Roundup of recent Australian political correctness news and views

Political correctness about Australian blacks slowly being defeated by reality

This week Alice Springs Crown prosecutor Nanette Rogers went public about the incidence of bashing, rape, child abuse and various other horrors in remote Aboriginal communities. Many people expressed surprise and even shock. But why? Well, there has been a growing awareness of these problems since the late 1990s, when the academic Boni Robertson and others documented a similar situation in Queensland. But for 20 years before that, it was not politically correct to speak of such things.

This was not always the case. In the later '70s, some frank articles appeared in the press that suggested a descent into horror for many Aboriginal people. But then something happened. Consider these extracts from 1977.

From January 5, an article in the Herald on Bowraville by James Cunningham: "The black men live by doing hardly anything. Their idleness, supported by social welfare, is soul-destroying and almost total."

From February 4, a report from Papunya by Jack Waterford in The Canberra Times: "There is absolutely nothing to do. Employment is a rarity . an average of about 25 children attend the primary school, perhaps 10 per cent of the school-age population."

From June 6 in The National Times, an article by Michael Davenport (the pen name of Graham Gifford, see below) from Maningrida in Arnhem Land, where he lived with his wife: "A [nine-year-old] girl had been, according to strict tribal custom, promised in marriage to a man much older than herself. One day, the husband called at her parents' home to claim his bride. With the help of his three grown-up sons, [he] grabbed the girl and made off into the bush with her. He raped her almost continuously for four days." After giving another example of the brutal treatment of a woman, Davenport commented: "The life of the tribal Aborigine is not that of a noble savage. It contains the absolute denial of all human rights. The latest scheme is to get them all back to the bush, and to tempt them there is a $10,000 grant to set up a home -- plus a lot of other gifts of one sort and another. I suppose, once they are there, nobody can see them and, regardless of what sort of life they are leading, the problem may be claimed to be solved."

From November 2, a Herald article on a House of Representatives committee's criticism that the Department of Aboriginal Affairs was covering up the extent of drunkenness: "Mr Ruddock said his committee had found that alcohol was having a 'devastating' effect on Aborigines not only in the Northern Territory but also in some states . in some communities more than half the total expenditure by the community is on alcohol."

From November 14 in The National Times, Graham Gifford again from Maningrida, a settlement of 400 people: "The Australian Aborigine is being completely demoralised and converted into an idling sponger by the almost limitless handouts from the white Australians. There is little one can say about the disastrous effect of alcohol on Aborigines that is not already known, except that it is getting rapidly worse. We would have, in Maningrida, about 30 confirmed [petrol-sniffing] addicts between the ages of four and 18 . Any girl sniffer will sell herself to you for this much petrol."

There was a storm of protest about Gifford's articles. Marcia Langton, now Professor of Australian Indigenous Studies at the University of Melbourne, but then general-secretary of the Federal Council for the Advancement of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders, complained to the Press Council that Gifford's description of Aboriginal people as demoralised spongers was "the opinion of a one-eyed racist, akin to the statements from the mouths of the brutal station owners who have treated their black employees like animals".

On January 13, 1978, the Press Council wrote to Langton announcing it had been "given to understand that no publication of John Fairfax and Sons Ltd. [of which The National Times is one] in future will accept material from Mr Gifford".

For the next two decades there was little in the media about the problems of welfare dependency or violence against children and women in Aboriginal communities. Which is why white folk can be so surprised about these things today, as if they were fresh and new. Gifford, a brave, thoughtful and independent man who had fought as a tail gunner in the Battle of Britain, was forced to leave the territory and has since died.

Following Nanette Rogers's "revelations" this week, hands are being wrung, as is normal these days, and there is the usual talk of improving reporting and introducing new government programs. But maybe the time has come to acknowledge this is no longer enough. What we ought to do now, instead of the normal piece of moral theatre that will change nothing and leave everyone's jobs intact, is accept the need for solutions of a magnitude that matches the size of the problem.

The ill effects of welfare have become grudgingly accepted even by romantics since Noel Pearson gave his famous "welfare poison" speech some years ago. But few people have faced up to the implication of this insight, which is that if you take away the welfare, most of the communities have no future, and therefore should be shut down. Aboriginal people should be paid to move to the cities and assimilate. There is no other solution.


A triumph over politically correct nonsense for some Australian police

Safer for police to smile now

The NSW government and state police chief do not believe tough new police reforms will open the door to corruption or pose a risk to civil liberties. Premier Morris Iemma at today's Police Association of NSW biennial conference on the central coast announced a raft of changes to the Crimes Act and police procedures.

The Crimes Act will be amended to allow assault charges to be laid against anyone who throws an object at police, even if they do not hit their target. Police will be permitted to reach into a suspect's clothing to remove a weapon instead of asking them to produce it themselves. Procedures also will be relaxed requiring police to provide evidence of their name, place of duty and reasons for acting, as well as informing offenders that failure to comply with them may be an offence. In group situations, only one officer will now have to give such information, and they will not be required at all in "unruly and unsafe" situations where it is impractical and unsafe to do so. The government also will consider easing complaints procedures so they can be addressed at local station level.

Mr Iemma said the changes would put more police on the beat through slashing red tape and ensure greater community safety. He denied it would decrease police accountability. "What we are having under examination is a system that will streamline the complaints system," Mr Iemma told reporters. "What we want is certainly accountability and transparency but we don't want to have police tied up in minor customer service type complaints in which there are exhaustive bureaucratic committees and examinations. "It's not dragging back scrutiny."

Police Minister Carl Scully cited the example of lengthy investigation into a complaint about the conduct of a police officer, who had smiled and firmly shut an infringement book when handing down a fine. "That is a complete waste of the public's time and police officers' time," Mr Scully said. "The public want to ensure that police are unshackled as possible, provided the checks and balances remain."

Police Commissioner Ken Moroney echoed Mr Iemma's insurances that the reforms would not result in a less accountable police force. "There will be no diminution on the issue of professional standards, conduct or behaviour by any member of the NSW police," Mr Moroney said. "What we are saying is that we need to free up our officers."


Attack on religious education resisted in Queensland

Education Minister Rod Welford has written to all Government MPs in a bid to quell concerns about proposed changes to the teaching of religious education in Queensland state schools. Nervous backbenchers are worried they face a backlash from some Christian churches amid claims the laws could allow humanists and extreme religious groups access to school students.

Mr Welford will also address the issue at a caucus meeting on Monday in an effort to ease concerns. But he has dismissed speculation that some Government MPs are willing to cross the floor to vote against the Bill. He rejected suggestions that cults and witchcraft would be allowed to be taught in schools once the Bill had passed. And he said parents and schools would have to approve the teaching of less popular belief systems. "Nobody has indicated to me that they would cross the floor or are even contemplating it, and in this situation it would be foolish because there will be no material change to the current arrangements in schools," Mr Welford said. "I'm aware there is still some nervousness . . . but the concerns undoubtedly stem from a misunderstanding of the legislation. "As I said in my letter, students will continue to have access to religious education, and no other programs will be allowed to be taught unless they are approved by the director-general and supported by the school community."

But Liberal leader Bob Quinn said the current system was working and should not be changed. "This Bill overturns 90 years of religious education in state schools," Mr Quinn said. "The churches and other community groups are rightly concerned about how the Government is changing this and I'm not surprised that ALP backbenchers are voicing their concerns."

Some Labor MPs, who did not want to be named, said they had been contacted by right-wing groups worried that the teaching of Christianity could be eroded in state schools. Under the current system, state school students attend religious education classes unless their parents ask the school to exempt them. This will continue under the new laws and parents will be able to nominate their actual religion. Various religious groups will be able to apply for permission to teach in schools and if their syllabus is approved by Education Queensland and requested at a school, they could hold classes provided the teachers have blue cards.

Groups such as the Hare Krishnas, Scientologists and Humanists have already expressed interest in teaching their beliefs in state schools. Capalaba MP Michael Choi said he was concerned that the criteria for approval were too flexible and could allow extremists, including cults, to gain access to schools. But he said he would express his views in the party room and not by crossing the floor of Parliament. "I am happy with 99 per cent of the Bill," Mr Choi said. "I am still thinking through a few possible solutions and the discussions are on-going. "If I am not satisfied with the final solution to a level that warrants my endorsement, I may not support it in the caucus."


Bible Ban Spreads in Queensland

I have noted previously on Political Correctness Watch (Scroll down) how the pracice of leaving a Bible in hospital drawers was being banned in some Australian hospitals. Now it is schools:

"An education insider has revealed how Balmoral State High School, on Brisbane's southside, banned Gideons from distributing Bibles to pupils – a tradition which takes place in schools at the start of every year. Other schools in the state are also believed to have stopped the practice, through concern children of other faiths could be upset.

The Balmoral school has recently allowed Gideons back in after principal Richard Morrison left to become principal at Wellington Point State High School, on Brisbane's bayside. "The Gideons were told to stop delivering because of the principal's particular ideology towards multiculturalism, but now we have a new principal, so Bibles are back," a staff member said."


Principals as dictators? Why can the choice not be left to the kids? Nobody was being FORCED to accept a Bible.


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