Sunday, September 02, 2018

How did Britain acquire legal ownership of the Australian continent? Public land in Australia is to this day "Crown land"

"Black armband" historian Henry Reynolds is once again trying to make Australians guilty about their past.  His contention below is that the British "stole" the land from the Aborigines.  That is a popular view on the Left and among Aborigines themselves. In support of that view Reynolds sees the present ownership of Australia as being legally defective.  It seems to be his view that a transfer of ownership of the land from Aborigines to the settlers can only legitimately be done by means of a treaty between the two parties.

But that is nonsense on stilts.  Throughout history, changes in ownership of territory have come about through armed conquest -- and Australia was no different.  There was in fact little organized resistance from the Aborigines and the white men had guns.  The British by and large took what land they wanted and shot anybody who attacked them.  That does not sit well with the modern-day Left but it is what has happened throughout history. 

It even happened at the hands of Leftists not so long ago.  The seizure of Cuba by American "Progressives" such as Theodore Roosevelt did not happen as a result of a treaty with the Cubans.  It occurred as a result of a succesful war on the Spanish defenders of Cuba. And the concept of the Spanish conquistadores gaining ownership of Western hemisphere territory via a treaty with the natives is a huge laugh. 

And Reynolds has clearly not taken account of the "Trail of Tears" in his account of American expansion -- which was done at the behest of Andrew Jackson, founder of the Democratic party.  Jackson's policies have been criticized both at the time and subsequently but his territorial dispositions remain pretty much as he left them

And if we were to unwind past conquests, the result would be absurd.  We would have to send the English back to where they came from in the South Baltic 1500 years ago and give Britannia back to the Welsh, Cornish and other Celtic groups who were there first.

Reynolds tries to strengthen his case by an emotional appeal.  He speaks of the "horrors" that the British settlers inflicted on the Aborigines.  And that is his schtick.  He has been trying for years to make what was a generally peaceful settlement into a sort of holocaust. 

But Keith Windschuttle has gone back to the early documents and shown that Reynolds exaggerates to an epic extent.  But Reynolds is not letting go of his claims.  He evidently NEEDS them to be true.  And being now aged 80, his deceptions are  his life's work.  In his angry Leftist way, he hates his own society and wants to hurt it.  He is an old fool. The acquisition of sovereignty over Australia by the British crown is a done deed and going back in history to question it on shallow legal grounds is simply anachronistic

Throughout the 18th century the American colonial governments negotiated treaties with Native Americans, and this practice was carried on by the American republic after independence from Britain. In Canada, treaty-making continued until the early 20th century and has resumed in recent years. The underlying assumption was that indigenous peoples were landowners and also held a form of sovereignty.

The British decision to depart from this path in the settlement of New South Wales had disastrous consequences for the Australians, and predetermined much of the violence that characterised the outward spread of settlement for more than a century. The British imperial government carries a heavy burden of responsibility for the horrors that unfolded.

It may have been the result of the mistake of making fundamental and portentous decisions before the First Fleet had even set sail. But ignorance does not lighten the burden of responsibility. Clearly no convicts were ever excused by claiming their theft had all been a mistake and that they thought the stolen property in question belonged to no one.

More troubling is that it took Australian courts until the 1992 Mabo decision to provide some limited remediation, but not reparation, for one of the greatest land grabs in modern history.

The incurable flaw

There were people at the time who were troubled by the way the annexation had taken place. When Governor King was preparing to hand power over to his chosen successor William Bligh he provided him with notes to help with his orientation including the observation about the Aborigines and that he had "ever considered them the real proprietors of the soil."

At much the same time in Britain the great political philosopher Jeremy Bentham wrote a pamphlet criticising the legal arrangements that had been made for the settlement of New South Wales. Among many points he made was the observation that there had been no negotiation with the Aborigines and no treaty had been signed with them. This created problems which would be enduring. "The flaw", he declared, would be "an incurable one."

Similar concerns about the conduct of the settlers, the fate of the Aboriginal people and the linked problems of property and sovereignty continued to be expressed across the generations by men and women who responded to the "whispering in their hearts" (a whispering first raised by Sydney barrister Richard Windeyer in 1842). They are part of the most enduring political debate in our history. They are still with us as Bentham predicted more than 200 years ago.

The problem is that there is no clear explanation in Australian legal theory to show how sovereignty passed from the first nations to the British crown. On this matter international law has been clear since the 18th century. Sovereignty can be lost and acquired either by conquest or by cession, that is, by the negotiation of a treaty. This was clearly understood by Bentham.

So what can be done? Ideally we should have a decision from the High Court. They could revisit the Mabo judgement and consider the question of sovereignty as Eddie Mabo himself wanted it settled. The case would be simpler than one which considered the actions of the British Imperial government. Murray Island was annexed by the Queensland colonial administration in 1879.

And if the High Court argues that it is unable to decide on such a question, the way forward may be an appeal to the International Court of Justice for an opinion on the matter. That would clear the way for treaty making in Australia itself which would finally provide a cure for Bentham’s flaw.

More HERE 

The last of the group of Vietnamese boat people detained near the Daintree River to be sent home

The Vietnamese men, women and children who bypassed Border Force operations to make landfall in far north Queensland could be flown home on a charter flight as early as tomorrow, The Australian has learnt.

Australian Border Force staff, guards from government contractor Serco and interpreters yesterday arrived on Christmas Island, with 15 of the 17 suspected asylum-seekers also on the ­island, having arrived on a government charter plane from Cairns.

It was unclear last night if any of the group had claimed asylum or if they had been "screened out", a term used to describe asylum-seekers deemed not in need of protection.

However, a charter jet to remove an unknown number of the group has been booked and is scheduled to leave Christmas ­Island tomorrow afternoon, suggesting Australia may have ­already reached agreement with Vietnam for the return of anyone found not to have a genuine asylum claim.

Australia has previously reached agreement with Hanoi for the swift return of Vietnamese nationals found in Australian waters. In April 2015, HMAS Choules delivered up to 50 Vietnamese asylum-seekers to the port of Vung Tau, south of Ho Chi Minh City.

A spokesman for Home ­Affairs Minister Peter Dutton said standard processing would be carried out to determine the most appropriate steps. "Under Australia’s strict border protection policies, no one who travels to Australia illegally by boat is permitted to enter or remain in Australia," the spokesman said.

The group fled into rainforest after their boat grounded near the mouth of the Daintree River, about 120km north of Cairns, on Sunday. Most were captured by Monday.

The remaining two people from the vessel were reportedly caught yesterday morning after being spotted by a ferry operator on the Daintree. The Australian has been told two men, thought to be the captain and a crewman from the boat, were on their way to Christmas Island last night.

Questions remain about how the group’s fishing boat was able to breach border security precautions and make it to the Australian mainland. Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has called for a full briefing from Mr Dutton.

The Labor Premier also questioned whether there was any link between Mr Dutton’s role in the leadership crisis and Border Force’s failure to intercept the boat.

On Monday, Mr Dutton ­acknowledged there had been a surveillance failure. "Clearly there’s been a failing when surveillance has not worked as it should in identifying this vessel or allowing this vessel to get as close to the coast as it has," he said. "But it’s a reminder that the people-smugglers have not gone out of business."

In June 2016, the federal government confirmed that a Vietnamese boat carrying 21 asylum-seekers had been intercepted and turned back to Vietnam.

And in 2015, the navy was involved in intercepting a boat carrying 46 asylum-seekers from Vietnam.

Christmas Island has in ­recent years been used mostly to hold former prisoners who are being deported on character grounds. The island’s three detention facilities routinely held more than 2000 asylum-seekers during the last Labor government, but more ­recently have been close to empty.


Why you can’t afford childcare

Childcare is becoming less affordable in Australia, despite billions of dollars in public subsidies — and it is largely due to increasingly stringent regulation.

The regulation of childcare under the National Quality Framework has had a significant impact on fees and affordability for parents, while the alleged benefits are contestable and not based on firm evidence.

In particular, minimum staff-to-child ratios and qualification rules have required childcare centres to employ more staff with higher qualifications — which add to their labour costs.  These costs, in turn, are being passed on to parents in the form of higher fees.

Childcare fees have been growing well above inflation in recent years, while parents’ out-of-pocket costs have increased by nearly 50% in real terms since 2011 — despite little change in the hours of childcare used.

However, rising fees and out-of-pocket costs should not surprise anybody.

The Council of Australian Governments (COAG) estimated that the staff ratios and qualification rules would add over $1.2 billion to the costs of providing long day care — the most common type of childcare — over 10 years. It also predicted these costs would be passed on to parents.

Based on these estimates, fees for long day care were 11% higher in 2017 than they otherwise would have been, due to staff ratios and qualification rules.

This reflects a bizarre inconsistency in childcare policy. Using one hand, governments are trying to reduce childcare costs with subsidies. With the other hand, governments are driving up the costs of childcare through regulation.

And the cost of childcare subsidies to the federal Budget is expected to be $8 billion this year and reach $9.5 billion within four years. When combined with continued growth in childcare fees, this is not sustainable in the long-term.

Federal and state governments should examine the case for reducing or simplifying the staffing and qualification requirements under the National Quality Framework.

If Australians want affordable childcare, a more flexible approach to regulation is clearly needed.

Eugenie Joseph is the author of the research report, Why childcare is not affordable, published this week.


Key issues at heart of political divide

While it is impossible to separate the political events not only of last week but of the last 10 years from the personalities involved, it is a mistake to ignore what these events also suggest about the bigger political picture.

The two most important books on contemporary politics and political disruption in the early 21st century have already ready been written.

These are Charles Murray’s Coming Apart and David Goodheart’s The Road to Somewhere.

Both books discuss, in the US and UK respectively, the growing divide in world-views, aspirations, values and attitudes toward key issues between what is variously termed the elites — or the metropolitan sophisticates or sometimes the political class — and ordinary suburban voters.

The Australian version of these books — examining what we might call the Wentworth versus the Warringah view of the world — is yet to be written. But let me give a potted preliminary version based on the issues at the heart of the political divide in Australia: energy and immigration.

The political class treats these issues in abstract status terms: what will the international community – i.e. my elite peers in a handful of western nations – think about Australia/ME, if emissions aren’t cut and the immigration program isn’t large.

This is not the way that ordinary people feel about these issues. For them, the issue is whether they can affordably heat or cool their homes — and whether the lights stay on. It’s about whether they can find and afford a home, and about how difficult it is to start a family without the security of home ownership. It’s about how long and crowded the journey is to work — and about the family time that is lost on the commute.

The key issues for these people are very ordinary ones, but they are also the issues that are crucial to both the meaning and purpose of life: work, home, and family. And whether we like it or not, the perception and reality is that on these key issues, government policy actions and failures are making life harder — harder by distorting the social equation between effort and reward, not only in monetary terms, but in terms of the ultimate quality of life.

And when the response by the political class to these legitimate issues amounts to saying "Just shut your eyes, and think of headline GDP growth" is it any wonder that we get political disruption, and support for populist alternatives that empathise with the grievances, but have no real answers.

Many commentators also a render popular concerns about issues such as immigration, and the political dynamics they inspire, in abstract terms as a nativist backlash, as reactionary, or as a revolt by the so-called unrepresentative conservative base.

The problem with this kind of tin-eared, pejorative analysis is that it ignores both the ordinariness — and the crucial importance — of what is behind the present political discontents in countries like Australia, the US and the UK.

And those commentators that prefer to shoot the messengers who speak about these issues — rather than deal with the substance of the issues — not only do a disservice to their fellow citizen, but they are also helping to fuel the disruption and polarisation they otherwise lament.


The storm in the inequality teacup

The idea that economic inequality is a problem — and an increasing one — demanding public policy remedies has taken root in Australian political and policy debates. But there is a sense in which these debates have leapfrogged the relevant facts.

The Productivity Commission has done a great service by applying its analytical skills to an elucidation of these facts. Among the Commission’s findings are that:

Income inequality has increased slightly since the late 1980s, but the extent of the increase is contested, and since the global financial crisis the trend indicates a slight decline.

Australia’s inequality is close to the OECD country average and if there has been any increase it has been at a slower pace than in most other developed countries.

Regardless of inequality, the benefits of income growth have been fairly evenly shared across all income deciles.

The tax/transfer system has a powerful equalising effect on household incomes.

Wealth is much less evenly distributed than income and consumption — and wealth inequality increased up to 2010 — but is more evenly distributed in Australia than in most other developed countries.

Australia stands out for its high degree of household income and wealth mobility. Thus, income inequality based on multi-year averages is lower than that based on annual income.

All up, the facts do not support the salience of inequality in Australia’s contemporary political debate.

So why has inequality taken hold as a political issue? The Commission does not venture onto this ground, but I would suggest three reasons:

Inequality is a hot issue in certain major countries (particularly the US) and has been transplanted here — not least by touring rock-star economists such as Piketty and Stiglitz — notwithstanding the different context.

Those on the left and centre-left have chosen to highlight inequality for political advantage because it fits neatly into the contemporary narrative of victimhood politics.

Inequality has become a lightning rod for all manner of peoples’ economic grievances (stagnant real wages, low housing affordability, etc) whether or not they are germane to inequality per se.

Debate is one thing; actual policy is another. The danger is that a misguided emphasis on correcting inequality will lead to policies that damage economic well-being across the board. As the outgoing Commission chairman said, "Inequality is not a sound basis for the determination of public policy


Posted by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.).    For a daily critique of Leftist activities,  see DISSECTING LEFTISM.  To keep up with attacks on free speech see Tongue Tied. Also, don't forget your daily roundup  of pro-environment but anti-Greenie  news and commentary at GREENIE WATCH .  Email me  here

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