Bolt — and camels — are indigenous

Alan Bartlett writes: Re. “Bolt’s an indigenous Australian.” (Thursday). Andrew Bolt is campaigning (some might say hysterically) against the proposal to recognise of aborigines in the constitution. He and many of his disciples claim to be indigenous to Australia because they were born here. Following that logic therefore we should consider species such as cane toads, rabbits, starlings, Indian mynas, lantana and camels as indigenous. It is not difficult to trace Bolt’s origins to Europe — there is plenty of documentary evidence. By contrast, Aboriginal Australians trace their origins to … Australia. Of course anthropologists may be able to identify their origins to Asia, but anthropologists are scientists, and we know Bolt’s disdain for science and scientists, so that doesn’t really count. Bolt’s claim to being indigenous is disingenuous.

His claim that the writers of the constitution “were inspired by the creed that all citizens … are as one before the law” is dubious in that women were not able to vote in federal elections until 1902, and universal suffrage for indigenous Australians was not granted until 1962. It was 1967 before they were counted in the census. Further, there were numerous discriminatory laws and regulations during these years such as segregation, requirements for permission to marry and to travel away from reserves.

Let’s ignore the fact that Aboriginal Australians had their land stolen and when this fact was acknowledged in law, every obstacle was put in their way to prevent their reclaiming what was stolen. This makes us all receivers of stolen property, whether we acknowledge it or not.

Bolt ignores the fact that most of our contemporaries (e.g. US, Canada, NZ) have made treaties with their real indigenous people and recompensed them much more greatly than we in Australia. He cites the Israeli/Muslim debate as he calls it, but fails to acknowledge that the state of Israel was created by displacing millions of people to allow the influx of millions who had never lived there and whose only claim was through their religion. We have the opportunity to correct an historical wrong and should take it. It is people like Bolt who deliberately foment racial intolerance who are the problem.

Razer misses the mark

Jonathan Symons writes: Re. “Razer’s class warfare: homosexuality a dangerous Western invention” (Thursday). Stephen Fry is an easy target, but Helen Razer misses the mark when she denounces “human rights for ‘gays'”. Sure, homosexual identity has Western origins, but Razer’s argument ignores the agency of non-Western people. Gay identities have been willingly adopted by many people around the globe, the language and the campaign for “sexual orientation and gender identity” rights protection has — like the broader human rights project — been truly universal (NB: this language embraces non-Western identities like the hijra, waria, kathoey etc).

Pakistani Asma Jahangir first added sexuality to the UN’s human rights agenda in a report for the UNCHR in 1999; in 2003 Brazil sponsored the first draft resolution on “Human Rights and Sexual Orientation”; Rwanda and South Africa routinely break from The African Group to support sexual rights; and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has done everything in his power to embrace the cause. Rather than being a simple Western imposition, the current international human rights debate pits Putin, the Vatican, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the US evangelical right (and apparently Helen Razer) against a global progressive coalition that has only recently been joined by the US (under Obama) and other Western states (like the UK).

Graffiti v street art

Don Wormald writes: Re. “The unwritten rules of street art: where graffiti is (and isn’t) celebrated” (Friday). As you are aware I am the “architect” of the Rotary graffiti removal program in NSW (and spreading to other states). I am also on the executive committee of the annual Graffiti Removal Day in NSW run by Rotary Down Under.

To me the difference between “street art” and “graffiti” is quite simple.  Street art is done on surfaces with the owner’s permission. It may or may not be to my taste, but it is legal and legitimate. Graffiti — especially “tags” — is done without such permission. Another term for the latter is “malicious damage to property”.

The cost to the community of removing graffiti is enormous. In NSW State Rail alone has had to spend over $50 million per year for some years now removing graffiti from rolling stock and fixed plant. That money would be better spent on services. Including private removal costs, the total amount spent on graffiti removal in NSW is somewhere in the vicinity of $150 million to $200 million a year.

Personally, I consider tags (which are obscure to all except the cognescenti) to be simply wanking with a spray can in your hand as your tool.

(I would love a Banksy on my front fence though.)

iPad winner

Congratulations go to Lyn Kerkham, who won an iPad in Crikey‘s competition.