Jun 222007

“Kevin Rudd’s meek, kneejerk endorsement of it is almost as disgusting, and marks him unfit to lead Australia.”
A damning statement from the self-annointed blogospheric centrist, Ken Parish.

A misguided and ill-informed statement as well, I feel I should add. I was watching question time in the House yesterday, and as Guido so admirably points out, I didn’t gather any impressions that Rudd was meekly knee-jerking in reaction to Howard’s statement. Labor would have been well aware of what was to be announced, which was why Rudd read his response. A ‘knee-jerk’ reaction would more likely have been verbatim. The wording of that response was carefully crafted and quite pointed. In fact, my immediate impression was one of Rudd warily stepping around the announcement, unwilling to completely commit Labor to following the Howardian line without a full and frank understanding of the processes to be employed.
Anyway, inter-blog author rivalry aside, I’m unsure of just what Little Johnny is all about with this rather draconian announcement over-riding the powers of the Northern Territory administration. I distinctly recall watching the original Lateline stories which broke the disgusting tales of paedophillia, drunkenness and substance abuse. A little research at that time, 12 months ago, revealed that this issue in it’s various forms, has been raised many times over the past decade, and these links are only from the one media source. This issue is very long-lived, yet it’s only now, in an election year, that we see the Federal government moving to assume the responsibilities of the Northern Territory in regard to aboriginal communities. Colour me cynical, but we’ve seen this kind of thing from the Howard government so often in the past.
I hesitate to use the word popularism, especially in this situation, as no single Australian, black, white or brindle, would condone the abuse aboriginal children are being exposed to in remote communities. But what description does one apply when the move to assume the Territory’s responsibilities was effectively ruled out by Mal Brough in an interview one week ago, as ‘a grab for headlines’. Interestingly Brough, I believe, telegraphed yesterday’s announcement in that same interview, immediately following his denial of the action which was announced yesterday:

I’ll tell you what we are saying, is that we have to take brave action and we have to take the action that some people are going to find very difficult to stomach, but if we don’t, you’ll be back here in 10 years with exactly the same sort of story, with more children being hurt, and that’s not something any of us in this nation should tolerate.

I believe yesterday’s announcement was already in train, but the political timing wasn’t quite right. Yesterday, it obviously was and Claire Martin was caught entirely flat-footed.
Don’t get me wrong, reader, I’m vehemently opposed to child abuse, in any form. I’m vehemently opposed to drug use, public drunkenness, domestic violence in fact any form of socially unacceptable behaviour regardless of the colour of a person’s skin or the depth of their culture. It is totally unacceptable that indigenous Australians should live in the squaller, the degradation and the poverty to which they are subjected. Some choose to live that way, of that I am well aware, but most would not. Most would want their children to have exactly the same opportunities as any other Australian child. The same ability to raise themselves from their own poverty, to succeed and prosper. The colour of one’s skin is no determination of the possibilities which ought to be available.
Is Howard’s action the right way to go? I’m unsure. I tend to agree with Parish’s assessment of probable outcomes, indeed, he’s not alone. But something needs to be done and done with a view to a positive outcome. Supplying non-sniffable petrol isn’t the be-all and end all. Neither is a blanket ban on alcohol or restrictions on pornography. Such things are only band-aids and highly contentious band-aids at that. Noel Pearson is quite right to state that the principal issues are morals-based. Behaviours need to be addressed and banning grog, porn or conditionalising welfare support won’t achieve the desired aim on their own.
FURTHER, sound blogworld assessments include this excellent analysis by Senator Andrew Bartlett.