‘Old Europe’ speaks out

Tuesday, 26 June 2007 

The women and children of Mutitjulu who have fled into the bush ahead of the first wave of troops and police were presumably not those who Howard was referring to when he said

“I have no doubt that the women and children of indigenous communities will warmly welcome the Federal Government’s actions”

According to a community member, Mutitjulu women were afraid that the children would be taken away: “They have long memories; they remember this from years ago” referring to the last time the political class acted on the belief that the indigenous population were incapable of looking after their children. Their memories would not need to be that long, only to go back to the unproven allegations of sexual child abuse that this particular community suffered a year ago.

The gap between expectations of a cheering welcome and the reality, of course, recalls that other intervention and already this blog is ot the only one to start drawing parallels to Iraq, with others such as the SA Premier joining in. Everyone has their own interpretation of what happened in Iraq, for Rann it was the government’s ‘shock-and-awe’ approach that invites comparisons. To keep the parallel, some of the states are starting to act a bit like ‘old Europe’, with neither Beattie nor Carpenter questioning the premise of the intervention but rather standing back and criticising the way it is being carried out.

On Sunday’s Insiders, Mal Brough gave away the effort to which the government tried to provoke a political reaction from the states by keeping them out of the decision and then calling on them to act (when it is starting to appear that the Commonwealth has the legal powers to act itself in the states anyway). Howard was clearly scripted for a political fight (it was interesting that the only time Brough smiled on Insiders was when he was asked whether they could be in breach of the Racial Discrimination Act). But despite Howard’s best efforts, this issue refuses to rise above logistics among the political class. This is clearly frustrating to Howard, as shown by his incoherent response to the states’ reaction.

However, there is a very good reason why the states are wary on the logistics. What they mean by drawing parallels to Iraq is that this could very easily become a mess that would undermine the authority of the government to the detriment of the entire political class. Just wait when criticisms on the operation extend to Howard’s side of the fence beyond just Fraser. The political class’s concern seems understandable if an intriguing, albeit rather confused, comment by Mal Brough on the same Insiders interview was true:

“We actually received this report officially only minutes before we made our announcements and of course, we pulled it down off the net on the Friday [TPS italics].”

In what looks like a desperate effort to turn around a dying government, Howard has hastily grabbed an unauthoritative report and thrown the federal apparatus into an unwelcoming community to impose draconian laws that the states themselves cannot enforce. To top it all off, it must also conduct an extremely sensitive investigation into child abuse, the medical logistics of which even Brough was starting to balk at. George Bush at least never had to contend with that.

Posted by The Piping Shrike on Tuesday, 26 June 2007.

Filed under Tactics

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