October 23, 2007 How much cynicism is too much?
I understand that not everyone reading this blog will be living in Australia, or necessarily familiar with Australian politics. But we are in the lead up to a very important Federal Election. John Howard has held power since 1996 and in this time has managed to strip funding from all manner of institutions and organisations concerned with social justice, divide the nation along the lines of race, cast calls for equality and human rights as the esoteric investment of “special interest groups”, led us into a war based on lies, and been caught out in lies over the “children overboard” scandal and the Australian Wheatboard’s underhanded dealings with Iraq.
From a social justice perspective, his policies, particularly since having control of the Senate during this last term have done lasting damage to some of the most at-risk groups in our country, and the impact of these policies will be felt long after he is removed from power.
So this election is massively important. And for the first time he has a capable opponent in Kevin Rudd. While not wanting to go into bat for Rudd and all his policies or beliefs, there is so much at stake here, that the first concern for anyone invested in social justics, surely has to be, remove Howard first, ask questions later. While I get that Rudd has not positioned himself as champion of the lefties, and I admit that he infuriated me by going along with the recent laws to allow interventions in Aboriginal communities, I do believe that there are fundamental differences between Howard and Rudd.
Labor (the party Rudd leads) have long been positioned as lefties/unionists/beholden to special interest groups, and in the cultural and political environment that Howard has fostered in Australia Rudd has to walk a very careful line if he wants to be elected. Don’t get me wrong, I am not excusing that, I do think it was an unforgivable betrayal to Indigenous Australians to not condemn the form of the interventions proposed by the Liberal party as retrograde and racist. (This will need to be a future post as it’s a very complicated set of issues involved). I do think that Howard has fostered the latent (and vicious) racism in Australian society against Indigenous Australians, by casting the arguments in terms of ‘special interests’ rather than human rights, of ‘neglect of parents’ rather than institutionalised oppression and discrimination, systematic lack of access to resources and assistance. And within this culture, tragically, anyone speaking out and shouting for justice and equality will be branded an irrelevant out of touch radical. It’s bullshit, it’s infuriating, it’s a disgusting topsy-turvy logic, but it’s there.
I do however think that Rudd and a labour government will do more to assist self governement and adequate funding in Indigenous communities and Indigenous support networks and facilities than a Howard government. In fact it is hardly possible to do worse by Indigenous Australians than the Howard governement has. It truly makes my stomach turn, and makes me utterly ashamed to be Australian to review this governments policies. If I try to put it in my own words, I will cry and not finish. Instead, I will post a link of an excellent summary emailed to me last week by my good friend *U.N girl* While my ideal is a government that’*gets real*, says we are a racist country built on genocide and stolen land and it’s about time we addressed that with serious efforts, so deal with it all you whinging priviledged arseholes, that just aint gonna happen in politics is it?
So, seriously, look at Howards record. Then look at Rudds policies (and get off the too cool for school bandwagon of “Oh, his policies are just Howards” – they are not. There is an overlap that goes both ways, but there is promise of equity in Rudd’s, there is talk of respect in Rudd’s, there is the promise of an apology – knowing full well that an apology will finally open the government up to liability for financial redress, and rightfully so – in Rudd’s. While he isn’t perfect, while he’s done wrong, he does come off as a human being, with a heart and a concern for looking at equity and justice – tell me HOW that’s in any way similar to Howard).
Seriously people, what are we doing when the left is doing the right’s job for them in running Rudd into the ground. He’s not John Howard and right there, that’d be enough for me, even if he had nothing else. But he does. He stopped and said genuinely to Howard that an apology to Indigenous Australians was about respect. Right on. The laws are fucked, I know that, I’m hoping like hell that one of the first things he does when he gets in is review them. But there is more being levelled at Indigenous Australians than those laws, and I truly think that at least Rudd will listen, will think, will weigh and balance, and will stop pandering to big business and racists by casting Indigenous issues as ‘special interest’ issues.
Also, look at education, look at Iraq. I’m not claiming he’s perfect. But fuck, does he have to be? Is it not enough to get Howard the fuck away from our legal system and our budget and instead have in place a government that will at least enter into negotiations with various social groups? That has some good policies in place? That has some concern for being accountable to the United Nations? I mean, please – this is the system we’ve got. These are the choices we’ve got. Howard or Rudd. Stop jumping on the trendy bandwagon and pretending they’re the same, because I’m sorry but if you think that you are just plain wrong. Rudd is playing Howard’s game because he has to, but there are fundamental differences, and I swear to god, if your cynicism leads to apathy and Howard gets back in I will hunt down and kill every one of you because he’ll have another term in which to inflict his special brand of hurt more of the most vulnerable people in our country. I am suggesting that those who are saying there’s no difference perhaps have a little too much privelege if they really think that.
Article as promised below
The PM and Aboriginal Australia — a timeline
> FRIDAY, 12 OCTOBER 2007
> Editor of The National Indigenous Times Chris Graham
> John Howard’s brush with Aboriginal Australia — a
> March 1996: In John Howard’s first act as prime minister, he calls a
> press conference and announces his intention to appoint an
> administrator to take over the powers and functions of the ATSIC
> board. It requires a change in the Act, but is blocked in the Senate.
> April 1996: Howard announces he will appoint a special auditor to
> investigate allegations of widespread fraud within organisations
> funded by ATSIC. The special auditor finds no such widespread fraud,
> but the Federal Court soon thereafter deems the appointment of the
> special auditor illegal.
> May 1996: In his first budget as Prime Minister, Howard announces a
> cut of $470 million from the ATSIC budget, forcing ATSIC to close a
> raft of community and youth support programs, including women’s
> May 1997: John Howard releases his Wik 10-Point Plan.
> May 1997: At the Reconciliation Convention in Melbourne, Howard bangs
> the lectern and shouts at the audience as he claims symbolism will
> deliver nothing, and unofficially launches the policy of ‘practical
> reconciliation’. He also defends his ‘Wik 10 Point Plan’ which
> proposes to amend the Native Title Act (which had come out of the Mabo
> The plan was passed by parliament, but decried by the United Nations
> and the international community, which labelled it racist. Members of
> the audience famously turn their backs on Howard as he speaks.
> 4th September 1997: John Howard on The 7.30 Report alongside a map of
> Australia with sections coloured brown, “What has happened with Native
> title is that the pendulum has swung too far in one direction,
> particularly after the Wik decision. What I have done with this
> legislation is bring it back to the middle. Let me just show your
> viewers that this shows 78 per cent of the landmass of Australia
> coloured brown on this map. Now, the Labor Party and the Democrats are
> effectively saying that the Aboriginal people of Australia should have
> the potential right of veto over further development of
> 78 per cent of the landmass of Australia.”
> August 1999: Howard officially refuses a national apology for members
> of the Stolen Generations, with parliament instead issuing a statement
> of sincere and deep regret.
> October 1999: John Howard on the importance of voting yes to the
> preamble for reconciliation, “A preamble is a broad statement of
> values and principles which aim to reflect the spirit, traditions and
> sentiment which underpin our commitment to the Constitution. It would
> also provide Australians with an opportunity to highlight the
> aspirations we share as we enter the second century of our nationhood.
> The great value of the preamble is that it can unite republicans and
> anti-republicans behind commonly held Australian values. It is not
> conditional on whether the republic is supported or rejected. It can
> also make a contribution to the reconciliation process which is one of
> the most important issues we face as a nation as we enter the new
> century. The preamble honours “Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders,
> the nations first people, for their deep kinship with their lands and
> for their ancient and continuing cultures which enrich the life of our
> 28th May 2000: Howard refuses to attend the Bridge Walks for
> 29th May 2000: John Howard as quoted on The 7.30
> Report: “I speak for the entire government on this and it’s a matter
> that’s been discussed at great length. We don’t think it’s appropriate
> for the current generation of Australians to apologise for the
> injustices committed by past generations.”
> November 2002: The Howard government announces a review into ATSIC.
> The review, which cost over $2 million, recommends reform of the body,
> and a strengthening of the regional council structure and the election
> of local officials. Howard proposes abolition instead.
> October 2004: Howard formally dumps ‘reconciliation’
> from the government agenda, axing the ‘Minister Assisting the Prime
> Minister on Reconciliation’
> portfolio during a post-election cabinet reshuffle.
> June 2005: Howard abolishes the
> democratically-elected ATSIC. He replaces it with a group of
> hand-picked Aboriginal ‘advisers’ (the National Indigenous Council).
> One of the first acts of the NIC is to recommend the compulsory
> acquisition of Aboriginal land in the Northern Territory.
> May 2006: During his visit to Canada, Howard successfully lobbies new
> conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper to reverse Canada’s support
> for the UN’s Draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
> September 2006: John Howard reacts to the Native Title Noongar win in
> Perth, saying the federal court decision was one of “considerable
> concern”, with the government falsely claiming a day later that even
> beaches in Sydney could be under threat.
> June 2007: Howard launches his ‘emergency intervention’ into the
> Northern Territory in response to the Little Children are Sacred
> August 2007: Six weeks after the announcement the Northern Territory
> Emergency Response Act is passed, giving the Government power to
> acquire Aboriginal land for five years and hold back 50% of all
> welfare payments for necessary items. The long standing permit system,
> enacted as part of the 1976 Aboriginal Land Rights Act (Northern
> Territory) is scrapped. The legislation includes exemptions from the
> Racial Discrimination Act.
> September 2007: Howard orders his delegates at the UN to vote against
> the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
> 11 October 2007: Howard delivers a speech to The Sydney Institute in
> which he introduces “new reconciliation” and a promise to amend the
> preamble to the Constitution to acknowledge Indigenous Australians
> should he be returned to Government at the looming election.