Friday, October 31, 2014

There was NO "stolen generation"

Joe Lane

    My wife and I made the first Aboriginal flags, back in 1972, more than a hundred of them up to 1981 or so, and sent them all around Australia.  We were ardent supporters of land rights and self-determination and used to devour any new book on the subject…

    In the eighties, I found the Journals of George Taplin, the missionary who set up the Point McLeay Mission on Lake Alexandrina, where my wife was born, and managed it between 1859 and 1879.  The Journals were (and still are) in the State Library in Adelaide, in an old type-written copy.  At the time, I thought that some fool should type them up again.  As it turned out, I was that fool.  But I had found a gold-mine of information, much of which did not conform to the dominant paradigm, or ‘narrative’ [See web-site, below].

    A friend gave me some old letter-books from the Mission, covering up to 1900, which I carefully copied.  By then I was hooked on searching out first-hand sources and went on to type up the thousand pages of the various Royal Commissions ‘into the Aborigines’, of 1860, 1899 and 1913-1916.  Many other documents suffered the same fate.  More recently, I have been typing up the correspondence of the Protector of Aborigines in South Australia, more than thirteen thousand letters in, and eight and a half thousand letters out, 1840 to 1912.

    All in all, I’ve transcribed around eight thousand pages of primary-source material and put it all on a web-site ...

    Comprehensively, this material does not support the current ‘narrative’ and, in fact, actively supports a more complex and intriguing perspective.

    The dominant paradigm, which is being taught around Australia, in schools and at universities, asserts that

        - Aboriginal people were ‘herded’ onto Missions;

        - Aboriginal people were driven from their lands;

        - Countless children were stolen from their families.

    So far, I have found no unambiguous evidence of any of this…

    Let’s look at each of these assertions in turn:

    ‘Herding Aboriginal people onto Missions’:

    Between 1840 and the present, the Aboriginal population on Missions never exceeded more than 18 % of the total Aboriginal population in contact with the state, except during the depression when it rose to about 30 %.  In other words, for most of the time, more than 80 % of the entire Aboriginal population lived away from Missions, across the State…

    It should be noted that the total number of full-time staff of the grandly-named Aborigines Department, was one, the Protector.  His main task was to set up and supply up to forty ration depots, as well as roughly as many issuing points for individuals and families.  Issuers, mainly police officers, station managers and pastoral lessees, and missionaries, were not paid.  So: one full-time staff member and up to seventy five or more issuing-points.  So who was doing the ‘herding’ ?

    When the first long-term Protector, Dr. Moorhouse, resigned in 1856, the ‘Department’ ceased to exist.  Its routine functions, of distributing rations, were handled by the Commissioner of Crown Lands, the Chief Storekeeper and the network of Issuers at twenty or so Depots.

    Mission staff rarely numbered more than three or four.  They were flat-out issuing stores, building cottages, supervising farm work, running the schools, providing medical attention.  As far as I know, no Mission ever had a fence around it to keep people in.

    Many times in the Protector’s correspondence, an issuer may ask urgently for more stores as a large number of ‘Natives’ had arrived at their Depot, sometimes hundreds.  The Protector arranges for the stores either to be immediately sent out or purchased in the nearest town.  A few weeks later, the people have gone off again.  People came and went, as they chose.

    The Protector sends rations to a Mission near Port Lincoln, located on eighteen thousand acres of crop and grazing land, with the express instruction that the rations are not for the residents but for ‘travelling people’, passing up and down Eyre Peninsula to and from Port Lincoln, and that the rations are to keep them supplied on their journey.  The Mission population there were supposed to be self-supporting (which they were from about 1868 onwards).  The ‘travelling people’ camped a couple of miles from the Mission and occasionally worked for wages on the Mission, grubbing stumps.

    At Point McLeay, from Taplin’s Journal, from the Letter-Books and from the Protector’s letters, one can read of hundreds of people suddenly arriving from down the Coorong or from up the Murray for ceremonies, who camped a mile or two away, and who needed provisioning.  A week or two later, they have gone back to their own country.

    Rations were strictly for the sick, aged and infirm, mothers with young children, and orphans.  Able-bodied people were expected to hunt or fish or gather, or work for farms and stations.  Families which had been deserted or widowed were also provided with rations…

    Missions regularly expelled people who had behaved badly, or immorally.  In other words, they were fairly particular about who could and couldn’t stay on a Mission.  I suspect that one Mission had to wind down in the 1890s simply because it couldn’t get enough working men to come and stay there: it seemed to have a chronic shortage of labour from the late 1870s as capable men found work in the district which paid better.
    In sum, there does not seem to be any evidence of ‘herding’, or even any obvious intention to ever do so.

    ‘Aboriginal people were driven from their lands’:

    There is only one instance in the Protector’s letters of a pastoral lessee trying to drive people from his lease (in 1876), and as soon as the Protector is informed, he writes to remind the lessee that he would be in breach of his lease, which stipulates that Aboriginal people have all the traditional rights to use the land as they always had done, ‘as if this lease had not been made’, as the wording went.  It was assumed that traditional land-use and pastoral land-use could co-exist, as, of course, they could and still can.  I’m informed that that condition still applies in current legislation.

    By the way, six months later, that pastoralist is applying for rations.  The depot there was still issuing rations at least thirty years later.

    The Protector provided dozens, perhaps a hundred or more, 15-ft boats, and fishing gear (fishing-lines, fish-hooks, netting twine), to people on all waterways, even the Cooper’s Creek, so that they can fish and ‘stay in their own districts’.  He provided guns to enable people to hunt more effectively.  Boats and guns are provided free – as well as their repair – to people unable to earn a living, and able-bodied people are expected to pay half their cost.

    The Game Act has always expressly exempted Aboriginal people from restrictions on hunting and fishing in ‘Close Season’, even now.

    He advises a woman who has been living on a Mission, but whose husband has been knocking her around, that he can provide her with rations at a town near her own country.

    Over the years, whenever particular individuals or groups were ‘loafing about the City’ or drunk and disorderly, or begging (what we call ‘humbugging’ these days) about the streets, he provides them with rail or steamer passes to ‘go back to their home districts’.

    From the earliest days, Aboriginal people were encouraged to lease plots of land, up to 160 acres rent-free, and to live on the land, which usually happened to be in the country from where they came.  The earliest record seems to be a woman who had married a white man – often white men thought that, if they married an Aboriginal woman, they could get a piece of land, but no, the lease was always vested in the Aboriginal partner.

    During the 1890s, more than forty Aboriginal people, including at least three women, held such leases.  In fact, one Mission may have wound down precisely because the more capable men took out leases of their own, leaving the Mission bereft of labour and getting seriously into debt.

    In sum, again there does not seem to be any evidence of any intention to drive people from their country.  Again, quite the reverse.

    ‘Stealing countless children from their families’:

    It’s probably no secret that colonisation disrupted much of Aboriginal traditional life and family patterns.  Women had children by white Men (as well as Africans, Chinese, Afghans and West Indians) and lived peripatetic lives around the towns.  Many children were abandoned or orphaned by single mothers who either could not support them or died.  Occasionally, young boys were brought down from the North by stockman and survey teams, sometimes from inter-state, and then abandoned in the city.

    All States have fiduciary obligations to their inhabitants, especially to children.  The Protector was, in effect and in law, the legal guardian responsible for the well-being of such abandoned children.  Facilities in those days were either rudimentary or non-existent, so the most suitable place for such children, short of locating their living relatives (which occurred occasionally), was to ask a particular Mission if they could take them.  Often this was not possible, so the Protector had to shop around to see where to place a particular child.

    So how many ?  I typed up the School Records, 1880-1960, from one Mission/Government settlement and found that, for example, between 1880 and 1900, only eight children – out of a roll of two hundred over those years – had been brought to this Mission without any family.  In fact, there were fewer again in the next fifty years.

    And – just in case ‘stealing children’ means taking them FROM Missions and settlements, it should be pointed out that, in that period 1880 to 1960, during which eight hundred children were, at one time or another, enrolled at that School, a grand total of forty seven school-age children transferred to homes or institutions or the Adelaide Hospital, and the vast majority of them came back within a year or two.  Mothers died, fathers died and mothers re-married, families fell destitute or broke up for all manner of reasons – after all, the reasons for Aboriginal children being put into care of any sort were not much different from those for any other Australians, and at 4 %, neither was the rate of ‘removal’…

    In the period under study, 1840-1912, under the Protector’s watch, if children knew their own country and wish to go back there, he arranged for their travel home. One boy from the Far North at one Mission was unhappy and wished to do that, so the Protector promptly arranged for him to travel up to Oodnadatta and then on to his own country.  A year or so later, he was back at the Mission, working and asking for some financial support to buy a harmonium.

    So, from the record, there does not seem to be any concerted effort to take children from their families.  In fact, the Protector notes that he does not have the legal power to do so, and I suspect neither did he have the intention.

    So why did I believe as I did, without evidence ?  Because the conventional paradigm, the ‘black-armband approach’, fits together.  It makes sense.  It doesn’t need evidence.  And perhaps in other states – Queensland, for instance – conditions were much harsher for Aboriginal (and Islander) people. But that’s for researchers up there to follow up on, if they have the courage.

    There are such things as ‘facts’.  There WAS only one full-time staff member of the S.A. Aborigines Department.  There WERE forty or more official ration Depots from around 1870 onwards – in fact, up to seventy.  Sometimes ‘facts’ are like rocks in a stream of ‘interpretation’: flow this way or that, twist and turn as one may, the ‘interpretation’ of history still has to deal with the ‘facts’, the evidence.  What comes first, evidence or ideology?

    It may not have been all sweetness and light, but neither was it as brutal as the conventional paradigm supposes.  Nineteenth century people were no different from ourselves.  We are them, they were us.  It’s time we relied more on evidence than feelings, or suspicions, otherwise we will forever be barking up the wrong tree.


Cattle industry launches class action against Federal Government, seeking compensation over live export ban

Industries involved in the live cattle trade have launched a class action against the Federal Government that will likely seek hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation.

The class action filed in the Federal Court yesterday will be open to anyone who suffered losses because of the Government's suspension of live cattle exports to Indonesia in 2011.

The industry said the suit, which will be fought by law firm Minter Ellison, was being launched after three years of trying unsuccessfully to negotiate its claim with the Federal Government.

Lead applicant Emily Brett from Waterloo Station, near the West Australian and Northern Territory border, said while the ban lasted a month, the impact for the industry lasted much longer.   "It's still going now," she said.

"We lost so much money and incurred so many costs because of that one decision.  "They're not costs that we've been able to recoup, they're not costs that we've been able to get back."

Following Four Corners' revelations of shocking animal cruelty in 12 Indonesian abattoirs in June 2011, the Federal Government ordered a shutdown of the live export trade to Indonesia. As a result, the once booming trade was brought to a halt.

Ms Brett said it was a knee-jerk reaction with devastating consequences for businesses across northern Australia.

"It was just such a quick decision made to try and look as though the government was doing something," she said.

"But in effect it just had a crippling effect on anyone involved in the industry and people involved in businesses that supply products to the industry... everyone was affected by it."

Now the industry is taking its case for compensation to the Federal Court in an open class action that is likely to include the full breadth of industry players, from major corporates to smaller family-run pastoral stations.

In Queensland, Federal Member for Kennedy Bob Katter says he believes the previous government failed its 'duty of care' and has a clear case to answer, while AgForce has described the ban as 'reckless'.

Minter Ellison's existing group of clients covers a range of industries that support the live export trade and the class action will be open to anyone affected by the ban.

Businesses such as Road Trains of Australia - one of the largest trucking companies involved in the live export trade - may also be eligible to join.

Road Trains of Australia managing director David Jones said his business was still recovering.  "Financially it was very tough... all the banks hated us," Mr Jones said.  "We were a business at risk... there was a lot of people that sort of left the industry, managers and drivers, so we had to tighten our belt very quickly and try and survive."

It is even possible businesses in Indonesia affected by the ban could be eligible to join the class action.  While it is still not clear how many parties will join, the claim against the Federal Government could go into hundreds of millions of dollars.

Australia's largest cattle company, Australian Agricultural Company, has already put its damages from the live export ban at more than $50 million.

At Waterloo Station, the Brett family felt the costs of the ban almost immediately.  Ms Brett said the ban hit just before the station was due to finalise a major cattle sale they had been counting on to cover items they had already had to buy for the property.  "We didn't know when we wouldn't be able to pay those bills," she said.

"I can't explain how stressful it was on all of us, on the whole family, not knowing... that we'd have to go through all of that and tell those companies that we wouldn't be able to pay those bills and we didn't know when."


Operation Boring leading to surprise comeback for Campbell Newman in Qld.

Campbell Newman has staged a surprising personal comeback; voters refuse to warm to him, but believe he should be given another go at the next election.

It is understood that is one of many findings of private LNP research conducted both in Ashgrove, and on Brisbane's south-side.

It is understood the polling - conducted in four tranches less than a month ago - was done to gauge the ongoing damage of the Stafford by-election on both the premier's personal standing and the party's fortunes ahead of the next election.

The economy, job security and wages, cost of living, security/crime and frontline services topped the list of voters' concerns, with the Government's "leasing" argument taking the sting out of privatisation plans.

Voters also believed that Campbell Newman needed longer to do the job, and swinging voters saw him as a strong leader - despite not liking him.

This supports other internal research across the state which shows the premier's shocking negative personal ratings (up to -35 in some areas) has evened out (and is now sitting at -5 in some of those same areas) on the back of 'Operation Boring'.

But the latest research, conducted in marginal Brisbane seats with groups of swinging voters, also highlights three significant problems for the LNP Government.

The first is that voters - rightly - blame the Government for diminished job security.

It is likely Campbell Newman's rushed decision to sack thousands of public servants will continue to haunt him, and it will be exacerbated by his promise to create 420,000 new jobs, and a four per cent jobless rate by 2018.

It is near-impossible to see how the Government will do that - and it will be a target of Labor's electoral campaign.

The second issue raised by the internal polling is voters' abhorrence at what they see as the Government making a big deal about issues to hide the lack of progress in families' cost of living pressures.

Voters raised both the controversial bikie laws and the judge's fiasco as examples which they believed provided a distraction for the government, which should have been focusing more on how their decisions were impacting families.

But LNP MPs are more concerned about the third issue - and that is where a big protest vote is headed because voters want a more balanced Parliament.

Up until now, the LNP had hoped PUP's Clive Palmer and other minority parties would bank the protest vote, which would then exhaust.

But this polling shows it is headed to Labor on the back of Clive Palmer's diving fortunes.

Indeed, Palmer has gone from being seen as "an authentic larrikin" to a "self-serving politician", meaning Labor will be the beneficiary of a strong anti-LNP vote.

Despite that, swinging voters have a "spontaneous hesitation" towards Labor on the back of the Bligh government's performance, and do not see Annastacia Palaszczuk as a strong leader.

That finding flies in the face of other public research, including this week's Morgan poll which shows her leading Campbell Newman as preferred premier, 52.5 percent to 47.5 percent.

"Operation Boring is working," one senior LNP member quipped.

"It's working for Campbell Newman and for us."

Perhaps it's almost strong enough for the premier to call an election before the end of this year...


Palmer backs Green rollback

And the Greenies are fuming-- See below.  But they are right about "Direct Action".  It won't do anything to the climate -- but nor would Greenie schemes.  And it's a lot cheaper

The Abbott government has secured the likely passage of its Direct Action carbon policy through the Senate.

The news comes as a result of an agreement reached yesterday between Environment Minister Greg Hunt and Palmer United Party leader Clive Palmer, for the PUP to support the bill with minor amendments.

Once again, after tough talk and media stunts, Palmer has rolled over in the back rooms and done a deal in his own best interests. As the owner of several large coal and iron ore mines, Palmer has an obvious vested interest in ensuring a taxpayer-funded compensation plan for big polluters.

As we've argued many times, Direct Action is a fraudulent policy that can’t possibly reduce Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions to our target of a 5 per cent reduction by 2020.

What it will do is pay the biggest polluters in the country a total of $2.55 billion over the next six years. All for doing what everyone (except the most ardent climate denialists) agrees they must, if the world is to escape devastating warming: lower their fossil fuel pollution.

The government claims the policy will spend $2.55 billion in reverse auctions to those firms that can promise the biggest reductions. This will be great for the bank balances of big polluters, but won’t do much to reduce Australia’s overall emissions.

You can get an idea of just how little the government cares by reference to Hunt’s plans for those polluters who take advantage of the scheme to rapidly ramp up their emissions. He has no plans to punish rogue polluters.

Hunt just expects everyone to play by the rules. After all, fining polluters for releasing greenhouse gases would look awfully like … a carbon tax. “Our intention is no, our budgeting is no, and that's because we think the firms will operate within it," Mr Hunt told Sky News on Thursday.

No credible analyst believes Direct Action can achieve anything like the 5 per cent emissions reduction target we have signed up to. According to respected analysts RepuTex, Direct Action may be able to reduce emissions by 80 to 130 million tonnes at best. “This is equivalent to a shortfall of over 300 million tonnes for Australia to meet its 5 per cent emissions reduction target of 421 million tonnes by 2020,” RepuTex’s Hugh Grossman told The Australian.

Clive Palmer is lying too. He put out a press release yesterday that read “Palmer Saves Emissions Trading Scheme”. Even in the reality-challenged worldview of Palmerama, this is a pretty impressive confection. Australia doesn’t actually have an emissions trading scheme to save: Palmer voted with the government to abolish it.

Palmer is probably talking about his pet scheme for a “zero dollar” emissions trading scheme that would have a carbon price of zero until Australia’s major trading partners introduce their own schemes (presumably Europe is not a major trading partner). He secured a token concession from Hunt on this point, allowing the Climate Change Authority to research the zero-price ETS and report back.

But Hunt is frank about the government’s attitude to such a proposal. “We have agreed to a review but our policy is crystal clear, we abolished the [carbon] tax and we're not bringing it back," Mr Hunt told the ABC this morning.

Palmer is also trumpeting his success in saving certain climate agencies and initiatives like the Climate Change Authority and the Australian Renewable Energy Authority, both of which the government wants to abolish.

It’s not much of a success. The last federal policy that is achieving any emissions reductions of note, the Renewable Energy Target, is hanging in the balance. Palmer has pledged to vote to keep the RET.

On the other hand, he also pledged to vote against Direct Action, which he is now voting for. On recent form, anything Clive Palmer rules out one week is a good chance to receive his support the next.


1 comment:

Rubyred said...

Well at least the money is going back into Australia and not the UN. I also don't agree with climate change or direct action.