Saturday, June 30, 2007

Racial Martial Law in Australia

A horrific report of systemic child abuse in aboriginal communities was released and Prime Minister Howard of Australia has used it to justify launching a massive crackdown on aboriginal communities.

For aboriginals alcohol will be banned, pornography will be banned, personal computers will be examined for no-compliance, welfare will be withheld, aboriginal administration and legal harassment protections on aboriginal land will be annulled. Howard at first said that all children under sixteen would receive compulsory invasive medical check ups. When there was a mass revolt by doctors the government grudgingly backtracked and said the checkups would be consensual but 'encouraged'. Howard spoke dismissively of "constitutional niceties and is also using the buzzwords of child sexual abuse to push a plan of taking away aboriginal communal land titles and leasing plots back to individuals locking them into 99 year leases.

None of this reflects the recommendations of the original report.

Terrified families have begun streaming out of the communities in the area, fleeing into the bush in fear that their children will be stolen from them again. Like Canada with our residential schools, Australia had a stolen generation of natives - arguably treated even worse. The current hard paternalism and vicious stigmatization of the victims of cultural genocide stirs up bad memories.

Troops and new police have begun to move into the area.

I've been following this for a few days, dove into it last night. Australian readers will, I hope, forgive the impertinence of a Canadian commenting on their internal affairs, but have y'all gone completely crazy?

OK, I know that this plan is by no means universally supported in Australia, several voices have spoken up to describe these policies as draconian, and shameless dog whistle racial pandering just months before an election Howard was looking like losing. The Australian Green Party has opposed the plan, the Labour Party, to their shame, have offered guarded support for it.

The authors of the report Howard is using to justify this action have pointed out that none of their recommendations included 'sending in the gunships' and that the recommendations they did make for long term changes and aid are being ignored. They've also pointed out that the rage and terror these measures are causing in the aboriginal community will probably make the job of treating and dealing with family breakdown that much harder as trust in outsiders no longer exists. Alternative proposals for dealing with the problems are being ignored. This mess shows every sign of a calculated act of electioneering and right wing social engineering planned for some time and ready for when the abuse report was released. None of this despair and community collapse is new, and indeed Howard has done more than his fair share of contributing to it.

But some people on both sides are confidently predicting that this will give Howard a huge poll boost, while predictions of a huge backlash have the tang of desperate wishful thinking to them.

He's going to get away with this isn't he? The same people who were delighted by Howard turning away desperate refugees and locking others in barbwire encircled desert prison camps are going to vote him in again aren't they?

What really scares the hell out of me, is that I know that there are members of Canada's current governing party, and the previous one, that are watching this draconian and paternalistic approach to first nations with a mixture of envy and wistfulness.

And political calculation.

Hat tip for bringing this to my attention: Engaged Spectator

Update: Well the first polls are out in Australia since this blew up and Woman at Mile 0 has the results. Australians have not in fact bought into this crap and are deeply suspicious of Howard and his motives. Big drop in support. Thank God.


Kat. said...

Thanks for saying it, its interesting that though support for the policy was diminished the policy hasnt been been reviewed, and so its all still happening, when will people stop being passive about politics... we need to hold our governments accountable ... right?

Cliff said...


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