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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

mutual obligation « Previous | |Next »
December 14, 2004

Mutual obligation is back. And we even have a public debate. Things are looking up for our nascent deliberative democracy.

The background context to the current round is described by this editorial in The Age:


"Last week, reports of an undertaking by the remote Aboriginal community of Mulan in the north of Western Australia to meet hygiene standards in return for petrol pumps and health checks revived the issue of mutual obligation in another context. Mutual obligation agreements - contracts in which benefits are exchanged for agreed undertakings - are part of the Government's new approach to Aboriginal affairs. Earlier this month, Mr Howard met Aboriginal leaders Noel Pearson, a champion of mutual obligation, and Pat Dodson, a champion of reconciliation, to talk about how to improve the lot of indigenous people. After the meeting, Mr Dodson said indigenous leaders agreed with Mr Howard on mutual obligation, but he would like to negotiate how it was imposed."


Petty thinks that mutual obligation is an unequal relationship, that it is unfair (lack of choice?) and it is wrong:

CartoonPetty7.jpg

More background is provided by Robert Corr over at Kick and Scream.

Mark Bahnisch over at Troppo Armadillo argues that this policy approach sacrifice liberty for benefits, and ought not to be applied only to one part of the community, based on race. Others see it in terms of sternness and paternalism.

However, Noel Pearson and Patrick Dodson think otherwise. Dodson says:


"The mutual obligation stuff has a lot of resonance within Aboriginal culture and within Aboriginal notions of kinship. This concept has a grounding within our culture and society. It is not just a Western concept and this is how we need to see it."


Noel Pearson says:

"There is no argument with the principle of mutual obligation if we are going to get things fixed. The mistake we made in the past was to think indigenous salvation came from legal and political acts. This is part of it. But we must assume responsibility and recognise these things are achieved through social and economic progress. You don't need to tell a parent who works that they need to wash their kid's face or feed their stomach."


Is mutual obligation at Mulan a first step to overcoming passive welfare dependency, by giving communities more freedom to negotiate what they want and need most - including jobs and access to training?

That is what is being debated.

The ALP is unsure and divided over this system, in which welfare benefits are made conditional on the recipientsí satisfying certain obligations and duties to the state.The principle is that indigenous people are not straightforwardly entitled to government benefits; rather, the benefits they recieve are conditional on their fulfilling a range of duties.

Some argue that mutual obligation is philosophically flawed.

Not many are suggesting that there is an implied sense of personal responsibility in the justification for the Scheme, which unfairly blames the indigenous people for their situation. And that is a big shift from that of the earlier round of mutual obligation associated with unemployment, welfare dependency and welfare to work.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 1:41 PM | | Comments (2) | TrackBacks (2)
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Comments

Comments

What about those in Parliament (whom I have heard described as Parliamentry parasites though for good reasons I would never use or agree with the use of the term) practising mutual obligations. We allow them to keep their outrageous,obscene and disgusting pay and their grubby, exhorbitant allowances if they in turn promise to act like decent normal honest Australians. That would mean no lies,no corruption, acting like sensible educated and sane adults whilst in Parliament, instead as lying, evasive dishonest bullying abusive creeps (this does fit a very senior member or two of the libs). It would also mean thinking and doing what is good for all of us instead of looking after party donors, family and friends.
If mutual obligation is good for us the great stinking (except at election time)unwashed then so for those who LOVE being called 'honorable'whatever Regards, numbat

For those of you who think some of our politicians stink,they are really reflecting our society.
We have destroyed many in our society through handouts,and it was not just the Aborigines.People need something to strive for.It gives them a sense of purpose and it develops strength character.
Once upon a time there was pride in bringing home the meal for the tribe.The hunter or gatherer had worked hard and achieved respect from their peers.We gave them conscience money to appease our guilt.