Who do we trust more to Do It Right?

I said this in comments on a previous post regarding the NT Indigenous Emergency Plan, and I want to expand on the theme, as it feels like some electoral scales may have fallen from my eyes.

I really want all the political actors working against Howard to Not F*ck 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.

With the current composition of the Federal legislature, Howard’s 6 month plan is pretty much a done deal. The extra police and troops will be on the ground, the restrictions on grog and porn will be in place, the health checks will begin and the indigenous lands entry permit system will be at least partially dismantled. The question is, how do we make sure that it’s not the Liberals still calling the shots at the end of the 6 months, so that the necessary measures can be continued and the counterproductive measures can be curtailed?

Obviously, many people are pushing Labor as hard as they can simply to get rid of Howard and his likeminded Libs. Ideally, the Liberals losing government in the next election will at least mean that the worst-case land-grab scenario will be totally off the table, and that a more measured, collaborative approach to the sexual abuse crisis can be implemented.

But what if the Libs squeak it in in the House of Representatives? It may well come down to Rudd’s leadership on this issue on which Howard has staked such a large throw. Kim at LP has a post up detailing why her disappointment with Rudd’s response means her vote will be going to the Greens. Many people are attacking her for this choice, and nearly all of them are underplaying the importance of the balance of power in the Senate. Brian Harradine succeeded in having some extraordinarily socially-conservative (even reactionary) legislation passed as an Independent Senator because his vote held the balance of power. Andrew Bartlett recently posted on the vital importance of a balanced and independent Senate, a Senate that can actually fully debate and scrutinise the legislation drafted by the lower House without having procedural fast-tracking foisted upon it by a government Senate majority.

My concluding observation contains some obvious self-interest, but fortunately its accuracy is backed up by history. The risk from a change of government is much reduced if that government is overseen by a balanced Senate which is able to function independently and take a common sense, evidence based approach to scrutinising what the government is doing and proposing. Similarly, the chances of change being more balanced and properly thought through also increases with the greater checks and balances that an independent Senate can bring. So regardless of whether we change the government at the coming election or not, we need to change the Senate to return it to a balanced independent body that can help the public keep a proper check on what that government is doing.

The oversight role of Senate needs to be hammered home in every discussion of the Indigenous Emergency Plan. Those disappointed with the Labor response so far can be reassured that so long as they don’t give either Libs or Labs a Senate majority, then the Senate can exercise proper checks and balances to any government implementation of the NT plan.

Many people are, quite rightly, asking for a non-partisan response to the NT sexual abuse crisis. The big problem with that is that it’s almost impossible to abide by in an election year. So I would ask anyone who, for long-term ideological reasons, is planning to hold their nose and vote either Liberal/National or Labor to form the government in the upcoming election: don’t give either of those blocs control over the Senate. Give the country a record number of Senators who don’t come from either major bloc instead. Independents, Australian Democrats and Greens Senators galore, please!

This is the only way that I can see to end up with a truly non-partisan implementation of long-term actions that will end up making a real difference to abused indigenous children.

Update: Mark Bahnisch expands on bi-partisanship/non-partisanship at Larvatus Prodeo.



Categories: culture wars, indigenous, Politics, social justice, violence

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

17 replies

  1. Independents, Australian Democrats and Greens Senators galore, please!

    I’ve confess I’ve gone right off independents since the drawn-out Harradine catastrophe. Unless you have an independent with a demonstrated track record in and commitment to social justice – Democrats and Greens ahoy! At least they have a wee bit of responsibility to their party’s aims and objectives.

  2. Lauredhel, I hear your point on the Independents. There’s no reason an Independent has to be a reactionary like Harradine, but progressives generally would want to be sure that any putative Independent has a demonstrated track record as you say.
    After all, Harradine sold indigenous lands rights legislation down the river in order to get pro-life bills passed. How do we think a Family First Senator might vote if offered the choice between protecting 20,000 indigenous children from paedophiles and banning 100,000 abortions a year?

  3. On the FF point….this is bit of a sedge, but does ayone have the stats of FF’s level of indigenous votes?
    (I dont have a clue, btw, i havent followed their party much at all)
    I just have a hunch it may be higher than we may expect, given the traditionally (in a contemporary sense) conservative leaning of a significant percent of aboriginal people. Their national leader is/ was an aboriginal woman wasnt she?
    Speaking of counterintuitiveness, having spent a little time in and with different aboriginal and islander groups , i even have a sneaking suspicion that the Feds Brough love approach could even send a few more aboriginal votes their way. I know this sounds bizarre, but its just a hunch.
    ANother reason the ALP needs to give utmost thought and sensitivity to this one. I’m not surpised by Rudds response as yet. He’;s on the ground listening very carefully…(today up in Cairns at a conference listening to a raft of different aboriginal voices).

  4. A lot of Indigenous people are evangelicals and Protestants, but it’s worth remembering that FF doesn’t have much of a vote generally to speak of!

  5. SC, I could totally understand some indigenous voters thinking that unless they act now to break the abuse cycle they will lose a generation and lose the impetus to gain further self-governance autonomy anyway. They could well see it as worth voting for Howard et al in order to solve the problem.
    That’s why it’s so important to get the word out about other parties being better guardians for the continuation of a collaborative abuse intervention plan once it’s had its 6 months of circuit-breaking under Howard.

  6. Wasn’t the loss of an independent senate what made 2004 such a double-whammy?
    Thanks, idiot ALP ‘Right’ faction and gulled yet again electorate.
    At least in previous years you had independents able to force parliamentary inquiries into a number of stunts previously pulled or attempted by the coalition ( truth overboard etc).
    The odd thing with FF is, as Bartlett has observed, they sometimes go in quite hard on issues the government would prefer them to avoid, including industrial relations and welfare changessince these affect their mortgage belt, blue coller Hansonist ‘battler’ constituency quite hard.
    In the lower house, Peter Andren shows the value of an intelligent independent, sometimes asking questions that the ALP, who should be asking them, will shy away from. But even were Labor to win, the senate remains the same for some time after the election.
    TigTog’s point concerning idigenous people is shrewd, given Pearson’s comments concerning “collectives” and privatisation; typical ‘third way’ tripe.
    If there is to be a future hiving-off of yet more public assets, may be some within the indigenous community might actually welcome an opportunity to position themselves for a future personal benefit, should such a process open up such possiblities.

  7. That’s why it’s so important to get the word out about other parties being better guardians for the continuation of a collaborative abuse intervention plan once it’s had its 6 months of circuit-breaking under Howard.

    Good point tt, though wedging on this issue (by either side, ) is poor form, imho. Its far too complex.
    (It seems Martin’s government pitched quite similar ideas to the Feds last year.)

  8. The question is, how do we make sure that it’s not the Liberals still calling the shots at the end of the 6 months, so that the necessary measures can be continued and the counterproductive measures can be curtailed?

    Too much to expect that effective measures be implemented then? Lateline tonight again gives voice to the only indigenous person in Australia right now apparently. So good to hear Noel Peasorn castigating people who work on the coal face of indigenous child protection as merely “indulgent”.

  9. This is one of the reasons why I’ve been critical of Pearson for years. A lot of bluster, and he rarely misses an opportunity to damn “progressives” while attacking people for politicising these issues. He’s a moralist – give up the grog and the problems go away. Well, we’ll see. But there’s a significant subtext of intra-Indigenous politics here – which I think comes through in Pearson’s dismissal of Indigenous organisations who dare to question the “emergency” measures. Precisely the same rhetoric as Howard and Brough – if you’re not with me, you’re against the kids.

  10. He’s a moralist – give up the grog and the problems go away.

    It is not only the moralist who can recognize the damage caused by alcoholism, Mark. So I don’t think you’ve quite proved your thesis there.

  11. So good to hear Noel Peasorn castigating people who work on the coal face of indigenous child protection as merely “indulgent”.

    Actually he castigated those who, as he sees it, are standing in the way of the current initiatives. Which is not the same thing at all, su.

  12. When the transcript is out, if you can read it fairly and find a single instance of him according legitimacy to any criticism, I’ll be prepared to discuss modifying that characterisation, wbb. “With me or against me” was really the thrust. I was extremely disappointed both at the simplistic and dichotomised thrust of his remarks and the failure of Leigh Sales to question him rigorously.

  13. It was a right sight to watch Pearson, Rudd and Ken Henry at this mysterious “Institute” of Pearsons that has suddenly become so much of a mouthpiece for non-tory conservatism on Lateline, last night.
    Then the interview with Sales, with Pearson into that sort of predictable anti-progressive rant that irritates Mark.
    Those who read Dr. Anne Summers latest oped in the SMH will recall her scepticism at Rudd’s Beazleyism; his falling back into the trap of “metooism”.
    As with IR, if there is not that forceful refutation here of illogic and a rightful challenging of the paradigm, its reinforcement by default follows. All this because of this anal adherence to conservatist ideology from people who should know better, like the three examples above.
    And, PS, I still reckon Lateline was coopted into pushing a government line of which the latest antics are only another stage developed from last year. Indictes the depth of Howard’s cooption of public media in our country, despite many years of courageous resistance by broadsheet journalists.
    Exponentially later for Oz than many of its apathetic cdenizens might think, I suspect!

  14. Actually he castigated those who, as he sees it, are standing in the way of the current initiatives.

    Including all of those who specialize in child protection issues Wbb, Prof Judy Atkinson and Dr Helen Milroy for example. If you can find a single person who has professional knowledge of child abuse issues and supports this plan, let me know.

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