Oh goody, a racial constitution

Friday, 12 October 2007 

After all these years, it is still hard to get the hang of this.

How racially pure does an indigenous person need to be eligible for recognition under Howard’s new constitutional amendment? Is it full blood or half-caste indigenous blood? Or, as they used to use in the days when they took the children away, one-quarter? Or is it a cultural thing? What about an indigenous person whose cultural activities go no further than the footy on Saturday? Whatever the criteria, indigenous people are certainly on the fast track because they will have gone from underclass to constitutionally privileged without even having to stop off at equality.

The children, however, must already be up there. The rush which both sides of the political divide over-rode the rights of NT indigenous parents this year on the back of a report full of hearsay, but empty of evidence, shows the privileged status indigenous children have in this country. Certainly protectors of white Australian children would have been prevented by the awkward need for evidence.

It is a tradition of special protection that goes way back, to the governments which the current PM proposing this new constitutional amendment fully supported in his younger years. Surprisingly, after all this special treatment, those children still have the health standards and life expectancy comparable to those raised in Calcutta. And of course we have still to await the mass arrests of child sexual abusers in the aboriginal communities that bleeding hearts like Sue Gordon and the authors of the NT report led us to expect. As far as this blog understands, after nearly a thousand medical checks of indigenous children since the report was released by these best friends of the indigenous people, only two police referrals for sexual abuse have been made and as yet they have led to no arrests.

It could be possible that the likelihood that indigenous parents would be so degraded that they would allow that sort of thing to happen to their children on such a widespread scale would be about the same likelihood of it happening in those suburbs of the cities where conditions may also not reach the standards required of a social worker. However, that would require indigenous parents to be thought of as ordinary Australians. That has never been the basis of political discourse in Australia and now that difference will get enshrined in the Constitution.

No government gets elected unless it has some basis in reality. Howard’s ‘practical’ reconciliation tapped into the reasonable view that maybe the problem did not start with addressing some deep profound spiritual need (mainly of the political class) but maybe with providing the sort of access to basic amenities like running water, electricity and health facilities given to other Australians. Of course he never provided them but at least it countered the silliness that Labor tried tapping into as it searched for a new social base in the late Keating years. Howard is only doing this latest move because that social base is located in the Liberal heartland which is now melting away. It is fascinating to watch a government that once had a base in reality and pragmatism, slowly roll up its programme and die.

Posted by The Piping Shrike on Friday, 12 October 2007.

Filed under The Australian state

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