Sunday, September 14, 2014

Oh lucky country, a PM that goes camping ...

So this is how it's going to roll in the Murdoch tabloid press.

Alarmist hysteria, amidst the EXCLUSIVE news that a few Islamic fundies have used unkind words to Australian soldiers.

Where this leaves the pond's sundry unkind words to road enraged Sydney motorists, passing flatfoot coppers and dunderhead Murdoch journalists remains a mystery. Not to mention the routine efforts of thugby league boofheads to behead each other on the weekend, as featured on the Terror's front page alongside the terrorists ...

So having set loose the alarums and the panic and the dogs of war, what to make of this sort of headline?

Yes if you read Abbott you get this sort of message:

“I want to stress that this does not mean that a terror attack is imminent,” the prime minister said, speaking next to the Asio director general, David Irvine, in Melbourne. “We have no specific intelligence of particular plots. What we do have is intelligence that there are people with the intent and the capability to mount attacks. I want to stress that.” (here)

But if you read the reptiles, they're in a state of blind panic and frothing, foaming hysteria, with a public beheading of a soldier in the streets of Sydney just around the corner. The Bolter is outraged and indignant, Diggers are being done down by dirty deeds, done verbally dirt cheap, and there's war on the streets and ...

Well it's not drawing a long bow to suggest that should something happen, the climate of hysteria and incipient violence will owe a lot to Tony Abbott, and to the Murdoch tabloids, whipping up paranoia fear and loathing.

Meanwhile, is there any other way the grandstanding Abbott can manage a grand stand?

Well on Monday he's off to Arnhem land for a week, having signally failed in his promise.

Remember this?

Before the election Tony Abbott pledged to be "a prime minister for Aboriginal affairs." 
Recognising Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the Australian constitution has been one of his most consistent promises. 
At the Garma annual cultural festival in Arnhem Land on August 10, 2013, Mr Abbott said: "As far as I am concerned, one of the most important things that any new government could achieve would be the final recognition of Indigenous people in the Australian constitution." 
"Indigenous recognition would not be changing our constitution, but completing our constitution, and until this is done our country will not be whole," he said. (here, and in need of updating)

Well the country better get used to being holey, because the pond can't see how it's whole, or the promise delivered:

"Within 12 months, we will publish a proposal for constitutional recognition and we will establish a bipartisan process to try to bring that about as soon as possible".

Now the pond is always a little mystified by conventional Gregorian calendars, but the election took place on 7th September and here we are on the 14th September, more than a year later, and if "within" is understood by its dictionary definition, then we are definitely "without".

There was much blather of a quite cosmic kind:

"This should be a great unifying moment for our country, a unifying moment perhaps to surpass the 1967 referendum or the national apology". 

Yep, just as Abbott wants to outdo Rudd on frequent flyer points, he wants to be seen as the great white hope:

"Let us hope so. It's more important to get it right than to rush it, but by God, we will have failed if we do not do it, because until we do it, our country will be torn, our country will be incomplete". 
 "If we do it, if we do it well... then more fully than at any other time in our history, black and white people can march as brothers and sisters arm in arm into a brighter future."

Let's settle for incomplete... and torn.

Abbott set himself up for failing to deliver by that classic political means - a panel - and they delivered the goods, as you can read in Case not made for indigenous reform, Tony Abbott told, if you can be bothered getting around the lizard Oz paywall:

Awareness and understanding of the push to acknowledge ­indigenous Australians in the Constitution have not reached a point where the nation can proceed directly to a referendum, a panel headed by former deputy prime minister John Anderson has warned Tony Abbott. 

The Prime Minister and Bill Shorten have been briefed on the contents of Mr Anderson’s report, which urges Mr Abbott to turbo- boost a national campaign on the issue. After the briefing, Mr Abbott gave the strongest indication yet that a referendum before or at the next federal election was unlikely and that he believed his government needed to invest in a much bigger campaign for change to win people over. 
“It is one thing to commit to a referendum on constitutional recognition of indigenous Australians and another to deliver a successful referendum outcome,” Mr Abbott told The Weekend ­Australian.

So there you go. The great unifying moment has been and gone, and the country is torn and incomplete, and all Abbott could do was blather about how hard referendums were to win, in which case, why did he bother with all the bullshit and the blather and the humbug in the first place?

So where does this leave Noel Pearson, Mundine and the other fellow travelling Abbott humbuggers?

Well in a peculiar place, but with Pearson galloping to save the day, and the reptiles in a state of ecstatic rapture.

There was Patricia Karvelas going into another dimension with Power of Noel Pearson what nation needs (behind the paywall lest you be blinded by the light), and Patricia Karvelas getting blinded by the light in Noel Pearson finds way to salvage referendum, advance his people, and Patricia Karvelas getting terribly excited in Recognition debate 'needs Noel Pearson' to convince conservatives. (behind the paywall lest you give up your worldly goods and follow Pearson).

It would be a lot simpler if Pearson simply appointed Karvelas as his publicist.

Now the pond won't be forking over cash to read Pearson in the Quarterly, and the pond is open to arguments that practical matters in the indigenous community might be more pressing than changes to a scrap of paper, but it's Abbott himself who made the issue of constitutional amendment such a pressing, central matter in the heart and soul of the nation, and made all sorts of promises to the Aboriginal nation to deliver it.

So where have we reached?

The recognition debate will go some distance towards providing an answer and, just now, there is no certainty of securing the level of consensus required to ensure a successful referendum. Why? Because indigenous Australians will reject as meaningless purely symbolic recognition, while conservatives oppose the kind of substantive change advocated by the expert panel set up by Julia Gillard in December 2010. 
Against this backdrop, Pearson has suggested a third way, one that avoids the controversy over inserting a new rights power in the constitution that would outlaw racial discrimination, by inserting a requirement that indigenous people are given a say in laws and policies affecting them. "My argument is that, if A is the expert panel's position, B is the constitutional conservative objection to it, I'm not trying to split A and B in half. I'm trying to say, well, actually, there might be a C position here and the C position is not half A, half B," is how Pearson explained it to Chris Uhlmann on ABC radio. 
Problem is, it is premature (and potentially problematic) to be canvassing position C. The parliamentary committee Abbott established to draft a referendum question by year's end is expected to propose a form of words within weeks, based on a forensic examination of the expert panel's recommendations. It should be allowed to complete its work. (here).

Yep, in a mess and in position C, a position which might find itself in the same sort of difficulty as Abbott's original grand pact - you see if if's good enough for indigenous people given a constitutional right to have a say in the laws and policies affecting them, then the pond can see the line developing, that it's certainly good enough for other people, tribal or racial, to have a say in the laws and policies affecting them ...

The Vietnamese dry cleaning association, for example, or the Calathumpian collective, or the loon pond association of loons disrupted by federal government loon legislation ...

And so another debate opens up, and Abbott flies north on Monday, and already the reptiles are trying to shape the message, as in We need to be heard by Abbott, say Arnhem Land elders (behind the paywall because you need to pay to be heard):

The Yolngu want to empower the Dilak, those adults who have traditional authority, but who struggle to be heard in the wider world. The referendum, then, should enforce the right of the Dilak to speak for their people, and ensure their opinions are heard, the Yolngu say. 
It should be a melding of two systems of authority. The thing that needs to change for a successful referendum in Yolngu eyes is a problem of Aboriginal representation and fair participation in our existing system of democratic rights. “Listen to us blackfella Abor­iginals — that is the simple message we are giving to you.”

Uh huh. But if the Bolter had his way, the Yolgnu would be packed off to a town camp in Darwin and merged, blended into the white population, and that would be the end of that sort of talk.

Yes, there he was getting outraged at Jacqui Lambie going kiwi and proposing indigenous seats in Parliament:

For a proposal meant to unite us, the proposed referendum to recognise Aborigines in the constitution is prompting an awful lot of dangerous ideas to divide us by “race”. 

The idea that people like Lambie are so different to the rest of us that they require separate representation is as stupid as it is divisive.  (here)

And here's the modern A. O. Neville on Pearson:

What Pearson wants is a further parliament just for one “race”, to give members of that “race” more power than members of other “races”, and a different legal status. This would dismember our polity and our community. No to racism. No to racial division. No to this racist change to our constitution. (here)

Here's Mr Neville on re-location:

... integration is the great evil and instead we’ve wasted millions trying to save communities that might be better dismantled. For instance, taxpayers have lavished an astonishing $100 million over six years on the 3500 people in four Cape York communities in a trial of the ideas of Noel Pearson, yet reported sexual offences in one of the towns is six times the state average, with 29 children under 10 treated for sexually transmitted diseases. Black settlements out bush are largely broken. Assimilation, not Aboriginal culture, is the best hope for Aboriginal children. (here)

Thanks Mr Devil.

And there's Abbott's problem in a nutshell. He cosied up to the Bolter, and yet the Bolter and his ilk will be eternally recalcitrant when it comes to anything that Abbott proposes in relation to constitutional amendment.

So what will be left? Well there'll be plenty of grandstanding:

Prime Minister Tony Abbott plans to run his Government from a tent during his week-long visit to north-east Arnhem Land starting on Sunday. 
Mr Abbott is expected to camp outside the town of Nhulunbuy, 600 kilometres east of Darwin in a remote pocket of the Northern Territory. (here)

A camping PM, which the pond hastens to add, is different from a camp PM.

But Abbott is a man out of his depth, a man with divided allegiances, a man too dumb to understand that his embrace of the Bolter in the past might make life difficult for him in the present.

Think what you will of Mark Latham - the pond has thought many things - his snidery is on the mark at the AFR with In pursuit of mission impossible:

Not surprisingly in Aboriginal affairs, Tony Abbotthas adopted the missionary position. 
 The former trainee priest is approaching his week-long stay in Arnhem Land, starting on Monday, the same way as Dr Livingstone marched into Zanzibar: with a compass in one hand and a Bible in the other. 
Last year, I wrote of the three driving forces in Abbott’s political identikit: Priest, Partisan and Populist – the three Ps. He’s someone who dispenses a unique mix of individual pastoral care, cross-party combat and electoral opportunism. He has no guiding ideology or political philosophy, only an amalgam of personal habits and emotions acquired from life’s journey. 
On matters indigenous, the Prime Minister is devoid of big ideas. Rather, his interests are intensely personal. He has befriended two Aboriginal spokesmen with unsettled private lives: Noel Pearson and Warren Mundine. 
Abbott has undertaken a pastoral mission, healing these two troubled souls and spinning it to the media as a front-line commitment to indigenous Australia. In terms of hard, rigorous reform, his commitment to this policy area is as shallow as an Arnhem Land billabong. 
The best that can be said for Abbott’s visit is that it continues a long-running quest for discovery, looking at society from a different angle. As a North Shore Liberal representing Mosman, Seaforth and Balmoral – some of the best buys on Sydney’s Monopoly board – the Prime Minister’s exposure to poverty is on a par with Paul Keating’s encounters with humility. 
Prior to the 2001 election, during one of my periods of self-imposed exile from Kim Beazley’s frontbench, I lured Abbott, then the Howard government’s employment services minister, to visit a public housing estate in my seat of Werriwa. The Catholic nuns were sponsoring a series of community enrichment programs, so it was a fair bet that young Tony would take an interest. 
As he surveyed the Bronx-like wastelands of Claymore, he said to me, “I never knew places like this existed” – an honest appraisal of a closeted life. To his credit, Abbott has tried to broaden his experiences beyond the hot-button concerns of his Warringah constituency: stockmarket and surf conditions. (and more here)

There's a few more zingers, but what do you know, in the end, Latham turns out to be a Bolter and a Mr. Neville too:

Policymakers now face an uncomfortable choice: either maintaining the land rights agenda (and with it, the inevitability of welfare dependency) or helping Aboriginal people move to centres of genuine economic activity. 

The latter option would involve closing down places like Doomadgee and funding relocation subsidies. If Pearson and Mundine want to build a new world of indigenous opportunity, it will need to be built in urban Australia. 
The land rights struggle has produced complacency on both sides of politics. For left-wingers, it has satisfied their desire to do something in Aboriginal affairs, without actually improving living conditions. For conservatives, it has conferred a property right from which, by the normal standards of free enterprise, indigenous communities should be able to generate wealth and become more self-sufficient. Left and right have arrived at a surreal stand-off. If neither side raises the employment problem, they are both free to concentrate on soft, symbolic gestures – such as parliamentary apologies, constitutional recognition and sleep-over visits in Arnhem Land. 
This is the politics of convenience: white guys from the south-eastern corner of the continent cleansing their consciences with an indigenous agenda that does nothing to improve indigenous lives. Whether in Claymore or Doomadgee, lumping disadvantaged people together in disadvantaged places makes the problem of the underclass exponentially worse. A policy of relocation and dispersal is the only logical solution from which the other good intentions of government in education and training start to make sense.

The pond looks forward to Abbott emerging from his tent to announce that everyone should just forget the constitution, or any idle talk of amendments, and all the boastful promises that Abbott made and failed to keep, and instead everyone should just listen as he advises the assembled Aboriginal community that the left and right agree, and that everybody should forthwith pack up and leave Arnhem land and Doomadgee and Cape York and Mossman Gorge and ... and now, if you don't mind, Mr Abbott will be getting back to familiar issues, such as the surf conditions in Warringah ...

It would be funny if it didn't involve the tragedies of lives lived in dismal conditions ...

As it is, it's frequently pathetic ...

And there's the rub. The number of people dead in Australian streets as the result of the work of terrorists and fundamentalists is around zero. Back in 2013, it was noted that there'd been a spike in Aboriginal deaths in custody: Aboriginal deaths in custody numbers rise sharply over past five years.

And how about High rates of preventable vision loss among Aboriginal Australians. You can hear it discussed on Ockham's Razor here.

And so on and so forth. And Tony Abbott goes camping ...

(Below: and more Wilcox here)

Mosman, driver. Been camping and doing it rough for a week. Time served, duty done, honour fulfilled. Time for a shower and a surf and a bicycle ride ...


  1. A reassuring lie.

  2. Anon,
    try this link:


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