Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Jim's Philosophy : Is John Howard a Racist : NT Intervention as a social laboratory

Jim Reiher, a Melbourne theologian, author and Greens Candidate in the Federal seat of La Trobe at the 2010 election, has recently published a new blog with a seemingly all encompassing format titled Jim's Philosophy.  Please pop over and have a look at what progressive Christianity can look like.  Go on! Don't stay in that old paradigm put up by the current crop of evangelical atheists!


Put religion and politics together on an intelligent basis and you are in for some good debate ... and Miss Eagle has rarely shied away from a good, intelligent debate.  So she has entered into some comments on Jim's blog.  Jim did a post in which he thought he was being pretty critical of John Howard but Miss Eagle didn't agree and thought there were some considerations to be aired on the subject of whether former Prime Minister John Howard is or was a racist.  Here is what I said - of course you can see it in the comments section of the relevant post on Jim's Philosophy.
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Jim, your description of Howard's attitude is deficient.  You appear to attribute his attitude to a reluctance to meet the financial consequences of saying sorry.   This whitewashes Howard's racism.

When he was Leader of the Opposition, Howard appeared on television in a television commercial slamming Aboriginal land rights and native title and proclaiming that, if Aboriginal people were successful, huge tracts of Australia - marked in black on a map of Australia - would be Aboriginal.  I would also suggest you go back and research the lead up to the Wik decision in 1997 in post-Mabo Australia. 

When Howard came to power in 1996, Gatjil Djerrkura - then the Chair of ATSIC and a member of the Country Liberal Party in the Northern Territory - took Howard off to his place at Yirrkala.  The purpose of the visit was to instil some understanding of Aboriginal matters into Howard.  Unfortunately, the brief course did not 'take'.

As for the racism in the Northern Territory Intervention, Chris Graham - former editor of the National Indigenous Times - has a talk that he does under the title of The Lies That Built The Intervention. Graham outlines how lies - which were constructed in Mal Brough's office - were behind the ABC Lateline video which put the case for The Intervention to the Australian people.  And then there are the trials and tribulations of Tjanara Goreng.  <The Brough and tumble of a cover-up>

These actions were neither isolated nor ad hoc.  They were a way of doing business in the Howard regime.  Before the Liberal Partylurch to the right in the early 1990s, there had been people like BillWentworth and Fred Chaney in the Liberal Party of Australia.  These people had long and deep relationships within Aboriginal Australia. 

What happened under Howard, in my view, could never have happened were Wentworth and Chaney still in the Liberal Party (Wentworth had long gone and Chaney was ousted) or if there were similarly knowledgable people in the Liberal Party room.  However, the 1990s had separated the sheep from the goats - you can decide which title fits whom - and anyone who could be identified as Wet didn't stand a chance.

This is the racist bequest of Howard.

Rudd said sorry - but did nothing.  Well, that's not quite true.  He continued the horrors of The Intervention.  I stood at Fed Square and cried with the crowds when Rudd said sorry.  It was the early days of his government and I hoped that the apparent acceptance by Labor of Howard's intevention policies were just window dressing and, before too long, would be modified.  They weren't.  The racism has continued under Labor.  It has continued for similar, if slightly different, reasons. 

Almost all politicians and almost all bureaucrats will not do the one thing necessary.  Take time, sit down, consult - consult in the blackfella way.  Not bowl them over in a hit run whitefella way.


There are none so blind as those who will not see.  There are none so racist as those who will not take time to sit and listen and talk.

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