One cheer for Howard

At least in one respect, John Howard’s announcement of a federal takeover of indigenous settlements is good news. Having taken such a drastic step, Howard can’t escape the obligation to deliver substantial improvements in outcomes, regardless of the cost. And, having endorsed the broad thrust of the measures, Kevin Rudd, should he be the next PM, is under the same obligation.

The measures announced yesterday, while drastic, are politically pretty easy for the government in the light of the recent report on child abuse in indigenous communities. But they are focused almost exclusively on enforcement measures. Such measures sound good in a press release, but are unlikely, by themselves, to achieve much. Alcohol is a huge problem, and anything that could reduce alcohol abuse is welcome, but many of the communities concerned, such as Wadeye, have been officially dry for years, so it’s not clear what difference Howard’s policy will make. Of course, if he was willing to be really draconian and ban alcohol in nearby (white) towns, that might make a difference, but there are some cows too sacred to be slain.

The problems of substance abuse and unemployment go hand in hand, but there is nothing, so far, to suggest that anything is going to be done on the jobs front. The last significant innovation in this area, the CDEP scheme, came in under Fraser. Despite all Howard’s talk of practical reconciliation, his government has done less than nothing to promote indigenous employment.

Dealing with unemployment is not going to be easy. People who’ve been permanently excluded from the labour force can’t be made job-ready in short order, and the number of ‘real’ (economically viable at market prices) jobs that can be created in remote indigenous community is always going to fall short of the number of potential workers. And, just as enforcement alone is not enough, so there’s little point in trying to generate economic development in an environment of rampant alcohol abuse and crime. But, having claimed emergency powers on the enforcement front, Howard will stand condemned if he doesn’t go all out to deliver economic development as well.

74 thoughts on “One cheer for Howard

  1. “Having taken such a drastic step, Howard can’t escape the obligation to deliver substantial improvements in outcomes, regardless of the cost.”

    It would be nice to think so, Prof Q, but I doubt it. The outcomes Howard has in mind are vision of police patrols in the dusty streets of outback communities and indigenous kids in classrooms – where they also were last week but no cameras were recording the fact. This announcement is being made with one object in mind – winning the election. Howard gets to look prime ministerial in a so-far successful attempt to Tampa the opposition. As you say, the announcement is all about authoritarian measures to tackle symptoms, while avoiding doing anything about the deprivation that leads to them. Given that dozens of reports over some decades have all said much the same thing, but have been pointedly ignored by Howard, this is clearly not about delivering outcomes for indigenous Australians, but about delivering outcomes for just one Australian of European extraction resident in Kirribilli.

  2. since 100 years of pollie rule hasn’t succeeded in solving the aboriginal problem, hal9000’s cynicism is not not so much well founded as cliched.

    perhaps this is just another problem beyond the power of parliamentary society to resolve, because too many ozzies just don’t care. a society without a bill of rights won’t protect minorities, because there’s no votes in it.

  3. People who’ve been permanently excluded from the labour force can’t be made job-ready in short order, and the number of ‘real’ (economically viable at market prices) jobs that can be created in remote indigenous community is always going to fall short of the number of potential workers.

    The only way to create jobs (real jobs grounded in economic reality) in remote communities that are lacking in skills is to lower the price of labour. That means dispensing with that sacred cow called the “minimum wage”. At least at the regional level. To some extent people already bipass such laws by selling “homemade” arts and crafts but a more formal job market would result from removing the minimum wage.

    The ban on alcohol and X-rated (ie non-violent consensual sexual erotica) are rather shallow forms of symbolism at best and counter productive prohibition at worst.

    The details of the proposal are here:-

    The following are not so bad:-

    1. Ending the permit system that keeps communities isolated.
    2. Ownership reform.
    3. Rental price reform.
    4. More policing resources. Although one suspects that this will be mostly wasted on policing porn and alcohol prohibition.

    I suspect the fanfare attached to this government initative is very much politically motivated.

  4. Hal9000
    I think that you are nearer the mark on this most complex of issues.

    We have here 2 imcompatible communities. you could catagorise them by saying that one is private and one is public, one is individual and one is communal. The massive failure here is that the aboriginal community is not a beligerant one. It does not seek to destroy the other that came from somewhere else and took possesion of every thing that was not being sat upon. So it is the most massive of failures that the usurping community have not sought with all effort to support the other community.

    I suspect here that the failure is one of neglect. The usurping community have flooded the at risk community with unnatural materials (alcohol, tobacco, drugs, pornography, confinement) and have failed to supply restrain the negative effects all in the interest of “personal freedom”.

    The Howard government has, true form, applied economic restraint of health and social services at a crucial time (and for a very long time) when it should have done the exact opposite. Universally applied ideology, what a crock. Deliver miserly and mean, get misery. That is what has happened here, and no amount of police and military monitoring will fix this mess. It is right on back to the past: deaths in custody; dismantling of families; confiscations; confinements; blame and guilt. Nothing good. This should have been handled by an alert, caring, properly funded special health service linked to natural community leadership.

  5. And yes Dez,

    I feel certain that that is more on Howards mind. Mal Brough failed to con communities out of the titles that they did hold, so Howard waded in on every other context to “solve the problem”. It is reasonable to argue that this is more about national accounts than it is about aboriginal wellbeing. What is going to happen next? Are we going to see young kids taken to the police station for questioning over there relationship with their fathers? And how are the military going to help with that? Everything proposed here is inappropriate, possibly because the purpose is not yet clear.

    One could become extremely cynical. One could reasonable expect to see a cached property reasignement agenda implemented on the grounds of community care.

    I go with Noel Pearson’s “miserable moral cockroach” assessment. Howard has failed to change his spots on every other national issue, why should he suddenly become a caring person. Simply, he hasn’t.

  6. Professor Q’s rosey glasses will wear out soon. All Howard has to do is say ‘I tried, but these people don’t want to be fixed’.

    Terje again can’t get away from his lower wage rates. Like Noel Pearson he presumably yearns for pre mid sixties glory days, when when life was happy, simple and uncomplicated.

  7. Paul,

    I yearn for the best of both worlds. I think that tax levels and aspects of monetary policy were better in the 1960s. Effective minimum wages for aborigines were lower than the mainstream in the 1960s but they had the upside of higher employment. I obviously don’t advocate different laws based on race but I do think that:-

    1. We should have no minimum wage.
    2. If we must have a minimum wage it should be taylored according to the economic circumstances of the region. It is pure fantacy to believe that all parts of Australia can sustain the same legislated minimum wage rate with no impact on regional rates of employment.

    Of course removing the minimum wage does not mean having no allowance for minimum income provisions. It just means that these should be delivered via other means. eg Negative income tax or social wage. For details of what I support in this regards see here:-


  8. Terje,


    But your plan would give “sit-down money” to someone who didn’t work, wouldn’t it?

    Also, what does “no deductions” mean? A company would presumably be able to take the cost of wages offs tasable profit. And electricity and rent. Where does it stop?

  9. Don Arthur points out, in email, that CDEP actually dates back to the Fraser government. I’ve changed the post to reflect this.

  10. Terje, I am all for replacing the minimum wage with negative income tax (which does not provide “sit-down money” as PaulKelly suggests because you still have to work to claim your negative income tax).

    However, $0 per hour is probably still too expensive for someone who is alcoholic, illiterate, and has never been employed. What could you trust them to do that would be worth more than their cost of supervision?

  11. It is one cheer for Howard as there is are real problems in many of the isolated communities – not just for children but for women too.

    Unfortunately for him however it does look like a grab for land is hidden behind a new found concern for the well being of some children. Children who are from one of the most marginalised communities.

    It is hard to see why his measures require that the communities get assistance for 6 months while the land is alienated through a compulsory lease for 5 years. After 5 years it will be far easier to alienate the land for good. I am not sure where that would leave the children – in towns and cities where any relationship to country and kin will be extinguished.

    This announcement provides a Rabbit out of the Hat where a marginalised group in desperate need can be “helped” whilst carpetbaggers help themselves. This will be possible with free movements in and out of communities.

    BilB appears to have made an important connection – the Minister two weeks ago was rebuffed in his attempt to lure the Alice Springs community into selling their birthright for better housing. Having failed to persuade, the government is now acting as if there are no Aboriginal people in these areaas worthy of respect.

    It is almost certain that the land will be taken long before there is any action taken on the children. No doubt there won’t be police, doctors nurses or other staff found quickly as they are in short supply.

    Having 60 sites in the Northern Territory gives plenty of scope for mining companies to move in without paying royalties to the communities. It also gives plenty of scope to find suitable nuclear waste repositories.

    Of course the PM sent our troops to Iraq with the best of intentions too – to free the people from a despot. The oil was secured and the Iraquis are still paying the price.

    The PM will need to make a significant commitments and alter his plans to include Aboriginal people or face many difficult questions such as what is he doing for other disadvantaged and abused children? Why he closed the CDEP schemes only to replace them with Work for the Dole? Why he thinks that it is reasonable to punish the innocent in these communities as well as the guilty for racial reasons?

    It will not be as easy as the Tampa although there are definite similarities and will boost his standing with the Hansonites and the ignorant.

  12. There are so many things in this proposal that, as Terje rightly points out, take us back to failed and inhumane policies from the 1920s and earlier.

    Since when has prohibition solved a drug problem?

    How does the proposed withholding of wages and other payments work to the benefit of the children – unless of course the plan is to remove the children from their communities? Perhaps we could re-establish Governor Macquarie’s Native Institution? (but, oops, I forgot that failed because the little ingrates kept escaping!) Are we going to create another Stolen Generation?

    It was nice of Howard to concede that white child abusers need to be targeted too. But how does that work when all you’re doing is identifying a racial group with a problem? One that is easily corralled in its remote communities. Introducing more Sgt Hurleys is going to make the Mulrunjis more ‘respectful’ of White authority?

    In reality the vast majority of Aborigines are urban (most of them actually in NSW) and they suffer the same structural disadvantages of unemployment, poor health and sub-standard housing. Y’know remoteness isn’t the reason for the problem.

    I heard a station manager on the radio this morning. He has a community of about 300 living on the property and he said there are no problems, but he still wants this policing ‘solution’. Why? He didn’t say why. He just opined that it would be a good thing. Seems to me that the real problem is people like him – and Howard et al.

  13. Seems to me that the real problem is people like him – and Howard et al.

    Why don’t you tell Noel Pearson? He sure thinks it’s high time people like you stopped making excuses for his own people.

    Can you get over your irrational hatred of John Howard for just a minute?

  14. Maybe I’m missing something, but I can’t see where in the report (at remote communities are pointed to as being the major part of the problem. If anything, much of the data actually points to town camps, yet much of the commentary (especially from Howard) is on what to do about the remote communities.

  15. Paulkelly,

    The LDP 30/30 plan would given somebody earning $0 per annum a handout of $9000 (30% of $30000-$0). This is how a negative income tax works.

    However unlike existing welfare levels it is:-

    1. Quite modest.
    2. Without strings.
    3. Not subject to high EMTRS. You keep 70 cents out of every dollar you subsequently earn.

    Also by elliminating the minimum wage at the same time you ensure a ready supply of jobs so that anybody that needs more can readily find a job that fits their skill set and social stature. If you are part of a minority that is less well regarded in your community you may get paid less than some other fella but you do get a job, you do get socially engagment, you do participate in real economic activity, you don’t generally sit down.

    Of course under 30/30 the option does exist for people to subsist on $9000 per annum. This is not the intent, and most people would find it difficult to live on such a some. The intent is to provide a transitional safety net and an income supplement. You may still refer to this as sit down money however relative to where we are today it is still a huge improvement because 30/30 with no minimum wage ensure than people have a multitude of pathways via abundant work and no obscene marginal incentive barriers (high EMTRs).


  16. Further, the land issue is clearly at the heart of this. Everybody else has the right to refuse entry to their property (trespass laws), except apparently native title holders. Howard’s proposal is a de facto imposition of the idea that communal land ownership is not legitimate, so that anything not specifically pinned down by a Torrens title is open for grabs.

  17. Mal Brough (sledge hammer diplomacy)” gives us your land or we will take away your income.
    John Howard (steal(th) diplomacy) “reluctantly, I think that it is in the best interests of your children to take control of your land and your income”.
    This is Howard’s idea of a win win outcome, he wins twice.

  18. mugwump, there are innumerable rational arguments to support loathing of John Howard. Just because you seem blind to them doesn’t make asserting their irrationality into the debating killer punch you seem to think it is.

    Meanwhile, you imply [“$0 per hour is probably still too expensive for someone who is alcoholic, illiterate, and has never been employed.”] that there exists a pool of unemployed Aborigines who have never been employed. Do you have any basis for that calumny? If not, some unkind soul might assert with justification that your analysis is based in irrational pejorative assumptions about Aborigines.

    Meanwhile, Terje’s call for abolition of the minimum wage rather misses the point that Pearson among others makes so passionately. The sine qua non of improving the personal and communal lives of Aborigines is dignity. Perhaps you could explain how working for a dollar an hour in a sweat shop promotes dignity. The suggestion seems to me to be a reversion to the policies that blighted the British poor of the early nineteenth century – the alternatives of starvation wages or the work house. It didn’t do much for the British lumpenproletariat then, and I see little evidence it would do much for Aboriginal Australians now. I might add in passing that treating people like naughty children as Howard proposes to do is not conducive to building dignity.

    In the last couple of weeks we’ve seen two significant events that do indeed augur well for Aboriginal economic advancement – the release of the Senate report into Aboriginal art and the award of the Miles Franklin prize to Alexis Wright. The Senate report highlights the fact that there is an apparently limitless export demand for genuine Aboriginal art and that it is high time this industry received the same sort of support given to the landscape-scarring industries favoured by whitefella society.

    Last, and this is an appropriate space to raise the issue, how does Howard propose to stop Northern Territory Aborigines accessing p*rn over the internet? Is this perhaps the start of a regime of Singapore-style net censorship?

  19. Hal9000,

    The government should be making all porn less accessible for every Australian’s sake. Most particularly the young (all races and cultures). And most particularly it is internet porn that is the most invasive. This is not hard to do. Simply blocking all known websites at the service provider level will easily do the trick. The issue is that you cannot make pornography illegal because that is not a desireble outcome because some pornography is therapeutic, but you can legislate on the avenues through which it can be made available and the manner in which it can be made available. My guess is that internet porn should be made available on request. An individual should be required to apply to have access to specific sites. This amounts to putting the product behind the counter, just as tobacco is managed.

    This is not net censorship in the true sense. This is reduced access rather than screened access.

  20. An article in the Age from Gregory Phillips which views the Howard initiative from an Aboriginal perspective.

    The point is made that it is a shame and blame game of a minority. Shame is likely to lead to the negative behaviours and move them elsewhere. moving a problem doesn’t solve it.

    It is appalling that Howard has decided to play the race card in the leadup to an election. The same race card used in the Tampa – “how dreadful that these people treat their children badly.” It is even more appalling that the Indigenous people asked him for support in dealing with the issues and he has decided that they are the problem and not the a key part of the solution.

    By requiring that communities are open to all of course there is far greater scope for paedophiles, rapists and grog merchants to come in to a community. The Palm Island situation does not give much confidence that policing will solve much without a vast range of other supports which are not yet promised.

  21. Hal9000:

    mugwump, there are innumerable rational arguments to support loathing of John Howard.

    The number of arguments comprehensible by any human is certainly finite. But ignoring that obvious exaggeration, your claim is trivially true; there are innumerable rational arguments for loathing anyone with political power. However, melanie’s wasn’t one of them.

    Meanwhile, you imply [�$0 per hour is probably still too expensive for someone who is alcoholic, illiterate, and has never been employed.�] that there exists a pool of unemployed Aborigines who have never been employed.

    In this I was merely following our good host’s lead:

    People who’ve been permanently excluded from the labour force…

  22. mugwump

    The difficulty in talking about incomes and aboriginals is that the traditional aboriginal life style does not include (or need) money.
    The common fallacy is that aboriginals do not do the same things that the usurpers do. Fact is that they do many of the things that we do, it just looks different. Health, education, housing, manufacture, trade, conservation, art, etc. are all natural parts of the aboriginal culture and are every bit as important to their way of life as these things are to ours.

    The ignorance is ours. When we see an aboriginal wandering around we think aimless and lazy. Reality…on walkabout expanding his knowledge of the environment, an important extension of education. ETC.

    The usurpers (us) have created the problem by taking over the aboriginal’s land, dividing it up tearing it up, fencing it off, clearing it, poisoning it, etc, and applying a very foreign set of inappropriate rules by which the usurper expects the aboriginal to live by, whilst still observing their own cultural rules. This has not made life easy for the aboriginal. The onus is on the usurper to protect the aboriginal from the consequences of the usurper’s invasive life style. Money is necessary for aboriginals to enable them to operate in our world as well as theirs, which they must do because of the restraints that we have applied to them. As time passes (lots of time) more aboriginals will live more of our life and less of theirs. But that is their choice, not ours.

  23. John Howard has long shown an interest in the welfare of Aboriginal children. I believe his maiden speech dealt with it. He believes all humans, irrespective of race or background -certainly irrespective of race (it is only progressives who accuse Howard of racism) are equally deserving of security and safety.

    (I know for a fact it pained him to tell lies about boatpeople 6 years ago, but he had no choice.)

    I know he has sleepness nights about it and I wish people would stop being so cynical about this. The reasons he has waited until five minutes before an election, and why he has eschewed any hint of softly softly in the PR sphere are purely legitimate.

    I don’t know what they are but will get back to you when I have been informed.

    Vote 1 Mr Howard. He’ll keep our country clean and white.

  24. Paulkelly,

    While you are getting the skin on JH’s aboriginal issue timing perhaps you could get an explanation for:-

    “The “babies overboardâ€? affair seems to dominate peoples impressions of Coalition dishonesty. To me, though, the most blatant act of dishonesty by the Howard team in the 2004 election was the claim that the coalition would match Latham’s free health care for the elderly. This was a pivotal claim in the election and consolidated the strong swing back to the government. Early 2005 Tony Abbott was interviewed on radio making the claim that the health care programme was not affordable because of cost “blowoutsâ€? that the government was not aware of when they made that claim, and therefore the scheme would not be honoured. Two sentences later in the same interview, when pressed, Abbott said that the government did, actually, know about the cost blowouts before the election and before making the promise, but were not going to honour the scheme anyway because it was unaffordable at 1.5 billion dollars. Then just a few months later Costello announced a record budget surplus of 15 billion dollars and quietly pocketed the money, along with the credit of being a good a economic manager.

    If that is not dishonest then I do not know what dishonesty is.”

    Going on your “clean and white” theory maybe keeping affordable health care from the very elderly is for “youth” and the IR laws are to keep Australians “lean”.

    So the full coalition slogan for the coming election might be (once you have added in the nuclear thing):-

    Vote 1 John Howard, keeping Australia “clean, white, young, lean, and glowing in the dark”.

  25. Bilb. I expect politicians to tell lies, especially in campaigns. Sadly, that’s what they do – Australian ones at least as much as most. This government is probably only a bit worse than its predecessors in that regard.

    But I loathe rodents (and others) who take the easy, shameful racist/religionist/otherist route.

  26. Whilst claiming to have their best interests in mind, JH will, knowingly, play upon the bigotry that runs through too much of Australia. Drunk Aborigines whose kids don’t go to school – will this grab the extra votes he needs as well as Native Title over peoples backyards did, or evil queue jumping would be terrorists that throw kids overboard, or lazy dole bludgers living in luxury?

    Sorry I should be so cynical but pressing peoples’ buttons is what Howard excels at and the buttons of bigotry most of all when his position looks most precarious.

    Would aboriginal people in remote communities have lives improved in the absence of alcohol? Probably yes, (as would most communities everywhere) but this needs to be something the communities themselves do or it will just be more paternal heavy handedness.

  27. Emergency, Emergency It’s an Emergency.

    Call out the army John Howard’s government might not get re-elected.
    Throw in kids of a minority group who can all be maligned without electoral damage and WahLa – Canapes at Kiribilli, snouts in the trough payrise, Workchoices, deaths and bullying at Telstra are all forgotten.

    Hopefully the government will roll out sensible policies which will work over the fifteen years proposed in the report, after consultation with Aboriginal leaders, rather than measures which last 6 months – a time frame which coincidentally just happen to be about the time until the election.

  28. The proposals of the government are unlikely to have any long term effect. However, they are something and they have got the nation’s attention. While we are at it why not start to do something that will bring our people’s together not apart. Here is an idea that might be worth considering.

    Allocate 10% of the money now collected from alcohol taxes and excise to a fund. Allow every person in Australia to register to vote on where their share will be spent.

    Money can only be spent on projects and communities that community groups request and that they believe will assist their communities reduce child abuse. Thus a remote community might propose that money they receive will be spent paying parents to send their children to school, paying for medical staff and paying for housing. The initiative must come from the community.

    Rather than the government allocating the money ALL citizens of Australia can vote where the money will be spent. They will each be able to vote for where the money will go and there will be a vote each year by all those interested. If you are not interested or are happy for “your share” to go to consolidate revenue then you can do so.

    The project where your money goes will send you periodic reports (3 monthly) of how the money is being spent.

    You can if you wish contribute more.

    The idea is get everyone involved. To not discriminate according to race (any community group can put up a proposal).

    The issue is getting resources to people who have some control over those resources and take responsibility for them. If a community or project does the “wrong” thing then their votes will dry up.

  29. The ignorance is ours. When we see an aboriginal wandering around we think aimless and lazy. Reality…on walkabout expanding his knowledge of the environment, an important extension of education. ETC.

    Uhuh. And when we see aboriginals gang-raping a 14 year old boy or an alcoholic uncle systematically sexually abusing his 10 year old niece, that’s also just cultural ignorance on our part?

    BillB, the concept of “Noble Savage” was always wishful thinking. Open your eyes to reality. Stop making excuses – Aboriginal leaders themselves want you to stop. The debate has moved on.

  30. Mugwump,

    You surely can’t be serious. I see and endless supply of that behaviour from the white community, but I do not see police and troops moving in to “police the situation” and confiscate incomes and property.

    The scale of the problem here is indeed extreme, but it got that way because servicing these communities does not fit into the neat “optimised efficiency” health package demanded of the states by the federal government. Howard won’t fund it if it does not fit into his idea of tight management and restraint. And the states have failed, here, to perform as well.

    This is a health and social issue that has grown into a law and order issue, and now Howard is trying to turn it into a “right to own property” issue. And the only reason why this can escalate in this way is because, unlike other diplaced peoples such as the Palestinians, the Aboriginals don’t take up guns to express their frustration, they take it out on themselves becoming doubly victimised. And our self ritcheous governments are happy to sit back and let them do it, blaming them for the problem. Now Howard is prepared to take that, true to Howard form, just one step further forward, and victimise these people even more.

    But mugwump you seem to be happy to focus effect and not the cause, do you work in government?

  31. mugwump, I’m sure you know as well as I that ‘permanently excluded from the labour force’ does not mean the same thing as ‘never been employed’, just as ‘unattractive’ is not a synonym for ‘virginal’. Similarly, ‘innumerable’ means ‘too numerous to be counted’ and is not a synonym for ‘infinite’.

    As seems all too typical of your interventions, you avoid engaging with main issues in order to focus on trivial points. In this instance, you dismissed melanie’s argument as ‘irrational hatred of John Howard’, without demonstrating anything of the sort. This is of course a refrain with the Man of Steel’s dwindling band of admirers – hatred of Howard must ipso facto be irrational. [I’d add in passing that right wing postmodernism consists in constant repetition of loaded phrases in a conscious attempt to alter public discourse, but this is not my main point.] I attempted to point out with some irony that your ‘irrational hatred’ comment was nothing more than a cute debating strategem to avoid engagement with the issues, you responded with another cute stratagem, in this case wilful misinterpretation.

    So, your contribution has been to make a snide personal attack on another commenter as being motivated by ‘irrational hatred’ and, when called on the point you have responded with cute elision. Perhaps you could explain how this contribution fits with the site’s comments policy, in particular

    “Comments that seek to score debating points at the expense of others (snarks) are discouraged; this is inevitably subjective, but please try to focus on substantial arguments rather than cheap shots.”

    Meanwhile, BilB, you appear to be advocating a major authoritarian intervention in internet access, in order to limit access to p*rn sites. You cite smoking as an analogy. Surely the issue here is the harm principle: smoking has been conclusively proven in many scientifically rigorous studies to cause harm and to be addictive. I am not aware of any such harm principle being established in regard to depictions of s*xual activity between consenting adults. The fact it is distasteful is insufficient to justify prohibition – I find much that is distasteful on the internet (Andrew Bolt’s blog, for instance) but that doesn’t mean I’d be agitating to have my tastes imposed on others. In the absence of evidence demonstrating harm, my point about this being a Trojan horse for internet censorship all round stands. I also suspect that the issue has been raised by Howard primarily as a dog whistle to his moral authoritarian constituency, but I readily concede I have no evidence to back this up other than it fitting with a pattern of Prime Ministerial policy making.

  32. As Hal9000 says, mugwump, you’ve contributed little beyond snarks to this thread. Anything other than substantive contributions focusing on policy will be deleted from now on.

  33. Point taken Hal9000,

    I do however think, along with a lot of other people I suspect, that internet pornography is a special case. I would welcome a thorough study (not driven by religeous interest) on the individual and social impacts of intense pornography as well as on it’s depth of infusion (stuggling here to find an alternative to penetration) into different age groups. And as you suggest I imagine that pornography is far less prevalant in the at risk community than is suggested by the comments. ….. .But then again for a culture that has only recent access to this material the impact might be disproportionate.

    Picking up on your consenting adults comment, my concern is really more for its effect on adolescents. It is just another one of those dilemmas. How do you protect one group without affecting every other group. I put the thought in the comment to find a reaction and, thanks, I got one.

  34. Here are some ideas of tackling the aborginal problem and rascism issue in Australia:

    1. Aborginal problem:
    Letting them rule themselves. This can be done by declaring Northern Territory as an aborginal country. The aborgines can then elect their own government and decide what kind of life they want to lead. Now, in the short term(may be a decade or two), it may be difficult for them to carry on managing the new country. As they face problems, they will seek International assistance, and here Australia can step in and provide the needed policy advice to them. Also, as Australia would be their major trading partner,in the long run, they would want to maintain a good relationship with Australia.

    2. Rascism issue:

    To lessen the rasicm in Australia one could come with a differential tax system. The rational for such a tax system is simple: it would make it difficult(costly) for indivduals to discriminate others based on ethnicity, religion, sex and nationality. Racism is an inefficient economic phenomenan. Consider the case of Australia, There are around 91% white and 9% colored people in Australia(if you consider the same statistic for working age people it would be around 85% and 15% respectively). Now consider a case that one colored Australian’s productivity suffers for 1 hour out of the 8 hours he/she works each day, thinking and analysing about racism related discrimination he/she comes across in his/her daily life and in the news-media. The per capita GDP of Australia is around 33K AUD( So Loss = C * F * PPP = 0.1*1/8*33000 = 412.5AUD in per capita per year terms. In this calculations C is the percentage of colored Australians, F is the fraction hours lost by the colored people each day because of racism and and PPP is the Austrila’s per capita GDP(in purchasing power parity terms).

    Now, 412AUD dollar of productivity lost because of of racism can be reduced by having a racism tax. Why racism tax ? Here is the reason:

    A racism tax on the majority(in this case on white Australian’s) would initailly divide them into two groups: One that is openly racist and other that is not(although some members of this group may be rascist but they wouldn’t want to loose money, so they would pretend as non-racist). In the long run the tax could be reduced gradually for non-rascist persons. Now goverment faces the selecion problem of determining who belongs to the non-rascist group. This can be tackled to a significant extent by observing behaviour of different agents(here the majority race people). Now people could get some tax relief if they produce some bills or other forms of evidence indicating that they indeed belong to the non-rascist group(for example, bills showing money spent on charity would be a good proof that an individual is more likely to belong to the non-rascist group). In this way people from non-rascist group can build good reputation over time. So, the non-rascist group can gradually reduce their payment of racism tax over time. As the racist group finds(relative to the non-rascist group) that their marginal benefit of being openly rascist is less that their marginal loss because of being openly racist,some of its member will shift to the other group over time. So such a policy would not only privide economic efficency, but would also reduce overt racism in the society(which in turn will have a positive feedback on the economic efficiency).

  35. I have been reading the report that was delivered to Claire Martin 6 weeks ago and which Howard complains that she ignored.

    It is clear from that Howard himself has ignored most of the 97 recommendations (plus many sub-recommendations) in the report and explicitly contradicted many of them. For example, the first one:

    1. That Aboriginal child sexual abuse in the Northern Territory be designated as an issue of urgent national significance by both the Australian and Northern Territory Governments, and both governments immediately establish a collaborative partnership with a Memorandum of Understanding to specifically address the protection of Aboriginal children from sexual abuse. It is critical that both governments commit to genuine consultation with Aboriginal people in designing initiatives for Aboriginal communities.

    And number 3:
    That the Northern Territory and Australian Governments develop long term funding programs that do not depend upon election cycles nor are limited by short-term outcomes or overly bureaucratic reporting conditions and strictures.

    There is also no mention in any of these recommendations that would suggest quarantining of welfare payments, increasing police presence or altering land rights.

    I don’t think the NT government can be excused for its lack of action in the past (e.g. in implementing recommendations that were made 8 years ago), but I can certainly see that it would take 6 weeks or more to prepare an adequate response to such a detailed report – one that was prepared through extensive consultation with indigenous communities. Ms Martin has been gazumped by a Prime Minister with an election on his mind.

  36. melanie, the NT government’s failure to implement recommendations past is merely the latest of a long and inglorious history of such failures. The Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody (1991) made a number of recommendations high on its list that have languished because they were inconvenient or expensive. These included decriminalisation of public drunkenness and the installation of video surveillance and recording equipment in watch houses.

    The measure of Howard’s actual concern for the welfare of indigenous children can be seen in his gradual withdrawal of funding for housing – universally acknowledged in the literature as a prime causal factor in poor health and educational outcomes.

    On the p*rn issue, BilB, there have in fact been numerous studies attempting to establish a linkage between exposure and propensity to offend. Defence barristers frequently cite exposure as a mitigating factor in s*xual offence cases. Sadly for the defence case, however, there have been no causal links established. There is stronger support for linkages between exposure to depictions of violence and propensity to resort to, or excuse, violent behaviour.

    We need to remember here that the X rating is available for depictions of consensual interaction between adults and X rated material cannot contain any violence, no matter how stylised. The kind of violence that would pass muster for a G rating is out of bounds for X. At any event, it is already an offence to expose persons under the age of 18 to X rated material. What Howard is proposing is criminalising possession of or access to X rated material. As I say, I behold a Trojan horse.

  37. As Hal9000 says, mugwump, you’ve contributed little beyond snarks to this thread. Anything other than substantive contributions focusing on policy will be deleted from now on.

    Oh please Quiggin. The rest of this thread is more-or-less a litany of dubious reasoning attempting to impugn John Howard’s motives.

    If you consider that to be substantial discussion, you’re welcome to it.

  38. Hal9000,

    All of this material completely bypasses the rating system. If Howard is intending to criminalise possession of same then I stand by my earlier proposal. It is not about diminished responsibility it is about quality of relationship. I will seek out these reports.

    But this whole blown up issue is not about doing anything for the aborigines, it is about talking the tough talk that Queenslanders and northern folk seem to appreciate, all totally at the expense of aboriginal self esteem. To what end? Simply drag votes off Rudd. This will go down in history as an infamous act.

  39. “All of this material completely bypasses the rating system. If Howard is intending to criminalise possession of same then I stand by my earlier proposal.”

    Sale of material that has been or would be refused classification is already an offence. As is possession of any material depicting acts involving children. No, Howard is talking about material classified X.

  40. Imagine a world where an aboriginal (or any other) person has a marginal productivity of $5/hour. Imagine a world where an employer would like to employ that worker and pay them their marginal product. This shocking alternative universe is so dangerous it needs to be stopped.

    If we really care about aboriginals we will make it illegal for them to take such a job. The proof of our love is that we’ve successfully kept the aboriginal communities unemployed because we know what is good for them. We know that unemployment is more respectable and a better path to development than a low-paid job.

    It would be nice if we could let them make these decisions for themselves, but really, only the government is in a position to know what wage you should receive for your labour. After all, they do own about 1/3rd of your labour.

  41. BilB –

    Further to the discussion, the actual recommendations in the NT report are…


    87. That an education campaign be conducted to inform communities of:

    a. the meaning of and rationale for film and television show classifications

    b. the prohibition contained in the Criminal Code making it an offence to intentionally expose a child under the age of 16 years to an indecent
    object or film, video or audio tape or photograph or book and the implications generally for a childÂ’s wellbeing of permitting them to watch or see such sexually explicit material.

    …all of which is sensible, and begs the question (again) of where the Howard proposals come from and what they are in fact designed to achieve.

  42. Hal9000,

    Recommendation 87 is the correct approach to most of the issues under comment. The storm trooper approach will turn one mess into another mess.

    My concern over the internet access is the situation that allows endless free access to sexual material of the most explicit and debauched nature simply by keying as few as 10 characters into a computer that is linked to the internet. And this is material that is far, far more explicit to anything that ever gets into print. Our city kids are certainly capable of accessing this, but perhaps it is a stretch to suggest that remote indiginous communities are ever exposed to this material. I was reacting to mugwumps comment.

    Well anyway the game is in play, the troops are being mustered, we will see how it progresses.

  43. Imagine a world where an aboriginal (or any other) person has a marginal productivity of $5/hour. Imagine a world where an employer would like to employ that worker and pay them their marginal product. This shocking alternative universe is so dangerous it needs to be stopped.

    The proponents of minimum wage laws really don’t seem to give a toss. I notice that they are in general remaining deafingly silent on this issue. Banning employment in low skilled communities seems to be some sort of sadistic socialist passtime.

    Even the economists that are proponents of the minimum wage agree that there is an upper limit. Nobody suggest that we should have a minimum wage of $200 per hour because they acknowledge that under prevailing market conditions this would be a recipe for mass unemployment. And yet they are content to have a one size fits all minimum wage across all economic circumstances in Australia. Even applying it to remote low skilled communities.

    If we are to retain minimum wage laws then they should be set according to regional conditions. The minimum wage that makes sence in Sydney does not make sence in Bamyili.

  44. Not sure anyone has mentioned this, I haven’t seen it discussed anywhere, here or elsewhere, but where are they going to put all the prisoners? Surely all those police are there for a purpose. Concentration camps, perhaps.

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