Saturday, July 28, 2007

John Howard - Never One for a Racist & Politically Convenient Landgrab

Long story short - spraypainted cow meets an Australian journo-ecofascist-hypocrite-bastard and asks for a Southern contribution to Mask of Anarchy. Regularity will vary from predictable to unexpected and back to unlikely until the tragic day that Korova stabs me in the heart for going a Steve Irwin gag too far.

However Australia is perceived globally at the moment I can only guess. I would assume that our identity is something in the order of cricket, racism, rugby, climate change denial, shane warne, big eyebrowed dickhead little sycophant Prime Minister mopping up White House jism, more rugby, kangaroos, beer, and cricket. Did I mention racism?

What we have going on right now is quite astounding. The quality of our domestic racism has really taken a battering. We have been shipping it, or intercepting shipping with it, globally but we're finally getting back to basics at home. Thank goodness! I'd hate to think that yellow, black, and brown people outside Australia are feeling more persecuted or stereotyped than our own people of colour. The poor ones, that is. We'd never consider Ehud Olmert a murderer any more than we'd consider Mumia Abu Jamahl a scholar or Alberto Gonzales the bit his mama should have thrown away.

Quick Australian history - White Australia policy in effect until late 1960s. Aware of Aboriginal family groups and nations being connected by relationship to blood and to land, children are separated from families and brought up as servants or on missions hundreds or thousands of kilometres from both. A national referendum in 1967 sees Australians vote in favour of changing the Constitution to recognize Aboriginal Australians as human, rather than fauna. Seriously. Revolutions of sorts through the 70s - land rights, womens rights, the Aboriginal Tent Embassy, all that good stuff.

As we moved through the '80s toward the Bicentennial in 1988, more and more questions were asked about national identity, values, direction. Unfortunately a lot of unquestioning flag waving and firework shows drowned most of this out. Still, the idea of a Treaty was finally before the nation - acknowledgment that wrongs had been done, war had been waged, and healing and recognition could only happen through real commitment to make them happen. At this time, the leader of the federal opposition in Parliament kicked up quite a stink.

In fact, when the issue of a Treaty was raised he made a vow - a vow that if such a Treaty was ever made between the indigenous and non-indigenous people of Australia, the first thing that he would do if elected would be to tear it up. His name was John Howard. Yes. That one.

When he was eventually elected, he really delivered. Native Title legislation was amended to offset the pro-indigenous impacts of a significant court ruling. Howard attended the landmark national summit on reconciliation in 1997. Before the most significant gathering of indigenous leaders in Australia in well over a hundred years he praised Australia's history. He acknowledged the 'blemish' of genocide, but made it clear that there would be no 'Sorry' - the one word for which so many people had campaigned. And just to rub glass in the haemorrhage, ATSIC - the only directly elected representation for indigenous Australians - has also been disbanded and abolished under Howard.

Bringing Them Home - the report on The Stolen Generation - was an amazing moment of potential in modern Australia. Did anything happen under Howard to acknowledge its significance? Not really. The recommendations of the report on Aboriginal Deaths in Custody - was there an overhauling of the treatment of Aboriginals in confinement? Not really. The report on child abuse in remote indigenous communities, Little Children Are Sacred - has that been acted upon?

Yes. The army and the police have been sent in as election-year Johnny has ignored the report's recommendation that authorities and services work with communities. Social security and benefits for children are now paid as vouchers or under coercive conditions. The report specifically recommended against cutting welfare to women in abusive relationships as this could provoke further violence from their dependent partner. Legislation has been changed in such a way that communities must now rent land they used to freehold.

They no longer have rights to say who comes in or stays out. Sounds a bit heavy handed, but it can easily be done with the public relations lubricant of consent. Find the right couple of blackfellas and for a bunch of money or a bit of respect (or both) it can all be official. They'll sign away control and rights which aren't theirs to sign away. But their signatures look and sound impressive.

And that is what is happening now. The patriarchal hand of systemic racism has wound the clock back many more decades than seemed possible even five years ago. Not saying it's a sure thing, but if I was a uranium mining company, or a land developer, or a nuclear waste dump without a home - I'd be quite excited by the latest action in Australia's Northern Territory.

So what is happening here in Australia right now is disastrous - for communities, for human rights, for understanding, for the future environment, but most particularly for the kids of the most disadvantaged cross-section of Australian society. Once again, it's an election year and the incumbent Prime Minister appears to be demonstrating a sudden and forceful concern for the children of brown people to whom he has previously shown little to no positive regard.

It's a veritable Aboriginal Children Overboard. Election polling indicates a readiness for change in Australia. Howard's manipulation of public fear and ignorance on matters of the economy, law, environment, human rights, global politics, reality and terror seem to have finally worn thin. But that can flip in next to no time, as has repeatedly happened in the past. Still, a federal opposition party holding a 10+% lead for eight straight months. . . . fingers crossed.

Although that's a totally different topic for another time, that is the point it is getting to in Australia, imho. Finally the federal opposition seems competent, and that's more than enough reason to switch. Even some stuffy conservatives and well-financed business types think Howard has gone off the deep end. Unfortunately, APEC is coming to Sydney. The best thing that could happen to his reelection chances would be an almighty terrorist attack - one day to disprove 5 years of accusations that he's a politically motivated fearmonger could definitely boost the ratings.