No going back

Tuesday, 3 July 2007 

Surely the surprising finding of the Galaxy poll was not that 58% thought Howard’s NT intervention was for electoral purposes but that 42% either didn’t or weren’t sure.

That almost half would consider that Howard had dropped interest in his re-election for the plight of Aboriginal children does not sound like a very cynical electorate as some have claimed. It suggests that politically the basis of the intervention has been accepted. Even for the 58% believing there is a link to Howard’s re-election, it does not necessarily mean that they disagree with the move or think any less of Howard for it.

The tone of Crikey’s Christian Kerr that the poll’s modest 2% shift to Labor means the government now has to find something else is not quite right. It reflects an underestimation from some quarters of the political significance of this intervention. This move gives the government a moral authority that it has not had for some time and which it has not yet really exploited. But having done it, neither is this now something the government can just walk away from. As Milne said on Insiders, no major party has ever made indigenous affairs central to their re-election – for a very good reason. Indigenous affairs may be a rarely discussed political topic but that is not because it is unimportant but because it is the Australian political class’s greatest failure. It is why they are even willing to compromise on the application of its laws in this area. Having brought it to the centre of the political debate, Howard has started a process on which there is no going back.

However, as seen by the way the government is starting to equivocate, neither does he seem to have the authority to pursue it all the way. It is why they are so often needing to quote indigenous activists like Pearson.

It was interesting seeing Jenny Macklin on Insiders responding to the initiative in a much more astute way than suggested by Rudd’s concerns about land rights the other day. Labor looks as though it will be following very closely behind the government – so close behind its back that it will give the government no room to retreat. In doing so, Labor has the potential to expose that the government is not able to follow through what it has begun. Already it is starting to promise resources on health and policing that are pushing the government further than it wants to go. If it does follow this course, it will need to dump their former alliance to the land rights bureaucrats, something that shouldn’t be too hard given their now compromised position. As shown by Rudd’s recent stance with the unions, Labor nowadays is having no trouble distancing itself from former friends.

Posted by The Piping Shrike on Tuesday, 3 July 2007.

Filed under Media analysis

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