Three hot issues

17 Jul

No pun intended in the first case…

Hot issue 1: Climate change

I received a lovely email after commenting on another blog which had been (I thought) unduly impressed by that rather scurrilous documentary The Great Global Warming Swindle. Consequently I have updated and expanded the post to which I have been directing people from that little box at the top of the sidebar, and renamed it: Miranda asks a question or two about climate change. You may read the email there now along with some of the best scientific, as distinct from political or ideological, arguments against The Great Global Warming Swindle that I have been able to find. They are not hard to find. Indeed I am amazed that people like Miranda Devine and Tim Blair still think there is a debate! It is of course true that human activity is not the sole cause of climate change, but it is clear that it has been a very significant factor in the past half century and will be an even more significant factor in the future, but even more to the point, this is a factor about which something may be done. Sceptics (and you perhaps) will be amused by the ally I have found on the question: Margaret Thatcher… I got the heads up on that one from an interview with James Lovelock of Gaia fame on ABC Radio National the other day.

Comments on that post have been re-opened for a short period, say a month.

Hot issue 2: Indigenous Australia

Last night’s Four Corners was masterly. There is no doubting the complexity of the whole business and I can totally understand and respect, indeed value, Jim Belshaw’s long post on the subject: Mr Howard, Mr Brough and Australia’s Aborigines.  Jim and I do have a different take on the whole “sorry” business: I am all for the symbolic course the Howard government turned away from. Indeed I would go so far as to say we have a duty to revive that course as part of a foundation that would remove some of the imputations of racism that surface these days. We must distance ourselves utterly from memories of Pauline Hanson’s views on Aboriginal society and from the pedantry of Quadrant and Windschuttle and others whose influence on Howard has been especially strong. At the same time I have always valued Noel Pearson, and one could not fail to be impressed by him in last night’s program, or indeed (whatever else is on the government agenda, and I suspect much is and has been) by Mal Brough.

MATTHEW CARNEY: Three weeks later, on the morning the housing agreement is to be signed there’s a setback. The traditional owners of Hope Vale who approached us earlier with their concerns are now threatening to boycott the deal.

CLARENCE BOWEN, HOPE VALE TRADITIONAL OWNER: They came through the back door without even consulting.

MATTHEW CARNEY (to Clarence Bowen): Who came through the backdoor?


MATTHEW CARNEY (to Clarence Bowen): So you were never consulted?

CLARENCE BOWEN, HOPE VALE TRADITIONAL OWNER: We were never consulted that they were going to purchase this because there is a lot of sacred sites in that area.

MATTHEW CARNEY (to Tim McGreen): So why have you got the banner? Tell me what the problem is.

TIM MCGREEN: This is for our rights. you see because the traditional owners of Hope Vale didn’t have any recognition. We want to get our rights back now.

NOEL PEARSON (speaking to the public in Hope Vale, outdoors): With today’s agreement that has the potential to solve the housing problem for the people of Hope Vale. We’ve got to have home ownership …

MATTHEW CARNEY: For Noel Pearson it’s the day to confront his community with some hard truths and to take on those who oppose his plans.

NOEL PEARSON, DIRECTOR, CAPE YORK INSTITUTE (speaking to the public in Hope Vale, outdoors): Everybody knows the seething undercurrent. Why do you think the Government is taking 80 children per month to the Child Safety Department, across Cape York Peninsula, including from this community?

And you think I am going to sit back? Sorry, I am not yielding to anybody, because this is as much my home as yours. I am not going to allow my grandfather’s and godfather’s achievements to just be washed down the toilet. There’s got to be some leadership. There’s got to be community leadership. We can’t be all gutless. We can’t all agree that there are these problems, but not have the courage to deal with them …

MATTHEW CARNEY: Pearson says the $15 million deal is not going to be a handout – people will have to change.

NOEL PEARSON (speaking to the public in Hope Vale, outdoors): But I can tell you that you have within your reach here in this community the potential to be great again, the potential to live up to the achievement of your grandfathers, because at the moment we are an embarrassment to their heritage. We are a pale moral shadow of their original achievement. We are a pale shadow of their achievement.

They didn’t have two cents to their name but they never neglected their children. They never have 10 cents to rub together and they brought up their children and sent them to school.

MATTHEW CARNEY: This speech is a turning point for Noel Pearson and his community. It’s potentially a new start for the people here. Later, the traditional owners sign up to the deal.

MATTHEW CARNEY (to Tim McGreen): Tell me why your happier now.

TIM MCGREEN: After Noel’s speech he made it clear what it was all about you know. Finally we get over it and get on with life you know.

MATTHEW CARNEY: By the day’s end at least a dozen families sign on to the plan including the Bowens.

ESTELLE BOWEN: We’ll get to solve a lot of our problems if we have got homes for our young people so they can live by themselves.

Visit that Four Corners. I can’t help thinking too that divorcing the Rugby League and Australian Football worlds from their very public love affair with alcohol would be a very positive step not only for Indigenous Australians but for all Australians. Wowserish, but hard to deny the damage this whitefella drug addiction has wrought. It is not only Indigenous Australia that needs to take a long hard look at some cultural dysfunction. However, alcoholism and drug abuse and all that follows are not specifically Indigenous issues and the ills go deeper to the very fact of dispossession, a process that merely began in 1788 and goes on to this day. The real problem — sorry, a real problem — has also been the vacuum in which so many Indigenous Australians have found themselves in the past twenty years and more. If some good comes of the current focus on these questions then that is a plus, whatever reservations one may have. I hope a Labor government — which I also hope we get — will come back to all this with renewed vision and a willingness to go back to basics, not to turn the clock back to pre 1996 but to revive what has indeed been lost since 1996. But things can never be the same; thank God, in some ways…

Update 18 July

Visit tonight’s Australia Talks on Radio National. There will soon be a podcast there. Various knowledgeable voices explored “Government intervention in Indigenous communities”.

An update on the federal government’s response to the child sexual abuse in Aboriginal communities of the Northern Territory … with the Western Australian government also requesting help. But is the need to upgrade the permit system and wanting to reclaim Aboriginal land a step too far?

19 July: Why am I interested?

If you look at my last substantial comment on this post you will find plenty of indication of that… I really wish it was only about saving children, not that I have anything against that in itself. In fact the disgrace is that we have waited so long on that score. But I really do worry about what is getting in under the radar here. So do others, by no means mad lefties all of them either. My ex-Army Aboriginal nephew in Queensland has no doubt at all that this is what is happening, and he is all for Indigenous entrepreneurship — he’s into it himself and deeply involved in promoting it — and he’s all for the hand-up rather than the handout, but he has real doubts about what is happening right now. And he has seen communities close-up, Palm Island not least…

Concern, whatever form it takes, comes with being Australian. It’s our inescapable problem and destiny, and we have to know it and own it as best we can… Funnily enough some of my earliest intimations of this were when bushwalking in the valleys of the Woronora, Georges and Hacking Rivers — such things were possible — and finding traces — of whom? the Dharug? the Eora? the Dharawal? — in rock overhangs, and spear-sharpening grooves, and such. And some of those traces were very close to home. Not a lot, and I put it aside for many years… As we Australians have tended to do. But also half-knew these were my own ancestral traces too…

Jim Belshaw too has indicated in many posts his own fascination and desire to know more about what this place really is, and what and who has been here this past 40,000 years or more, long before the Romans, the Greeks, the Egyptians, or the legendary tales of Genesis, long before the time we once believed — and some Americans and others still do, not all of them Christians either — was the time of creation. It’s mind-boggling really.

But that past flows on to us today, doesn’t it? Indigenous Australia in all its variety — and by no means are the issues we tend to focus on now the whole picture — is still here, something many in the 19th and early 20th centuries could not imagine. “The Last of His Tribe” was still the most powerful image of Aboriginality in my childhood, that and the funny, strange, and sometimes rather sexual, cartoons of Eric Jolliffe. Who else remembers him? They were once deep in our popular culture… Burke Shire does, apparently.

Hot issue 3: justice in an age of terror

I commented on the Indian doctor case yesterday and have nothing to add.


But I do now. Haneef will be deported regardless of trial: Andrews. John Dowd, a good man and a former judge and Liberal Party New South Wales leader then NSW Attorney General, commented:

“This is a vote-winner for the Government,” he said. “There’s no doubt that the people, a lot of the people out there – they say ‘yes, well he ought to be kept away’, and how the Government’s got to protect us and so on – this is politically astute.”

I don’t think he means politically astute as a compliment.

Naturally the story has featured also in The Times of India and The Hindustan Times.

Coincidentally — it is something I had promised to do some weeks ago — I have just posted on Arthur Miller’s The Crucible on English/ESL.

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22 responses to “Three hot issues

  1. Jim Belshaw

    July 20, 2007 at 6:53 pm

    Neil, I am going to stop our conservation here for the present. I have enjoyed it and learned something, but now I need to absorb the points made.

    There is enough material in the dialogue for a dozen posts. I am going to print the whole post with comments out and read it properly so that i can properly capture and respond to the points made.

    As an aside, I spent an hour or so today trawling census data looking at Aboriginal languages still spoken in NSW. I get the strong impression that the decline has accelerated since 2001. This has nothing to do with the Howard Government, more a failure in NSW despite the NSW Government’s stated policy.

    If we lose the last of the languages, then we have lost access to the sound of the past.

  2. ninglun

    July 20, 2007 at 7:10 pm

    Agree entirely about that last point. Next time I see Andy I must find out if he knows any of the Bandjalung language. I’m not sure he does.

    The exchange has been interesting from my point of view too. Not sure what some of the regulars would make of it though. Thomas was interesting on that. Did you see his entry?

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