Saturday, November 24, 2007

Pearson fears Labour political management approach to indigenous issues

During the election campaign Howard pledged to hold a referendum within 18 months to introduce aboriginal reconciliation into the Australian constitution. Initially Rudd went along with this but more recently has said it is not a priority and that if elected he may not do it during his first term

In response Pearson has publicly criticised Rudd on the eve of the election.
"It is that the quest for indigenous reconciliation must be an up-front part of the first term agenda. You cannot now retreat to practical reconciliation that Labor has repudiated for the past 10 years." Pearson said reconciliation must be both symbolic and practical. "We got Howard to the point where he backed a symbolic agenda and Rudd is saying, no, let's just rewind the tape," Pearson said.

"There was no equivocation in my view," Pearson said. "I will not stand silent while a contender in this election reneges so flagrantly on a commitment he made on day one of the campaign." Pearson said he had been "seriously misled".

"During the campaign I was alarmed at Labor's backtracking on the Northern Territory intervention. Labor campaigned against intervention both in the NT and in indigenous communities," Pearson said.

"But I kept my counsel and my concerns. For the duration of the campaign I was satisfied we had a bipartisan commitment. So I kept my powder dry. Then 48 hours before the vote I read that Rudd won't be putting the referendum if he wins. This is an absolute heartless abandonment of indigenous people. We have been misled. My reaction is one of absolute devastation and betrayal. This is not what they promised and we will hold them accountable."

In his interview with The Australian, Pearson revealed one of his deepest fears: that indigenous affairs under Labor would become an issue for political management without any genuine search for solutions.

It was, in effect, a double fear that Labor's spin doctors would favour the political management approach and its progressive wing would favour solutions that didn't work and were proven failures.
- Pearson's Dread of Rudd in Power
For an earlier, deeper analysis of these issues see labour white ants black responsibility

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