Saturday salon 15/11


An open thread where, at your leisure, you can discuss anything you like, well, within reason and the Comments Policy. Include here news and views, plus any notable personal experiences from the week and the weekend.

For climate topics please use the most recent Climate clippings.

The gentleman in the image is Voltaire, who for a time graced the court of Frederick II of Prussia, known as Frederick the Great. King Fred loved to talk about the universe and everything at the end of a day’s work. He also used the salons of Berlin to get feedback in the development of public policy.

Fred would only talk in French; he regarded German as barbaric. Here we’ll use English.

The thread will be a stoush-free zone. The Comments Policy says:

The aim [of this site] is to provide a venue for people to contribute and to engage in a civil and respectful manner.

Here are a few bits and pieces that came to my attention last week.

1. Abbott puts his foot in his mouth

Yesterday David Cameron made a speech in Parliament about freedom and democracy. At an international business breakfast attended by David Cameron Abbott said there was ‘nothing but bush’ in Australia before white settlement.

The self-appointed “Prime Minister for Aboriginal Affairs” Tony Abbott has reiterated the legal fiction of “terra nullius” stating that Australia was “nothing but bush” before British invasion and called pre-colonisation civilisation “extraordinarily basic and raw”.

Will someone please take this embarrassing man away and give us a real prime minister?

2. Palmer DisUnited Party

Clive Palmer and Jacqui Lambie have been engaging in a colourful slanging match. Lambie says she won’t resign unless she’s kicked out, but she might have to distance herself from the party. Palmer says she won’t answer the phone or return his calls and that she raises no issues when the party meets. It’s hard to see this fracture being patched up.

According to a vox pop conducted in Tasmania, she has a bit of support, but many are scathing and find her embarrassing. Her attitude may make things harder for the LNP to get legislation through the senate, but will reduce Palmer’s leverage.

3. Rundle on Palmer

Meanwhile Guy Rundle has been studying the mercurial Clive Palmer’s politics. He finds the politics of Clive Palmer:

a mildly centre-right politics, grounded in Australian Catholic traditions and social movement doctrine, and tracing their lineage back to the party whose name he wanted to adopt, the United Australia Party.

Rundle identifies a doctrine on which the Australian political and social settlement is based.

Because the arbitration system and the Harvester judgement that inaugurated it took their moral language from Rerum Novarum, the 1891 encyclical that sparked off the Catholic social movements, we can say that it is this doctrine, and its secular variants, that sits at the very centre of Australian political values, and major parties depart too far from it at their peril. It consists not merely of a set of social rules, but of an idea of what it is to be human, an idea of depth, and of selfhood as achieved in the exercise of mutual obligation.

Such a doctrine, drawing also from nineteenth-century social liberalism and classical and Christian notions of freedom as flourishing within communal life, is a world away from the atomised and content-less self of classical liberal doctrine, and the neoliberal political-economic movement that derives from it.

He locates Palmer’s politics within this tradition. Abbott promised to govern within this tradition, but he lied.

4. Wayne Goss in memoriam

Former Queensland premier Wayne Goss died during the week. Goss is noted for bringing the ALP back to power after 32 years of conservative rule and implementing the reforms recommended by Tony Fitzgerald in his inquiry into police corruption which flourished under Joh Bjelke Petersen. Fitzgerald described Goss as a man of “uncompromising integrity”.

The other Fitzgerald, Professor Ross Fitzgerald, described Goss as a “steady hand, but he really wasn’t a radical reformer”.

There was nothing steady about the way Goss’s government turned the public service inside out. In fact I left in 1991 in large measure because of the hypocrisy the Education Department displayed in ‘valuing people’. Ironically schooling in Queensland was modernised and humanised in the 1970s and 1980s under Joh, possibly because Joh himself took little direct interest in it and always handed education to a junior minister.

It’s astonishing to think that the magnificent Cultural Centre complex was built during the Joh years.

Still, the joint certainly needed cleaning up and Goss certainly did it.

5. Remembering the Berlin wall

“Die Mauer muss weg!” (“Away with the wall!”)

We also had the 25th anniversary of the destruction of the Berlin Wall during the week.

Originally it was assumed that the West would take over the East. Der Spiegel suggests that in fact there has been movement the other way and what has happened is that a genuinely new Germany has emerged.

6. WA plans to close Aboriginal communities

I couldn’t believe this when I heard it. The West Australian Government will close as many as 150 remote Aboriginal communities in the next three years.

16 thoughts on “Saturday salon 15/11”

  1. Colin Barnett “… there are 115 communities that on average have about five residents.” He goes on to say (in Colvin’s article) that the cost is about $85,000 per person per annum. Rounded up that’s around $50 million per year, if Barnett’s figures are factually correct.

    Any government should at least consider the merits of such expenditure.
    The apparent outrage at the proposed closures seems to be rooted in the fact that we are dealing with indigenous populations.

    Whilst it is easy to point at past and on-going injustice issues where our first Australians were/are victims, I don’t see that carte blanche funding is appropriate. There has to be some point where enough is enough. Certainly I would not expect the taxpayer to fund a community for my family of say, five and especially in a more remote area.

    What to do then? I suppose I would go and talk with those communities and ask them to help solve the problem. It is unlikely that a total solution would emerge, but maybe a next-best option might be spawned.

    Let’s hope that there is a sympathetic socially based approach taken rather than a harsher option.

  2. Geoff thanks for pointing that out. It was after 2am and contra my usual practice I didn’t have time to read the article.

    Cost is certainly a dilemma, but the alternative may not be cheaper and may be deadly if done badly.

    It’s a gut wrencher.

  3. Aside from the financial aspect, we know the levels of disfunction in some of these communities.
    Rates of suicide, violence, rape etc..
    Closing them on humanitarian grounds is enough.

    Of course if living on traditional lands in a traditional way should not be discouraged.

  4. I think Geoff’s notion of talking to the groups concerned is the only ethical approach. Forced closures will do a lot of damage.

    Realistically there are limits to government services and support and these need to be explained.

  5. I don’t know if WA differs from QLD much bit the Aboriginal communities/missions/reserves/camps in remote ( and not so remote in a few cases )QLD, that I’ve spent time in are a disgraceful example of past and present segregation that should never have been established in the first place.
    But Government knew best, some think it still does.

  6. Geoff Henderson:

    Colin Barnett “… there are 115 communities that on average have about five residents.”


    Aside from the financial aspect, we know the levels of disfunction in some of these communities.
    Rates of suicide, violence, rape etc..

    With an average of 5 residents at least 57 of those communities have less than 5 residents. A couple of decent suicides would wipe them off the map.
    Is Mr Barnett being completely honest?

  7. My experience is that the outstations are set up to allow people to escape from the booze etc. that are often a feature of larger communities.
    Part of the problem is that aboriginal culture is driven by relationships. A culture that depends on knowing everyone and there relationship to everyone else. It is a system that simply cant function in a larger community.
    My experience too is that aborigines are some of the most foreign people the Davidsons have dealt with. Their priorities, way of thinking etc. are just so different.
    The one constant in our dealings with Aborigines is that the new waves of people coming to help Aborigines assume that their predecessors were ignorant, lazy nasty or….

  8. zoot
    On paper an accurate comment, but, the fluidity of occupation in these ” communities ” and the census* and other Government tool are fundamentally inadequate.
    If you counted heads at, for example, Woorabinda on dole day you would be short about 50% due to being now a ” dry ” community and off to Rockhampton they go.
    You may dismiss ” A couple of decent suicides ” as trivial, it’s not.
    I think throwing pile after pile of money at them has not worked and never will, no matter their race.
    Racist legislation spawned those camp and done nothing but harm.
    It’s time, in 2014, to treat everyone the same.
    The consequences of not doing so is as obvious as it is harmful.

  9. Not sure what you’re saying jumpy.
    Is it that those 115 communities with an average of 5 people in each actually have an average of 10? That would imply the purported cost of $85,000 per person is therefore actually only $42,500?
    Or are you saying that Mr Barnett is playing fast and loose with the truth because it’s impossible to know how many people live in these communities?.

  10. zoot @10

    Not sure what you’re saying jumpy.

    I’m saying it’s never to early for Governments to remove the harmful situations they created.

    Or are you saying that Mr Barnett is playing fast and loose with the truth…..

    Of course he is, he’s a politician isn’t he ?
    Can you name one that hasn’t ?

  11. Jumpy: governments of all ilk created problems by often forcefully moving Aborigines into larger communities to make things easier for miners, graziers etc or simply administrative convenience. In far too many cases this was a disaster. The outstation movement was a reaction to the problem of larger communities.
    Barnett is simply trying to force people into larger communities once again for administrative convenience. Why are you supporting the repetition of old mistakes?

  12. John D

    Why are you supporting the repetition of old mistakes?

    Which, the Aboriginal acts of 1879, 1905 or 1963 ?
    There should be no acts based on race nor Governments telling anyone where to live.
    Governments have used legislation to dispossess these people from day one, have they not ?
    With the greatest respect, you may be supporting the repetition of old mistakes.
    Would you vote for missions/camps/reserves to be set up today ?

  13. Jumpy: If Aus was discovered today it wouldn’t have been taken over quite as easily as it was for the brits. So there would not have been an issue about white people deciding what was going to happen to the owners of the land.
    What this thread has been talking about is that white man Barnett trying to stop people living in places their ancestors have lived for a long time.

  14. John

    What this thread has been talking about is that white man Barnett trying to stop people living in places their ancestors have lived for a long time.

    No, he,s just not facilitating it.
    He’s not banning living there, taxing living there nor subsidising living there.
    They are free to live there if they please.
    He’s removing a piece of Government from their lives, a noble thing to do.

  15. Jumpy: If the Aborigines received a fair share of the income from the land that was stolen from them they would be the ones deciding how the money was spent, not the successor of the stealers.

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