Friday, February 05, 2016

Australia should do more for Aborigines?  If so how?

The self-righteous bleat below is an editorial from the Left-leaning Melbourne "Age".  It exhibits all the brains of a flea.  It shows no awareness of Aboriginal life or of the unending stream of government efforts that have been made to better the lot of Aborigines.  I would be surprised if the writer had ever set foot in a black's camp. I have.  I grew up with Aborigines around the place.  They were in my Primary school and down the end of the street where I lived. 

So the writer below has only his self-righteousness to put forward. He puts forward not a single suggestion about what to do to help Aborigines.  He doesn't know what has happened and has no idea what should happen.  He is just a brainless Leftist fool 

The best he can do is end up with an unsubstantiated accusation.  He speaks of "The disadvantage foisted on Indigenous Australians by ignorance or prejudice."  Where is his evidence that the poor situation of Aborigines is due to "ignorance or prejudice".  He has none.  It's just a verbal fart.

There are many ethnic groups in Australia and many of them came here when there was indeed prejudice against them.  My mother's father told her when she was young that he would cut her off if she married an Italian.  So did that hold Italians back?  Hardly.  Not long ago, Australia's most populous State -- NSW -- was run by second generation Italians and Greeks -- the Iemma administration.  And they were put there by the NSW voters.

And note that most Italians who migrated to Australia in the early to mid 20th century were poor peasant people trying to escape poverty.  They were by most criteria very "disadvantaged" people.  But they thrived in Australia, as they did in the USA. In one generation they leapt to prosperity.

And look at the Jews.  Can any group ever have been more hated than the Jews?  If you want to talk about prejudice and discrimination, look at the experience of the Jews.  Yet Jews ride high wherever they are.  Israel even prospers despite constant attacks on it by Muslims.

Plainly, there is no systematic disadvantage inflicted on anyone by prejudice and discrimination.  One could more plausibly argue that it spurs people on to a high level of achievement.

So our brainless Lefty editor is plain WRONG in his explanation  of Aboriginal backwardness.  That leaves Aborigines responsible for themselves.  Self-responsibility?  What a horrible thought to a Leftist!  The State is their solution to everything. 

Over 40,000 years, Aborigines evolved to lead a hunter-gatherer life and they are superbly adapted to that life.  They are NOT however adapted to modern life and nothing will make them that.  There are however some ways that they can be helped. 

I see it in the contrast between elderly Aborigines and young Aborigines.  The older ones are much better adapted to white society.  They lead reasonably clean, orderly and sober lives while the young ones are plagued by every conceivable problem.  Why?  Because when the older ones were growing up, the Aboriginal settlements were run by missionaries.  And Aborigines are a very spiritual people so religion has a big effect on them.  It gave the missionaries the leverage to teach Aborigines habits that would be to their advantage.

But there is no political will to bring back the missionaries so is there anything else to be done?  Just about everything that could be tried has been tried by successive State and Federal governments of all political stripes so there is really only one possibility left:  Better policing. 

The casual violence towards women and children by Aboriginal males is horrific. I have seen it.  But if the women had somewhere to run to in their settlements, many could escape that violence.  Most settlements already have a police presence but it is woefully inadequate.  More cops are what is needed but I am quite sure that would not suit our brainless Leftist editor.  Where would he get a warm glow out of that?

If you are yet to take the 8½ minutes to watch journalist Stan Grant speak on the topic of "racism destroying the Australian dream," make the time. His words are searing, a much-needed jolt to national complacency towards Aboriginal Australia, and a powerful statement of reality, both historical and present day.

But more than words, the accompanying passion – Grant's face and tone deeply imbued with sorrow, anger, hope and regret from personal experience as an Indigenous man – points to the emotional toll of unfinished business on the first people of this country. We must all strive to better acknowledge this suffering, even if it remains a lived experience most people can never truly understand.

Grant's speech, delivered in October, won prominence last week when released as an online video during a traditional time of introspection, both for the community and in our personal lives.

The new year is often a moment when people choose to take stock of goals, to resolve a fresh beginning, or rededicate themselves to cherished dreams. The symbols of nationhood are put on overt display just as languid summer weeks are about to be swamped by the reality of busy lives. As if to warm up dozing political muscles, we have developed a habit of adorning Australia Day with a ritual debate about changing the flag and becoming a republic.

But Grant's speech challenges the country to do more. Much more. His is a reminder that the personal and national experience is deeply intertwined for Indigenous Australians. The "Invasion Day" protests to mark the anniversary of the arrival of white settlers are illustrative, but cannot alone convey the discrimination felt each and every day in the Indigenous community.

"My people die young in this country," Grant reminds us. "We die 10 years younger than average Australians and we are far from free. We are fewer than 3 per cent of the Australian population and yet we are 25 per cent, a quarter of those Australians locked up in our prisons .hs.hs. If you are a juvenile, it is worse, it is 50 per cent."

Statistics that alone are distressing, but in what stands as a national shame, Grant observes "an Indigenous child is more likely to be locked up in prison than they are to finish high school." What a indictment on the supposed ethos of a fair go.

Australia can do and must do better. The steep difference in Victoria, where Indigenous children are more than 12 times as likely as non-Indigenous children to be placed in state care is another indicator of woeful disadvantage. We have become far too comfortable with pledges to "close the gap" that the action necessary to make this a reality is rarely a priority.

Complacency also marks our debate about the place of Indigenous culture in our national story. We have become fixated on a slogan, "recognition", too often ignoring the concepts many Aborigines would prefer be debated, such as "self-determination", "sovereignty" and "treaty".

It is not that the proposal to change the constitution to acknowledge Indigenous culture is without merit. But the country must properly decide what such a change is meant to achieve. Megan Davis, a legal professor and member of the Prime Minister's Expert Panel on recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the constitution, has warned the idea has become mired in "bipartisan stage-managed process". We should be aspiring to more than piecemeal reform, but justice.

Like Grant's speech, Davis' essay "Listening but not hearing", published in the latest edition of Griffith Review, is a further reminder the country can grow from a frank, and importantly, inclusive debate about the life of Indigenous Australians. The disadvantage foisted on Indigenous Australians by ignorance or prejudice is holding the nation back. To do better, the voices of the Aboriginal community must be listened to, and heard.


A Win in court for Australia’s Migrant-Detention Policy

The high court ruled the government’s practice of holding asylum-seekers on Nauru was both legal and constitutional

Australia’s high court has rejected a challenge to the country’s practice of holding asylum-seekers at a camp on Nauru, the Pacific island nation, a decision that paves the way for the return of more than 250 people—including dozens of babies—who are now in Australia.

At issue is a case brought by the Human Rights Law Center (HRLC) on behalf of a Bangladeshi woman who entered Australia by sea. She was detained by Australian officials and taken to Nauru, which along with Manus Island, part of Papua New Guinea, is where Australia processes its asylum-seekers. The woman was returned to Australia for medical treatment during the late stages of her pregnancy, but appealed her return to Nauru. Lawyers for the woman challenged Australia’s right to detain people on foreign soil. On Wednesday, the court said the government’s actions were both legal and constitutional.

The decision paves the way for the return of about 267 people, including 37 babies born in Australia, to the detention center on Nauru.

HRLC and other immigrant-rights groups say the conditions on Nauru are poor, citing women who say they have been sexually assaulted at the detention center on the island.

“The legality is one thing, the morality is another. Ripping kids out of primary schools and sending them to be indefinitely warehoused on a tiny remote island is wrong,” Daniel Webb, the HRLC’s director of legal advocacy, said in a statement. “We now look to the Prime Minister to step in and do the right thing and let them stay so these families can start to rebuild their lives.”

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said Australia’s tough stance, which is supported by the opposition, not only secures the country’s borders, but also saves lives by preventing drownings.

“Our commitment today is simply this: The people smugglers will not prevail over our sovereignty. Our borders are secure,” he told Parliament on Wednesday. “The line has to be drawn somewhere and it is drawn at our border.”

In a statement, UNICEF, the UN children’s fund, said the court’s decision shifts the international legal obligations for refugees from Australia to its poorer neighbor Nauru.

“The current offshore immigration network is a system in crisis and is creating crisis for affected children and families,” the organization said.

Under Australian law, those asylum-seekers who are granted refugee status are either settled in Nauru or Papua New Guinea—not Australia. They also have an option of going to Cambodia, under a deal worked out between the two countries.

At present, more than 1,400 people are being detained on Nauru and Manus as they await their claims to be processed. The average length of their detention is 445 days.


Europe must copy Australia and stop the refugee boats

Britain needs the former Australian Prime Minister to help tackle the migrant crisis, and should give him a peerage to make it worth his while
The Australian Liberal Party has already done one great service for David Cameron: finding, funding and preserving Sir Lynton Crosby. The knighthood alone symbolises the debt the Conservatives owe Crosby for their first majority in nearly a quarter of a century. Now it is time for the Prime Minister to return the favour to the Liberals by giving a peerage to former Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

There are three good reasons for this. First, it would relieve the current Australian Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, of his single biggest political management problem - the continued presence of a former leader on his back benches. If recent Australian political history tells us anything it is that former leaders - particularly when deposed - often attempt to return to leadership in the most spectacular fashion.  Outplacement really needs to mean outplacement.

Second, and this is a critical part of solving Turnbull's headache, Abbott would not disdain membership of the House of Lords. He was born in London and his respect for the United Kingdom stretched to him giving a eulogy to Margaret Thatcher after her death.

The third, and best, reason is that once back in the UK, Tony Abbott could tell Britain and the European Union how to "stop the boats" - and we do need to learn how to do that.

There is a bluntness about the phrase "stop the boats" that sounds coarse to European ears. And the harshness and the brutality of its articulation as a proposition by Abbott is a tone which is absent from our mainstream politics, but not from our politics as a whole. Anger, and indeed confusion, dominate and at times define our political discourse.

But it is an anger exploited and channeled by populist parties of the Left and Right - it finds no home in the mainstream. But it needs to.

The trajectory of European policy on refugees and asylum seekers has been a masterclass in how a very human, in fact humane, and emotional response has led inexorably to human misery. No one with a heart can have failed to be exhilarated when Angela Merkel opened Germany's borders to refugees.

The sight of a German Chancellor posing for selfies with refugees was in one way a symbol of a very different Europe. But in the world of people smuggling and human trafficking, it was received very differently. Angela Merkel was - inadvertently - the poster girl for their exploitation and exacerbation of human misery.

For once you signal that Europe is open for refugees then you no longer control your borders - they are managed by criminal gangs.

There's an Indonesian phrase for this incentive for people smugglers - "sugar on the table". And so we return to Tony Abbott. Australia has faced a similar challenge from people smugglers. The same desperate families. The same criminal gangs.

The same risk to life - a one-in-twenty chance of death if you boarded a boat in Indonesia. That's why there was bi-partisan agreement to end the trafficking and why there is strong Australian support for the policy of the Navy turning back boats. When boats are scuttled by smugglers then "passengers" are rescued - but they don't come to Australia.

They go to refugee camps off shore. They don't, in popular parlance, "jump the queue". The result has been an end to the trade in lives.

The contrast with Europe could not be starker. The winter is ending. More boats are coming - and people are still drowning. There are predictions of over a million refugees coming into the EU this year. Whether or not the number is sustainable economically that number is unsustainable politically. And the larger the traffic, the greater the number of deaths.

Stopping the boats on its own is not the whole of the solution. But it is a start. Ending the inhuman trade requires and end to the conflict that dislocates and a solution to the poverty that drives Africans north across the Mediterranean.

But the push factor can be ended and the loss of life can cease. It can be done - Tony Abbott knows how.


Climate science on chopping block as CSIRO braces for shake-up

Global warming research to be re-oriented towards mitigation

The CSIRO's climate science divisions are expected to be pared back as part of a massive shake-up of the organisation.

The ABC understands cuts are expected to be made within the Oceans and Atmosphere and Land and Water divisions and up to 350 positions in the organisation will change.

The organisation will attempt to redeploy as many staff as possible into emerging areas such as data science, but there are likely to be redundancies in the process.

CSIRO chief executive Larry Marshall said the changes would see the organisation move away from measuring and monitoring climate change, to instead focus on how to adapt to it.

"It's inevitable that people who are gifted at measuring and modelling climate may not be the same people who are gifted at figuring out what to do about it how to mitigate it," he said.

"Some of the climate scientists will be able to make that transition and some won't."

Dr Marshall said the shake-up was about renewal for the organisation and addressing the low turnover rates of staff.

"On the good side that means people love working for CSIRO but on the bad side most companies have much higher turnover than we do," he said.

The good thing about turnover is it creates a career path for junior scientists to aspire to.

In a statement, a spokesman for Science Minister Christopher Pyne said:  "This is an operational decision of the CSIRO.   After an extensive review, the management of the CSIRO have stated the need to re-organise the organisation to better fulfil its mission as outlined in its strategic plan"

In 2014, the Federal Government slashed more than $110 million from the organisation's budget, prompting national protests.

But scientists became far more optimistic when the Prime Minister launched the National Innovation and Science Agenda in December last year.

Malcolm Turnbull committed $90 million to the CSIRO to support increased commercialisation of research.

He also announced $75 million of funding to a CSIRO business unit known as Data61, which will focus research on areas such as cybersecurity and robotics.

At the time, Science Minister Christopher Pyne said organisations like the CSIRO were "among the best in the world".


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