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Beware the Creeper!

Iain's life as a psychotic crimefighter

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Howard's vision thing - Or Save the Children - not democracy

First up, I think I can state, without fear of contradiction that child abuse is a terrible, terrible thing.

Fine, we all on the same page? Then let's got through what Glorious Leader Howard announced yesterday

[filched from Crikey - my comments in italics]

Well, ladies and gentleman, Mr Brough and I have called this news conference to announce a number of major measures to deal with what we could only describe as a national emergency in relation to the abuse of children in indigenous communities in the Northern Territory.

A national emergency that has been running for longer than the Howard government has been in power

Anybody who's read or examined the report prepared by Pat Anderson and Rex Wild entitled, Little Children Are Sacred , will be sickened and horrified by the level of abuse. They will be deeply disturbed at the widespread nature of that abuse and they will be looking for the responsible assumption of authority by a government to deal with the problem.

We are unhappy with the response of the Northern Territory Government. It is our view that if it hadn't been for the persistence of Mr Brough in elevating this as an issue, the inquiry conducted by Rex Wild and Pat Anderson would never have been commissioned. The report was in the hands of the Northern Territory Government for some eight weeks before it was released.

And you have been in power for 10 years before you considered this an issue

And subsequently the Chief Minister has indicated that they would have a response in a period of six weeks and it's only today that I've received a letter from the Chief Minister and Mr Brough has, indicating that there is a desire on the part of the Northern Territory Government to work with us to deal with the issue. We're very happy to work with the Northern Territory Government, but it will need to be on the terms that I am about to announce.

i.e. suspension of the autonomy of the elected NT government

We regard this as akin to a national emergency. Mr Brough's put it to me this way; that if this set of circumstances had been disclosed as taking place in the suburb of Dickson, can you imagine what the local response from police, from medical authorities and from the State Government would have been? It would have been horror and immediate action and a demand by the community that something be done.

except it hasn't been. A major report about child sexual abuse in Aboriginal communities was presented to the office of Prime Minister and Cabinet in 1991 - in other words, when Paul Keating was Prime Minister

That has not happened in relation to the Northern Territory and we therefore believe that the action I'm about to outline is totally justified and warranted, given our overarching responsibilities for the welfare of children throughout Australia.

These measures are going to be overseen by a taskforce of eminent Australians.

like the Future Fund? Who will appoint these "eminent Australians?

It will include logistics and other specialists and child protection spec... experts. The measures involve a number of actions.

Firstly, in relation to alcohol, the intention is to introduce widespread alcohol restrictions on Northern Territory Aboriginal land for six months. We'll ban the sale, the possession, the transportation, the consumption and broader monitoring of takeaway sales across the Northern Territory.

because prohibition has worked in the past and will work again.

We will provide the resources and we'll be appealing directly to the Australian Medical Association to assist, but we will bear the cost of medical examinations of all indigenous children in the Northern Territory under the age of 16 and we'll provide the resources to do with any follow up medical treatment that will be needed.

Pretty brave policy in an election year - free medical care for all NT idigenous children under the age of 16. Or are they only checking for signs of abuse?

We're going to introduce a series of welfare reforms, designed to stem the flow of cash going towards [coughs], excuse me, alcohol abuse and in -- to ensure that the funds meant to be used for children's welfare are actually used for that purpose.

The principal approach here will be to quarantine as from now, through Centrelink, to be supported by legislation. Fifty per cent of welfare payments to parents of children in the affected areas, and the obligation in relation to that will follow the parent wherever that parent may go, so the obligation cannot be avoided, simply by moving to another part of Australia and effectively, the arrangements will be that that 50% can only be used for the purchase of food and other essentials.

Oh, that's how. By directly controlling use of welfare payments. Well, if it's going to work for Aboriginal parents, why not every other parent on welfare?

We're going to enforce school attendance by linking income support and family assistance payments to school attendance for all people living on Aboriginal land. We'll be ensuring that meals are provided for children at school with parents paying for the meals.

So will this be from half of the welfare payment reserved for this purpose? Or from the rest. And what if (somehow) the Aboriginal parent isn't on welfare? Can they pack a lunch, or will they have to pay regardless? And I guess this means you'll be pumping massive amounts of funding into public schools in the NT, otherwise they'll be overcrowded and run down, surely? I mean, more run down then they are now.

The Commonwealth Government will take control of townships through five year leases to ensure that property and public housing can be improved and if that involves the payment of compensation on just terms, as required by the Commonwealth Constitution, then that compensation will be readily paid. We'll require intensive on-ground clean-up of communities to make them safer and healthier by marshalling local workforces through Work for the Dole arrangements.

Now he mentions the constitution, but only in terms of "compensation on just terms". "...marshalling local workforces through Work for the Dole arrangements" sounds like more extortion via welfare. And taking direct control of townships? Wow! Good news for any of the business mates of the government who may have wanted to set up shop in Aboriginal communities but may have been prevented by the local council. Not an issue, now.

We will scrap the permit system for common areas and road corridors on Aboriginal lands.

Yes, because that eco-tourism is so over-rated.

We're going to ban the possession of X-rated pornography in the prescribed areas and we're going to check all publicly funded computers for evidence of the storage of pornography.

And anything else. And any other computer system that has received federal funding. Like, oh I don't know, the National Library? The new Broadband infrastructure - that's got to receive some Federal grants, right?

Law and order will be a central focus of the measures I've announced. There will be an immediate increase in policing levels. They're manifestly inadequate. The existing laws, even with their shortcomings, are not being adequately enforced.

Yay! More cops! Only - from where, exactly?

We'll be asking each state police service to provide up to 10 officers, who will be sworn as police in the Northern Territory. We will provide the additional cost, and we will provide special incentives and bonuses for the police around Australia to participate in this activity.

Obviously the special incentives and bonuses are to discourage corruption. heh, heh, heh...

We're going to provide additional resources to set up an Australian Government s-xual abuse reporting desk. And we'll appoint managers of all government businesses in all communities.

Won't they be popular?

And there are two other very important actions. Next Thursday, there will be a meeting of the Inter-Governmental Committee on the Australian Crime Commission to formally -- and at that meeting, I'm sorry, our minister will ask the ministerial council to formally refer this issue to the Australian Crime Commission to allow the Crime Commission to locate and identify perpetrators of s-xual abuse of indigenous children in other areas of Australia.

And this will be a precursor, we hope, to the effective prosecution of those people by the relevant state and territory law enforcement authorities.

This, I don't have a problem with. Except for resource issues.

I should also indicate to you that Mr Brough is bringing to Cabinet at its next meeting some proposals to further extend the conditionality of welfare payments to all Australians receiving income support to ensure that these payments are used for the benefit of their children.

That's the sound of the other shoe dropping.

I should indicate that, if necessary, Parliament will be convened during the winter break for a special session to deal with the legislation that will be needed to give effect to the announcements I have made. These announcements will involve amendments to the Northern Territory land rights legislation. And also amendments to the Territory self-government legislation.

They do represent very dramatic and significant Commonwealth intervention. We're doing this because we do not think the Territory has responded to the crisis affecting the children in the Territory, and we believe that our responsibility to those children overrides any sensitivities of Commonwealth Territory relations.

Hey, doesn't terrorism affect children? Maybe we should override any sensitivities concerning Government relations and civil rights? Hey, wait...

In the end, the duty of care to the young of this country is paramount, and nobody who has any acquaintance with that report could be other than appalled by its contents, appalled by what it reveals, appalled by the cumulative neglect of many over a long period of time, and frustrated in the extreme at the inability of governments to come to terms with an effective response to do with this problem. We are dealing with children of the tenderest age who have been exposed to the most terrible abuse, from the time of their birth, virtually. And any semblance of maintaining the innocence of childhood is a myth in so many of these communities.

And we feel very strongly that action of this kind is needed. It is interventionist. It does push aside the role of the Territory to some degree. I accept that. But what matters more: the constitutional niceties, or the care and protection of young children?

So if you have a problem with any of this, you obviously hate children. Case closed.

We believe the latter is overwhelmingly more important. We hope that the Northern Territory Government will cooperate and see the wisdom of working with the Commonwealth Government.

But our resolve to implement these measures is firm, and we intend to set about them from the time of this announcement. I -- can I pay tribute to Mr Brough for the way in which he has identified this issue and pursued it, and as a result, ensured that the Northern Territory Government appointed the inquiry. And his contribution to this has been immense, and without his efforts, I wouldn't be making the announcement that I just have. Any questions?

I've got two. Why did a branch head in the government agency advising Brough on Aboriginal policy use Lateline to support Brough's claims of paedophile rings working in Aboriginal communities without revealing they were an advisor to Brough?

And why the emphasis on abuse from Aboriginals? Here's what Rex Wild (one of the co-author's of the reports) says in a press conference:

And who are the abusers? If there is no paedophile ring who are they?

They are male and female people either aboriginal or non-aboriginal. The worst examples of abuse of aboriginal children is from non-aboriginal men. There are a number of recorded cases of those in the Northern Territory over the past 20 odd years. Not all of them have been successfully prosecuted but to those who know there well know.

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We've been waiting to see what Howard was going to play on to get the fear factor going in his favour for the election. He ought to be ashamed of himself - all his 'solutions' have failed 3 times over already and some of them are based on the old paternal colonial attitude towards indigenous people ("We can solve all their problems by making their life decisions for them").

On a much lesser note, are you a Dr Who watcher, or do I need to ask someone to record it for me while I'm away? (the big issues in my life - the other one is how I watch Heroes and Dr Who at the same time with a dead video :) ).

Lest this thread be hijacked by Dr Who discussion - sure you can watch it here. In fact, we even have reception now!

(It's the Catherine Tate episode, isn't it? The Xmas special? Just to show you how much I like you, Gillian, I'm prepared to watch it again.)

Oh! Oh! So i can watch Heroes next Thursday and see both with you two!! You are a true friend :).

If you have no objections, I might bring some choc covered macadamia nuts.

I didn't mean to hijack the thread, truly. The longer I see Howard in action the more he disgusts me. CHild abuse is a terrible thing, but so is exploiting the suffering of children for political gain.

I'm a bit confused about the X-rated pornography thing. It's something of a non-sequiter. Child stuff in particular, sure.

I remember a couple of years back, when I still worked for Centrelink, that some Aboriginal communities tried using benefit withholding as a stick to enforce child school attendance with some success. The problem at the time was it was illegal.

I do despise them using Work for the Dole for the cleanups. If the people are doing work that has a market price, the Govt should pay employment market rates - even by it's own philosophy. That's assuming it has a philosophy other than "get elected by any means necessary."

Speaking of which, it is clear that this is dog-whistling and election stunting of the worst order. The problems are real, but as you've said they've been real for decades. That the Govt "sees the light" three months before an election...

If the Libs had taken up the focus on aboriginal rights that Labor had after the Mabo rulings, and followed on with granting communities land rights, and therefore resources they could use to bootstrap themselves, I wonder if we'd be where we are now?

Re: This is a good article.

A disturbing article. How much funding for housing is Howard going to provide?

If the Libs had taken up the focus on aboriginal rights that Labor had after the Mabo rulings, and followed on with granting communities land rights, and therefore resources they could use to bootstrap themselves, I wonder if we'd be where we are now?

Possibly in slightly less of a mess. Please remember, we are dealing with a culture that has be fractured by previous practices of governments, especially taking children from their families "for their own good" then dumping them in religious or government institutions that were breeding grounds for abusive practices. A whole generation grows up without being parented, and fails to parent in their turn, and it perpetuates down the generations.

Prohibiting alcohol in the settlements will only mean that they will go into town (and the extremely squalid town camps) looking for booze. I don't know how you fix that problem....

If you're serious about prohibition, take away the racist element. Ban alcohol for the entire territory. This is a failure of democracy in the worst order, so everyone should be part of the solution.

Geez, I can see myself being elected NT Chief Minister by acclamation. Not.


I'm a bit confused about the X-rated pornography thing. It's something of a non-sequiter

It's another one of the over-reactions to the report's recommendations.

The original finding (it's not really a recommendation as stated) is:

[from Crikey]

The prohibition contained in the Criminal Code making it an offence to intentionally expose a child under the age of 16 years to an indecent object or film, video or audio tape or photograph or book and the implications generally for a child’s wellbeing of permitting them to watch or see such s-xually explicit material.

I'd assume they're asking that it be more vigourously enforced, whereas I think the Howard government is going to use that to pass even more draconian legislation.

So that is the peg he's hanging it on. I know he's always pro-censorship, but I didn't know where he was getting his excuse.

The only way to force welfare payments to be spent on food is to issue food stamps like they do in the USA. So much less anonymous than paying for your food with cash - public humiliation, and not all shops will accept them. They even differentiate between food groups so your diet has to fit some imaginary norm.

Work for the dole in the new system now applies to people who are not long term unemployed. Its one step down from slavery because you can't quit, but they won't hunt you down if you run away.

Prohibition of erotica has been a Howard wet dream for ten years. There are sexually frustrated men who can't find satisfaction in an adult relationship who are abusing children. I would have thought that a preventative measure would be to provide an alternative sexual outlet. Erotica promotes private masturbation which harms nobody. Social skills training/therapy might be appropriate. It would be worth finding out whether there is a lack of infrastructure that isolates people so they can't socialize in a healthy way. Finding the causes doesn't validate or justify the child abuse, but it may help prevent it happening.

The alcohol/petrol prohibition is similar. The cause is isolation and poverty. No resources or infrastructure leads to desperation and a desire for escape. Cheap recreational drugs are one escape. Remove the need for escape, not the faulty escape hatch.

There's another element that bothers me about this. Penalising parents will probably work to get kids to school in most cases. But what about where the kids are beyond co-ersion? Especially teenagers may tell their parents to get stuffed. So the parent ends up starving or out on the street or both, while the kid runs with gangs and robs people or something to get by.

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