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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. gordon
    June 25th, 2007 at 18:13 | #1

    The recent attempts by the Rodent Government to demonise Aboriginals as drunken child abusers may have a deeper purpose. Call me paranoid, but this comes at the same time as the Govt. is pushing forward its 99-year headlease changes to the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976.

    The HREOC has criticised these changes (in its Native Title Report 2006 – Ch. 2), where, among other criticisms, the HREOC noted that the Govt. intends to pay rent on the Aboriginal land it leases not out of the Budget but by pirating the Aboriginal Benefits Account. This is an account which receives mining royalty money. The Native Title report says: “Spending ABA money to pay for headlease rental will significantly reduce the overall amount available for Land Councils and the range of land management and other programs that are funded through ABA.”

    So if Aboriginal communities don’t want to come to the 99-year lease party, the police and the army will try to persuade them. In the nicest possible way.

  2. June 25th, 2007 at 18:22 | #2

    The problem with Aboriginal land rights are that they are inaliable. Which is not the case with freehold land rights. As such freehold can be bought and sold or morgaged but aboriginal land can not be. Long term leases is a good way to create a market in land title without risking the long term disenfranchisement of aborigines. Obviously there is a right way and a wrong way to implement this however.

    Tonga has a system of 99 year leases. And whilst not as ideal as freehold it does create an operational property market.

  3. gordon
    June 25th, 2007 at 20:52 | #3

    Well, Terje, I’m no expert on Aboriginal land ownership, but apparently other leasing models are possible and have been proposed. The Rodent Govt. is adamant, however, that it’s 99-year leases or nothing. So far as I know the Govt. proposal removes all Aboriginal input into the uses of the leased land, which (as the HREOC report suggests) is so close to alienation as to make no difference. And effectively making Aboriginals pay their own rental income (from the Aboriginal Benefits Account) gets up my nose.

  4. Hermit
    June 25th, 2007 at 22:29 | #4

    The ABC Landline program ran a story on tree planting as a carbon credit http://www.abc.net.au/landline/content/2006/s1958816.htm. It is hard to nail down some hard and fast claims. These include claimed capture rate, whether the quoted prices were per tonne of elemental carbon or the much lower CO2 price, whether the carbon capture is annual or long term, whether farmers are paid annually vs one-off and whether there are offsets-to-the-offsets such as tractors and flatulent cows.

    Apparently real money is changing hands now even in the absence of a mandatory national carbon trading scheme or even of an indicative target. Companies like Rio Tinto Coal are hoping to earn credits in advance which suggests they know more about the inner workings of the scheme than the rest of us. However it seems likely we are talking big credits for small money. In other words more tonnes of CO2 than the forestry experts would concede for less cash per tonne than Stern et al suggest. This does not augur well for greenhouse policy should Howard be re-elected.

  5. observa
    June 25th, 2007 at 23:01 | #5

    “The recent attempts by the Rodent Government to demonise Aboriginals as drunken child abusers..”

    In case you haven’t noticed Gordon, it’s been everyone from Dodson to Pearson who have been expounding the worsening nature of aboriginal problems these last few years. There is no need to embellish the facts any longer, in order to get a complete about face in aboriginal affairs, from the totally discredited, fairyland approach. Face facts. The Dreamtime has become many aboriginals worst nightmare. After compulsorily pricing them out of the labour market, they were paid sit down money to live a remote, apartheid existence and when the boredom of that fully set in, the inevitable social disintegration has occurred. It is now going to take as long again to fully integrate aboriginals into mainstream society. Those who wanted to treat aboriginals as their time warp, environmental, pet poodles, need to understand the full horror of what they have produced. These settlements are not outback Nimbins and modern life with refrigeration, antibiotics and the reciprocating piston engine, needs a level of education and sophistication, far beyond that of some esoteric, stone age, hippy commune, conjured up in fairyland minds. You have a clear choice now. Close these Centrelink sponsored, apartheid camps as quickly as possible and fully integrate and assimilate the inhabitants into the mainstream OR continue business as usual. Personally I don’t care any longer if you want to continue with business as usual. Ultimately, it’s not my problem. Feel sorry for the kids though, just like my parent’s generation did when they took them away and saved so many of them. Still, me and my white picket fence values can carry on just fine either way.

  6. cortexvortex
    June 25th, 2007 at 23:16 | #6

    Nothing like a right-winger with a thesaurus! many of the problems are caused by the fact many of these awful people (as you put it) were taken from their parents.

    If you ever bothered to get off your overfed pimply white bum and went to these areas you would be amazed at their ingenuity to do so much with so little.

  7. melanie
    June 26th, 2007 at 00:19 | #7

    Feel sorry for the kids though, just like my parent’s generation did when they took them away and saved so many of them.

    Observa, you are disgusting. (Sorry JQ, but racist stereotyping is not discussion).

  8. observa
    June 26th, 2007 at 00:48 | #8

    Milne puts it politely http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,20867,21960134-601,00.html

    “If you ever bothered to get off your overfed pimply white bum and went to these areas you would be amazed at their ingenuity to do so much with so little.”

    Bulldust! I had a coolie pup from Indulkana that was being buried alive by petrol sniffing primary school kids after it had been burnt. We could rescue the dog but not the kids. Our building contracts always had the inevitable clause about training and input by the locals. One thing white fellahs could be sure of building in aboriginal lands-it was always walkabout time. Sheesh, the Mutitjulu can’t even man the gate to collect the tourist dollars from Ayers Rock. The day they do, I’ll call it Uluru. They still got those Maoris manning the aboriginal interpretation centre at the Rock?

    melanie, how many of the saved generation are doing just fine today as a result of their upbringing, in comparison to today’s lot? The christian missionaries did a better job than all the well meaning experts we turned out of our whitefellah universities. You keep right on throwing all those tertiary experts at the problem if you think it’s a winner though. Howard’s had enough of them and by the sound of him so has Rudd.

  9. Paulkelly
    June 26th, 2007 at 09:06 | #9

    If I had a time-machine I’d travel back in time and take Observa from his parents. I’m sure they tried hard, but something terrible must have happened to him somewhere.

    Dysfuctional thinking like Observa’s is often a sign of dysfuctional personal behaviour. Does he have a family? Should we intervene and save them?

    What sort of society allows people like that to roam around in full view of everyone?

  10. gordon
    June 26th, 2007 at 09:44 | #10

    Observa, maybe Aboriginals deserve to be demonised as drunken child abusers. My question was, do they therefore deserve to be robbed? The conjunction in time between the Govt’s. sudden concern about their behaviour and the push to implement 99-year leases looks suspicious to me. Doubly so in an election year.

  11. melanie
    June 26th, 2007 at 12:49 | #11

    the Mutitjulu can’t even man the gate

    The Adelaide can’t even get the names right. Mutitjulu is a place name. You could refer to the people as Anangu (=people) or Pitjantjatjara (or one of the other language groups that lives there). It might help you to look a bit less ignorant.

    One of the most interesting and fun guided tours I ever went on was led by two women from Mutitjulu.

  12. jquiggin
    June 26th, 2007 at 13:42 | #12

    Observa, I’m not finding your contributions helpful. You appear pretty thoroughly convinced that ethnic/religious groups other than your own are inferior, and I’m getting tired of you restating that. I request that you not comment along these lines in future.

  13. June 26th, 2007 at 14:59 | #13

    With respect, I do not feel that observa’s comments, particularly #5 (with the possible exception of the last paragraph) is out of line. The paternalistic attitude of both government and society, treating the Aboriginal people as little better than (and in several areas much worse than) children is, IMHO, a primary source of their current problems.
    Nowhere in comment #5 (again, IMHO) did observa denigrate Aboriginal people. Comment #8 can (easily) be read this way, but an alternative reading is that the incentives, as they operate in the communities, are not set up to encourage gainful employment but to encourage sit-down.
    The transience, ever-changing nature and sheer stupidity of many of the government programs would (from my, admittedly limited and out of date knowledge of them) confuse the heck out of me.
    From my own perspective, the feeling of a lack of control of their own lives is not, IMHO, completely irrational.

  14. June 26th, 2007 at 15:54 | #14

    John, I also cannot see, in the above, where Observa has overstepped the mark. Isn’t he stating what is the case.

    On the other hand is the comment:

    ‘The recent attempts by the Rodent Government to demonise Aboriginals as drunken child abusers may have a deeper purpose’.

    helpful or is it a distortion that is attempting to obscure things with an unwarranted slur? It is factually false since – as is widely known – aboriginals have higher levels of alcohol abstinence than the rest of the community. Its the long-tail of the distribution that is the problem.

    Observa was reacting to this comment and pointing out that it wasn’t only the ‘Rodent Government’ who supported the recent Howard policy but sections of the aboriginal community as well.

    For that matter, on my reading, you were also reasonably supportive of the policy in your post earlier.

  15. jquiggin
    June 26th, 2007 at 16:23 | #15

    Unfortunately observa has sufficient form, notably in relation to Muslims that I don’t feel inclined to a charitable reading. On issues like this, tone matters as well as substance, and I think it’s clear from the way the thread has evolved that comments like observa’s don’t make for constructive discussion.

    As you say, I can see some positives in the government’s policy, and I have no problem with people defending it in the manner of your comments or AR’s. But I’m too busy to referee flamewars and my approach now is to shut them down early.

  16. Razor
    June 26th, 2007 at 16:52 | #16

    JQ – the AUD had appreciated 58% against the USD and 17% against the Euro since lows in 2002. At the same time the dreaded overseas debt has increased a fair bit. I thought we aere supposed to be in dire trouble???? What use is an economic theory or model if it’s predictive ability is severley flawed???

  17. Razor
    June 26th, 2007 at 16:57 | #17

    That would be severely

  18. observa
    June 27th, 2007 at 01:25 | #18

    It was of course my generation that was going to live the simple life, eschewing the machine and ‘the man’, to live an idyllic existence, in harmony with nature, throwing clunky clay pots and weaving hessian bag clothes. That is until the drugs wore off and itchy reality kicked in, as the mating instinct could no longer be delayed and clearer minds had to turn to mortgages and school catchment areas and the like. You’d think such a reality check from juvenile pursuits, would have flowed through to a similar empathy for aboriginals too, but for some confounded reason it didn’t. No, they could remain the one true, mythologically pure, green link with our past, as some kind of salve for selling out. The iconic noble savage revisited again. The only trouble was we were really selling out aboriginals as our planned outback Nimbins, sponsored by Centrelink, turned into the third world hellholes of today. If hessian clothes were somewhat scratchy, it should have been rather obvious that hunter gatherer lifestyles don’t exactly support things like refrigeration, modern medicine, or Toyota Landcruisers.

    When you work in such places and return to listen to the idyllic Rainbow Serpent Dreaming mythology at the kiddies’ schools and such, you have to bite your lip at the fairyland nonsense of it all. Another delusional generation in the making. You mustn’t upset the fairy story as I found out one day watching some Festival performance, with a bunch of your typical culture vultures. One performance consisted of about a dozen, somewhat overweight, bare breasted, middle aged aboriginal women from the Pitlands, doing a series of short shuffles and a bit of arm waving across the stage. Now this might be deeply meaningful for them at home, but… At that point I suggested to the blokes we hit the pub for a drink, much to the girls and Mrs O’s withering stares and protests. I said I found the whole thing totally demeaning and so would they if it were their mothers up there on stage. Perhaps they’d like to strip off and join in a bit of culcha themselves? Jeez you could have heard a pin drop. They agree with you quietly later, but as Mrs O keeps telling me, you mustn’t say these things. Some people are awful touchy about their pet poodles. That coolie pup was a ripper ute dog but.

  19. June 27th, 2007 at 10:32 | #19

    #16 Razor: As an exporter who prices in U.S. dollars I can tell the past 5 years have been absolutely devastating. If and when the resource boom pops there will be nothing left in this country except boarded up factories and bankrupt farmers.

  20. Razor
    June 27th, 2007 at 14:29 | #20

    carbonsink – you didn’t hedge your currency exposure???

  21. June 27th, 2007 at 15:21 | #21

    5 year forwards are a touch expensive – even if you pay nothing up front. Most businesses also have a little problem forecasting cashflows that far ahead.

  22. SimonJM
    June 27th, 2007 at 19:30 | #22

    More Peak oil, China and GW

    Oil to get scarce, new arrangements to be made


    China to West: You must be kidding


    Again unless the developed nations are prepared to seriously fund China and India not to do as we did -not to mention the rest of teh developed world- whatever we do is a waste of time.

    Interesting that these two problems could hit at the same time, anyone want to guess as the potential security ramifications and economic chaos???

  23. June 27th, 2007 at 20:04 | #23

    None. Price goes up, substitution occurs. Dislocation handled over the years and decades it will take. Sorry – but the Malthusian panic scenario does not wash with me.

  24. Paulkelly
    June 27th, 2007 at 20:07 | #24

    re 11. One suspect Observa’s pompous observations are 100% fraudulent, as is his fantasy cover as some sort of big shot can-do employer.

    In reality, Observa is possibly a clerk at the local council who resents everything and everybody because he never got a break in life.

  25. June 27th, 2007 at 20:21 | #25

    ~ snark ~

  26. SimonJM
    June 27th, 2007 at 23:54 | #26

    hmm Andrew given this is in a context of the huge increase in demand by countries like China let alone the continued increase by the US, the centrality of cheap oil to the global economy and the considerable- at least a decade- time scale needed to act -& I imagine that is when things are stable- you are remarkably blasé.

    Roger Bezdek is on The National Interest for anyone who wants to listen.

  27. observa
    June 28th, 2007 at 01:37 | #27

    You can relax about the ‘big shot can-do employer’ bit now Paulk, as I’m now officially ‘semi-retired’. I don’t have to get up in the morning and dance to anyone’s tune any more, unless I choose to.

    You know there’s a bewildering paradox about my middle class brethren and their attitude to aboriginals. Unlike their laissez faire, child stealing parents, my peers began the maternalistic long march from compulsory seat belts, baby capsules and bike helmets to the almost mandatory mobile phone umbilical cord to their 1.8 preciousses. They won’t let them out of their sight and drive them everywhere, complete with airbags, ABS and EBS to complete the cotton wool wrapping. We just introduced a no smoking ban in cars with kiddies present and there are rumblings to increase the ban to private homes. At 18, my daughter needed a police clearance to coach the local school netball team and after a couple of runawat prams ended up in the River Torrens, there were serious meetings by councils along its course to investigate whether fences or barriers were an option. All this maternal fretting and leglislated cotton wool, but the moment anyone talks about protecting aboriginal kids, it’s check your brains in at the door and howls of paternalism from the congregation. What a bunch of bloody phoneys and noone puts it better than Pearson http://www.abc.net.au/lateline/content/2007/s1962844.htm

    Sad to say Howard means well but it will come to nothing. Well not unless he’s prepared to ‘steal’ the children and bring them up like a few billion Chinese and Indians are aspiring to. It would seem the latter are not quite so fussed about white Australia’s racist, paternalistic ways in that regard.

    From what I’ve seen, aboriginals in the Centrelink gulags face 2 broad choices. Sit down business as usual, with the grog and drugs to alleviate the boredom or get with the mainstream, which, as my whitefella class brethren will tell them means education, education and more education, preferably private, or failing that, keep their eagle eye on the national literacy and numeracy school test results, now that publication of them is so chummilly bipartisan. The fly in the ointment? How the hell are you blackfellas going to get schoolteachers and all the other trades and professionals you need out there in the boonies? Streuth we import coppers, doctors and nurses from pommy land and wherever for little old Adelaide, because we haven’t got enough of them now. Do you really think under the circumstances whitefella taxpayers are going to pay them the salaries they need to work in the boonies, when they can’t pay them enough to get them to Adelaide now? Then there’s the GW problem and the rising cost of carbon in future, increasing the tyranny of such distances. Now what choice does that really leave you?

  28. June 28th, 2007 at 08:48 | #28

    #21 What Andrew Reynolds said.

    Dunno what world Razor inhabits, but its not the real world.

    RE Peak Oil: According to this the “Australian government expects petroleum import dependency to increase to around 80 percent by 2010″. I believe its around 40 percent at the moment, and oil is already a significant part of our trade deficit in goods and services.

  29. June 28th, 2007 at 10:44 | #29

    From memory, WA’s petroleum import dependency is close to 100% and has been for decades. This has not done us much noticeable harm and WA is not going to run out of oil suddenly. Your point?

  30. June 28th, 2007 at 10:59 | #30

    My point?

    North Sea oil production is crashing. Mexican oil production is crashing. U.S. oil production is in long term decline. Chinese oil production has peaked. Japan, India and the rest of Europe have no significant oil reserves, and now Australia will need to import 80% of its oil in two and half years.

    My point is, import dependency was not an issue in the past when there was plenty of cheap oil under the Arabian desert. Now we are faced with soaring demand from Asia, and oil production that is at best flattening.

  31. June 28th, 2007 at 12:27 | #31

    And new discoveries in Africa and South America. Look, I agree it will run out, but as I have said previously I do not see this as being an abrupt adjustment. It is one that will last over a few decades as lower value uses for oil derivatives are substituted for other sources of an equivalent product. Worst comes to worst (GHG considerations aside) coal or gas to liquids processes work reasonably well.
    Yes, we will be changing. No, we do not need to panic. Markets have adjusted to these problems before and they will do it again. The wonder of the collective wisdom of humans interacting with each other is that these sorts of changes happen almost without anyone in the midst of the change noticing.

  32. June 28th, 2007 at 12:56 | #32

    Ahhhh yes, the unshakebale faith in the market to fix everything. That’s why the market is doing such a fabulous job of mitigating climate change … not.

    (BTW, only an economist could describe a civilisation threatening problem as an “externality”)

    New discoveries! LOL!

    Sorry, I cannot share your faith, and it is a faith when your answer to oil depletion is simply “the market will provide”. How will it provide? Sorry, I can’t tell you that, but I know that it will.

    Coal to liquids? Yeah right. A good plan if you want to accelerate climate change. Gas to liquids? Well, gas might give us another 10 years, but gas wells decline abrubtly (unlike oil wells) and if we’re using gas to make all our liquid fuels, everything is going to happen much faster. Biofuels? Not much good if we want to fuel the world and feed the world.

    In the words of Matt Savinar, I think there’s a fair chance the invisible hand of the market will bitch slap us into the stone age in the next couple of decades unless we wake up to ourselves.

  33. June 28th, 2007 at 14:23 | #33

    Well, carbonsink, you may choose to phrase it that way. I choose to say it is not a “market”, but the collective decisions of all of us. Your choice.
    You may also choose to believe that we have all got it wrong and the sky is falling. I do not. Only time will prove one of us right and the other wrong.

  34. John Mathews
    June 28th, 2007 at 16:01 | #34

    Interesting exchange between AR and carbonsink.

    My own take on these matters is that Australia is on a suicidal trajectory with its government-imposed fixation on fossil fuels, and the sooner we wake up and make a shift to renewables — solar, wind, biofuels — and greater energy efficiencies, the better.

    The facts of the situation look dire.

    For the past six years, Australia’s domestic production of oil has been falling, from a level exceeding 30 billion liters in 2000-01 to around 18 billion liters by 2005-06. At the same time the rising costs of imports imposed a balance of payments deficit that grew from less than $1 billion in 2000-01 to $7.4 billion in 2007. Already oil imports account for 67 percent of Australia’s balance of payments deficit in goods and services – a situation that is intolerable and is rapidly getting even worse. The annual deficits in petroleum (crude and refined petroleum products) have been getting worse every year. According to ABARE, the trade in petroleum and petroleum refined products since 2001-02 is as shown in Table 1.

    Table 1 Australian trade in petroleum (A$ billion)

    2001-02 2002-03 2003-04 2004-05 2005-06
    Imports 10.1 11.5 10.8 15.6 20.9
    Exports 8.4 8.3 6.3 7.4 7.8
    Deficit 1.7 3.2 4.5 8.2 13.1
    Source: ABARE: Energy in Australia 2006, Table 21, p. 28.

    The trend is alarming – especially when set against the relentless decline in oil production. This is the result of Australia having no national oil champion (like a Petrobras in Brazil) and allowing its domestic market to be dominated by foreign-owned oil companies.

    The response from Australia’s remaining oil producers – Woodside Petroleum, BHP-Billiton, Santos et al – is to emphasise the need for more exploration, more investment in existing oilfields, more this, more that. Oil shales could become significant, but only with huge investments and predicated on high prices for oil, which would themselves be ruinous for an oil-importing country. This is all aimed at trying to swim against the tide of peak oil, which hit Australia in 2000 and has forced the country into the ‘down side of the peak’ in a way that can never be reversed by petrofuel finds or investment.

    How much is Australia investing in the mirage of a fossil fuel future? According to ABARE, the total invested in 2004-05 in the petroleum and coal mining industries, in petroleum processing and in electricity and gas (i.e. in all fossil fuel related energy industries) was $17 billion per year. Australia’s current import bill for petrofuels is $21.5 billion – as against exports of oil and gas of $12.3 billion.

    If instead Australia investment over a decade a sum of $7.5 billion over a decade, which would generate biofuels accounting for up to 20 percent of current petrofuels, this would still be less than a half of what is already being invested in fossil fuel related energy industries in just one year. This is the comparison that needs to be made. Far from a projected cost at $7.5 billion over a decade for biofuels being too ambitious, when compared with what is currently invested in fossil fuel related energy activities – twenty times that amount over a decade — it is not ambitious enough.

  35. June 28th, 2007 at 17:32 | #35

    Sorry, but that analysis is about as useful as the observation that Britain needs to stop generating power from coal in the next few weeks because there is now so little mining of the stuff in Britain that they will run out in that time frame. Balderdash – they are importing it, as are we importing oil and its derivatives.
    More worrying may be some analysis on when we are going to not be able to import it any more. Carbonsink, while I disagree with him, put together a more cogent argument.

  36. Paulkelly
    June 28th, 2007 at 19:01 | #36

    Observa your tracts are as long as Jack Strocchi’s. No-one can reach the end. And I don’t believe you near retirement age. You are one of those Gen Y types.

    Good luck with it all though. Haven’t you got a business to run?

  37. June 28th, 2007 at 19:28 | #37

    Andrew Reynolds,

    John has a point if you were the slightest bit concerned about Australia’s trade deficit.

    I am old enough to remember when the trade deficit was a big deal — the dollar crashed, markets panicked, and we were all set to become a banana republic. Today, for reasons I can’t quite fathom, a much larger trade deficit is no cause for concern, and the dollar’s strength seems to have more to do with interest rate differentials and commodity prices than the size of our deficit.

    Of course, if the Saudi’s aren’t telling the truth about how long they can maintain current levels of oil production (and who wouldn’t trust such an open and transparent regime?) we are all in the poo.

  38. June 28th, 2007 at 22:12 | #38


    Why should we complain if our nation has become a very attractive investment destination?



  39. melanie
    June 28th, 2007 at 23:15 | #39

    Observa your tracts are as long as Jack Strocchi’s. No-one can reach the end.

    My thoughts exactly, except for a dour (Gordon Brownish?) desire to penetrate obfuscation. Observa’s tracts are a model of prejudice against almost everybody. I think I’m of the same generation, but strangely I don’t recognize O’s stereotypes at all.

    Strocchi, on the other hand, sometimes engages in discussion.

  40. melanie
    June 28th, 2007 at 23:37 | #40

    HC no. 14 don’t you think that tarring with the same brush is precisely what the new invasion is all about? Perhaps, as the thing evolves the approach will become less abrasive than was implied in the original policy announcement. I certainly hope so.

    My objection was to Observa’s remark about people being ‘saved’ through being removed from their families. Probably some of them have done well, but many (not to mention the parents) had their lives destroyed.

    Observa says ‘some esoteric, stone age, hippy commune, conjured up in fairyland minds.’ Which stone age, hippy commune? Which fairyland minds? Why doesn’t Observa address the issues instead of just denigrating everyone who doesn’t agree with him?

  41. June 29th, 2007 at 00:07 | #41

    Because my dear Terje, Australian exporters that were competitive at 60, 70 and 80 US cents don’t magically reappear when the China bubble pops and the AUD crashes a few years from now. These businesses take decades to establish. Once they are gone, they are gone forever.

    If the AUD hits 90c and stays there for a year or so, my business will close. I will lay off my staff and I’ll shut up shop. If the dollar falls subsequent to that, I can’t take advantage and generate export income for Australia. Furthermore, having just lived through the nightmare of a 90c dollar, I’ll be very disinclined to invest in any other exporting venture.

    Repeat my story tens of thousands of times across the country and you have a very sorry tale.

    So please, keep cheering on the strong AUD and the fact that Australia “has become a very attractive investment destination”, but don’t try to tell me that there isn’t a downside to the surging Australian dollar.

  42. observa
    June 29th, 2007 at 01:34 | #42

    “I don’t believe you near retirement age. You are one of those Gen Y types.
    Good luck with it all though. Haven’t you got a business to run?”

    Actually when MissO(that’s Paris Hilton’s understudy to you)finishes her yartz degree next year I will be totally free of Gen Y at last. As for a business to run, things have moved swiftly to a conclusion on that front after just settling in a third tenant in my factory premises, following a clearance auction and closing the doors. Low interest rates have also been a boon for commercial property and increasingly I knew my business was underutilising that investment. So with some speedy redevelopment I have now joined the landlord class. Like many owner operated SMEs, our businesses are largely dependent on specialised technical knowledge, so they’re not really transferable with an aging population. (tough if all your investment is tied up in the biz) My business partner was at the same wind down stage and is now retired on wages, as a technical sales rep with another mate’s business. I’m now in retirement too, working on a national trust building at present. Our idea of retirement is probably somewhat of a misnomer in that regard.

  43. observa
    June 29th, 2007 at 01:47 | #43

    We’re going over old ground with the ‘stolen’ vs ‘saved’ generation. I think Andrew Bolt will pay you if you can point to a successful court case claiming damages for being ‘stolen’. Many of today’s aboriginal leaders were rescued from abuse and neglect and yes they would have preferred to have their cake and eat it, so to speak. Aboriginal leaders today are rethinking sending settlement kids away to boarding schools to get them out of hopeless or non-conducive environments. Taking children away is a last resort, but sometimes the tradeoff must be an option, or are you saying we should close women’s shelters because they’re complicit in stealing children away from one parent? All these situations need is more understanding, counselling and perseverance by all eh?

  44. gordon
    June 29th, 2007 at 10:37 | #44

    The “stolen generation” approach might have had as much to do with cheap labour as with transplanting the Protestant Ethic. It may well be that the 99-year headlease scheme is another road to the same outcome – cheap labour. Consider that an announced aim of this scheme is to allow Aboriginals to borrow in order to buy/build houses. When you have borrowed, you have a money debt to service. If you have a money debt to service, you have to get a job.

    Back in nineteenth century colonial Africa, they had a ploy called the “hut tax” which also forced African blacks to work for wages. John Reader (in Africa: a Biography of the Continent, Penguin 1998) describes it as follows:

    “Confronting the realization that indiginous labour was either unforthcoming or at best unreliable, while foreign labour was impossibly expensive, administrators resorted to the only option they could see available to them: forced labour. Forced labour, either in the sense that individuals were physically coerced into service or by the more devious strategy of imposing a hut tax, whereby heads of households were obliged to earn money since the tax had to be paid in cash. And, of course, only one sort of paid employment was locally available to them.”

    Other strategies, like stealing land and cattle so that the traditional black economy was no longer viable, also played a part in mobilising black wage labour.

    I was listening on the radio this morning to Senator Heffernan telling us all how his Northern Task Force is going to lead the way in development of Northern Australia. Ah, another “Develop the North” push, very nostalgic for one who remembers Australia in the 1960s!

  45. Andrew
    June 29th, 2007 at 10:58 | #45

    #27 – well said Observa…. great observations.

    Most of the objections to the Howard/Brough intervention are along the lines of – “it’s not consultative”, “it’s paternalistic”, “it’s too confrontational”, “It’s racially discriminatory – why not do the same in the white suburbs”, “it’s short term – where’s the long term solution”.

    And you know what – the bizarre thing is that all of the ‘reasons to object’ above are precisely why a lot of people are saying ‘hurrah for Howard/Brough’.

    For the short term: We don’t need more consultation we need action; we need to be paternal clearly there’s been a failure in local leadership; we need to be confrontational because zero-tolerance law and order is required; yes it’s racially discriminatory but the solution in the aboriginal townships will not be the same as dealing with alcohol abuse in the cities; yes it’s short term – but we need short term action whilst we sort out the long term solution.

    Frankly I agree with Observa – it is not obvious that there is a long term solution other than disbanding these towns altogether. Why do these aboriginal settlements exist? Most country towns exist because they support some local industry (mining, agriculture, tourism) – the towns exist to provide the basic services to support the workers in the industry. What purpose do the aboriginal towns serve? If they exist purely because they are funded by government support – there will never be a long term solution. No amount of government funded housing, schools or hospitals will replace a genuine long term job. Without productive employment – drugs, alcohol & porn are welcome diversions.

    Those like Clare Martin calling for billions of dollars of government funding to provide adequate housing in the remote aboriginal townships are no doubt well-intentioned, but ultimately very mis-guided.

    The folks in these towns need to decide whether they want to return to a traditional aborginal lifestyle (nothing wrong with that) – or whether they want to relocate to a location which offers genuine employment.

    Perhaps our long term solution should be to set up an Aborginal nation – let’s give all of NT to the aboriginals in the biggest native title settlement yet and they can have their ‘Aborginalia’ where can return to a traditional lifestyle. Those that prefer to live in a modern western society can do so and we should welcome them into our mainstream towns and cities.

  46. SimonJM
    June 29th, 2007 at 11:53 | #46

    Limited Hydrocarbons Mean Little Global Warming?

    The ABC doco Crude I think said that if we used up our fossil reserves the warming would be past the lower limit set by the IPCC to avod catastrophic climate change, the above claims otherwise and thoughts?

  47. jquiggin
    June 29th, 2007 at 13:17 | #47

    This is certainly true if you include coal. I made this point quite a while ago (look for Carbon, too much, not too little or something like that).

  48. SimonJM
    June 29th, 2007 at 13:22 | #48

    JQ have you been picking up on the reports that like oil some think coal reserves are overstated?

  49. Paulkelly
    June 29th, 2007 at 13:56 | #49

    I’m confused. Noel Pearson say it’s all the fault of passive welfare since the 70s, and before that life was fine for blackfellas, lots of social capital, structure in lives and so on.

    But the wise Observa notes they’ve always been hopeless. Yet he support’s Pearson.

    As another fan of Observa might ask: please expaaayn?

  50. gordon
    June 29th, 2007 at 14:05 | #50

    Andrew says: “What purpose do the aboriginal towns serve? If they exist purely because they are funded by government support – there will never be a long term solution.”

    Hmmm. What about this extract from a press release from Peter McGauran (20/6/07): “…The Government is currently providing $26 million a week in drought assistance,â€? Mr McGauran said.

    “The dramatic increase in the number of people accessing EC assistance follows the Government’s decision last year to open EC to all farmers, no matter what they produce, as well as to farm-dependent small businesses…”

    Not to mention the $2.3b in Farm Management Deposits, and various other forms of assistance to rural people without which many rural towns wouldn’t, I suspect, remain viable in their present form.

    Up until recently, the existance of ATSIC diverted Aborigines from interest in mainstream political activity. There is no vested political interest in Aboriginal welfare comparable to the vested interest in (white) rural welfare. In such circumstances, attacks on Aboriginal welfare will inevitably be seen as racist.

    This is not necessarily to deny that present arrangements for Aborigines in remote (and some not-so-remote) locations may not be working well. Present arrangements for maintaining a solid bloc of National-Party-voting rural electorates may not be perfect either.

  51. Andrew
    June 29th, 2007 at 16:18 | #51

    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.

  52. Paulkelly
    June 29th, 2007 at 18:49 | #52

    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.

  53. gordon
    June 30th, 2007 at 10:20 | #53

    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).

  54. Andrew
    July 2nd, 2007 at 08:43 | #54

    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.

  55. Andrew
    July 2nd, 2007 at 08:46 | #55

    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.

  56. July 2nd, 2007 at 11:51 | #56

    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.

  57. Andrew
    July 2nd, 2007 at 12:26 | #57


    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.

  58. gordon
    July 2nd, 2007 at 17:11 | #58

    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.

  59. Andrew
    July 3rd, 2007 at 08:01 | #59

    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.

  60. gordon
    July 3rd, 2007 at 10:15 | #60

    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.

  61. Andrew
    July 3rd, 2007 at 12:05 | #61


    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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