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.