Philosophical Conversations Public Opinion Junk for code
parliament house.gif
Think Tanks
Oz Blogs
Economic Blogs
Foreign Policy Blogs
International Blogs
Media Blogs
South Australian Weblogs
Economic Resources
Environment Links
Political Resources
South Australian Links
"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

political scepticism « Previous | |Next »
June 27, 2007

An example. Sometimes the scepticism gives way to panic. There is reticence and fear on the part of indigenous people in how they interact with white Australians. There is also an arrogance and intimidation on the part of white Australians towards indigenous people.

Matt Golding

A different response is the address to the Cape York Institute conference in Cairns by Ken Henry, the Treasury Secretary about the need to end "passive welfare". He argues that the core reason for the limited success in indigenous policy over many years is that too little of this policy has been focused on addressing the underlying causes of disadvantage.

There are three key interdependent foundations of indigenous disadvantage: poor economic and social incentives; the underdevelopment of human capital and of capability in general; and an absence of the effective engagement of indigenous Australians in the design of policy frameworks that might improve social and economic incentives and build capabilities.

Henry operates in terms of a three legged stool of positive incentives, well developed human capital and effective policy engagement. These have much the same functioning as the legs of a three-legged stool in that all three must be strong and supported together to ensure that our approach to overcoming indigenous disadvantage is well-balanced. Weaken or remove one leg and the stool collapses. Henry says:

Getting the incentives right and building human capital will best come through indigenous engagement in policy development. It is essential to achieving better outcomes. Policy reforms are more likely to be successful where they are informed by those affected; those who are uniquely placed to understand their own needs and preferences. Moreover, the opportunity to participate in policy development is, like education and good health, a development outcome in itself, contributing directly to higher levels of wellbeing. Research suggests that indigenous groups with more autonomy in decision-making fare better in key socio-economic indicators.

That takes us to the heart of democracy doesn't it---citizens having the capabilities, voice and power to shape the policy agenda. Positive welfare incentives in the welfare system that reward work and study above passivity and dependence and human capital (good health and education) to overcome poverty as capability deprivation and to take advantage of positive incentives do not give democratic voice or power.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 6:30 AM | | Comments (13)


i lived on the navajo land for 3 years, and being in charge of their local government seemed to make a big difference in morale and prosperity for the dineh.

the local brown people would probably benefit equally from similar autonomy. unfortunately, it could be argued that this is true for the local pale people, too. this may be the reason the pollies aren't giving any power away- where would it end?

Are you saying that ATSIC had no input?

One of the speakers at the Cape York Institute conference in Cairns was Michael Meyers, President and Executive Director of the New York Civil Rights Coalition. Do you know him or his work?

I do not know what he said at the conference--I only heard a grab on the radio about indigenous people leaving their homeland if there is no work there. His argument appears to be that as indigenous cultures are an antiquated concept so Aborigines needed to move away from the land if they were to improve their lives. He is reported as saying:

We have to reassess where Aboriginal people should be. We need to give them freedom of movement. We need to redefine the idea of community. A community defined as indigenous … is passe in a 21st century world. People have to move out of their ghettoised attitudes, get away from the idea that people belong in certain lands.

So Aborigines who stayed in their homelands were restricting their opportunities and contributing to their own social disadvantage. Therefore:
What value is the land to Aboriginal people when they have all these kinds of problems, or misery, of unemployment. What value is the land to them?

So Aborigines should abandon their land and assimilate into mainstream Australia to escape the grinding poverty of isolated communities.

The message is get out of hell and become middle class.

ATSIC is no more. ATSIC was the primary vehicle to represent Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people' views to all levels of government . It was also supposed to be an agent for positive change in the development of policies and programs to advance the interests of Indigenous Australians.

There is now a vacuum at the political level.It needs to be filled. Henry does not address the political dimension.

Noel Pearson addresses the political stuff on Lateline in response to questions by Leigh Sales(who is very good by the way).

LEIGH SALES: Long term - when this immediate crisis is hopefully stabilised - do you think there's a role for another body, similar to ATSIC, perhaps on a better model, to be developed to help Aboriginal people take greater control over their own futures?

NOEL PEARSON: Absolutely. We've got the take charge. We've got to be given back responsibility. Might I say the collapse of responsibility that we see, the wasteland of responsibility in Indigenous Australia is the consequence of government and bureaucracies and welfare organisations, including NGOs, who have intervened in Aboriginal affairs and said, "listen, you don't have to take responsibility. You have a whole suite of rights, including the right to welfare, the right to drink, the right to party all night, the right to have the trappings of office without being accountable for any return on your role."

You know, it's been the intervention of government and bureaucracies in this way that has really crumbled what were strong and proud people. You know, when - in Aboriginal families that are functional, there's no greater love of children than Aboriginal people who nurture and look after their own children, and you witness that time and time again. But, you know, in recent decades, this very precious thing of the Aboriginal love for their own people has come under severe assault and has severely unravelled because responsibility has been taken away from us and we've abandoned it. We've been quite happy to abandon it, and ultimately the solution to our problems will require us to pick up the mantle of responsibility and take it up because nobody can save us as surely as we can save ourselves.

LEIGH SALES: So you would like to see a new ATSIC in place?

NOEL PEARSON: There's got to be some kind of structure in which we interface with government to ensure - because I can tell you, you try and get responsibility out of a welfare agency. You try and say, "well those Aboriginal people there should now exercise full responsibility." This is like… Dracula to garlic or something, you know. Dracula to a wooden stake. They hate the idea of giving back responsibility to Aboriginal people and, you know, we have turned into a nation of cripples because of those policies that have treated us like children, and the time has come for black fellas to wake up to the real meaning of self-determination.

there are some very conservative ‘tough love’ themes in the Cape York Institute Conference. Lawrence Mead, head of politics at New York University, is one of the speakers and he is part of the assault on the welfare state by the intellectual right in the US. He is reported as saying the following at the Conference:

Dependency happens when parents do two things - first, have children outside of marriage, and second, when the men decline to support the family by working regularly. the best way to end welfare dependence was to let poor people know they were required to work. There's no substitute for actually expecting people to do the right thing. You have to tell them clearly that certain behaviour is right, rather than leaving it as a choice. And there has to be some kind of sanction. So if we want to stop intergenerational welfare dependency, we have to tell people that unwed pregnancy and non-work are wrong, and attach penalties to these behaviours.

The best way to end welfare dependence then is to let poor people know they were required to work and put sanctions in place.

Meade argument is that the welfare system, which is designed, to achieve social equity, actually produces a large underclass. This class exists because recent social welfare programs, notably those that provide economic subsi-ies to poor people, have not obliged them to seek and accept jobs. This leniency has rendered them incapable of coping with mainstream social demands. So, we will solve or at least mitigate the underclass problem if we couple economic subsidies to the poor with the obligation that they seek and accept jobs.

Mead's view of governmental policy is one that ties a work obligation to welfare. The failure to impose obligations on the beneficiaries of social programs is the primary cause of the growth of the underclass. What is being offered is the silver bullet of ''obligation.''

giving indigenous people their own land doesn't pin them there. it just gives a place for those who don't want to move to the big city.

aboriginal people on their own land can make a living even by mainstream standards- tourism is an obvious starting point, but native american reservations do lots more, and i expect the local tribes would think of plenty. .

from the outside i would guess atsic was worse than useless- a layer of talkers between clients and power. this is not local autonomy, it's manipulation.

Yes it is a shame that ATSIC didnt work. Why didnt it work? When it had every aboriginal in the country to sit on its board to choose from. Perhaps they are no good at self government.

Re ATSIC: this op-ed indicates what not to say ie., repeat the Mal Brough line that ATSIC was responsible for every Indigenous issue. As is pointed out ATSIC did not, at the time of its abolition, have fiscal responsibility for the areas of health and education and was only a supplementary funding
provider on issues such as domestic violence, languages, heritage protection and housing.

Re your "Perhaps they are no good at self government" has to explain why Noel Pearson's Cape York Institute is widely acknowledged as being so effective in governing the Cape.

about your query as to why ASTSIC did not work, you could start with Larissa Behrendt's The abolition of ATSIC – Implications for democracy. As she is Professor of Law and Indigenous Studies
University of Technology, Sydney we have an article written in terms of academic conventions rather than uninformed personal opinion or the polemics of the tabloid press.

Yes Noel has done a great job but the cape is very different to the center of Australia as are the people. The availability of the ocean and fresh water presents greater possibilities for being somewhat self sufficient.
I suppose I should clarify in that those communities that have problems are no good at self government.

it is good to see that your earlier insinuation that all aborigines are no good at self-government has been withdrawn to some indigenous communities.

I presume by some you mean the Northern Territory indigenous community of Mutitjulu?

It is sad, real sad, that politicians are more concerned about their political future then the real victims of this all.
Noel Pearson, director of Cape York Institute in my view has tunnel vision and lacks the “Policy & Leadership” he so much had displayed on the signage behind him.
My response to his comments have been published on my blog;

See also my website

While John Howard now is backing of from compulsory medical checks, it was after I forwarded to him my 22 June 2007 correspondence that it is unconstitutional to target Aboriginals in this manner in selected area’s.
Yes, let assist the Aboriginals but lets do it in a manner that is non political and that is to first of all seek their cooperation, not to intimidate them or blackmail them with monies, as I understood Tony Abbott now is on about.
Keep in mind that if John Howard can get away with what he is pursuing against Aboriginals in the NT then do not forget that within Section 122 of the Constitution he has no power to do so, as since the 1967 con-job referendum the powers are now within Subsection 51(xxvi) and only if it deals with a “coloured race” and it relates to ALL people of that race. Hence, it doesn’t matter if it are Aboriginals in a remoter area or if they are doctors/lawyers/judges/politicians or whatever in Melbourne, Sydney or where ever they a denial of alcohol would affect all Aboriginals.
At least that is constitutionally so, but then again John Howard has proven to take the law into his hands in the past time and again and so he doesn’t appear to be too much concerned about what is lawfully permitted. Can we then trust him in his conduct regarding Aboriginals?