February 13th, 2008

I watched the opening of Parliament this morning, and the speeches by Rudd and Nelson. Like lots of others I was moved by the occasion, and hopeful that we as a nation can finally make good on the spirit of reconciliation. Rudd’s speech was the best I’ve seen from him, and the promise of co-operation on this issue was inspiring. Nelson was rather defensive, but much of this was probably necessary to secure the unanimous vote in favour of the motion, and his willingness to participate in a joint effort with the government is welcome. Bob Hawke, Gough Whitlam, Malcolm Fraser and Paul Keating were all present.

Hard though it was to get to this point, that was the easy bit. It’s going to take a lot of resources, and a willingness to ignore ideological shibboleths of all kinds, if we are to achieve the kinds of improvements in health, education and general living standards promised today by Rudd and Nelson.

Categories: Politics (general) Tags:
  1. Donald Oats
    February 13th, 2008 at 23:09 | #1

    We got our first holden kingswood the day that man landed on the moon. The space race started with the Russian sputnik launch in 1957, and was won by the JFK inspired moonlanding in 1969, an awesome achievement in a mere 12 years.

    Nearly 40 years after the first moonwalk Australia manages to unreservedly apologise to our Aboriginal and Torres Strait islanders.

    The lunar landing shows just what can be quickly achieved with a united will and committed people. Wouldn’t it be great if the next steps along our Australian journey are with united will and commitment? Twelve years (or less) instead of 40?

  2. wmmbb
    February 14th, 2008 at 00:01 | #2

    To me the the significance of the events yesterday was the House of Representatives which normally enacts laws, was transformed into the stage and meeting place for a set of symbolic actions and words before representatives of the Stolen Generation that deligimated the racist and violent policies of the past.

    Brendan Nelson did say sorry, and most of the Opposition joined with the Government. So in the frame of recent history, congratulations to him and to them for this moment of national significance.

  3. February 14th, 2008 at 00:57 | #3

    Donal Oats: “Unreserved” apology? .. er.. there is a reason the apology was within parliament.

    The same reason you will see Kevin Rudd very carefully avoid using the same words outside parliament.

    A token apology is fine, but any suggestion of financial compensation will be a bridge too far for the electorate. Rudd knows this.

  4. Ian Gould
    February 14th, 2008 at 01:31 | #4

    “but any suggestion of financial compensation will be a bridge too far for the electorate.”

    I guess “the electorate” is unaware that the first such compensation case had already occurred before Rudd said word one on the topic.

  5. February 14th, 2008 at 02:29 | #5

    I think John summed it up nicely. What comes next really is the point, and my argument is that we – whether inside Australia or out, whether indigenous or non-indigenous – will now have to rethink our notion of stated-based sovereignty to move away from fears of legitimised land grabs or the denial of rights to make any sort of progress possible.

    Perhaps a refined notion of popular sovereignty (or sovereignty of all Australian peoples)would allow the sorts of provisions we expect from the government to be channeled where they are needed – clearly more often than now to indigenous communities – rather than where they best serve to reinforce state authority.

  6. February 14th, 2008 at 07:20 | #6

    this parliament apologized, the previous one did not, the next one might take it back. the people of australia stood behind the ropes and watched their masters at work.

    oz is in the grip of a few hundred members of the politicians guild, and the fortunes of the nation are tied to the election struggles of these actual ‘citizens’. some are better than others, in caring for the hoi polloi, but none can speak for the people if his career is thereby endangered. so rudd can apologize for parliament, but not for the nation. fortunately, ozzies don’t have sufficient sense of identity to notice the difference.

  7. February 14th, 2008 at 07:29 | #7

    Meanwhile, in the hilly jungles of a remote island called Despair, a lone soldier continues fighting the Culture Wars…

  8. snuh
    February 14th, 2008 at 07:51 | #8

    there is a reason the apology was within parliament.

    The same reason you will see Kevin Rudd very carefully avoid using the same words outside parliament.

    and what is this reason? i’m stumped.

  9. mugwump
    February 14th, 2008 at 08:01 | #9

    Is your question serious snuh? Can’t tell whether you are being ironic or not. If not, I think SATP is referring to parliamentary privilege. But my understanding is it only applies to slander (you can call the leader of the opposition a dirty scum-sucking whore and he has no legal redress). I don’t see how it applies to the “apology” (TM).

  10. Spiros
    February 14th, 2008 at 08:17 | #10

    SATP mistakenly thinks that because the apology was said in the parliament, that in itself immunises the government from compensation claims.

    That is wrong, which is why the government took legal advice on its wording so as to avoid giving the impression that the government was admitting liability, in a legal sense.

  11. snuh
    February 14th, 2008 at 09:39 | #11

    yes, obviously parliamentary privilege has nothing to do with the apology. so, i assume, that cannot be what satp meant, hence my question.

  12. February 14th, 2008 at 11:41 | #12

    What I meant was, it was a Clayton’s apology.

    Rudd knows his dewy-eyed liberal constituency will turn on him if he opens the floodgates for compensation.

    It is fine to apologise for things past, but the wankocracy, who are dewy-eyed over this current apology, just watch them become enraged at the slightest suggestion the current generation (ie, us) should apologise for the current circumstances of aboriginal children.

    Perhaps for once in his life Spiros is right, and Rudd will repeat the speech outside of parliament. Let’s see if it happens.

  13. mugwump
    February 14th, 2008 at 11:49 | #13

    I want to see the “wankocracy” put their money where their mouth is: hand over their houses in the spirit of reconciliation. I mean, how *can* they sleep while their beds are burning?

  14. gerard
    February 14th, 2008 at 12:03 | #14

    it’s been interesting how the mainstream media has been so excited and supportive of the apology. when the government of the day was opposed to an apology, the media treated those who wanted the apology as a bunch of useless kooks.

    Now that the government has changed, they’re all for it. I guess that like a good part of the electorate, the MSM lets the powers that be decide what’s good and bad.

    But for me, it was an odd display. Howard was PM for about half my life, and now, to see a PM disply a scrap of human sympathy and common decency, and to see indigenous Australians treated as citizens worthy of respect rather than just an inconvenient stain and a tool for wedging the electorate… it’s just so different from what I’ve come to expect.

    The new government isn’t perfect by any means, and they’ll probably get worse over time, as all governments do. but for now, it feels like a national enema after 11 years of toxic constipation.

  15. wilful
    February 14th, 2008 at 12:07 | #15

    Nah steve, you mistakenly thought that there was some legal difference between saying it in Parliament and elsewhere. But you’re not big enough to even concede that trivial point.

  16. February 14th, 2008 at 12:34 | #16

    I am mistaken in lots of things Wilful. After Rudd repeats the speech outside parliament I’ll be forced to concede I was mistaken about that also.

    I agree though that the apology is a trivial point.

  17. O6
    February 14th, 2008 at 12:47 | #17

    Better than giving us tax cuts that will mainly add to our foreign debt would be to put serious money into ATSI education. This would mean building schools where they’re needed and planning for very small class sizes, paying teachers two or three times the norm to go to where the need is and stay there for some years, paying extra staff in the schools to provide meals, hygiene and clothing (if need be) so that all children start the day the same, extra staff in the schools (not ‘welfare officers’ or police) to make sure the children come to school. Yes, it might cost twenty times as much as a current good metropolitan school, but only for 2.5% or fewer of the nation’s children, and only for a generation.
    Half measures have failed and will continue to fail. So will short term emergency measures like using the army; as Napoleon said, ‘You can do anything with bayonets except sit on them.’

  18. mugwump
    February 14th, 2008 at 14:43 | #18

    …it feels like a national enema…

    I agree. The current govt gives me the sh*ts too.

  19. Lord Sir Alexander “Dolly” Downer
    February 14th, 2008 at 15:51 | #19

    Come back o’ darling Rodent! He wouldn’t have put up with this touchy-feely nonsense.

  20. Donald Oats
    February 14th, 2008 at 16:47 | #20

    I’m not sorry that the Liberals lost the last election. Not by a long shot. And it is my fault.

    Howard could have sorted this out a decade ago. When he gave his speech on the matter, he chose quite provocatively to use synonyms but not the one single word that he was informed was so important to Indigenous people, ie “sorry.” He gave them and me the single digit as far as I’m concerned.

  21. haiku
    February 14th, 2008 at 18:49 | #21

    People forget that Howard did actually make an apology – a personal rather than national one. Which I always thought was getting it exactly the wrong way around.

    The relevant quote:
    Personally, I feel deep sorrow for those of my fellow Australians who suffered injustices under the practices of past generations towards indigenous people. Equally, I am sorry for the hurt and trauma many people here today may continue to feel as a consequence of those practices.

    Actually, reading the rest of the speech reminded me how, with Howard, you had to parse every word. He deserved fulsome praise for the enormity of that particular skill …

  22. February 14th, 2008 at 19:33 | #22

    Haiku, any purported national apology is itself offensive, for the sorts of reasons I have given earlier. It’s a usurpation of the personal, just as an apology is a confession of conscious and collective guilt spanning time that simply does not fit. If you accept the reasoning, such as it is, or if you accept that real aboriginal sufferings are overwhelming (overriding such things as personal connection), why, then you have accepted the very things that underpin previous generations accusations of Jewish blood guilt for the death of Christ. (That’s a reductio ad absurdum, by the way, not something I endorse.)

  23. crocodile
    February 14th, 2008 at 19:42 | #23

    “Rudd knows his dewy-eyed liberal constituency will turn on him if he opens the floodgates for compensation.”

    Is there really any good reason why the topic of compensation should not mentioned

  24. Ian Gould
    February 14th, 2008 at 21:10 | #24

    “It is fine to apologise for things past, but the wankocracy, who are dewy-eyed over this current apology, just watch them become enraged at the slightest suggestion the current generation (ie, us) should apologise for the current circumstances of aboriginal children.”

    Right, that’s why Rudd IN THE SAME SPEECH pledged hundreds of millions of dollars to improve education for Aboriginal children.

  25. Ian Gould
    February 14th, 2008 at 21:21 | #25,23599,23211165-2,00.html

    “A DAY after the historic apology, the Federal Government has taken the first step to improving indigenous education.

    Education Minister Julia Gillard today introduced legislation to pay for more teachers in remote areas of the Northern Territory.

    Ms Gillard said the measure would mean an extra 50 teachers this year and an extra 200 over the four years to 2011.

    The cost this year will be $7.16 million, with a further $56.8 million to be spent in future years.

    Ms Gillard said there were about 10,000 school-aged children in communities affected by the Northern Territory emergency response.

    But 2000 of them were not at school and a further 2500 didn’t stay at school long enough to benefit.”

    That’s just in the NT, the states will also be getting additional funds.

    There’s also a program to extend preschool education to all indigenous communities.

  26. haiku
    February 14th, 2008 at 21:30 | #26

    P.M. – for “national”, I meant “national Government”, rather than the “nation of Australian people”.

    The rationale I had was that some of the actions apologised for were actions of Government, and that for me it is legitimate for the Government of the day to apologise for the actions of a previous Government. They do keep reminding us that we are one of the oldest continuously functioning democracies going around.

    I didn’t think Howard needed to apologise personally – he’d not been involved in any of the relevant Governmental actions which are the subject of the apology (AFAIK). And given the rest of his speech, it’s problematic as to how sincere the personal apology was – but I am speculating here.

    And it (the apology as given by Rudd on behalf of the national Government) wasn’t offensive to me, nor to a great number of others. In fact generally I thought it was well received.

    But clearly it was offensive to you, and to others as well. In this case, I’m content to agree to disagree, and you have expressed your concerns civilly. And hopefully I have been equally civil!

    It remains open – but unlikely, I admit – for a future national Government to purport to take back the apology, as someone has pointed out above.

  27. February 14th, 2008 at 21:49 | #27

    Ian Gould, are you seriously suggesting that that reason for low school attendance in remote settlements is because there are not enough teachers to handle them all?

    Like as if after roll call some kids get sent home because the school can’t handle them all?

  28. Ian Gould
    February 14th, 2008 at 22:20 | #28

    There is a chronic shortage of teachers in schools in Aboriginal communities.

    They’re regarded quite reasonably as hardship placements.

    Sometimes schools literally shut down for lack of teachers. At other times, you have teachers trying to teach classes of thirty or forty children at a time.

    The Howard intervention was a populist stunt focusing on a couple of issues (and pretty incompetently at that).

    what’s needed in Aboriginal communities is better housing, better schools, better medical services and better policing.

    When we have those things in place maybe there will actually be some jobs in those communities for the thousands of “jobseekers”.

  29. Ikonoclast
    February 14th, 2008 at 22:23 | #29

    I think collective guilt is real and that inherited guilt is real too. Collective guilt occurs when people are active or passive accomplices to the main perpetrators. Inherited guilt happens when you benefit from stolen goods (for example). This whole continent was stolen by an act of invasion.

    When I say collective guilt is real, I am expressly NOT advocating collective punishment in any circumstance. I say this to forestall those who will immediately post and say I favour collective punishment.

    In pure moral philosophy most guilt can easily be demostrated to be collective. However, in social and legal terms (with regard to the rights of the individual) innocence must be regarded as general and guilt as particular. This is so because legal innocence (being general) cannot be proven but guilt according to law being particular can be proven if there is sufficient evidence. Here endeth the lesson.

    In reality there are many degrees to guilt and innocence. I think we (those of us who are white Australians of several generations) ought to possess the moral fibre to accept and be part of the national apology in saying sorry to the aboriginal people and to not quibble about the shades of our personal guilt. I think we also ought to possess the generosity to begin compensating the aboriginal people for taking their land.

    Why not a plebiscite where we all vote to give up all our tax cuts and put the whole amount into a fund for the indigenous peoples? That would hurt us little and help them a lot if wisely spent.

    The compensation must be real, large and directed towards practical ends that allow aboriginals to live and thrive in a modern nation and to also maintain links where possible to their ancient lands and culture. This is a big land. It would be possible if our hearts were as big as the land.

  30. gerard
    February 14th, 2008 at 22:28 | #30

    I can’t figure out the conservative perspective on this issue.

    It seems to be: unless the government can conjure up a perfect, immediate solution to every indigenous problem immediately, then they’re better off just to ignore the problems, and pretend they don’t exist like the last government did (except for the very occasional use of them for electoral wedge politics). any “touchy-feely” displays of basic respect are totally hypocritical unless all indigenous problems are perfectly solved, ergo it is better to be disrespectful, and honest about doing absolutely nothing!

    for those conservative who don’t deny the existence of climate change, there’s a similar attitude toward that issue too. pretending it doesn’t exist and doing nothing to fix it is prefereable to recognizing that it does exist and doing something about it, unless that something is the perfect magic bullet.

  31. Ikonoclast
    February 14th, 2008 at 23:02 | #31

    I agree. The conservative mindset is very puzzling to any person who applies logic and/or morality and/or enlightened self interest and/or sympathy/empathy for others to any problem.

    However, the conservative mindset becomes quite transparent once one realises it has only one value. This value is blinkered, short-term self-interest to the exclusion of all else.

    Strong Conservatives like Bush, Howard and Blair are in fact fundamentalists. That is why they focus on fights to the death with other funadmentalists. It’s the narcissism of minor differences.

  32. February 14th, 2008 at 23:23 | #32

    I want to see the “wankocracy� put their money where their mouth is: hand over their houses in the spirit of reconciliation. I mean, how *can* they sleep while their beds are burning?

    Have none of these people ever read a book? Their definition of ‘guilt’ is taken from a dictionary, not from life.

    I implore all sane readers of this site not to dignify the responses of half-wit bigots with legitimate retorts.

  33. observa
    February 14th, 2008 at 23:50 | #33

    When you boil it all down this is what is actually promised-

    “Let us resolve over the next five years to have every indigenous four-year-old in a remote Aboriginal community enrolled in and attending a proper early childhood education centre or opportunity and engaged in proper preliteracy and prenumeracy programs.”

    So much can hang on a single word like ‘proper’. That wouldn’t be ‘whitefella proper’ now would it Kevin?

  34. Ian Gould
    February 14th, 2008 at 23:56 | #34

    To be blunt, I don’t care about “guilt” and I don;t care about “compensation”.

    What I care about is Aboriginal Australians dying 17 years younger than other Australians. What I care about is Aboriginal kids being abused and neglected at rates far higher than other Australian kids. what I care about is the immense waste of human potential represented by the thousands of Aborigines rotting in jail cells.

    Australians, of all political stripes, have always been pragmatic idealists, less concerned with ideological purity than with what works.

    So we can either spend the next five, ten or twenty years arguing over the morality of collective guilt and speculating over the intentions and mindset of the architects of the Stolen Generation or we can focus on trying to actually fix the problems.

    Howard et al probably genuinely believed that their intervention was the answer but it was flawed from the start by foolish ideological prejudices and by an unwillingness to match rhetoric with money.

    So let’s stop paying millions for private employment agencies to fill in jobsearch paperwork in communities where there simply are no jobs and let’s stop hobbling communities’ ability to use pass laws to exclude sly groggers and known troublemakers.

    Rudd’s offered to develop policy on a bipartisan basis with the Coalition. It’d be nice if Labor and Coalition partisans in the blogosphere tried to adopt a similarly co-operative approach.

  35. observa
    February 15th, 2008 at 00:01 | #35

    Although perhaps only a Rainbow Serpent, sorry Kevin or his legal eagles can tell us what attending a ‘proper opportunity’ really means in five years time.

  36. Ian Gould
    February 15th, 2008 at 00:27 | #36

    Proper: 1.adapted or appropriate to the purpose or circumstances; fit; suitable: the proper time to plant strawberries.

    Your capacity to seize upon a single word in a press release and construct some bizarre and nebulous conspiracy based on its use is quite extraordinary.

  37. mugwump
    February 15th, 2008 at 05:14 | #37

    Ian, I completely agree with your comment at #34. I would only add that I also do not care whether it is Aboriginal children or white children who are suffering; all are equally deserving of our help.

    Like I said way up-thread: if this is about retribution by the Howard-haters then you’ve lost my support. But if you really want to make a difference – all ideology aside – then I am with you all the way.

  38. observa
    February 15th, 2008 at 07:23 | #38

    Sorry guys but this old horse trader can smell a snake oil preacher over the horizon. If Howard had engaged in this -‘Sorry but no compo and proper 3Rs for every kindy kid OR opportunity’, you’d be all over this claiming weasel words and lack of real substance.

  39. jack strocchi
    February 15th, 2008 at 07:56 | #39

    Ian Gould Says:
    February 14th, 2008 at 11:56 pm says:

    Howard et al probably genuinely believed that their intervention was the answer but it was flawed from the start by foolish ideological prejudices and by an unwillingness to match rhetoric with money.

    Right. And the program of the past two generations, innaugurated by HC Coombs (god father of liberal-Left indigenous policy), was a model of prudent out-comes based policy? Better not to mention that, might offend some of our ideological buddies.

    Instead, lets see where their approach led to. We want to help remote pre-modern people into the modern world. Heres how the liberal-Left tried to make it happen.

    Keep them on reserations to resurrect the Noble Savage for our anthropological delectation. Then give them unconditional welfare which has done so much to encourage economic dynamism amongst the under-privileged. Then make sure that they have the right to drink as much alcohol as they want and watch as much porn as they want. Put in place a permit system that gives total power to Big Men and lawyered-up political agitators. Then make their peak body unaccountable.

    Oh, and when someone like Howard suggests the bleeding obious – send in the Army to restore law and order – we must idulge in ritual denuciation of his “foolish ideological prejudices”. And ride roughshod over the fiscal facts (Howard has already committed a fortune to Aboriginal affairs.)

    Ian, its going to cause you to choke on your wheaties but the fact is Howard was the best thing that has ever happened to Aboriginal affairs since the citizenship referrendum 40 years ago.

    He gave the Aboriginals an enemy and a moral issue, a priceless asset to a political movement in need of cohesion. (A truly cynical rightwinger would have issued a pro-forma apology yonks ago to defuse the issue. But Howard is a true believer in conservative “corporal” values.)

    He lanced the boil of indigenous institutional corruption, which was a millstone over the bush blackfellas neck. He led the Commonwealth to peer under the rock of indigenous child abuse, the crime than none dared mention, the one that echoes on through the generations stolen or not. And he provided the correct sociological solution to the rampant anomie afflicting remote indigenes, which is the firm smack of government.

    None of that matters of course to Ian’s dearly beloved liberal-Leftist good fellas. (He himself has more sense.) What really matters to them is feeling good about themselves after an ostentatious displays of moral posturing. Nothing like a warm bath of psycho-babble and therapy-speak to soothe the soul.

    The inanity, insanity and iniquity of the Wets in regard to Australian Aboriginals reminds me of the way the same ideological push have managed to stuff things up for African-Americans. They have fulfilled the dreams of their worst nightmare. As Jerry Pournelle remarked:

    If I were a Klansman determined to keep the Blacks down I would:

    Have a lousy school system that concentrates on intellectual abilities and ignores skills;

    High minimum wages so that entry level jobs are all off the books;

    Open borders to bring in lots of cheap labor to soak up the off the books jobs;

    A campaign to get Blacks to think that academic achievement was “acting White�.

    But instead it is so much more fun to bash John Howard or Pat Buchanan*, who actually pushed policies which helped these people. Because they dont subscribe to fashionable Left-liberalism, or the politics of empty symbolic gestures, the ulitmate faux pas.

    *Yes, the mass incarceration of riotous young black males and the end of unconditional welfare for young black females allowed the members of the African-American community who were serious about progress to pick themselves out of the gutter and reach for the stars. Go to Harlem to see the rennaissance. That is conservative social policy that works.

  40. observa
    February 15th, 2008 at 10:00 | #40

    Actually the outpourings of the usual suspects reminded me much of their similar emoting over James Hardie and asbestos. Never mind JH stopped all asbestos manufacture in 78′, all the while these 20/20 hindsight historians were beating their breasts and wringing their hands with the Bernie Bantons, they were quite happy trading in asbestos brake pads for their cars until Dec 31 2002, when apparently they saw the light. Their hypocrisy and perversion of history knows no bounds

  41. observa
    February 15th, 2008 at 10:05 | #41

    Some tradeoffs are more equal than others historically it seems. We await with baited breath these purists calling for all those currently in the fossil fuel industries to down tools and walk off the job immediately.

  42. Ian Gould
    February 15th, 2008 at 10:33 | #42

    “we must idulge in ritual denuciation of his “foolish ideological prejudicesâ€?. And ride roughshod over the fiscal facts (Howard has already committed a fortune to Aboriginal affairs.)”

    Foolish ideological prejudices was a reference to pouring millions into “job placement services” which resulted in exactly zero new private sector jobs and stripping local councils of their power to exclude sly groggers from their territory.

    Pretending that adding less than one full-time police officer per community on average would have any effect on crime levels fits in there too.

    So does the idea that the Australian military, already extensively committed overseas can make an long term commitment to law and order in the communities.

    Then too there’s the obsessive focus on the remote Aboriginal communities when the majority of Aborigines live in the capital cities.

    Finally, Howard “committed a fortune to Aboriginal affairs” in large part by taking existing spending from line departments such as health and education which was already being spent in Aboriginal communities and rebadging it as “Aboriginal health” or “Aboriginal education” spending.

    The last time I checked, which was admittedly several years ago, total per capita government spending on Aboriginal people was lower than for non-indigenous Australians. That’s largely because most Aborigines don;t finish high school, don’t go to university and don’t live long enough to collect an old age pension.

    I seriously doubt that they’ve seen much of the first home owners grant or the tax expenditure on subsidising private education and private health insurance.

  43. Donald Oats
    February 15th, 2008 at 10:48 | #43

    Why is it that these sorts of social issues are framed in either/or terms? In this case symbolic gesture or practical reconciliation? I would have thought that our prime ministers are able to walk and chew gum at the same time.
    Making inroads into the well known indigenous issues is not precluded by issuing an apology. Indeed, the apology is now a historic event, and we are still free to make our own choices on what to do about indigenous issues.

  44. observa
    February 15th, 2008 at 11:03 | #44

    Hey Ian, perhaps you could ring up Media Mike and tell him there’s some homeless aboriginals that the Adelaide City Council moved out of the West Parklands a couple of days before Sorry Day, just hanging out for his call-,22606,23216293-2682,00.html?from=public_rss

  45. Mark U
    February 15th, 2008 at 12:44 | #45

    Where do people get this exaggerated idea of the influence of Nugget Coombs in the framing of aboriginal policy? My understanding is that while he may have sat on a number of aboriginal bodies, successive governments (Gorton, McMahon and Whitlam governments) took very little of the advice he gave them and he eventually resigned from most of these bodies in disillusion.

  46. Hal9000
    February 15th, 2008 at 17:39 | #46

    Mark U – absolutely right. Nugget’s main policy prescription was a formal treaty between indigenous australians and the federal government with the object of fostering mutual respect, indigenous self-determination and putting the stain of dispossession behind us all.

    I love the great myth of an era when some unnamed government failed in indigenous policy by pouring rivers of money into it – a myth John Howard was forever reminding us of. It never happened. Indigenous Australians have always, under all governments, received less proportionally than their non-indigenous co-citizens. Why are failed projects in indigenous communities remembered while white (pun intended) elephants elsewhere soon forgotten? The Howard regime poured far more money into each of the following: rich private schools, dud fighter jets, dispatching troops to invade countries that never threatened us, subsidies to the well-off for private health insurance – the list goes on and on – than into providing basic health infrastructure for indigenous Australians. And yet there are those commenters on this site who feel resentful about the money spent on the latter. Why might this be so?

  47. Ikonoclast
    February 15th, 2008 at 21:57 | #47

    The culture wars are never over. It seems I lit a touchpaper to the main powder magazine of right wing indignation. And haven’t they been going off a treat! All because I wrote a simple and plain truth. Namely that the conservative mindset has only one value. This value is blinkered, short-term self-interest to the exclusion of all else. None even tried to counter that statement. I guess they know how true it is.

  48. observa
    February 15th, 2008 at 22:03 | #48

    Yep those blinkered short-term self-interested mob have certainly been unleashed now Ikon,23599,23216951-2,00.html

  49. Ian Gould
    February 15th, 2008 at 23:43 | #49

    Hal: “I love the great myth of an era when some unnamed government failed in indigenous policy by pouring rivers of money into it – a myth John Howard was forever reminding us of. It never happened. Indigenous Australians have always, under all governments, received less proportionally than their non-indigenous co-citizens.”

    And even so – slowly, painfully conditions have improved.

    Check virtually any indicator social wellbeing – life expectancy; morbidity, employment rates; educational achievement – Aboriginal Australians are better off than they were ten, twenty or fifty years ago.

    At the same time, the indicators of relative disadvantage such as indigenous versus nonindigenous life expectancy and Aboriginal household income as a percentage of the Australian average have also improved.

    The situation is not hopeless; the situation is not deteriorating, but we can and should be doing better.

  50. Ian Gould
    February 15th, 2008 at 23:52 | #50

    The AMA obviously has vested interest in increased health spending but it’s worth reading this section of their latest annual report on indigenous health:

    Overall, per capita government spending on Aboriginal and Torres Strait
    Islander peoples is 1.7 (or 1.2 if you include non-government spending)
    times that for the rest of the population. That would be fine if Aboriginal
    and Torres Strait Islander peoples had only 70 per cent (20 per cent) more
    health problems than the total population, but in fact mortality levels in
    2001–03 were between 300 and 500 per cent higher in the States and
    Territories where this data was available.1, 6
    The AMA calls for the Australian Government to pledge $460 million
    a year, that’s $1.8 billion over four years, to Aboriginal and Torres
    Strait Islander primary health care.
    In 2005–06, Australian Government actual health expenditure was
    $37.1 billion.7 The AMA is only calling for an annual increase of
    1.2 per cent. To put this into context the Australian Government’s
    advertising bill for 2005-06 was $208.5 million, and in 2003–04
    Australians spent over $10 billion on alcohol and tobacco.$file/Reportcard_2007.pdf

    If as the AMA claims this additional spending would erase tghe difference in health outcomes between indigenous and nonindigenous Australians, then it should in time result in more Aboriginals being in the workforce and thereby offset a good part of the initial cost.

  51. Hal9000
    February 16th, 2008 at 09:19 | #51

    Thanks, Ian. Quite right, things have improved, albeit slowly, and it’s important to note that to counter the suggestion that policies since Billy McMahon appointed the first Minister for Aboriginal Affairs have only made things worse.

    The two conjoined myths propounded by the Paddy McGuinnesses of this country are that 1) indigenous Australians were better off pre-1970 and 2) throwing money at the problem won’t fix it.

    Myth 1) is both demonstrably false and eerily reminiscent of the American mythology about the antebellum South. Gerard Henderson, in between sulking about his sound feed, was running this line on Lateline Wednesday night regarding the equal pay decision of 1969 in a failed attempt to move discussion onto ground of his choosing. His point was to try to equate the removal policy (an evil policy with evil goals) with equal pay (a good policy with some evil consequences that governments failed to address or, as in Queensland, deliberately compounded).

    Myth 2) can’t be falsified on the basis of empirical evidence because it’s never been tried.

  52. John Greenfield
    February 16th, 2008 at 16:57 | #52


    A token apology is fine, but any suggestion of financial compensation will be a bridge too far for the electorate. Rudd knows this.

    In which case, Rudd should have made an entirely different apology. I am sorry, but the hypocrisy of the Luvvies over not demanding a multi-billion compensation package is breathtaking.

    Rudd REALLY screwed up in his speech when he claimed

    let the parliament reflect for a moment on the following facts: that, between 1910 and 1970, between 10 and 30 per cent of Indigenous children were forcibly taken from their mothers and fathers; that, as a result, up to 50,000 children were forcibly taken from their families; that this was the product of the deliberate, calculated policies of the state as reflected in the explicit powers given to them under statute.

    This is an accusation of procedural impropriety, which means LEGAL culpability. As I said, the government cannot apologise and refuse compensation.

    All of these people and their families have every right to demand HUGE compensation. The Prime Minister has told the entire country the governments committed horrible crimes. What figure justice? $20 billion? $30 billion?

    The Luvviesphere has been an incessant champion of Bringing Them Home, quoting it chapter and verse as though it were The Constitution or the Corporations Act and laying explicit legal and moral culpability on the officials and state of the time. The word “genocide” is flung around like confetti in its legal, historical, and moral senses. The Luvvies have gone into meltdown over Nelson’s more nuanced and factual reply.

    Rudd could not have been clearer in endorsing Bringing Them Home as fact. Indigenous groups and leaders across the nation are demanding compensation.

    If The Luvvies are not prepared/brave enough and lack the integrity to attack these Aboriginals as “vicious� and “shameful� then their whole campaign over the past few years has been a fraud and they are hypocritess. It is time for The Luvvies either to step up or to apologise to likes of Keith Windschuttle and shut up.

    This is only the beginning. “Compensation” will become the new “Apology.”

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