A new apartheid:

Ailie Bruins writes: Re. “Make no mistake, Howard’s NT plan is a new apartheid” (yesterday, item 1). As a former South African I agree that this jackboot, short-term solution to systemic problems in the neglected, dysfunctional indigenous communities is doomed to failure. Mr Howard will no doubt get a short-term political boost similar to the Iraq War and Tampa. Contrary to what most people think, the architect of apartheid; Dr Hendrik Verwoerd similarly thought he was providing a good solution. This extract from Wikipedia lists principal “Apartheid acts” which he introduced as Prime Minister: The Promotion of Black Self-Government Act (1958) – This law set up separate territorial governments in the ‘homelands’, designated lands for black people where they could have a vote. The aim was that these homelands would eventually become independent of South Africa. In practice, the South African government exercised a strong influence over these separate states even after some of them became ‘independent’. Bantu Investment Corporation Act (1959) – This law set up a mechanism to transfer capital to the homelands in order to create jobs there. The Extension of University Education Act (1959) – This law created universities for blacks, coloureds and Indians. Physical Planning and Utilization of Resources Act (1967) – This law allowed the government to stop industrial development in ‘white’ cities and re-direct such development to homeland border areas. The aim was to speed up the relocation of blacks to the homelands by relocating jobs to homeland areas. The theory doesn’t look half as bad as the result. For the past decade indigenous Australians have been non existent in the political discourse – at least they are now on the political radar.

Rob Gulliford writes: I could not agree more with your article, but I would like to make the point, if what you have stated is correct, then why no demonstrations and outrage by the people affected, and why no outrage and demonstrations in mainstream Australia where surely a majority of the population know what Howard is doing is unlawful and wrong. It angers and saddens me that in our country today we will accept any thing at all imposed on us by elected governments of any persuasion. Surely though some of the legislation that the Federal Government has imposed since in won office has been the most draconian, WorkChoices being the most recent example until this racist stunt. But the Australian people cop it, why?

James Guest writes: Guy Rundle is probably right about one thing. Experience suggests that pessimism is the only realistic attitude to attempts to improve the lives of indigenous people anywhere. However, since he totally fails to come up with a solution to any of the problems that have resulted from the dispossession of Aborigines and/or, take your pick, the misguided policies, often begotten by communists as he points out – for sometimes bad reasons – of the last 35 years, he might at least have shown the moral clarity that Howard has displayed on the one central issue of child protection. The woolly thinking that allows Rundle to define Apartheid as a restriction of people’s rights on their own land, instead of a legal or de facto displacement of people from mainstream Australian land onto the Australian equivalent of Bantustans – which is what we have so far achieved – is no doubt responsible for him avoiding the central issue. Curiously, his overblown descriptions of military solutions don’t extend to recognising that many more children almost certainly will be taken from the control of their parents. What would you do if parents were persistently drunk and quite incapable of preventing their children from being raped by adult males? Does the fact that, in the NT, it is Aborigines living on Aboriginal settlements who will be affected have any bearing on what should be done to protect children?

Matthew Weston writes: So what would you suggest, Guy? What would you do differently to Howard and differently to what has been done in the past? You have fired away with enough emotive language to have your hands rung dry, yet you have nothing to offer as an alternative, tell us. What would you do differently? Stick to what’s been done over the last 20 years that has so patently failed? Provided a happy hunting ground for predators of all persuasions, changed nothing, delivered little? Tell us, Guy, tell us, shed some light on us poor, stupid, easily led morons in the white population, and show us the way because it’s obviously our fault in some way. Or are you going to snipe from the sidelines? Treat the electorate with the contempt held by the current elites, a view held by all be they politic or commentary by bemoaning without offering anything, criticising without suggestion and declaring all those who support X or Y to be morons captured by their own greed, or yesterdays ideology or whatever crutch your political bent offers you. Tell me, Guy, what would you do differently?

Helen Armstrong writes: Why doesn’t Guy Rundle step off his soapbox and into what passes for homes where children cower waiting for the horrific physical abuse that follows substance abuse – why doesn’t he read the affidavits of abused children look those children in the eyes and tell them, don’t worry, we’ve stuffed it up so far but I’m sure it’ll be ok in a few years if we just throw a bit more money at it. This is not a simple issue and we all have to work to make it work and the first step is safety for these kids. There is no way I am going to sacrifice children on the altar of political correctness. In comparing Australia to Iraq he is forgetting something. In Iraq people couldn’t exit the area for work or education if they wished, women couldn’t access education, and female circumcision was just fine.

Vern Hughes writes: Guy Rundle’s nouveau left worldview is revealed in all its irrelevant glory in his commentary on indigenous dysfunction. Noel Pearson, architect of reform in indigenous affairs by recovering the idea that blacks have responsibilities as well as rights, is dismissed by Rundle as a puppet of Howard, and likened to democrats in the Middle East installed by the West: ” Abbas, Al-Maliki, Khazai have now been joined by Noel Pearson, rubber-stamping the surrender of Aboriginal power when the minister calls.” To disparage Pearson’s agenda in this way is to declare that one really does prefer life on another political planet from the real one. Pearson has generated dozens of grass-roots businesses, self-help projects, and educational initiatives, in the most difficult of circumstances. Rundle has generated nothing of the kind, except criticism of those who actually get their hands dirty. Crikey does itself a disservice by associating itself with political voyeurs like Rundle, who critique everything and change nothing.

David Beattie writes: I’ve been travelling through the Northern Territory, and really wanted to respond to Guy Rundle’s first article on Aboriginal policy. Now he has a second. I’ve been trying very hard to understand his point. He seems to be saying that much of their problems are due to poverty. That’s right. He also seems to say that there is latent racism in what whites think, and that Aborigines need a Chairman Mao to unite them and rise up, and do what’s right. Naturally what they need to do is not actually spelt out. What utter rubbish. Most Australians support the latest Howard move, as late as it is, because it’s the right thing to do. There’s no “racism”, but enormous goodwill and concern for fellow Australians. Guy can’t grasp that, there has to be “hidden racism” and a theoretical pseudo-Marxist reason hiding behind every good intention. There is no law on the books which sets down that Aborigines are to be treated worse. There are, however, unusual arrangements allowing them to be self-governing territories, which guarantee sometimes that the worse elements in society, fuelled by grog and porn, are running amok. No white Australian wants what’s happening in the Aboriginal communities. Nobody benefits. And most people up here want the problems to stop. Guy, unless you can come up with a concrete proposal to actually fix what’s wrong, please shut up.

Raymond Marx writes: Next we will have South Africa and New Zealand boycotting our national rugby team, maybe there will be trade sanctions. We set the precedent.

Howard’s Aboriginal Emergency:

Jeff Sparrow writes: Re. “Howard’s Aboriginal Emergency” (yesterday, comments).

Take up the White Man’s burden–
The savage wars of peace —
Fill full the mouth of Famine —
And bid the sickness cease;
And when your goal is nearest
The end for others sought,
Watch sloth and heathen Folly
Bring all your hopes to nought.”

Doubtless, Les Murray’s now working on a more modern version but Kipling had Howard’s Northern Territory plan down to a tee. “We need to get the police in and the booze out,” says Tony Abbott. “You aren’t going to stamp out the child abuse and violence without a strong police presence in these communities.” Yep, that’s the problem that Aboriginal people have faced over the last two hundred years – not enough policing. In 1991 (how long ago it seems!), the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody delivered its final report. It noted that “historically, police have acted as the most consistent point of Aboriginal contact with the colonising power. Police were responsible for implementing successive colonial, then state and Territory Government policies of protection and control. Police surveillance of Aboriginal communities has in turn shaped their own perceptions of Aboriginal people as ‘recalcitrant’ or ‘degenerate’.” The report linked Aboriginal incarceration with an absence of self-determination. “The heart of self-determination is Aboriginal people, groups and community-controlled organizations being encouraged, supported and empowered to design programs, deliver services and control resources themselves.” Fat chance of that now. Politically, of course, Howard’s plan is brilliant: anointing the old racist stereotypes about Aborigines (“half-devil and half-child”) with an oily self-righteousness. What’s more, his announcement took the Palm Island manslaughter case entirely out of the news. Remember that? Less than a week ago, a Queensland jury acquitted policeman Chris Hurley of manslaughter, even though he admitted splitting Cameron Mulrunji Doomadgee’s liver in two. And why was Doomadgee in custody in the first place? He was drunk and he was singing a rude song and for those heinous crimes Hurley arrested him. Police in, booze out, as Tony Abbott would say. The day after Hurley walked free, John Howard declared that Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory need … more police. Get ready, then, for more Palm Island-style riots. Even Kipling knew that old-school colonialism brought the “hate of those ye guard”.

Greg Poropat writes: John Howard has a well-earned reputation for precision in his choice of language. In the analysis of his announcements concerning child abuse in the Northern Territory, two phrases he used have escaped scrutiny. They are important to all of us. In the press conference announcing his actions and in subsequent interviews, the Prime Minister described the issue as a “national emergency”. He also said that “constitutional niceties” should not obstruct his planned course of action for dealing with the matter. It’s not clear which “constitutional niceties” the Prime Minister has in mind or if, in fact, there is a constitutional impediment to any of the raft of actions he has promised. And it’s not clear what criteria he uses to define a “national emergency”. But it is clear he is playing with the concept of linking a “national emergency” to executive government action that contravenes the constitution. John Howard has rich form in behaving contemptuously towards many of the institutions and conventions that form the fabric of our system of governance. Our Constitution sits squarely at the centre of this system: unpick the Constitution and the entire fabric unravels. It’s unlikely the Prime Minister has a constitutional issue with his plan of action for the Northern Territory. More sinisterly, he may be road testing the idea of suspending the Constitution because of some future “national emergency” of his own definition. It wouldn’t be the first time he’s experimented with words to see the response, if any, they evoke. And it wouldn’t be the first time he’s confected a crisis to damage our rights e.g. the “anti-freedom” laws rammed through after the London underground bombings. Surely there is at least one journalist, no matter where they sit on the Bias-o-meter, who will demand of Howard that he explain what he means by “constitutional niceties” and why he would suggest they be set aside because of the policy issue at hand. We all have an unqualified right to know if John Howard is unconditionally committed to our Constitution regardless of the circumstances that confront us. But then again, if he said he was, would anyone believe him?

Alan Kennedy writes: If I had been told my daughter was to be subjected to a full gynaecological examination at the age of 10 and that I could not refuse and that it was mandatory. I think I would be lawyering up and suing the relevant authorities. Sadly the Aboriginal people who have become John Howard’s new political football can do none of these things. To resist will mean being smeared as appeasers of child abuse and worse. Who said this wasn’t a discriminatory policy? And why do we need to take away their land as well? Why has it taken 11 years for him to suddenly find compassion? The damaged children of the detention centres and the damaged kids on Aboriginal communities would also like to know why it has taken so long.

Barry Everingham writes: Has Crikey been asleep? Over the weekend we read and heard reports that Howard originally told Bush and Rumsfeld our troops would be sent to Iraq for the short term; knowing the way the Man of Steel handles the truth it’s more than likely this was relayed to his mates in Washington last week. Whatever the time frame, it’s curious the media has allowed him to get away with this Tampa-like fantasy which will probably be trotted out a week or two before the election when there will be sudden withdrawal. Which might not be such a bad idea – after all he now has a real war on terror on the home front – the terror of drugs, sexual and alcohol abuse, bashings the whole box and dice in the Aboriginal community. If he and Brough are serious there should be massive reconstruction programs so the black Territorians can live and work in houses which will afford them the dignity so long denied. Our troops would be better engaged in this war than the mayhem the Americans have created in the country they are systematically destroying.

Sam See writes: I wonder how Mr. Howard’s new-found sensitivity to the plight of our indigenous population tallies with Canada’s decision to withdraw support for the United Nations Declaration on the Right of Indigenous Peoples, opposed by Mr. Howard’s government. This decision was announced, coincidentally, while Mr. Howard was in Ottawa meeting with Mr. Harper.

Geoff Perkins writes: Re. Aboriginal Australia. Yes, an acknowledgement by the Federal Government after 11 years is of course welcome. But why does Commonwealth assistance funding cease to many communities in the states on 30 June? Perhaps Howard and Brough would like to explain what is going to happen to the communities around places like Wiluna, WA.

John Pasquarelli on Howard’s plan:

Kevin Childs writes: Re. “Howard’s Aboriginal intervention ‘a long time coming'” (yesterday, item 11). I’m all for free speech, fair comment and the rest, but the bigoted blatherings of John Pasquarelli are offensive and have all the intellectual reach of a bumper sticker.

Matt Hardin writes: John Pasquarelli says “it’s madness to teach Aboriginal kids English as a second language and this, too, must cease forthwith.” How does he propose that Aboriginal kids learn English?

The Bias-o-meter:

Stilgherrian writes: Re. “From Bolt to eternity: the pundit Bias-o-meter” (yesterday, item 2). Isn’t analysing bias in terms of “left” vs “right” just a tad old-fashioned and, literally, one-dimensional? As the Political Compass points out, this spectrum was established during the French National Assembly of 1789. “On the standard left-right scale, how do you distinguish leftists like Stalin and Gandhi? It’s not sufficient to say that Stalin was simply more left than Gandhi. There are fundamental political differences between them that the old categories on their own can’t explain.” Even the Political Compass was first seen nearly 4 decades ago. I reckon we need a 21st Century analysis tool here — even if “Marx to Maggie” is a great title.

Michael Fisk writes: Dunderheads! The extraordinarily facile nature of the “Bias-o-meter” exercise on which you embarked yesterday can be demonstrated by making one simple point. You awarded 10 “Maggies” to Andrew Bolt, who is now arguably the world’s pre-eminent climate change denialist (in what is admittedly a rapidly diminishing field). Yet former UK Prime MInister Margaret Thatcher was one of the first world leaders to warn of the dangers of global warming and to take action on the issue. She made a major speech to the UN about it in 1988, and that same year raised the topic in this address to the Royal Society. Before embarking on your next under-graduate, attention-seeking stunt, how about giving it more than a moments thought. Crikey would dearly love to be considered a serious, if irreverent, part of national debate. No chance if the intellectual clout your brought to this exercise is the best you can do.

Peter Rosier writes: Skimmed your bias meter with interest and haven’t quite come to grips with it all yet, but let me point out a major error – Devine, M, anything but, writes for the SMH not The Australian! Puts a little hole in the reliability of the Marx to Maggie Meter, don’t you agree?

Private health insurance:

Robert Wells, Director of Menzies Centre for Health Policy, Australian National University, writes: The helpful accountability report on Australia’s health spending released by the state health ministers on 24 June (‘Caring for Our Health’) throws up some interesting information. Take for example a table comparing growth over the past 5 years in commonwealth funding for public hospitals with the private health insurance rebate (which is largely a support for private hospitals). For public hospitals, the commonwealth has increased its support by an average of 3.5% a year. Support for the private health insurance rebate has grown by 6.6% annually over the same period. In return for its investment in public hospitals, the commonwealth receives information about states’ public hospital systems and publishes this in an annual State of Our Public Hospitals report. Admittedly the information is very sparse indeed compared to what is available in other countries. For example, the Report tells us nothing about the performance of individual hospitals. In the United States, on the other hand, the federal government provides detailed information on all hospitals (publish and private) for many important indicators, such as deaths by heart attack within 30 days of admission. If we in Australia know little of how our public hospitals perform, we know nothing about private hospitals. The commonwealth does not require that information as part of its private health insurance rebate arrangements. So it is difficult to understand how the commonwealth measures the comparative returns on its annual $10billion (approx) support for public hospitals through the health care agreements with its$3billion subsidy for private health insurance (most of which finds its way to private hospitals). Given that both major political parties seem committed to retaining the private health insurance rebate, it would only be reasonable for taxpayers to be given some useful information about the value we receive from that very large and growing expenditure. In the process a similar level of accountability from the states would not go astray.

Get over it, Crikey:

Andrew Frost writes: Re. “Rudd: zero tolerance – except in the press office” (yesterday, item 3). I really wish Crikey would stop p-ssing and moaning about Rudd and his office and their relationship with the media. They are dealing with an openly hostile and plainly biased News Ltd and have to fight a hard battle to even get treated fairly. If they go over the top sometimes it’s only you guys – and Alan Ramsey – who are complaining. Boo hoo. Get over it.

Afghanistan is the new Syria:

Tony Lyons writes: Re. “The world according to CNN” (yesterday, item 24). The item which showed CNN’s geography having Afghanistan in Syria is not surprising at all. Michael Moore suggests that the United States not attack any country unless 25% of Americans can point to it on a world map.

An enlightenment:

Chris Davis writes: Please tell Dr Mark Duffett (yesterday, comments) I am not disappointed but enlightened – even the scientists end up speaking pejoratively in this debate!

Don’t bet on it:

John Innes writes: Re. “Wanna bet? How to make money on the election” (21 June, item 9). I was intrigued by Josh of Canberra’s suggestion that there was a guaranteed $43.65 profit to be made out of using Sportingbet’s offer of a free $100 bet on joining towards betting on the next federal election. Josh’s maths is impeccable; the reality of dealing with Sportingbet is not. When I contacted them online and joined up, Sportingbet’s website refused to take my “freebet” on anything to do with elections. I rang them. After being handpassed around the call centre three times (the first two people I spoke to appeared to be surprised that Sportingbet took bets on elections) I was told “nah, mate, you can’t use the freebet on elections”. When I pointed out that there was nothing to this effect on their website there was further puzzlement. One further handpass and I spoke to another operator who grudgingly agreed to take my bet. Total time spent online and on the phone: approximately 35 minutes.

Razer and Laws:

Robert O’Connor writes: Re. “John Laws, your voice rocked my ovaries” (yesterday, item 22). Helen Razer is absolutely right in identifying John Laws’s poetry as one of the “questionable things” he’s done in the past. But his versifying pales in comparison to his role in the 1971 movie, Nickel Queen. There was nudity in that film, Helen. Nudity! OK, so it wasn’t him who went togs off – but he did play a hippie!

Niall Clugston writes: Sorry, Helen Razer, but you can’t separate the poetry from the man. Just because Lawsie’s hatred of a commercial rival cheered you up more than pharmaceuticals, doesn’t mean we should write off the “Cash for Comment” scandal as merely “questionable”.

The Morning Market Report:

Jim Hart writes: Re. “Morning Market Report” (yesterday, item 27). It really is time for Marcus Padley to get that new pair of glasses. Monday’s report tells me “Resources all down… RIO down 60c to 3830c” Probably he meant to say it was down to 9830. Then again he might have meant it was down by $60 not 60c, which would have been a much more interesting story, on a par with the Poseidon Adventure.


Friday’s typos (house pedant Charles Richardson casts an eye over the howlers in the last edition of Crikey): Item 1: “the ‘freedom rides’ in the first place (…) and the Wave Hill strike on the other …”. The other place? For “on the other” to make sense, “in the first place” would want to be “on the one hand”. But perhaps that’s not what he means. Item 4: “It is a worry that we have, without any apparent demur on the part of Australian authorities, the exercise of US jurisdiction.” There’s a verb missing in there – “accepted”, perhaps?

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