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June 24th, 2007

12:52 am
The Politics of Stupidity - Now it's the Aborigines' turn!

John Howard told his ministers recently that he had no "rabbit to pull out of a hat" to improve the Liberal Party's woeful poll performance. Well, he's pulled out *something* from *somewhere* (though it doesn't smell so much like a rabbit). He and Mal Brough (the "minister for indiginous affairs") have proposed a plan to deal with child abuse in Aboriginal communities.

Except it's really more of a plan to increase the power of the Federal Government, make a last-ditch appeal to the racist "middle Australians" six months before an election, decrease the legitimacy of native title, push conservative "morals" onto communities that have more important problems, and turn Aborigines from second-class into third- or fourth-class citizens.

The problem: Child abuse, rape, and neglect in small remote communities. An issue ignored for years. An issue on which the Liberal Party has campaigned strenuously against doing anything.

The solution?

*Take over ownership of the land of about 60 communities for at least five years,
*Outlaw pornography,
*Outlaw alcohol,
*Compulsary medical examinations for all Aboriginal children in the region (Can someone say "The Welfare's coming!"??),
*Attaching conditions to all aboriginal welfare payments that requires the money to be spent on certain items.

Superficially, glancing down the list without examination (exactly the sort of attitude to politics that John Howard has spent his career promoting), it looks like a list of vaguely good ideas (exactly the sort of impression John Howard has spent his career learning to create).

In fact, a six-year old child could have come up with it.

Which is probably not something we should be proud of.

The most depressing part of the government's plan is the fact that their solutions do not really address the issues they claim to address, and when they do, they violate basic standards of human decency, and ignore proposals - proposals they have been ignoring for YEARS - that actually do address the issues directly. Let's go point-by-point.

*Taking over land:
- The idea is that the Federal Government will now push development, rather than the communities there.
Other ideas:
- Could we have provided government investment in development projects run by the community, instead of taking over their land wholesale?
- Could this have involved increased funding for schools/libraries/other instruments of empowerment in the areas in question?
- Is it possible that campaigners have been lobbying for greater government support for such communities for MORE THAN A DECADE?
- The only real advantage of the government's shotgun approach is that it will show Australians that the Abbo's can't handle having land. Oh, except, that really only benefits Liberal Party ideology.

*Outlawing pornography:
- This is a real "what the fuck?" sort of proposal, even though not a single media commentator seems to have noticed it (but then, nowadays the media doesn't so much "critique" as they just "pass along other people's messages"). But you could possibly stretch an argument to claim that:
a) The Abbo's spend all their welfare money on porno,
b) Porn gets Abbo's hot, which makes them want to rape their children.
Other ideas:
In response to point a):
- a program that identifies parents who spend all of their welfare check on porno (and by the way... what the fuck?), and places them - and them alone - onto a plan that limits the ways they can spend the money.
In response to point b):
- Pornography as a rule can take more than one form, and unless you're specifically outlawing "Aboriginal Child-Raping Grog-Fest 2007", it's hard to see how a blanket porn-ban will have any effect on rape,
- Rapists are generally screwed up on their own terms, without the need for pornography to psyche them up.
- (One seriously wonders wether someone like Phillip Ruddock isn't busily masterbating at the idea of having pornography banned anywhere. I seriously doubt that this suggestion has much value beyond the sexual gratification of the dirty old wowsers in Howard's cabinet.)

*Outlawing alcohol:
- An experiment that has (and is) being tried in some communities, but hey, maybe Howard can get the credit for it this time,
Other ideas:
- a program that identifies parents who spend all of their welfare check on alcohol, and places them - and them alone - onto a plan that limits the ways they can spend the money.

*Compulsory free medical examinations for all aboriginal children in the region:
Other ideas:
- Let's start with the obvious alternative; that is, free medical examinations for everyone - without the "compulsory" part,
- education and public campaigns that make it easy for a child (or anyone else) to just walk into a doctors office of their own accord,
- Let's only apply the "compulsory" part to children who actually are suffering neglect,
- Why don't we have compulsory free medical examinations for all white children? Oh wait. Some people might not actually appreciate that. Scratch that last suggestion.

*Attaching conditions to all aboriginal welfare payments that requires the money to be spent on certain items.
- Because you can't trust any Aboriginal person with money.
Other ideas:
- a program that identifies parents who spend all of their welfare check on alcohol and porn, and places them - and them alone - onto a plan that limits the ways they can spend the money.

How about some suggestions that a six-year old child might not have come up with, Mr Howard?

How about some suggestions that actually target the issues of rape and neglect, instead of targeting your desire to own Aboriginal land, your personal obsessions with "social evils", and your continuing need to appeal to the ignorance of your constituents to win elections?

How abaout:
*Large support payments for women and children moving out of dangerous situations and living on their own?
*Greater support for shelters?
*Counsellors and medical professionals geared toward the actual problems of rape and neglect?
*An empowering stance toward education in the region - including the promotion of teaching practises that get children involved and enable them to think and learn for themselves - i know it's not exactly in line with your government's policy of promoting "teaching to the test" and asking un-educated (in education) business-people to set curricula, but it just might help give the abused the ability to speak up for themselves, mightn't it?
*Funding for education in the region? (hey, you have no problem funding private schools in wealthy areas - why not entertain the idea of funding public schools as well?)

Now we come to the second-most depressing aspect of the case - the two most prominent people whose political goals are going to be shattered by this latest Liberal Party stunt, Kevin Rudd and Noel Pearson, have shown themselves to be utterley gutless.

*Kevin Rudd has completely folded. He has even stated that he sees no ulterior motive in this plan - despite the fact that most of the plan does not address the issue it claims to address, despite the fact that it was unveiled - like Howard's Murray-Darling takeover plan - after about three seconds of deliberation, in preparation for an election. As far as i can tell, the Federal Labour party - the alleged opposition - has offered up no criticism at all.

*Noel Pearson has campaigned for years for a program that identifies parents who spend all of their welfare check on alcohol, and places them - and them alone - onto a plan that limits the ways they can spend the money. His main thrust is that cultural change is needed, change from within, and he has emphasised that not all aboriginal welfare recipients deserve to be placed under the scrutiny the Liberal Party promotes.

He has also completely failed to say anything very strong-worded against the government's plan. In fact, he has helped them by making knee-jerk statements about the need to help all the little kiddies out. He is, quite literally, a tool.

And this brings me to the third-most depressing aspect of the situation.

Knee-jerk, unthinking stupidity has been the major thrust of the government's proposal - "If you disagree with what they're doing, SHUT UP ZOMG! THIS IS TO HELP LITTLE CHILDREN!" And Noel Pearson has been a great supporter of this aspect of their campaign.

John Howard's major rebuttal to criticism is that "we shouldn't let ideology get in the way of helping the little children."

Oh no. We wouldn't want thought and consideration to slow us down from preventing rapes. What? You don't see what taking over the land will do to prevent child rape? You're one of those child-haters, aren't you?

What? You think the governments been ignoring the problem for years, and now that they're addressing it, they're doing in it in an atrocious and childish way? You think there's a better way to solve the problem? Well, STOP THINKING!!! THIS IS TO HELP THE LITTLE CHILDREN WITH THE RAPES ZOMG!!!!!

And the most galling thing about their claim that any thinking, any criticism, any consideration will just slow us down, is that they have been doing NOTHING - in fact, they've been doing WORSE than nothing - they have been campaigning AGAINST doing ANYTHING - for the whole ten years that the Liberal Party has been in power.

And this has been one of the Liberal Party's most potent tactics over the past ten years: Don't think. Don't question. Don't analyse anything in any depth. Don't "have an ideology" (by which they actually mean "don't have a left-leaning ideology"). Don't think about the fact that this, in itself, is "an ideology".

Welcome to the politics of stupidity.