Friday, March 03, 2023

The perennial Aborigine problem

When the Australian editorialises (24/02/23) that, ‘No one who has followed [its] reporting over decades could remain untouched by the misery afflicting many of our Indigenous communities’ (it means Aboriginal communities, but let that common error pass), it can so claim without fear of contradiction. Nor, it goes on, ‘would they question the vital need to solve the problems that underlie that misery’. True, but the issue has always been, and remains, how to do so?

For longer than I care to remember, well-meaning people like that editorial writer have said we ‘need to solve’ those problems. Program after program has been devised in efforts to do so, and billions upon billions of dollars provided by Australian taxpayers to finance those programs. Yet stubbornly, the problems remain. How can that be?

Some reasons, I suggest, are obvious. For example, when that same editorialist says that the Australian ‘has long been in favour of an acknowledgement [in our constitution] of the country’s first peoples’, does he or she really believe that such a development would have any positive influence on those unsolved problems? Of course it wouldn’t; so why do otherwise intelligent people continue to prattle on to the contrary?

(To digress for one moment, incidentally, there is no sustainable basis for Aboriginal ‘recognition’ in our constitution. As has been said, that document is a rule book, not a history book. It laid down the basis on which six British colonies agreed ‘to unite in one indissoluble Commonwealth under the Crown…’. It had nothing to say about the then inhabitants – non-Aboriginal or Aboriginal – of those colonies (thenceforth states). In 1999, John Howard (demonstrating that even great men can make fools of themselves) put forward a referendum to insert a ‘recognition’ statement via a new preamble to the constitution. The Australian electorate, wise in such matters, consigned it to the flames, with only 39 per cent in favour nationally, and defeating it in every state and territory.)

‘Most Australians’, as that editorial said, ‘bear enormous goodwill towards the first inhabitants of this continent…’. However, I greatly doubt that that goodwill springs, as the editorialist suggests, from ‘sharing a pride in their tens of thousands of years of culture’. Culture? What culture? The one that, as the late Tim Fischer once bravely pointed out, never even managed to invent the wheel? The one in which, as English soldiers observed in 1788, male Aborigines maltreated their women abominably? – as they continue to do today in so many parts of this country. The one in which superstition and retrograde concepts such as ‘payback’ are so firmly entrenched? The 1999 referendum proposed ‘honouring Aborigines… for their ancient and continuing cultures which enrich the life of our country’. Examples of that ‘enrichment’ have recently been manifesting themselves in no uncertain manner on the streets of Alice Springs.

Few topics in this country evoke so much emotion – and so much intellectual confusion – as the state of Aboriginal affairs. One major reason for this is that our ‘Aborigines’ in fact fall into two very different categories. The first category – the one in which Aboriginal culture still holds sway and those ‘problems’ remain so apparent – comprises the 60,000 to 70,000 whose ancestry is wholly Aboriginal. The second category – several times more numerous – consists of people of mixed ancestry, who have chosen to identify as ‘Aboriginal’, but who could equally (or even more accurately in many cases) identify with their Caucasian, Chinese, or other non-Aboriginal forebears. (Senator Jacinta Nampijinpa Price, whose outstanding qualities almost literally shine out of her, has actually taken this bull by the horns, referring to herself from time to time as ‘part-Aboriginal’.) These people live in the community side-by-side with their non-Aboriginal neighbours, go to work on a regular basis, send their children to school, take out mortgages, and so on. So why do governments include them in programs devised to deal with Aboriginal problems? Because, I suggest, the politicians leading those governments lack the intestinal fortitude to refuse to do so.

That is precisely the problem with the current controversy over the so-called Voice to parliament – the matter to which the editorial mentioned at the outset principally pertains. The undeniable fact is that this proposal seeks to insert into our constitution provisions endowing one set of Australians (Aborigines – however defined!) with rights not available to the rest of us. But as the Institute of Public Affairs, writing about this many months ago, said: ‘Race has no place in Australia’s Constitution.’ (It was not merely opposing the Voice on those grounds, but arguing for removal of the two existing race-based passages in that document.) This is so obvious that all the questions about how the Voice would work, were it to come to pass, are plainly irrelevant. Why then are our politicians? – particularly the leader of the opposition, Peter Dutton – so reluctant to say so?

I have read almost every issue of the Australian since its first day of publication in 1964. It is a great newspaper, towering over the pygmies otherwise littering the Australian media landscape. It has a claim, indeed, for inclusion among the ten (or even possibly the five) best newspapers in the world. Why then, in the face of all reason, does it continue to support the Voice? It is not the case that, ‘Lack of detail on voice risks losing nation’s goodwill’, as the headline to that editorial claimed. Nor is it the case that, as the subsidiary headline claimed, ‘Time is running out for the government to allay legitimate fears’. As noted, those fears are irrelevant. What does risk losing people’s goodwill is the unprincipled push to destroy the constitutional foundation whereby all Australians are equal. With all due respect to a great newspaper, when will reality break in?


Nazi attitudes are alive and well right here in Australia

A Palestinian author appearing at Adelaide Writers Week has described a Jewish-American civilian murdered by terrorists in Israel this week as “human garbage” who deserves no sympathy.

The comments came as South Australian Premier Peter Malinauskas revealed he had considered axing funding for the writers’ week but did not want to set a precedent where governments determined who could speak.

Susan Abulhawa is one of two authors at Adelaide Writers Week who have been condemned by key Jewish and Ukrainian groups over a string of inflammatory remarks that have seen three writers pull out of the festival and sponsors threaten to withdraw funding.

Abulhawa’s latest comments involve the murder of Elan Gan­eles, a 26-year-old Jewish-American civilian ambushed and shot near the Dead Sea last Monday while visiting Israel for a friend’s wedding.

His death was labelled an act of terrorism by the Israeli Defence Forces, in which Ganeles had served as a computer programmer before returning home last year to Connecticut to finish his studies at Columbia University.

Ganeles was killed a day after two Israeli brothers were shot dead in a similar attack in the West Bank, the incident prompting a violent outbreak by hardline Israeli settlers who torched hundreds of Palestinian homes and vehicles in Nablus, with one Palestinian death confirmed and many people seriously injured.

Abulhawa took to Twitter this week to ridicule a eulogy for Ganeles posted by the Israeli ­consulate-general in New York that said Israelis were “shattered by his loss” and he had been a good man “who sought to better the world”.

“Privileged white man leaves US to violently colonise another people, gets killed by the people he’s robbing and oppressing,” ­Abulhawa said. “Simultaneously his coloniser friends go on a murderous rampage, committing a pogrom in Nablus. “And y’all are upset over this human garbage.”

The comments have been condemned by the Executive Council of Australian Jewry as another example of Abulhawa’s violent abuse towards Jewish people.

ECAJ co-chief executive Alex Ryvchin told The Australian ­Abulhawa’s latest tweet was “unstable and despicable”.

“I pity Susan Abulhawa,” he said. “It can’t be easy to live with such inhumanity as to mock and celebrate the murder of an innocent young man. The writers’ week director and any board members that still support her should feel deeply ashamed.”

Abulhawa’s comments about the death of Ganeles and subsequent attacks on Palestinians were made despite the IDF denouncing the anti-Palestinian ­violence and warning Israeli hardliners against vigilantism.

The Israeli general in charge of troops in the West Bank, Major General Yehuda Fuchs, described the attacks as a “pogrom” and admitted the IDF was unprepared for the scale of anti-Palestinian ­violence, accusing the Israeli settlers of “spreading terror”.

The participation of Abulhawa and fellow Palestinian author Mohammed El-Kurd has sparked outrage over Adelaide Writers Week and strong criticisms of its director, former Melbourne University Publishing chief Louise Adler.

Abulhawa is a fierce critic of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, whom she has described as “a depraved Zionist trying to ignite World War III”. [Zelensky is Jewish]

She has written several tweets saying the war is Ukraine’s fault for trying to join NATO and has tweeted declaring “DeNazify Ukraine”, the line used by Moscow to defend the invasion.

She has also described Mr Zelensky as “mad and far more dangerous than (Vladimir) Putin” and written “It’s possible to be Jewish and a Nazi at the same time”.

El-Kurd has written scores of tweets that prompted the New York-based Anti-Defamation League and the ECAJ to write to Adelaide Festival organisers to say they were giving a platform to “unvarnished anti-Semitism”.

He has described Israel as “demonic”, “sadistic” and a “death cult”, labelled Zionists “barbaric neo-Nazi pigs” with a “lust” for Palestinian blood, and compared Israel with the Nazi regime whose genocide led to the creation of the Jewish state, ­including accusing Israel of ­“Kristallnachting” Palestinian people.

The Australians has approached Abulhawa and El Kurd for comment through AWW organisers but has had no reply.

Despite saying last week that he would boycott any writers week sessions featuring Abulhawa and El-Kurd, Mr Malinauskas on Thursday night honoured a commitment to launch AWW at the Adelaide Town Hall alongside its director, Ms Adler.

Mr Malinauskas used the launch to repeat his criticisms of the authors but said he did not want to set a precedent of a government deciding what could be said at a writers festival.

“I confess to contemplating removing government support for writers week,” he said. “And to be sure, this may have been a politically expedient action for the government to take.

“But as the holder of the highest elected office in our state, I can’t just be a politician looking to get a six-second grab up on the nightly news. “As Premier, I have the responsibility to actively contemplate all the consequences of each and every decision I make.

“If I was to unilaterally defund writers week on the basis of Susan Abulhawa’s views, what path does that take us down? “It’s a path to a future where politicians decide what is culturally appropriate.

“And at worst, it leads us to a future in which politicians can directly stifle events that are themselves predicated on freedom of speech and the expression of ideas … a path, in fact, that leads us into the territory of Putin’s ­Russia.”

Jewish Community Council of South Australia spokesman Norm Scheuler said Adelaide’s Jewish community “could not believe” that Mr Malinauskas honoured his commitment to open writers week, especially in light of Abulhawa’s latest tweets.

“Not only are we surprised, we are bitterly disappointed,” he said.

Asked about the latest Abulhawa tweet, Adelaide Festival chief executive Kath Mainland gave this statement: “Ms Abulhawa is one of 160 writers from 10 countries taking part in Adelaide Writers Week, which has a zero-tolerance policy to racist com­mentary at and during the event.”


Treasurer’s super raid could be a tax on young Australians

The great flaw in Jim Chalmers’ superannuation raid is that higher taxes will apply to more and more Australians every year because he will not adjust the $3m threshold above which higher taxes will apply. With inflation running at 8 per cent, $3m will soon not be what it is today.

Labor’s new tax is not a tax on the rich, it is a tax on young Australians because many of them will need $3m (or even more) by the time they retire.

The government’s proposal is to double the tax rate for those with superannuation balances of $3m or more. The government claims that this will affect fewer than 0.5 per cent of Australians. But that is just for today.

Some quick sums show that many more will be affected if the $3m threshold stays fixed. Take a 30-year-old today with a $200,000 superannuation balance.

Assuming that person earns $100,000 a year, and makes average returns on their superannuation, this person will have a superannuation balance of more than $3m by the time they are 62 years old. This is the power of compound interest.

Does the government think that someone on $100,000 a year is rich? The average full-time wage is now $94,000.

Say upon retirement at 65, this Australian plans to have their superannuation provide for them for another 20 years.

Thanks to Labor’s tax changes, they will now have $50,000 a year less to provide for themselves in retirement. Over their lifetime, they will pay $700,000 more in superannuation taxes.

Younger Australians are facing a much poorer and harsher
retirement if Labor’s tax changes are not stopped.


China trade thaw as coal, cotton exports resume

A two-year freeze on coal and cotton exports to China appears to have thawed with a lift in the volume of goods being sent to Australia’s biggest trading partner, but the Albanese government remains cautious about proclaiming an end to Beijing’s unofficial ban.

The first shipments of Australian coking coal arrived in a southern Chinese port in early February, and ASX-listed, Chinese-owned coal company Yancoal confirmed this week it had sent two cargoes of coal to China this year.

Some 25 ships with a total of 2.5 million tonnes of Australian coal had sailed for China “since January”, commodity analyst S&P Global told the Australian.

Australian coal sales to China were cut back in 2019 and halted in 2020 by informal bans imposed as a result of political tensions. Two-way trade between Australia and China was worth $300bn last year.

The coal hiatus saw dozens of ships with Australian coal forced to moor off Chinese ports. As many as 80 shipments were believed to be affected.

Australian cotton sales to China had also resumed, with a shipment of several thousand tonnes of cotton arriving in the port of Qingdao “in recent days”, China’s Global Times reported.

Federal Trade Minister Don Farrell said the trade flows were positive for Australian companies but warned the full resumption of exports between the two countries could take some time.

“We welcome any step towards the full resumption of trade” with China, Senator Farrell said. “It is in both countries’ interest for trade impediments to be removed.”

But he warned that “the trade impediments didn’t occur overnight, and they won’t be resolved overnight”.

While more unofficial trade sanctions across a range of products are expected to be lifted this year, ending formal trade sanctions against Australian wine and barley will be more challenging, as both are subject to formal tariffs from China and a federal government appeal to the World Trade Organisation is on foot.




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