More on Howard’s Indigenous Emergency Measures

Andrew Bartlett has the best response I’ve read so far, with David Tiley‘s a close second.

Bartlett is hopeful that despite understandable cynicism about the effectiveness of measures proposed with such an intersection of cynical politicising and inadequate planning or resourcing, that the PM’s initial draconian measures might provide a “circuit breaker” which will have some immediate alleviating effect on the child sexual abuse crisis, and leave a foundation upon which a more comprehensive plan of attack in line with the Wild/Anderson report can be implemented.

Bartlett does sound a note of warning about the current attacks accusing those of us questioning the efficacy of the plan as it stands of just not caring about the abused children: good motives do not necessarily make good policy. He reminds us that the “Stolen Generations” of Aboriginal children were removed from their families in the name of protecting them from poverty and disease, and that policy was a disaster despite people of the time believing that their motives were unarguably good.

Tiley too reminds us of the Stolen Generations, and examines particularly how Noel Pearson’, another involved activist like Bartlett and Wild/Anderson with a well articulated and reasoned preference for consultative measures with the dysfunctional communites, has been ambushed and gazumped by Howard’s authoritarian top-down approach, timed quite clearly to take advantage of Pearson receiving favourable media attention for his own Queensland indigenous plan. In a paragraph echoing Bartlett’s concerns about the problems with conflating motives and policy, Tiley concludes:

I think Pearson is hoping that bad people can do good things for bad reasons. But thuggery destroys all it touches, because it breaks the spirits of the very people who need to be empowered. After all, this is all about power, and the strength to be autonomous, and develop supportive communities.

I can very much see Bartlett’s point that even a short-term plan based on bad motives may have some positive outcomes if it can be pushed by public scrutiny (and insistence on accountability) into a long-term plan based on a comprehensive community-mediated series of interventions. Just because Jackboot Johnny is a thug doesn’t mean that his plan will necessarily be ineffective grandstanding.

But, like Tiley, I still very much fear that thuggery will prevail and children will still end up not protected as we all hope they should be.

Categories: culture wars, indigenous, Politics, violence

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10 replies

  1. Thanks tigtog
    I don’t want to sound naive – the potential of where this latest policy might go worries me a lot. But we’ve all got to work from where we are at, and look at how best to engage with the debate in a way which maximises the chances of taking it somewhere positive.
    Mr Howard is obviously in the position of most strength, but he doesn’t have total power over where things go.

  2. You’re welcome, Andrew. It’s certainly not my intent to portray your view as naive just because it sounds some cautiously optimistic notes as possibilities if we seize the day. We as an electorate need to agitate for squeezing some lemonade out of Howard’s lemons here.

  3. I wasn’t suggesting it’s your intent. Just self-assessing (rather publicly now that I think of it)

  4. Same here – I self-assessed my post as well and felt it could have carried that imputation and wanted to clarify.
    This is quite a fine dance around each other’s sensibilities we’re doing here 🙂

  5. Tigtog, I really appreciate the way that you’re covering this issue, your insights are really apposite.
    While I agree with you and Bartlett that even getting this issue on the table is a Good Thing, it does bother me that Howard is getting all the credit for it when so many people– such as Bartlett, and, from what I have heard, Indigenous Women’s groups, have been talking about these problems for years without being heard.
    I was wondering what you think of Howard’s latest comparison between this Indigenous Crisis and Katrina? Clearly, he’s using that comparison to make himself look better politically– he’s responding to our crisis, making him look much more effective than Bush was in reaction to Katrina. It also makes the crisis seem more immediate– as though it is something that has just happened, something that was dropped on these communities like a hurricane, rather than a problem that has been building up for years. Of course, in the case of Katrina, part of the problem had been building for years, in people knew a hurricane of that scale would happen eventually, but did nothing to protect the areas of New Orleans populated dominantly by poor, black people. However, it’s undeniable that the hurricane itself was one single, identifiable cataclysmic event that directly caused the post-Katrina suffering. In the case of abuse in Indigenous communities, there is no single event we can identify, unless it’s January 26th, 1788– but that day does nothing to encapsulate all the abuses that Aboriginal People have faced since then, at the hands of their colonisers. Howard needs this abuse issue to look like a single cataclysmic event, because otherwise, we’re going to have to start looking back at the events that actually initiated the cycles of abuse that plague some of our most marginalised communities– and of course, those events were initiated by white people, both those who were well meaning, and those who were not.

  6. Howard’s grandstanding on taking the credit for Doing Something is all about his “legacy”, I’m sure.
    The Katrina comparison is frankly odious, for all the reasons you so clearly lay out. Particularly, framing his intervention in terms of what you describe as “a single cataclysmic event” feeds directly back into the grandstanding legacy building.
    I really want all the political actors working against Howard to Not Fuck Their Response Up. He’s made the big bold public move, this is a chance for Labor, Greens and Democrats to loudly assert and credibly back up totally defensible claims that a Labor Government and a Senate where Dems/Greens hold the balance of power is the best way for the Federal Government to best implement and be held accountable for the actions required to effectively attack the need to protect these vulnerable children.

  7. I thought this SMH cartoon was a good response to the attempt at “OMG Teh Surprize!” framing:
    Oh, Thoooooooose Aborigines!

  8. Yes, I had a bitter laugh at that one when I saw it earlier too.


  1. Who do we trust more to Do It Right? at Hoyden About Town
  2. Wallaby
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