Monday, August 03, 2015


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG thinks Adam Goodes is a sook

I can tell you how Adam Goodes feels. Every Indigenous person has felt it

Stan Grant

Australian TV personality Stan Grant has a permanent suntan that he has inherited from his part-Aboriginal family.  Otherwise he has little resemblance to a tribal aborigine -- no heavy brow ridge, no flat nose etc. 

Yet in his essay below he speaks for all Aborigines.  That would be regarded as rather challengeable under normal circumstances but the place of Aborigines in Australian law is not normal.  Andrew Bolt was successfully prosecuted for challenging the right of certain light-skinned people to be regarded as Aborigines.  So I had better not challenge it.  Both Grant and Goodes are however "legal" Aborigines so Grant may well speak for Goodes.

I might note that I shared dinner with an Aboriginal lady last night.  She has blue eyes but she is an Aboriginal in Australian law.  She is my sister in law.  She and her husband host a family BBQ on Australia day each year.

Grant's essay below has however been praised and it is certainly unusual in that it does not denigrate Australia and Australian society in general.  Grant recognizes much that is praiseworthy instead.  The balance of his writing is obviously a large part of what has made his essay probably the most praised on the subject.

The great failure of his essay is however a failure to look at root causes.  I am sure that his growing up as a person with Aboriginal ancestry did give him problems and that his view that others in his situation suffered similarly has some merit but WHY was he in such a difficult situation?  And the answer is clear enough.  He does hint at it.  Aborigines as a whole have been lamentably unable to adjust to the white society in which they are now submerged.  People are often kind to them and appreciate good points that they have -- I do -- but the reality is that their own behaviour relegates them to the bottom of every heap.

So can we do anything about it?  That is surely the most important question.  I think it is a dubious claim that anybody has a "responsibility" for the behaviour of others but white Australia has nonetheless via its governments assumed a responsibility to improve the lot of Aborigines. But everything that could be tried has been tried as far as I can see -- by the Federal government and the State governments -- under both Leftist and conservative regimes.  There are for instance all sorts of schemes of an "affirmative action" type designed to help Aborigines.  Yet Aborigines go backwards if anything.  Have we not discharged our purported "responsibilities"?  What more could we do?

There was a time when Aborigines had to provide for themselves and many of them had employment in rural industries (as cowboys etc.)but an "equal pay" mandate from the courts put an end to that.  Now they mostly live on welfare -- and the slow destruction of all values and standards usually produced by welfare is only too evident.

So how does that affect the Adam Goodes furore?  I think it should make us understanding of the sensitivity over his part-Aboriginal ancestry that Goodes obviously feels but it should also help us to understand that white society too has values that are deeply felt, ideas about being a "bad sport" etc.  By his touchy and aggressive behaviour Goodes has set the two sets of values on collision course and in so doing hurt himself deeply.  He would have done well to do as Grant has done by not making waves.

And the accusations of racism that have polluted the air over the matter can only entrench bitterness and anger

I have wondered for days if I should say anything about Adam Goodes.

My inclination is to look for common ground, to be diplomatic. Some of the fault is with Adam. Maybe he’s been unnecessarily provocative. Racism? Perhaps. Perhaps the crowds just don’t like him.

Yes, I could make a case for all of that. But there are enough people making those arguments and all power to them.

Here’s what I can do. I can tell you what it is like for us. I can tell you what Adam must be feeling, because I’ve felt it. Because every Indigenous person I know has felt it.

It may not be what you want to hear. Australians are proud of their tolerance yet can be perplexed when challenged on race, their response often defensive.

I may be overly sensitive. I may see insult where none is intended. Maybe my position of relative success and privilege today should have healed deep scars of racism and the pain of growing up Indigenous in Australia. The same could be said of Adam. And perhaps that is right.

But this is how Australia makes us feel. Estranged in the land of our ancestors, marooned by the tides of history on the fringes of one of the richest and demonstrably most peaceful, secure and cohesive nations on earth.

The “wealth for toil” we praise in our anthem has remained out of our reach. Our position at the bottom of every socio-economic indicator tragically belies the Australian economic miracle.

“Australians all let us rejoice” can ring hollow to us. Ours is more troubled patriotism. Our allegiance to Australia, our pride in this country undercut by the dark realities of our existence.

Seeds of suspicion and mistrust are planted early in the Indigenous child. Stories of suffering, humiliation and racism told at the feet of our parents and grandparents feed an identity that struggles to reconcile a pride in heritage with the forlorn realities of a life of defeat.

From childhood I often cringed against my race. To be Aboriginal was to be ashamed. Ashamed of our poverty. Ashamed of the second-hand clothes with the giveaway smell of mothballs and another boy’s name on the shirt collar.

Ashamed of the way my mother and grandmother had to go to the Smith Family or Salvation Army for food vouchers. Ashamed of the onions and mince that made up too many meals.

We were ashamed of the bastardised wreckage of a culture that we clung to. This wasn’t the Dreamtime. This was mangy dogs and broken glass.

Like the Goodes family, we moved constantly as my father chased work. But wherever we went we found our place always on the fringes. What semblance of pride we carried too easily laid low by a mocking glance or a schoolyard joke.

We were the blacks. So easily recognised not just by the colour of our skin but by the whiff of desperation and danger we cloaked ourselves in. What resentment we harboured, we too often turned on ourselves, played out in wild scrambling brawls from the playground to the showgrounds that sent the same message: stay away from the blacks.

There was humour and there was love and there was survival. And as I grew older I pieced together the truth that we didn’t choose this. We are the detritus of the brutality of the Australian frontier.

As Australia welcomed waves of migrants and built a rich, diverse, tolerant society, we remained a reminder of what was lost, what was taken, what was destroyed to scaffold the building of this nation’s prosperity.

We survived the “smoothing of the dying pillow” of extermination to end up on the bottom rung of the ladder of assimilation. Too many of us remain there still. Look to the statistics: the worst health, housing, education, the lowest life expectancy, highest infant mortality. An Indigenous youth has more chance of being locked up than educated.

If good fortune or good genes means you are among the lucky few to find an escape route then you face a choice: to “go along to get along”, mind your manners, count your blessings and hide in the comfort of the Australian dream; or to infuse your success with an indignation and a righteousness that will demand this country does not look away from its responsibilities and its history.

I found a path through education that led to journalism. A love of knowledge and an inquisitiveness that has shot me through with anger. A deeper understanding of history, of politics, of economics, leaving me resentful of our suffering.

I wrestle with that anger as the boy I was wrestled with his shame. I want to see the good in a society that defies the history of its treatment of my people.

It is the legacy of my grandfather who signed up to fight a war for a country that didn’t recognise his humanity, let alone his citizenship. It is the lesson of the example of the lives of my mother and father, my uncles and aunties. Lives of decency and hard work and responsibility and rooted in our identity as Indigenous Australians.

When I was 16 I summoned the courage to speak to my class. As the only Indigenous kid, the only Aboriginal person my schoolmates had met, I wanted to tell my family’s story. My teacher was proud and encouraging. When class returned after lunch the words “be kind to abos” were scrawled across the blackboard.

The rejection, the humiliation, cut me to the core.

This is the journey too of Adam Goodes. A man whose physical gifts have set him above and given him a platform available to so few and whose courage demands that he use it to speak to us all.

Events in recent years have sent Adam on a quest to understand the history of his people, to challenge stereotypes and perceptions. I have spoken to him about this. I recognise in him the same quest I see in myself. It is a conversation I have had with so many of my Indigenous brothers and sisters.

This is rare air for anyone, let alone a footballer. He has faltered at times and the expression of his anger at our history and his pride in his identity has been challenging, if not divisive.

The events of 2013 when he called out a 13-year-old girl for a racial taunt opened a wound that has only deepened. To some the girl was unfairly vilified. Adam’s war dance of this year challenged and scared some people. His talent, the way he plays the game, alienates others.

And now we have this, a crescendo of boos. The racial motivation of some giving succour to the variously defined hatred of others.

To Adam’s ears, the ears of so many Indigenous people, these boos are a howl of humiliation. A howl that echoes across two centuries of invasion, dispossession and suffering. Others can parse their words and look for other explanations, but we see race and only race. How can we see anything else when race is what we have clung to even as it has been used as a reason to reject us.

I found refuge outside Australia. My many years working in Asia, the Middle East, Europe and Africa liberated me. Here were the problems of other peoples and other lands. Here I was an observer freed from the shackles of my own country’s history.

I still wonder if it would be easier to leave again.

But people – like Adam Goodes, other Indigenous sportsmen and women who are standing with him, his non-Indigenous teammates and rivals who support him, and my non-Indigenous wife, my children and their friends of all colours and the people of goodwill who don’t have the answers but want to keep asking questions of how we can all be better – maybe they all make it worth staying.


TPP Deal: Australia Blames US, Big Four Economies For Not Reaching Final Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement

The latest round of Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations in Hawaii ended without the 12 countries reaching a final agreement because of disagreements over a number of small issues. Australia's trade representative is placing the blame for the accord's failure to pass on the United States and the so-called big four economies.

“Australia had made some excellent progress but unfortunately some difficult issues were not resolved,” Australian trade representative Andrew Robb said, according to several reports. “The sad thing is, 98 percent is concluded.”

According to Robb, the U.S., Canada, Japan and Mexico were the main roadblocks to an agreement. There were concerns about auto trade, protection for prescription drug companies and access to dairy and sugar markets, The Guardian reports

The TPP is a major trade deal that will govern concerns about 40 percent of the world’s economy. According to The Australian, the delegates will reconvene in November for more negotiating. The deal is worth about $200 billion.

Despite the sticking points, many of the delegates said they are hopeful that they can be resolved. “From my reading, the issues are not intractable and there remains a real determination to conclude the TPP among all parties,” Robb said.

According to reports, Robb is feeling pressure from back home. Various parties are unhappy with the current deal on the table for sugar farmers and have threatened to "cross the floor" when the deal is up for a vote in parliament. Farmers reportedly are not content with what the U.S. is offering in terms of sugar trade access.

"I'm trying to work particularly on the chance of increasing Australia's share of the growth in the U.S. sugar market, where I think there are big opportunities," Robb said, according to The Austarlian. "You can't go from exporting 87,000 tons of sugar to the U.S. straight to 1.5 million tons, but we can do more with our entitlement growth."

New Zealand took issue with the deal because it wanted the deal to open dairy markets even further. It also joined Australia and Chile in opposing the U.S.’s proposed protection of pharmaceutical companies


Disquieting law enforcement behaviour

Customs officer confiscates passenger's phone and then uses it to secretly text

A customs officer at Sydney international airport confiscated a mobile phone from a passenger during a baggage search and then secretly used it to send and receive messages without the passenger's knowledge.

The November incident has been referred to the Australian Federal Police, but the new Department of Immigration and Border Protection has refused to release further details, prompting widespread concern and a call for a federal police investigation into the actions of the customs officer.

The passenger, a 22-year-old man who did not wish to be identified, discovered what had happened only when he received a letter from the Integrity and Professional Standards branch of the department, saying it was investigating the "inappropriate use" of his phone by the customs officer.

The letter dated nearly six months later, said "this behaviour does not uphold the standards expected of our officers at the border and on behalf of the department and the ACBPS [Australian Customs and Border Protection Service] I apologise that it occurred. The letter said the "appropriate steps" were being taken in relation to the incident.

The man told Fairfax Media last week he was "disgusted" when he found out what had happened.

"It is embarrassing for them. They obviously have something to hide."

The Department of Immigration and Border Protection refused requests for information by Fairfax Media under freedom of information laws in part to protect the privacy of the officer and would not reveal what the messages said, who they were sent to and why.

A spokesman said "Under section 186 of the Customs Act 1901, officers have the power to examine goods in certain circumstances. 'Goods' includes electronic devices, such as mobile telephones. Access to the passenger's phone was consistent with the act."

The revelations have alarmed civil libertarians and prompted Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young to refer the matter to Australian Federal Police to investigate the wrongdoing.

Senator Hanson-Young said the secrecy of the department and the behaviour of the customs officer involved raises questions about the culture of the Border Force.

"Tampering with an individual's phone like this is illegal," she said.

"Why is the department being so secretive about the case? I have written to the AFP and asked them to investigate."

Professor Michael Fraser, the director of the Communications Law Centre at UTS, said unless there was some lawful reason – which needs to be given – the department needed to justify why the phone was used.

"The person has a right to know what communications were made on his phone," Professor Fraser said.

Stephen Blanks, president of the NSW Council of Civil Liberties, said "this is frightening".

"The Australian people should be frightened that a public official in a position of apparent authority can illegally access people's phones and send messages and then the department thinks that is not a matter of public interest. That is the kind of secrecy a police state relies on to damage the reputation of people who are being targeted," Mr Blanks said.

The man told Fairfax Media he was stopped when leaving Australia for a holiday in Turkey and Cyprus visiting his parents. He was taken to a room where Customs and AFP officers were present. They took his phone and computer and demanded the access codes and then took his phone into another room where he could not see what was happening.

During the time he was detained and searched, the man said he was asked weird questions including how many times a day he prayed? Was his family religious? And did they have a lot of money?

By the time he was released he had missed his flight. No one has since offered to refund his fare. After organising another flight, he was again stopped by Customs and the second time he called his solicitor, he said.

After tense conversations and the customs officers refusing to speak to his lawyer, he was eventually allowed to travel and he returned in December. His solicitor Zali Burrows has been instructed to commence legal proceedings against the department.

The decision not to release any information did say the incident had been "self-reported" the day after by the officer and his supervisor. 

It revealed two documents existed that  the department would not release – an Integrity Complaint Assessment Report and an internal minute dated December 16, 2014.

No documents showed that the matter had been referred to any other authority such as the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity which is the federal watchdog, or even that the minister had been had been informed.


Jealousy of a Private school: accused of buying access to public space

That the school has good access to a sportsground that they have paid to upgrade seems "unfair" to some

The former chief of Soccer Australia David Hill has accused the trust running one of Sydney's oldest and biggest parklands of allowing a wealthy private school to buy exclusive access to public space.

In a scathing letter to the Centennial Park and Moore Park Trust, responsible for the historic parklands Queens Park, Centennial Park and Moore Park, Mr Hill asked why the private boys' school Waverley College has "outrageous" special access to public fields.

Waverley College funds and maintains three sports fields in Queens Park under a "non-exclusive licensing agreement". These fields have been refurbished to have a better surface and drainage, allowing them to "withstand heavy rain and use", according to the trust.

The high-quality grounds ensure the college rarely has to cancel its Saturday school sport even when rain closes all other grounds in the parklands, according to other clubs that use the parklands.

Mr Hill, who is also a former managing director of the ABC, said it was outrageous that a school could buy access to public space. He said parents were furious that their children had to miss games while Waverley was able to play on and he called for the agreement with the trust to be made public.

"Like me, many parents and other members of the public are outraged that our children are barred by Centennial Park from using the parklands when by virtue of a privileged agreement with Centennial Park Trust, children attending private schools are still allowed to play," Mr Hill wrote.

"It is unacceptable and unfair to have separate rules for park use. All users should be treated equally and offered the same conditions of access."

A spokeswoman for the trust said it did not "allow for exclusive access to any playing fields" and 13 different groups, excluding Waverley College, had hired the three high-quality fields since 2006.

Marc Flior​, president of Easts Football Club which also uses Queens Park fields, said the club had a very good relationship with Centennial Parklands but parents were often left wondering why their children's soccer games had been cancelled when Waverley's were not.

Mr Flior said games had been washed out five times in a 17-week season this year, making it increasingly difficult to reschedule matches for the large club, which he says been growing "exponentially" from 580 players last year to 950 this year.

"When Centennial Parklands closes the fields, they should be closed, we accept that, but it was the state government who granted this lease and they should be explaining why private schools get privileged access to public parklands," Mr Flior said.

A spokeswoman for Waverley College said the school uses the fields on "an agreed scheduled basis with the parklands each year", mostly for junior sport days, sports training, and Saturday fixtures.

"Outside of these times, Centennial Parklands manages the bookings of these fields, which are used by other organised sport groups and the public for recreational use," she said.

A spokesman for Environment Minister Mark Speakman, who is responsible for the parklands, said: "The contract with Waverley was signed under the previous Labor government and does not expire until 2022."


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