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.