Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Today by Paddy Manning

Black Lives Matter
Australia should draw lessons from the riots in the US

Image of protest against police violence in Minneapolis, Minnesota on May 26, 2020

Protest against police violence in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on May 26, 2020. Image © Fibonacci Blue

The shocking violence unfolding in the US, triggered by the brutal alleged murder by police of unarmed black man George Floyd and stoked by inciter-in-chief Donald Trump, serves to highlight that Australia has its own deep racism to confront. Shadow minister for Indigenous Australians Linda Burney told the ABC’s RN Breakfast this morning that while it was not especially useful to compare the nationwide rioting in the US with relative calm in Australia, there was an opportunity for this country to reflect on its own problems, including ongoing Aboriginal deaths in custody. “Whether we like it or not, it doesn’t take much for racism to come out of the underbelly of this country,” said Burney. “We only have to think back to Cronulla in 2005. And of course, the Adam Goodes story just last year.” 

This country has ignored the rising number of Aboriginal deaths in custody since the 1991 royal commission – which Guardian Australia tallied at 432 yesterday – and not one police officer has ever been held accountable. The family of David Dungay, a 26-year-old Dunghutti man who died in Long Bay jail after he was brutally restrained by five prison guards – having said “I can’t breathe” 12 times – are still waiting for justice. Since Guardian Australia published its “Deaths Inside” investigation last August, there have been five more deaths and the paper reports that, according to the federal government’s own measures, the majority of recommendations dating back to the royal commission have either not been implemented or were only partly implemented. The ABC’s Indigenous affairs correspondent, Isabella Higgins, writes that “in some ways Australia’s criminalisation of its black citizens is even more pronounced than the United States, but we don’t have music, movies and TV shows explaining it to us as regularly”. 

Last week we learned that sacred caves in the Juukan Gorge, in WA’s Pilbara region, which showed continuous human occupation in the area going back 46,000 years, was legally detonated by Rio Tinto for an extension to an iron-ore mine – an act of vandalism that speaks to ignorance and total disregard for the world’s oldest civilisation. This morning, Greens MLC Robin Chapple told RN Breakfast that 463 applications had been made since 2010 to the so-called Aboriginal Cultural Material Committee under heritage laws to excavate, destroy, damage, conceal or in some way alter an Aboriginal site. Of those, 463 had been approved and not one refused. Let that sink in. As Burney told host Fran Kelly: “What’s being destroyed is irreplaceable. And quite frankly, Fran, I am really sick of – and I’m sure many other First Nations people are just sick of – the number of sites that get destroyed annually, and the number of sites that are irreplaceable, that have been destroyed over the last 230 years. These sites are not just, you know, caves full of stuff. These are equivalent to the most iconic religious sites in other religions.” 

This country has just rejected a historic peace offering in the Uluru Statement from the Heart, and the path forward to constitutional recognition of Indigenous Australians remains unclear and strewn with obstacles. At the start of National Reconciliation Week, a new awareness campaign dubbed “From the Heart” was launched, and Indigenous leader Professor Megan Davis, a constitutional law expert who sits on the board of the recently formed Australians for Indigenous Constitutional Recognition, told The Sydney Morning Herald that there was still hope. Work on the Indigenous voice process proposed by federal minister Ken Wyatt could not be “decoupled” from the Uluru statement, she said. “I see this voice process as utterly consistent with the Uluru statement, because the legal form of it will be determined after the co-design process. I think what people really grappled with after Uluru was, can you enshrine a voice to parliament without seeing what the detail is? And the politicians decided they needed to see the detail first.”

Deserving or not, white Australia is being offered another chance at a true reconciliation. Such a chance may not come again, given the lack of goodwill shown by this federal government. If this country does not want to sink into the same sort of violence we are seeing in the US, the new national cabinet should grab that chance with both hands. 

“Dreadful news from the UK that Julian Assange is too unwell to front court. He shouldn’t be in Belmarsh and the UK Government’s refusal to release him is unconscionable #FreeAssange”

Tasmanian independent Andrew Wilkie tweets in support of Julian Assange, after the WikiLeaks founder was unable to appear in the Westminster Magistrates' Court in London for a hearing into his extradition case.

“We are comfortable with the fact that people are accessing their money when they need it most.”

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg responds to fresh figures from the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority showing that 64 per cent of superannuation withdrawn early is going on discretionary spending and 11 per cent on gambling.

When is a bushfire like a coronavirus?
Instead of making us forget the bushfires, evidence suggests coronavirus will make us more conscious of the need for change. The urgent response to the pandemic makes political arguments against climate action less credible.

The federal assistance given so far to regional airline Rex, according to official figures cited by shadow transport minister Catherine King. Meanwhile, Virgin languishes under administration.

“The minister committed misfeasance in public office when he made the Second Control Order on 7 June 2011.”

In a 330-strong class action by the cattle industry seeking more than $600 million in damages, Justice Steven Rares rules that former Labor agriculture minister Joe Ludwig committed “misfeasance” when he banned live cattle exports to Indonesia in 2011.

The list

“It is only by confronting the brute reality of what happened to victims – ‘abuse’ is altogether too pallid and vague a word – that we can understand the moral enormity and impact of what the royal commissioners have called the ‘inexcusable’ conduct on the part of those in the Church who acted as protectors of offenders such as Ridsdale. Ridsdale is known to have begun offending in Ballarat, as early as 1961 when he was first ordained. He raped children all over Victoria until at least 1988. Nothing was done … Why wasn’t he stopped in his vicious tracks?”

“By the time my robodebt letter arrived, vulnerable people had already died, pushed into acute mental distress by the prospect of paying money they didn’t have in order to clear debts that didn’t exist. And still, successive federal governments pushed on with the scheme. Debts were raised against the dead, the intellectually disabled and the homeless. All the way into 2019, in fact, the Morrison government was still contemplating an expansion of the robodebt dragnet. The whole grotesque scheme was always, quite obviously, an ideological exercise: an attempt to blame the structural problems of a capitalist economy upon the poor. ”

“This is a story about what happened to the once-prosperous town between Dalby and Toowoomba, which because of the mine can be said to ‘functionally no longer exist’, according to Queensland’s Land Court. But it is also a story about Aileen Harrison, a former alpaca farmer and pensioner, who has been ‘retired for 22 years and I’d say a full 18 of them we’ve been fighting this mine’. And of Glenn Beutel, the only landholder left in Acland, who refused to sell his properties to the New Acland mine.”

Paddy Manning

Paddy Manning has worked for the ABC, Fairfax, Crikey and The Australian. He is the author of Body Count: How Climate Change Is Killing Us, Inside the Greens and Born To Rule: The Unauthorised Biography of Malcolm Turnbull.


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