my mind.

  11. Andrew
    July 3rd, 2007 at 12:05 | #11

    Gordon,

    I’m not very good at essay writing – but if I did write one it would probably revolve around the following points –

    1) Aboriginal policy needs to start from the position that they were in Australia first and we did invade their land – but with some ‘statute of limitations’ on what that means, after all – if the world wanted to recompense every culture that has been conquered over the centuries it would get very messy!

    2) I see no reason for us (modern-Western society) to feel any moral superiority over traditional Aboriginal culture and lifesyle. But leaving morals/ethics out of it – almost by definition we have clearly advanced as a society well beyond aboriginal society or even Western society of 200 years ago when we invaded Australia. I personally think that is a good and noble thing, all hail progress and science – some may disagree.

    3) In my view, most if not all Aboriginal ‘problems’ stem from the mutual incompatability of traditional Aborginal culture/lifestyle with modern Western culture/lifestyle. The solution to the ‘problem’ will involve a choice between both cultures.

    4) Whatever solution we come up shouldn’t involve ‘paying’ them to live in shanty towns out in the bush and out of the way.

    5) We need to either find a way to give back large tracts of land to Aboriginals who then return to a traditional lifestyle – or we need to move them out of these rural ghettos where they are living a poor shadow of a modern Western life and bring them into mainstream Australia – I think the individual Aboriginals should be free to choose which life they want.

    On you concern about social inequality – sorry, I don’t share that. I actually think inequality is good thing and is the result (perhaps the cause) of progress. Just imagine how bland the world would be if everything was truly equal! Nothing to aspire to.

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