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

closing the gap? « Previous | |Next »
August 5, 2009

Alison Anderson, the Indigenous Policy Minister, has used her resignation from the Henderson Territory Government over its failure to defend her from Nigel Adam's attack on indigenous politicians in the Northern Territory News to draw attention to inadequate housing for indigenous people. She highlighted the way that millions upon millions of dollars flowing into the Territory from the federal government, supposedly to combat indigenous disadvantage, end up in the hands of the Northern Territory bureaucrats and channeled to the politically crucial northern suburbs of Darwin. This is the politics of white (collar) populism.

Her finger was pointed at the NT Labor government of Paul Henderson, and the administration of 'closing the gap' in Indigenous disadvantage. Two years after the announcement of a massive injection of federal funding to address overcrowding in Indigenous communities not a single house has been built.

Now that ex-Deputy Chief Minister Marion Scymgour is back inside the Labor tent, Henderson will have to rely on Anderson or the other NT Independent Gerry Woods to pass any legislation or win motions in the Assembly - and he will still require the casting vote of the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, Jane Aagard. Shaky ground for a government under siege.

There is a disconnect between Aboriginal people living in remote townships and NT Labor given its quarry vision for the NT, and its embrace of assimilationist tendencies in its Working Futures policy that 10,000 people be moved away from their homelands to create new ghettos in an arbitrary selection of so-called ‘growth towns’. Marion Scrymgour, one of four black Labor MLAs, had resigned from the party in protest at the government's outstations policy, a program which critics say is aimed at driving Aboriginal people off their country and into larger urban centres.

Anderson went public over her concerns about the Henderson Government's handling of the Strategic Indigenous Housing and Infrastructure Program (SIHIP), following a briefing in which she was told that only 30 per cent of the $672 million would actually be spent on new homes. That means up to 70 percent of SIHIP funds would be spent on administration. She was also told that SIHIP - which is yet to deliver a single new house - could result in the building of fewer than half the 750 homes promised at its launch 15 months ago.

Black Australia is finally flexing some political muscle in the Northern Territory.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 12:23 PM | | Comments (25)


Anderson raised the issue of racism as a reason for her resignation. Henderson did not defend her from she claimed were racist remarks in the Northern Territory Press.

Race in the popular imagination is often seen as an issue of the deep North, backwards rednecks, white privilege and white supremacy. This old style racism is what is denied, However, race is also a source of white identity and communal formation within popular culture in the Northern Territory.

populism in Australia often means a folksy style of a Joh Bjelke Peterson, who profess to champion victimized people, or regulatory, tax and other policies that champion common people against predatory interests.

Or the conservative populism of John Howard, that refers to the resentful "people," as a source of strength and hope, against arbitrary bureaucratic power on the one hand and arbitrary feather-bedding corporatism on the other.

It is deeper than that as it is embodied in smooth administration of state bureaucrats in the Northern Territory. This champions the decent, ordinary, hard-working white folk in Darwin against the unrepresentative and arrogant elites in Canberra.

The truth is that the dissolution and tawdriness of SOME Aboriginal communities is a direct outcome of their choosing not to integrate with the rest of the nation, which does enjoy higher living standards and life expectancy.

Integrating only to the extent that every bloody thing in their lives is from the welfare of the Chinese, Indian, British, Greek, Italian, Polynesian communities is the REAL tragedy.

This inability to actually build houses rather reminds me of the "Yes Minister" episode where there was a hospital that was fully staffed with administrators but had no medical staff or patients.

integrationist accounts are usually associated with conservatism, especially the Howard style of conservative populism.

And NON-integrationist solutions involve 6 month old children being fucked up the ass, people off their tits on petrol smashing the shit out of each other 24/7, rarely eating, and dying 20/30 years earlier than the rest of the nation.

YOU do the Math.

Jack, it is indeed a shame that the remnants of populations subjected to genocidal policies for generations, implemented in the most brutal demoralising and humiliating of ways, have collapsed culturally to the despairing and apathetic level demonstrated in individuals, that you describe.
Just as well none of this stuff happens in other parts of the world, particularly places that have suffered violence and civil war, like another victim of colonialist ravages; Africa ( altho Aborigines and Africans are both dark skinned, so there's the connection...).
And of course, how much less excuse for a dominant society like white society.
So we know therefore that absolutly NO wife beating, violence, drunkeness, mental breakdowns, incest or subtle psychological cruelty of the Kyle/Jackie O type happens out in the green and leafy vistas of white suburbia.
You needed to make clear the behaviours you were describing were not due to any innate inferiority of indigenous people, but due to the absolute trauma inflicted that has rendered many but not all of the current genrations of these people dysfuctional and demoralised.
Besides, it is wrong to selectively recall failures without also mentioning the heroic triumphs of people like Michael Long and Lowitja O Donahue, in the face of the steepest adversities of being on the wrong end of a racist culture.
Am glad Dr. Sauer-Thompson included the thread- was wondering if other people were continuing to seethe over the Labor Right's adoption of intrusive and genocidal Howard Interventionism in indigenous affairs, as with so many other issues.
Personally, would put the politicians of this country up against the wall for a firing squad for the deaths that occur in the aboriginal community before even thinking of going after the pathetic, deranged victims of brutal policies unremittingly imposed over centuries.
About time, indeed, this country got out its whining about "undeserving" welfare and realised that appropriation of the GNP several times over would not even BEGIN to sufffice as compensation for aboriginals.
But the masking of land grabs, ultimately for vested "developer" interests is bad enough, until covered by the even more obscene alibi that claims this is done to help the poor buggers themselves.

re your claim

And NON-integrationist solutions involve 6 month old children being fucked up the ass, people off their tits on petrol smashing the shit out of each other 24/7, rarely eating, and dying 20/30 years earlier than the rest of the nation.

I don't see the causal link myself. What's your argument for self-determination causing the behaviours you mention?

you confuse the issue.
For two years, indigenous people in the Northern Territory have copped welfare quarantining, intense scrutiny over child neglect and sexual abuse, and the myriad other upheavals brought by the federal intervention into remote NT communities.In return the federal government promised better housing.

Two years on housing is failing to materialise as the money that is so desperately needed for housing is going into the pockets of bureaucrats and the coffers of the Northern Territory government. The problem here is the government.

What has non integration policies got to do with the failure to deliver on the promise of adequate housing?

yes Alison Anderson's claim was that the failure to deliver on housing is that is not just mismanagement and apathy that drive the continual failure of the NT regime on indigenous issues---it is also institutional racism.

Alison Anderson's dead man walking remarks give the impression that she is willing to bring down the Labor administration over the lack the progress of the SIHIP program, and the seeming indifference by the Henderson Government to the lack of progress.

Anderson has called for a royal commission into the Territory's indigenous spending.

Alison Anderson is correct in what is happening for funding in the NT. It is nothing new and has been pointed out before.

I am not so sure about SIHIP though. I don't believe SIHIP ever planned on building houses this quick. Instead it has a huge focus on Indigenous employment and building houses properly. There are plenty of houses out here that are falling apart in a few months let alone years. I would wait before calling SIHIP a failure in that regard.

The biggest problem with SIHIP is that it is essentially blackmailing the TO's into signing onto long leases to get the money. Forcing through these leases is given a bigger priority than actually looking at what communities have the infrastructure for 30 odd new houses.

We may end up in a situation with a lot of new houses built where there is no water pressure or access to sewage. Or at communities who struggle with adequate water supplies as they are now. These things are not getting looked at because signing up to leases is almost seen as the end game.

that World Today report is pretty damning of the Martin Government---Mal Brough claimed the government had been underfunding Aboriginal communities and neglecting Aboriginal disadvantage. There's a history of both bipartisan racism in the Northern Territory and various cynical defences to counter allegations that the NT Government misappropriates funds meant for Aboriginal people

I presume that Martin was slow to act on Aboriginal issues because
(1) she feared a white backlash (redneck white) that could topple her Government;
(2) she could use Aboriginal disadvantage to get ever more money (subsidies) from the Commonwealth.

is it true that Anderson vocally supported the Brough/Howard Intervention and is widely regarded as a loose cannon perhaps more closely aligned to the CLP Opposition than to the centre and left of NT Labor?

Is it true that Marion Scrymgour is deeply opposed to “Working Futures” policy that will withdraw essential services from the many small homeland communities across the NT and force residents to move or travel to larger “hub” communities to receive those services. A policy supported by Alison Anderson

I 'm confused why the Rudd Labor Government is trying to compulsorily acquire the town camps around Alice Springs. Why are the Tangentyere Council Council and the housing associations required to agree to sign over control of their land for 40 years, in exchange for $138 million in infrastructure and housing upgrades?

Wasn't that---linking the provision of basic services to land tenure--Howard Government policy that Macklin opposed when in opposition.

The PDF you linked to says everything I was thinking and probably answers your questions about Claire Martin.

"You can’t win government in the NT without winning the Northern Suburbs’"

Everything you said there is pretty much as I understand it. Although I am many hundreds of KMs from Darwin and I refuse to read the NT News so a lot of the Darwin Politics go over my head.

I dont know why Macklin has reversed her position on the leases. There is a report in The Age that the Federal Government's $100 million plan to build housing in Alice Springs' decrepit town camps has been halted until at least the end of the month, after a court ruled that the Government could not ignore the concerns of indigenous residents.

Macklin has been talking up the benefits of building new housing and sealing roads through squalid Alice Springs camps that lack basic services such as sewerage and power. But I don't know why that requires new leases that would extinguish rights of indigenous people to remain in their properties.

Paul Henderson does appear to be a dead man walking to the dustbin of history.

According to this report in The Age, Alison Anderson, the member for MacDonnell, this week promised Opposition Leader Terry Mills that she would vote for a no-confidence motion brought against the Northern Territory Government.The other remaining independent Gerry Wood is also willing to support a non-confidence vote.

In the event of the no-confidence motion succeeding, NT administrator, Tom Pauling, QC. can swear in a CL government or call an election. The fate of the wounded ALP Government appears signed and sealed.

It does appear that Alison Anderson is prepared to switch to the conservative side of politics--the CLP She has labelled the Henderson Government a "rotten machine" staffed by an army of second-rate bureaucrats and political advisers intent on obfuscation rather than openness in government. It has a culture of Labor mates being handed lucrative consultancies.

However, it is unclear what she will achieve for indigenous people by siding with the CLP--their governance has also been characterised by nepotism, bureaucratic inertia and indifference to the the near-total collapse of remote-area governance.

This may well be an example of the Government being the worst enemy of Aboriginal people. Maybe Aboriginal communities in northern Australia could build the houses for their communities.

the leases issue around the Alice Spring camps does attempt to address the urban disadvanage of indigenous peopel.

In Specific plan needed to close the gap for urban Aborigines Nicholas Biddle says:

There is not a single suburb in an Australian city or big town where the indigenous population has better or even similar socio-economic status to the rest of the population, I discovered when conducting a recent study. Not one.Contrary to the view that dysfunctional remote communities are the main cause of indigenous disadvantage, in most of urban Australia we have a situation of same suburb, different worlds.

he says that to close the gaps, all levels of government will have to have one eye on remote Australia with the other on indigenous gaps in the cities.

Marcia Langton confirms the Northern Territory government's hopeless gravy train.

The NT government again and again throughout the history of the Northern Territory (has) taken the funding allocations from Canberra, especially the non-tied grants, and used the money for the benefit of non-indigenous people, even though the funds were allocated to indigenous people. And this is our biggest problem and this is why there's such a disaster in the Northern Territory. It's the heart of the problem.

They (the federal government) have lost control of the situation in the NT, and they don't seem to be able to stop the seepage of money out to consultants and failed party candidates and so on. This goes beyond a public housing issue, this goes to fed-state relations and the mismanagement of indigenous funding.

The money that has been allocated to fixing indigenous social ills is reallocated for white benefit, and goes toward balancing the Territory budget.

You need to be cautious about which media to rely on on this issue. Yuwalk said:

"I refuse to read the NT News so a lot of the Darwin Politics go over my head."

Anderson is only one of the NT MPs having a personal relationship with a News Ltd journo. Gossip suggests that she's currently having her scripts written for her.

The NT media that does only crocodile or crap state ALP stories is part of the News Ltd stable, with unusually close links with NT MPs.

Having said that, it's reasonable to expect both sides of politics to be as useless as they are on indigenous issues, since as Yuwalk says, it's the suburbs that win elections.

Macklin's contribution shouldn't come as any surprise either. Sadly.

there is the National Indigenous Times (NIT) as an alternative to Murdoch's trashy Northern Territory Times. that does only crocodile or crap state ALP stories

The latest NIT editorial says that both parties(Labor + CLP) have a shocking record and both parties will exploit Aboriginal disadvantage if there is a political gain to be made--- these are precisely the reasons why both Anderson and Scrymgour walked away.

In this opinion piece in the NIT Brian Johnstone says that Alison Anderson is entirely capable of acting on her threat to bring down the government. He adds:

However, given its long history of hostility and apathy towards the plight of its Aboriginal citizens over a quarter century in government, you do have to wonder why Ms Anderson would even consider sitting with the Country Liberals.While it must be acknowledged the party turned over a new leaf and eschewed its time worn approach of racial bigotry in last year's election, no-one, least of all Ms Anderson, should forget the legacy of successive Country Liberal Party Chief Ministers Paul Everingham, Ian Tuxworth, Marshall Perron and Shane Stone.

Chris Graham in the editorial says that both Anderson and Scrymgour have shown enormous courage coupled with a determination to smash party lines when they believe the great interests of Aboriginal people are at stake. He adds that whoever ends up in charge it's important to remember one thing - the political landscape in the Territory has changed forever.

Rolf Gerritsen, a former director of social and economic policy in the chief minister's office under former Northern Territory Labor leader Clare Martin, and now a research leader in central Australia with Charles Darwin University, gives an example of the Northern Territory Government's priorities:

He said a recent decision by the NT government to build a $3 million racehorse training area in Darwin after it claimed it could afford only $50,000 for its part in a swimming pool at a remote Aboriginal community revealed an underlying reluctance -- and perhaps admission -- that indigenous problems were just too big to tackle.."That to me shows you they are more interested in spending their money in Darwin's northern suburbs, where the swinging seats are, than seriously tackling the issues at hand. The nice new boat ramps may be in Darwin, the races are in Darwin ... but the ones we're supposed to be helping are not. But you try to get any of the public service out into the remote areas -- it is an impossibility."

I fear that he is being too generous to the Northern Territory Government.

"I fear that he is being too generous to the Northern Territory Government."

An example from Tennant Creek.

Former NT housing minister and Aboriginal MLA Elliot McAdam reveals on ABC radio that the federal and state governments have not fulfilled their promises to the Tennant Creek town camps, which were supposed to receive 20 new houses in exchange for signing a 40-year lease over their land.

ABC radio reported that under the agreement, the town camps were promised $36 million for the 20 houses.

But one year later, the figure was dropped to nine houses. By 2009, the governments had reduced it to zero, with only refurbishments to be completed.

"How come there's no houses in Tennant Creek? How come it went from 20 to 9, then to 0, with an extra $6 million chucked in on top?" McAdam asked.

He told the ABC he believed about 25 percent of the funding for the Tennant Creek town camps had been swallowed up by the bureaucracy. He added he had little faith in the delivery of 700 houses under the SIHIP program.

So where has the rest of the $36-$42 million that has not been swallowed up by the NT bureaucracy gone?