Home > Oz Politics > We don’t need another Royal Commission

We don’t need another Royal Commission

July 27th, 2016

I haven’t had much to say about Australian politics since the election. That’s because I see the Turnbull government as a nullity, which will achieve nothing however long it survives.

Turnbull’s first substantive action since the election (in fact, since the election was called) only confirms me in this view. It’s a knee-jerk reaction to a TV program, the Four Corners report documenting appalling abuse in a juvenile detention facility in the NT. Rather than considering any coherent attempt to consider and address the issues, Turnbull offered the most clichéd possible response “when in doubt, call a Royal Commission”. He made it lazier still, by proposing that the Commission focus on this single facility, and has now reluctantly agreed that it should look at the NT as a whole.

For once, I’m in agreement with the Oz. We already have a Royal Commission looking at institutional abuse of young people, which could easily have its terms extended to cover this.

More importantly, we don’t need any more Royal Commissions to establish that institutions are failing young people in trouble. The real issues are much more intractable than finding and punishing some abusers.

To start with, there’s the fact that, throughout the country, services for young people in trouble are chronically underfunded and overstretched. If Turnbull had announced that the money he was planning to give to corporations would be used to help young people instead, that would have been some genuinely decisive action. But that would be politically impossible.

Still, at least in the case of youth services, it’s obvious what needs to be done. The bigger problems of social breakdown and family crisis are much more complicated and difficult to handle. But these aren’t the kinds of question that can be handled by a press release or a Royal Commission.

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  1. Newtownian
    July 27th, 2016 at 14:38 | #1

    Similar sentiments just echoed in the New Statesman.
    http://www.newstatesman.com/world/australasia/2016/07/investigation-australia-s-abu-ghraib-could-neglect-wider-abuses-northern

    Remarkable that Turnbull couldnt even think this through. Or perhaps he did and realized how the Liberal Party has long profitted off ‘tough on crime’ and used this to lock up Cocos Is Manus Is and Nauru refugees in varying states of torture and wider investigation would point straight back at him and his mates? But didnt want this cancer diagnosed.

    One wonders whether we will see another unravelling as happenned with child and adult and aboriginal abuse by the churches in cohoots with government in the late 1990s?

  2. Ikonoclast
    July 27th, 2016 at 15:44 | #2

    For sure, so many fundamentals are still so wrong in this society that a Royal Commission on its own is not nearly enough. At the same time, it was gutless not to call a national Royal Commission at least. But what is the solution? None of this will properly change until we organise our society and economy on very different lines. There is no money for youth issues because so much money is going to the one percent who own almost everything and to the corporations who are not even taxed in most cases.

  3. rog
    July 27th, 2016 at 16:06 | #3

    It’s unlikely that an RC would point to the failure of previous RCs to improve the situation. As we’ve already had an RC into black deaths in custody it seems pointless to have another one.

    This seems like another job for the boys, for the lawyers and their cohort, a judiciary appointed by the Crown to judge the indigenous.

    If I was aboriginal I would be very angry at the status quo, radicalised even.

  4. July 27th, 2016 at 16:28 | #4

    Out of the ruins
    Out from the wreckage
    Can`t make the same mistake this time
    We are the children
    The lost generation
    We are the ones they left behind
    And I wonder when things are ever gonna change
    Living under the fear, till nothing else remains

    We don`t need a Royal Commission
    We don`t need more time wasting
    All we want is life beyond
    Don Dale

    Looking for something
    We can rely on
    There`s gotta be something better out there
    Love and compassion
    Their day is coming
    All else are castles built in the air
    And I wonder when things are ever gonna change
    Living under the fear till nothing else remains

    All the children say
    We don’t need a Royal Commission
    We don’t need more time wasting
    All we want is life beyond Don Dale

  5. Donald Oats
    July 27th, 2016 at 16:33 | #5

    I have strong views on this, and on the degrees to which government is going to make secrecy trump decency. Secrecy enables jack-booted thuggery and mayhem.

    This is why breaking the law is sometimes sadly necessary: release of this footage was important. If a juvenile is so “mis-behaving” that they need restraint as a matter of their own personal safety, then they surely need uninterrupted direct supervision while restrained. It should go without saying that a medical check, including the immediate mental state of the inmate, should be carried out. Restraints shouldn’t be available for lazy use or as a punishment. Dealing with juvenile offenders can’t be easy; it isn’t an excuse for extreme physical restraint. The decision to restrain someone should require medical grounds that are evaluated by a medical specialist at the time, not retrospectively invoked, and not rubber-stamped without a direct medical examination taking place. Expensive? Probably. The alternatives are worse, going all the way from infringement of personal rights through to causing pain and even death.

    There are clearly some issues that are broader than the footage recently shown, namely the question of why there is so much incarceration of juveniles in the first place? And is incarceration a first choice or a last choice? This steers us onto the rocky shores of race and social dysfunction of a number of communities, for a whole host of well documented and well examined reasons. Tough on crime and mandatory sentencing are lazy answers. They are answers that solve the problem for one “nice” section of society, while entrenching serious social problems for the “not nice” section of society. I guess black-and-white thinking is deeply embedded in one government after another, the conservative answer to all problems. It’s upsetting and frustrating that we keep getting this so very wrong.

    I hope that doctors who work on Manus and Nauru can also make that ethical decision of making public what they know is going on, irrespective of the new laws that are an atrocity. There is no legitimate grounds for gagging medical health professionals if and when they witness inappropriate treatment of patients under their care. If Manus and Nauru are causing sick people to get even sicker, or preventing sick people from getting appropriate treatment, then Australians must know about it. We have responsibility for how we treat people, we can’t just wash our hands of it and leave it to private enterprise and commercial-in-confidence secrecy arrangements to conceal the depths of the problems.

    Sometimes civil disobedience is a necessity. These laws are an atrocity and should not be enacted.

  6. Donald Oats
    July 27th, 2016 at 17:02 | #6

    @Donald Oats
    Having just read this article at The Conversation, it would seem that even mechanical restraints on medical grounds is considered a serious transgression. I’ll defer to the experts.

  7. bjb
    July 27th, 2016 at 17:11 | #7

    “If Turnbull had announced that the money he was planning to give to corporations would be used to help young people instead, …”

    … much better to have a RC and give the money to the legal profession and have some retired judge top up his super, probably to the tune of something approaching $1m.

  8. GrueBleen
    July 27th, 2016 at 17:15 | #8

    @Newtownian

    Yeah, yeah, but remember the first rule of government, Newtonian, viz:

    “We’ve got to do something ! This is something, therefore we’ve got to do it !”

    But I can’t say I am in any way surprised at Turnbull’s inability to “think this through”. As I have stated many times – even a couple of times in this blog – Turnbull can’t think anything through. I instance the Godwin Grech affair and his “managing” of the NBN. And now I can add his management of the government and his management of the LNP election campaign.

    How many more examples are needed of his gross fecklessness ?

    And I agree with ProfQ; this will be an achieve nothing government – and that won’t entirely be Turnbull’s fault, he hasn’t exactly got an ‘A Team’ of ministers, but how could he improve it ? But we will have to somehow survive them for up to 3 years – is there any way (short of a Turkish ‘coup’) that we can abbreviate that ?

  9. rog
    July 27th, 2016 at 18:50 | #9

    @rog On reflection my opinion lacked depth; this is a long conversation that cannot be resolved within a specified time. The conversation is happening and another RC will give that conversation a boost.

    It would seem that the majority of Australians were appalled at the images and importantly the federal govt has responded quickly. Let’s just hang on to that and move on from that point.

  10. Douglas Hynd
    July 27th, 2016 at 19:15 | #10

    The other problem relates to governance in the Northern Territory – shining a light on what has gone on up there is not a bad outcome where out of sight out of mind apply in triplicate

  11. Jim
    July 27th, 2016 at 22:27 | #11

    I hate to say it, but I think you are right. The self-government experiment in the Territory has been a systemic 40-year failure as far as I can see. I’m struggling to think of one meaningful social indicator that has actually improved since self-government. All of this at a major cost to the rest of the country to prop up dodgy political decision making and inefficient service delivery.

    If we wound the clock back to pre-1978, would we really make the same decision about self-government again? @Douglas Hynd

  12. July 27th, 2016 at 22:51 | #12

    It was just some guards acting on their own, against the orders of their superiors and government policy. Nothing to do with poverty, disadvantage, inadequate funding and persistent racism. Just some rogue guards who are about to do a passable impersonation of scape goats.

  13. Clive Newton
    July 28th, 2016 at 07:16 | #13

    @GrueBleen
    Suggest one way is to follow the precedent established in 1975 and block supply in the senate forcing a new election. The old ” supply will never be blocked” convention is dead and buried. This approach should, imho, have been taken when Abbott’s awful 2014 budget turned up. Use the arguement being run on the marriage plebiscite ie what’s to fear about voting?

  14. Collin Street
    July 28th, 2016 at 07:27 | #14

    Just some rogue guards who are about to do a passable impersonation of scape goats.

    The NT government’s response to getting sued was to deny vicarious liability — inter-alia, this requires the NT to claim that the actions weren’t authorised — but you need authorisation before you can tie people to chairs, or it’s a crime.

    But noone’s been charged, even though the NT government had the files for quite some time now. Even as a scapegoating operation this is half-arsed.

    [incidentally, the authority of the NT government is delegated federal authority, which means that the federal government is on the hook here too.]

  15. GrueBleen
    July 28th, 2016 at 08:59 | #15

    @Clive Newton

    I’d like to think that might be on, Clive, but I don’t know if it would get enough support in the likely current senate what with Hansonites and Xenophonites and Hinches and so forth.

    Having just got in, how many would want to risk their seat in a half senate election ?

  16. rog
    July 30th, 2016 at 09:00 | #16

    @rog Well Warren Mundine has confirmed that he consulted with Turnbull after the decision for an RC was made so Turnbull is not telling the truth.

  17. ralph
    July 30th, 2016 at 12:02 | #17

    @GrueBleen
    Don’t forget his management of the republican case.

  18. GrueBleen
    July 30th, 2016 at 16:52 | #18

    @ralph

    Hmm, Yeah, that is a case, isn’t it. The thing is though that I always tend to overlook that because I kinda thought that Turnbull was so amateurishly incompetent that he just had to be acting as a ‘double agent’ on behalf of Howard to get the republican movement stuffed. And in return he would get Howard’s support to help push him up the Lib’s ladder

    But now, as you’ve reminded me, I would just see it as another prime example of Turnbull’s amateurish incompetence.

  19. Ernestine Gross
    July 30th, 2016 at 18:24 | #19

    A North Shore (Liberal heartland) woman’s response to the 4 Corner program was swift. She sent an email to the Chief Minister demanding the immidiate sacking of the Minister of Corrective Services, after telling the Chief Minister that what is going on is wrong, morally and socially. I know her well. She is a fearless straight talking citizen. She received a quick reply to the effect that the said minister has been stood down. Not good enough because the said minister is still Minister of Justice – makes no sense and this needed to be told to the Chief Minister in the same sraight talking language.

    Perhaps democracy and social cohesion does require individuals to speak up, irrespective of the media and formal processes. I do admire this woman.

  20. Ikonoclast
    July 30th, 2016 at 20:41 | #20

    @Ernestine Gross

    Yes, that is fine, but if only a remote, obscure (to white folk) female aboriginal elder spoke up AND was actually listened to by those in power. Now that might mark a real change. I haven’t seen it yet.

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