Saturday, September 11, 2010

when the right is progressive and the left is conservative

Right crucial to Aboriginal reforms
Read the whole thing. It's a masterly example of Noel Pearson's optimistic threading of the policy needle as a result of his deep understanding of Australian politics.

Noel Pearson points out that Bob Katter and Tony Abbott are crucial to and supportive of indigenous rights. This goes against the general trend of "progressive" media opinion that Bob Katter is a loony who hates gays and delivers death threats to his enemies at airports and that Tony Abbot is a die hard conservative catholic with no genuine feelings for social justice. On the other hand it is Labour and The Greens who have formed an alliance which denies aboriginals their basic rights to use the land in Queensland.

About Bob Katter:
Bob Katter is a pioneer of the transformation of the Right. He was a member of Joh Bjelke-Petersen's Queensland government with which Aboriginal people had so many bitter disputes. But Katter initiated the very reforms in land title and housing that we are pursuing today. Katter was 25 years ahead of his time.

In recent weeks Katter has been driven by conviction and passion, having taken the unique step of elevating indigenous policy to the top of his list of political priorities. It was a great moment when Katter said at his press conference on that chaotic Tuesday that "indigenous affairs was a very burning question for me".

"My reputation and my history was staked upon what happened there and I'm not going to walk away from it."
About Tony Abbott:
Abbott understood at an early stage that our argument was that Aboriginal disadvantage is not different to disadvantage in the non-indigenous mainstream, but is an extreme case of the effects of passive welfare and substance abuse epidemics....

The other big question where we need to achieve bipartisanship is a national settlement between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians. Abbott's private member's bill to overturn the Queensland Wild Rivers legislation is one example of the fact that Aboriginal rights is not a clear-cut Left v Right issue, where the Right has no positive contribution to make.

It was heartbreaking to us that the Labor Queensland government made a deal with the Greens about a conservation regime that is being enforced without the consent of the traditional owners.

Abbott's bill would restore traditional owners' property rights that were infringed by the Wild Rivers legislation...

Last year I wrote a Quarterly Essay explaining our education policies, which aim to make sure that all students in Cape York become fully numerate and literate in English, and receive high-quality secondary and tertiary education.

But I also wrote that for the sake of Australia's soul, contemporary forms of Australia's own indigenous languages and cultures must survive and develop.

The most encouraging reply to my essay came from Abbott. He wrote: "Pearson has the capacity to surprise both his backers and his critics. His call for a longer school day so that Aboriginal children can receive a sound general education is a challenge to the political Left. His bigger challenge, though, is reserved for the Right. Pearson wants the longer school day also to accommodate serious, sustained teaching in traditional Aboriginal culture and language.

"The challenge," Abbott continued, "for those who have been Pearson's philosophical fellow travellers up till now, is to accept that biculturalism, at least for Aboriginal people, is a worthy object of Australian government policy and is worth paying for [my emphasis]. Because it is unique to our country, support for Aboriginal culture is a responsibility of Australian government.

"In his final scripted speech as prime minister," Abbot concluded, "John Howard acknowledged how far he'd come in his attitudes to Aboriginal issues. Undoubtedly, his late flowering friendship with Pearson was a key factor in his personal journey from resistance to engagement. Over the years, Pearson has prompted quite a few conservative Australians to a change of heart. He's now inviting us to go a little bit further than the former prime minister was prepared to, but it's a project that we should be ready to support."


Dave Kimble said...

Your argument assumes that Noel Pearson has progressive views - he does not. He, like Abbott and Katter, wants to see indigenous land strip-mined for bauxite, instead of it being kept in its current pristine condition, which offers so much potential for "green development" - development that doesn't destroy the land.

The only developments that might be knocked back by Wild Rivers legislation are those that would damage the water catchment. Do you seriously think the local communities want to damage their sacred land?

Strip-mining is old-fashioned conservative thinking. Progressive thinking is very much in line with indigenous ways - loving the land and caring for it. That is why Greens have always supported Native Title and indigenous rights.

Bill Kerr said...

thanks for the comment Dave, I'll do some more research and reply properly

Bill Kerr said...

Dave, I've written a new post in response to your comment: wild rivers notes