Give the new senators a chance

Jacqueline Hodges writes: Re. “Lazy voters + broken system = sport, motoring lobbies in Senate” (Monday). Please. Everyone who is complaining that senators have been elected with a tiny percent of the vote, are loud, undignified and have no idea, cast your mind back to the election when Barnaby Joyce become a senator for Queensland through preference deals. Does the situation seem familiar? New England loves him now … Don’t write these people off before they’ve even had a go.

Notes from Yemen

Robert Johnson writes: Re. “‘Victory Ride Down Under’: how the world’s media covered the election” (yesterday). On Sunday morning I arrived for a meeting here in Sana’a, Yemen (Yemen last month moved from a Thursday/Friday to a Friday/Saturday weekend, in line with most countries in the region).  The Deputy Minister for Planning and International Co-operation opened the meeting, turned to me and said “so, Robert, you have a new government in Australia; is this good news?”  The sympathetic laughter to my reply at least gave me an instant understanding of exactly which officials understood English.

NT intervention not military

Neil James, executive director of Australia Defence Association, writes: Re. “Does Mundine support another military intervention in the NT?” (Monday). Bob Gosford unfortunately repeats a complete and harmful myth about the NT intervention. There has never been a “military intervention” of any description into an indigenous community in the Northern Territory or elsewhere. The continuing NT intervention, for example, has always been a civil government response, with the civil authorities always in charge and always under civil law. All the defence force has done is to assist the civil authorities, through the various implementing departments and agencies, with logistic and administrative support.

The ADF has never been used in a law enforcement role in indigenous communities. Such tasks have properly remained with the civil police and family/child welfare services. No ADF personnel supporting the NT intervention have ever deployed with weapons, used force or been required to use force (except for self-defence, as with any Australian citizen).

The operational head of the intervention on the ground was an ADF officer initially. However, he was seconded from the defence force to the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, and appointed in a civil role. This only occurred because the senior federal police officer originally arranged for the position became unavailable and the emergency nature of the intervention, at least initially, was used by the then government to justify such a step.

The Australia Defence Association warned against this at the time because of the risk it would be misconstrued or deliberately misrepresented in an inflammatory and sensationalist fashion by some opponents of the intervention. Such misrepresentation and scaremongering subsequently occurred, such as ridiculous and indeed nasty claims that the “army was coming to grab children”. As the ADA continues to remind all Australians, governments of all political persuasions need to take great care not to risk the staunchly apolitical status of our defence force in Australian society by using the ADF in situations of party-political or major social controversy.

Furthermore, the ADF, particularly the Army, has been working in and with outback Aboriginal communities since before World War II. Army surveyors mapped most of Northern Australia from the 1920s to the 1980s. The Navy’s coastwatcher networks have utilised Aboriginal members for nine decades. Various Army Reserve medical and dental units have conducted their annual camps helping outback Aboriginal communities since the early 1950s. The Army’s various regional force surveillance and regional intelligence units across northern Australia have been often comprised of mainly Aboriginal Diggers since the late 1970s.

The ADF personnel providing the logistic support to the NT intervention wear their uniforms proudly and reassuringly because indigenous Australians are so used to the presence of our defence force supporting their communities or otherwise interacting with them.

Talking taxes

Niall Clugston writes: Re. “Crikey says: what’s in a mandate?” (yesterday). Discussing mandates, Crikey‘s editorial opines that: “Abbott tried to make the carbon price a campaign theme, but he struggled given its minimal impact”. This has to be one of the worst pieces of electoral analysis so far. Our Prime Minister-elect has ranted about a “great big new tax” for years. He clearly has a mandate to “axe the tax” and would have no credibility if he preserved a carbon pricing scheme. The fact that the existing scheme has been ineffectual is hardly a point in its favour. Proponents of a carbon tax or an emission trading scheme have to accept they have lost the political battle. Pumping out more hot air on the issue will only further suffocate and isolate their cause.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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