Friday, 7 August 2009


Once upon a long ago, I used to admire Jenny Macklin. During the difficult years of Opposition, Jenny acquitted herself well and managed to take one or two government scalps. I have now come to the conclusion - please give the evidence if I am wrong - she is just so darned insensitive.

Let's just start with the above picture which is the banner on her website. Mmmm....what message is being sent here? What are the semiotics of this picture? Did Jenny think about this?

Let me tell you how I read this and see what you think:
Jenny Macklin - Great White Mother - Under the National Symbol, the Southern Cross - Echoes of Great White Mother of the Nation - Nice Green Tree symbolic of earth and nature (why not a gum tree, Jenny?) - Great White Earth Mother of the Nation.

Great White Earth Mother of the nation, Jenny? Is this how you see yourself? And the children in the photograph. Beautiful kids - but all monoculturally fair. Those who favour an idealised Aryan culture would be pleased. Melbourne, where Jenny's electorate is, prides itself on being strongly multi-cultural. Well, from this picture you would never ever know. Jenny has responsibiity in her portfolio for a lot of Aboriginal kids whom she is purporting to save. Funny how they didn't get a look in.

Jenny's insensitivity extends to her department. The department has been carrying out flawed 'consultation' processes in the Northern Territory for some time. There is a consultative sequence from 1 through to 4. Consultations have been poorly advertised if advertised at all - so that only certain people get to know about them. They are not publicly recorded. CAAMA was actually banned from one of Macklin's meetings. Warlpiri Media had a similar experience and people had to kick up a fuss before they were admitted.

Word came a couple of weeks ago to a Networker from Bagot community in Darwin that a government officer was getting people to sign documents they did not understand. We think what was happening was that a consultation at a certain level was imminent but the previous consultation in the sequence (there is a four-level consultation sequence that has been going on) had not occurred so tracks were being covered.

In short, the consultation process was and is an absolute debacle.

What is happening is that the clock is ticking over. The Rudd Government, a social-democrat government, has been embarrassed on the world stage because it continued the Howard Government's suspension of the Racial Discrimination Act. It plans to re-introduce the act in October. However, there are certain things the government wants to do which would be in breach of the Act. To get around this the government is having consultations and seeking agreement to the things the government wants to do which would be in breach of the Act. Then, once the Act is introduced, and the government is accused of being in breach of the Act, it can then say - but we have the agreement of the Aboriginal people/communities to do these things because they are necessary.

The consultations now and previously have been poorly constituted and handled. Greens Senator Rachel Siewert highlighted this in a Senates Estimates Committee in early June prior to the four stage sequence of consultations. Macklin can't say she wasn't warned. Siewert had the matter nailed and questioned it. Macklin was clearly not sensitive to the import of this question. If she had been, she would have noted that the consultation was being closely monitored. She should have checked that her department had its i's dotted and t's crossed. And it might have helped if she had checked that the department actually knew what an informed and two-way consultative process was.

Now it is time for a rethink, Jenny Macklin, and I have an idea you might like to consider. This is is the subject of the next post.

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