Friday, February 07, 2020

Taking sides over ‘Dark Emu’

Lawyer Russel Marks gives below as much evidence as anyone would need to identify Bruce Pascoe's claims about Aboriginal history as false.

Yet he also attacks people who have brought Pascoe's lies to public attention.  He finds it objectionable that the critics are "right wing".  He says that the right’s mission is "to extinguish the basis for Indigenous sovereignty and self-determination". 

That is an extravagant conclusion to draw from criticisms of  one stupid book and completely ignores the much more obvious conclusions to be drawn from the criticisms:  That the critics object to lies as the basis for history.  Since when is exposing liars wrong?

Marks is however writing for a Marxist organ so being "anti-Right" is probably his ticket to being published there.  His essay is very long winded so I have abbreviated it below, but I give the link to the full article for use by anyone interested in a string of irrelevancies and bigoted assertions

It wasn’t until the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards’ judges voted Dark Emu its book of the year in May 2016 that it began to attract major attention. The book was adapted by the Bangarra Dance Theatre in mid 2018, by Pascoe himself for children (as Young Dark Emu) in June 2019, and as an ABC documentary by Rachel Perkins’ Blackfella Films (planned to be screened this year). These last two adaptations in particular brought Dark Emu to the attention of Australia’s reactionary right, which has now built a sizeable echo chamber inside such institutions as Quadrant, Spectator Australia and the Fox News–styled Murdoch stable, including Sky News Australia and, of course, The Australian.

Andrew Bolt, who rose to prominence during the early 2000s by attacking the Australian Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission’s 1997 Bringing them Home report into the Stolen Generations, wrote his first Dark Emu column for the Herald Sun on November 17, 2019. In it and many since, Bolt relies heavily on an anonymous website, Dark Emu Exposed, which purports to “expose” and “debunk” what it asserts are the book’s many myths, exaggerations and “fabrications”. In the same vein, regular Quadrant contributor Peter O’Brien produced a book – Bitter Harvest: The Illusion of Aboriginal Agriculture in Bruce Pascoe’s Dark Emu – published in December 2019 by Quadrant Books.

But all this attacking and leaping and defending doesn’t do much to resolve the issues. And there are issues. Dark Emu rests on a foundational truth: that the European explorers saw things (and, from within their own worldview, wrote them down) that the first settlers (and the institutions that supported them) didn’t want known (because they were busy expanding the colonial frontier, which necessarily meant acting illegally), and that subsequent settlers couldn’t see (because those things were no longer in evidence). Had Dark Emu merely made this point by quoting explorers’ journals, the right’s attack would have no force.

But throughout Dark Emu, Pascoe regularly exaggerates and embellishes. One example: he quotes Thomas Mitchell’s description of large, circular, chimneyed huts Mitchell observed near Mount Arapiles, in western Victoria, on July 26, 1836, but leaves out the words “which were of a very different construction from those of the aborigines in general”. Pascoe adds his own commentary: Mitchell “recorded his astonishment at the size of the villages”; he “counts the houses, and estimates a population of over one thousand”; and “the evidence is everywhere that they have used the place for a very long time”. But in his own journal, Mitchell doesn’t express astonishment, he doesn’t count and he doesn’t estimate a population size. Nor does he present any evidence that would support a conclusion about longevity of residence.

Granville Stapylton, Mitchell’s second-in-command, recorded seeing one hut “capable of containing at least 40 persons and of very superior construction” on July 26. Pascoe includes this, but not the rest of Stapylton’s sentence: “and appearantly the work of A White Man it is A known fact that A runaway Convict has been for years amongst these tribes.” That could be a reference to the well-known escapee William Buckley (who was found by John Batman the previous July), or it could be a racist myth. The point is that Pascoe simply left it out.

By themselves, examples like these split hairs. But they’re all the way through Dark Emu. Together, such selective quoting creates an impression of societies with a sturdiness, permanence, sedentarism and technical sophistication that’s not supported by the source material. In speeches and interviews Pascoe is known to reach even further. And far too often Pascoe relies on secondary sources, including those obviously pushing ideological barrows.

My observations here will no doubt be seized upon with glee by Bolt, O’Brien and co as further proof of their accusations against Pascoe. It may even be seized upon by those instinctively defending Pascoe’s reputation as evidence that I’ve gone to the dark side. None of these reactions would be helpful, though they would reflect the way we conduct public debate now: “facts” matter much less than “values” and the identities they both draw from and support.

Warrimay woman and lawyer Josephine Cashman’s Twitter stream is divisible into two distinct periods – let’s call them “Before Bolt” (BB) and “After Bolt” (AB) – with the demarcation point on November 20, 2019. The BB stream shows Cashman’s personal brand management. As managing director of her own Big River Consulting company, she was rapidly building a national profile with which she spoke about issues facing Aboriginal people in contemporary Australia. She had chaired a subcommittee of the Prime Minister’s Indigenous Advisory Council from late 2013 and had just been appointed an inaugural member of Minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt’s Senior Advisory Group alongside Marcia Langton and Tom Calma. She appeared on ABC’s The Drum at least six times during 2019.

Then on November 20, Cashman retweeted Bolt’s third column relating to Dark Emu and added: “Mr Pascoe is not an Aboriginal person or accepted by community.” And: “We call for a NSW database.” She was referring to a database of people officially registered as Aboriginal. Canada has had one since 1951. Most Aboriginal leaders in Australia have historically rejected the concept of registration, after the terrible ways governments used classification and registration systems during the “protection” era.

The driver of Cashman’s public interventions during her AB period has been, apparently, an urgent need to expose Pascoe’s claim to Aboriginal heritage, which she is convinced is fraudulent. Bolt is convinced too. He notoriously lost a racial discrimination case in 2011 brought by nine fair-skinned Aboriginal people after he had written columns accusing them of having “chosen” to identify as Aboriginal to advance their careers. Pascoe was one of those accused, but he didn’t join the legal action, later writing that Bolt “would have had a field day”. Bolt’s certainty derives mostly from Dark Emu Exposed, which has published what it says are the relevant birth, death and marriage records that show Pascoe’s entire family tree originated in England.

Fraudulent claims to Aboriginal identity are taken very seriously by Aboriginal communities, and not just because of the measures available to Aboriginal people – from legal services to literary prizes to academic positions – in recognition of specific needs and to promote affirmative action. Fraudulent identity claims are often experienced as disrespectful and hurtful. “My son is Yuin,” Cashman tweeted on November 24, “and his father doesn’t know who [Pascoe] is.”

Pascoe’s defenders want to see Cashman’s repeated misfires as proof of his bona fides, as listed in his profile in Dark Emu’s 2018 edition.

But Pascoe’s bio for an essay in the 66th issue of Griffith Review, published in early November 2019, dropped his claim to Tasmanian ancestry. That was after he was confronted by Tasmanian Aboriginal women at a language conference in Victoria. By the end of that month he would need to drop the Bunurong claim as well, after Jason Briggs, chair of the Boonwurrung Land and Sea Council, sent a letter to Bolt stating Pascoe had no ancestry there either “to the best of our knowledge and research”. On January 22, activist and lawyer Michael Mansell, who had famously alleged mass identity fraud during the 1996 elections of the now defunct Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission, published a long letter in the Tasmanian Times in his capacity as chairperson of the Aboriginal Land Council of Tasmania. Respectfully and carefully, Mansell said he understood why people have leapt to Pascoe’s defence “in the face of attack by the likes of right-wingers” such as Bolt. But Pascoe’s defenders, Mansell wrote, “have rolled two separate and distinct issues – Aboriginality of the author, and what he writes” – into one. Pascoe is not Tasmanian Aboriginal, Mansell wrote.

Regarding his claims to Yuin heritage, at least four senior members of the Yuin nation have publicly confirmed Pascoe’s membership, and one has expressed disappointment at Cashman’s Twitter campaign.

The publication of Sally Morgan’s My Place in 1987 encouraged many Australians who had been raised “white” to wonder and to seek details about their heritage. Some found Indigenous ancestry; many didn’t. It was around this time that Pascoe began his own search. To dismiss his claims as “fabrication”, as the right does, may be far too harsh, though it’s unclear why Pascoe made public claims to Bunurong and Tasmanian ancestry without, apparently, first confirming it with those communities. People are complicated. Pascoe himself has denounced non-Indigenous writers who falsely claim Indigenous identities in order to enter Indigenous-specific literary awards.

For all its problems, Dark Emu is not merely weathering the attacks. It charged back up the nonfiction bestsellers’ list and has occupied the number 3 spot for the past fortnight.

Pascoe himself has lately stayed away from the limelight; wisely, given the rancour. Most of his energies over the summer have been concentrated on defending his home from bushfires. As with most public debates in the age of Twitter and Fox News, there seems little possibility of kindness or compassion or shared understanding here.

Since it reorganised to protect settler Australia’s colonial legacy, the right has been on a permanent seek-and-destroy mission, setting its coterie of mainstay attack-dog columnists and narrowcasters on what they see as objectionable individuals with relatively brief and middling influence. For Cashman to have hitched her wagon to the right’s stampeding horses seems unwise in the extreme, given the right’s mission: to extinguish the basis for Indigenous sovereignty and self-determination.


‘Heaviest rain in years’ hitting Australia’s east coast

If the drought proved global warming, what does this prove?  Global cooling?

All it proves is that Australian rainfall is mostly very inconvenient. We get a lot of it but it doesn't fall at nicely spaced intervals.  Except in a few areas, it is highly unpredictable.  At the beginning of the bushfire season, the BOM, for instance, predicted that there would be no substantial rain until April or May. 

So that must be just a light mist we are having.  Perhaps I am imagining the gutters outside my house running like rivers

As Australian poet Dorothea MacKellar wrote in 1908:

“I love a sunburnt country,

A land of sweeping plains

Of ragged mountain ranges

Of droughts and flooding rains”

She knew the Australian pattern.  It is a pattern that makes Australia heavily reliant on dams

All we have been seeing lately is typical Australian weather. Global warming has got nothing to do with it

A major rain event is expected to move from southeast Queensland into northeast New South Wales in coming days. Meteorologists predict the rainfall to extinguish the bushfires...

A 2000km stretch of heavy rain has flooded Brisbane and southeast Queensland, causing chaos on the roads, and it’s sweeping down the east coast of Australia.

Flood warnings have been issued for New South Wales and Queensland, with experts fearing an incredible 500mm of rain could be dumped on some areas over eight straight days.

There’s already chaos on the roads in Brisbane — where emergency services are currently responding to two crashes south of the city and a red alert being issued due to flash flooding.

The Department of Transport and Main Roads issued the alert saying, “due to water over the road on Vulture Street, East Brisbane, traffic has been diverted onto Grey Street.

“All approaches from the eastern suburbs experiencing long delays”

Parts of Queensland are forecast to receive 500mm of rain after totals of almost 350mm in less than 24 hours.

The Wide Bay region was hardest hit, with Mount Elliott recorded 342mm between 6pm Tuesday and 1am today.

Meanwhile, the massive wet front is dumping rain on parts of drought-ravaged NSW with authorities concerned heavier downpours in the north of the state could lead to flash flooding.

Collarenebri in NSW’s northwest recorded 45 millimetres in the 24 hours to 9am on Thursday which was the highest total over the past day.

Sky News Weather Chief Meteorologist Tom Saunders said the “heaviest rain in years” is starting to fall across many parts of the NSW coast this morning after lashing southeast Queensland over the past 24 hours.

“This major weather event will continue into the weekend,” he said. “Moisture from this system has been spreading south over the last 24 hours, even reaching the Victorian border.”

Queensland was the first to cop a hammering overnight. Tin Can Bay, in the Gympie Region for example, has already had 300mm of rain.

He said the rain is being caused by a very humid north-easterly air stream that’s “pumping” moisture to inland areas and even providing some “major drought relief” from some stricken towns.

For today and tomorrow, that means the north coast of NSW will be hit with possible flash and river flooding with up to 500mm tipped to hit.

The system is then forecast to veer south and spread over the length of the NSW coast.

Mr Saunders said it should be the wettest week for Sydney since March last year.

The downpour could also mark the heaviest February 24-hour rainfall in Sydney since 2002 – when 130mm of rain was recorded on February 5.

“There’s going to be a huge amount of rain,” he said. “It’s enough to extinguish some of the larger bushfires but not hard enough to fill up the dams, considering how dry the catchment has been.”

As of 11pm last night, there were still 62 fires burning across NSW. The RFS warned the fire season is not over, despite the widespread rain.

In Queensland, the wet weather will persist for the next eight days, with the southeast being the worst hit.

Many areas, particularly the coast, will see well over 100mm of rain over the next seven days.


Angus Taylor: AFP drops investigation into doctored documents scandal

Australian federal police says no evidence energy minister ‘was involved in falsifying information’ he used to attack Sydney lord mayor Clover Moore’s record on climate change

The Australian federal police has dropped its investigation into a doctored document used by energy minister Angus Taylor to attack Sydney lord mayor Clover Moore’s record on climate change.

On Thursday the AFP confirmed it had finalised the matter because it had “determined it is unlikely further investigation will result in obtaining sufficient evidence to substantiate a commonwealth offence”.

“The AFP assessment of this matter identified there is no evidence to indicate the minister for energy and emissions reduction was involved in falsifying information,” an AFP spokesman said.

“The low level of harm and the apology made by the [minister] to the Lord Mayor of Sydney, along with the significant level of resources required to investigate were also factored into the decision not to pursue this matter.”

Taylor welcomed the news and accused Labor of a “track record of using police referrals as a political tool”.

“The leader of the opposition [Anthony Albanese] and shadow attorney-general [Mark Dreyfus]’s pursuit of this matter is a shameful abuse of their office and a waste of our policing agencies’ time,” he said in a statement.

But Dreyfus and shadow climate change minister Mark Butler said that “serious questions remain unanswered” about the scandal because “two police investigations have now failed to clarify where Angus Taylor got his dodgy figures from”.

Clover Moore said: “I am shocked and disappointed the AFP will not further investigate the matter and shed light on a situation that has further eroded the community’s faith in the federal government.”


Josh Frydenberg accuses Anthony Albanese of hypocrisy over sports rorts scandal

The Morrison government has accused Anthony Albanese of “hypocrisy” over the sport rorts scandal, pointing to an Auditor-General’s report which found then-minister Albanese administered a grants program which “disproportionately” gave money to Labor seats.

An ANAO report in 2011 found ministers “waived” the eligibility criteria for projects funded by Labor’s Regional and Local Community Infrastructure Program, and that a significant number of projects from Coalition seats did not get funding.

“Whilst the majority of applications received related to projects located in a Coalition held electorate (55 per cent of all applications), the significant majority (some 82 per cent) of these were not approved for funding,” the 2011 ANAO report reads.

“Whilst 40.3 per cent of all applications related to a project in an ALP held electorate, just under 60 per cent of approved projects were in an ALP held electorate. The approval rate for these applications was 42.1 per cent, which was more than twice that of projects located in a Coalition held electorate.”

“Projects located in electorates held by the Australian Labor Party (ALP) and Independent Members were more successful at being awarded funding than those located in electorates held by the Coalition parties.”

It also found that Mr Albanese’s office had set out the projects by electorate, similar to the colour-coded spreadsheets former minister Bridget McKenzie used for the controversial sports grant scheme.

“In addition to the data originally provided by the department, two new columns were added to the worksheet to identify the electorate in which the project was located, and the political party that held that electorate. The individual project risk assessments provided to the Minister’s Office by the department on 15 April 2009 had identified the electorate in which each shortlisted project was located.”

Mr Albanese has for weeks accused the government of “corruption” for handing out sport grants disproportionately to Coalition target seats.

The 2011 report into the infrastructure grants does not mention the same distribution bias towards marginal seats as the most recent ANAO report into the sports grants scheme.

Josh Frydenberg has used the report in federal parliament to attack the now-Opposition Leader and accused him of hypocrisy.

“I’m reminded that there was an ANAO report number 3, 10-11, into a $550 million infrastructure program,” the Treasurer said.

“Which said on page 38, and I quote, ‘Ministers made an explicit decision to approve an application that was known to be otherwise ineligible under the guidelines.’ And also went on to say, ‘The equitable situation of all applicants was not evidence in the processes employed.’

“The Auditor-General went on to say on page 48 and I quote, ‘The awarding of funding to projects disproportionately favoured ALP seats.’ In fact, the Auditor-General found when it came to funding ALP electorates had a success rate almost three times the Coalition.

“Who was the responsible minister overseeing this $550 million grant program? None other than the member for Grayndler ... Hypocrisy, thy name is Labor.”

Mr Albanese’s office has been contacted for comment. In 2011, he defended the infrastructure program and said the spread of the grants was proportionate to the number of seats Labor held.

“As well as leaving a lasting legacy in communities nationwide, this Program kept thousands of local tradespeople working and many local businesses operating during the worst global recession in 75 years,” he said at the time.

“The ANAO also found the allocation of funding across federal electorates was in line with the political makeup of the House of Representatives.

“Put simply, Labor MPs held 55.3 per cent of the electorates and their local councils secured 56.7 per cent of the funding from the Program’s Strategic Projects component.

“What’s more, the four largest grants, totalling more than $83 million, or 15 per cent of the available funding, went to projects in electorates held by Coalition or Independent MPs.”


 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

1 comment:

Paul said...

Driest "wet" season in years here in Cairns city. A 24 hour block of rain at Xmas, then another 48 hours or so mid-Jan, then....nothing.

Personally I think our traditional wet season pattern has drifted further south.