I had a dream

I had a dream about Noel Pearson last night, the details of which I won’t go into, but it’s a bit of a weird thing and it’s never happened before to my knowledge. As regular LP readers will know, I’m not exactly a fan. Guy points out at Polemica that Kevin Rudd is unlikely to continue to be one either – “Calling someone a “heartless snake” is not usually a recommended method for getting them to support your cause.” It’s a little hard to know how to interpret Pearson’s remarks. Hyperbole is certainly not unknown in his rhetorical register, and he seems often to play his politics very emotionally – something perhaps Mal Brough made mainstream with his regular preaching. It may also be a reflection of the fact that he’s finding it difficult to inhabit the head space that goes along with there being a new government and fearful that his influence will now be diminished due to his (albeit inconsistent) cosying up with the forces of conservatism which left him somewhat marginalised among other Indigenous leaders.

For what it’s worth, I think that the statements from Kevin Rudd about an apology and the commitments to redressing the imbalance in Indigenous disadvantage and life expectancy are some of the most hopeful signs of the new government’s bona fides in this area. I don’t think it’s particularly reprehensible to junk Howard’s referendum promise – for the simple reason that it very clearly wasn’t something that Howard had actually committed his party to (whatever you think of his own motives) and therefore, I suspect, it’s very unlikely that there actually would have been bipartisan support forthcoming.

Andrew Bartlett has an interesting post up about the need to keep up the pressure on Labor in the domain of Indigenous rights and welfare. He argues that one reason the less committed Laborites are able to get away with token words rather than real action is because the Opposition doesn’t pressure them on this issue. I’m not sure that I share Bartlett’s view that it might be a realistic prospect for the Libs to take up the Indigenous cause, but I think that when the promise to restore an elected Indigenous body is fulfilled by Labor we’ll be in a much better position because there will be a representative voice for Indigenous people as opposed to governments of either strip cherry picking some to anoint as “leaders” because they happen to share their own political views. In that context, it’s interesting to read the forceful argument from Chris Graham that the election results in the NT are a democratic repudiation of the intervention by those whom it’s meant to benefit, if not the extra funding and the desire to do something real to end disadvantage. We’re seeing, I think, that “me too-ism” in this area was somewhat illusory and that the escape clauses had more meaning than might have been obvious at the time, but there’s no substitute for a genuinely democratic voice from Indigenous Australians themselves.

Posted in activism, health, indigenous, politics
26 comments on “I had a dream
  1. FDB says:

    I am very interested to see the AES figures on the indigenous vote.

  2. Paul Burns says:

    The preamble to the constitution/referendum etc is irrelevant. Pearson’s problem id he’s fallen off the gravy train and he knows it. Was he really stupid enough to think Howard would last forever.
    I feel much better knowing indigenous policy is in the hands of Lowija O’Donahugue. She’s already told Ruddbot he has to include ‘sorry’ in his apology to indigenous people or its meaningless. Rudd is going to make the apology on behalf of the nation in the Parliament, and he’s going to do it afterr consultation with the Aboriginal people.
    This is excellent, another thing like wanting to do something about the homeless that gives me faith in the Ruddbot.
    Lets face it, at the moment however harsh our criticisms of the Rudbot, and I’ve been a little hardh on another thread, he’s heaps better than JWH.

  3. I don’t think recognising Indigenous Australians in the preabmle is irrelevant at all. Regardless of Howard’s motivations for raising it, it was explicitly put forward as a recommendation in the final report of the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation, after they had spent ten years consulting, conversing and assessing how best to achieve reconciliation.

    Of course it was only one recommendation, and alone it won’t be sufficient. But neither will a formal apology. The refusal to apologise rightly became symbolic of much that was wrong with the Howard regime’s approach on Indigenous issues, but it was never sufficient.

    Saying “Sorry” is also just one recommendation from the Bringing Them Home report. many others also remain unimplemented, which is why I think Kevin Rudd’s responses to date are both politically minimalist and lacking in any real commitment to do what really needs to be done. He may prove me wrong, but Labor has failed consistently in this area – especially Qld Labor – hence my concern about the need for more pressure to kept on them.

    Assuming Labor keeps its promise to instutue a genuinely representative national Indigneous body, this will help, but again it won’t be sufficient. If there isn’t the genuine commitment inside the Parliament, Indigenous representative will be too easily marginalised whenever it is politically convenient to do so.

    As for Pearson, he is an interesting mix of contradictions, but someone who to me has seemed to be mostly politically astutue (aided by fawning uncritical adulation by a media cheer squad happy to selectively cherry pick those remarks of Pearson’s which suited their ideological agenda and to ignore the rest) – which makes his election-eve attack all the more odd, as whatever else you might say of it, it certainly wasn’t politically astute.

    However, this is the guy who launched the most ferocious (and accurate) attacks on Howard when he was first elected and ended up being most closely identifed with him, so there’s probably a lot of water still to flow under that bridge.

  4. Andrew Bray says:

    Thanks for the post Andrew. Another reminder of how big a loss it will be to no longer have the Dems’ policy grasp and non-partisan clear thinking…..

    I was fortunate enough to hear Noel Pearson speak in person, probably about 10 years ago and, overimpassioned ‘heartless snake’ moments aside (and I’ll admit, there have been a few), I’ve been a fawning fan ever since. His visionary thinking, his razor-sharp rhetoric and his sheer personal gravitas left me completely gob-smacked and wondering how long it would be before he became our first indigenous PM.

    His subsequent decision to move back to Cape York and fix problems that were, in his eyes, most urgent showed real integrity and an eschewal of personal ambition.

    His now precarious position among indigenous leaders says more about his failure to navigate the toxic political environment Howard set up around indigenous issues rather than any error of policy on his part. Even his most extreme anti-welfare plans can easily be explained by his exasperated desire to fix problems that everyone else before him (and around him) found unfixable. He’s the one looking at the damage first-hand so I can cut him some slack from my comfy chair in Ballarat.

    My earnest hope is that Rudd is big enough and clever enough to overlook this moment and will embrace the huge potential Pearson still has to offer any PM who genuinely wants to fix Aboriginal disadvantage.

  5. Gaz says:

    “My earnest hope is that Rudd is big enough and clever enough to overlook this moment and will embrace the huge potential Pearson still has to offer any PM who genuinely wants to fix Aboriginal disadvantage.”

    Nuance is lost on you Mr Bartlett, that’s why you didn’t get a guernsey.

  6. fred says:

    Pearson as “somewhat marginalised among other Indigenous leaders” is a understatement here in SA.

    I believe there was a big swing to Labor in Qld. by the Indigenous people.
    There definitely was a big swing to the ALP in northern SA. The Remote Mobile Teams recorded a 15% swing to Labor in Grey to give the ALP a clear majority in stark contrast to 2004.
    I spoke to hundreds of locals and they were strongly anti-intervention.

  7. Helen says:

    Obviously a lot of things are lost on you, Gaz, as it wasn’t Andrew Bartlett who wrote that.

  8. Gaz says:

    “Obviously a lot of things are lost on you, Gaz, as it wasn’t Andrew Bartlett who wrote that.”

    Spare me the bleeding obvious.I know ,I know.

  9. Paul Burns says:

    I accede to your point about the preamble.
    The thing about an apolgy with the word sorry is that is now more than just a symbol of regret for the stolen generation. It has now become a symbol that the whole country rejects Howard’s take on the Aborigines. I suspect thats one of the reassons Rudd is doing it in the Parliament and not just as a speech somwhere.
    Or is that last phrase demonstrating the malign influence of what seems like centuries of having to JWH’s self-important key note speeches.
    I have nothing more to say about Pearson; it wouldn’t get past the moderator.

  10. In regards to the Indigenous vote in FNQ, the booth by booth vote in Leichhardt on the AEC website does make for interesting reading – http://vtr.aec.gov.au/HouseDivisionPollingPlaces-13745-168.htm

    It’s always dangerous to extrapolate swings solely down to one issue, but none the less the swings to Labor in some booths were quite large, even given the fact that there was a 15% TPP swing across the whole electorate.

    In Pearson’s hometown of Hope Vale the swing at the booth was 20.6%. Other swings at booths in Aboriginal communities were 30.2% at Injinoo, 14.4% at Lockhart River, but only 8.2% at Aurukun. The 3 remote polling teams had huge swings too – the first (based at Yorke Island) was 19.7%, the second (based at Umagico) was 24.4%, and the third (based at Mapoon) was 32%. – only small actual voter numbers in many areas, and some good primary votes for the Indigenous Independent candidate Norman Miller in most places.

    FWIW, my views of Pearson are rather closer to Andrew Bray’s than Mark’s, let alone Paul’s (which hasn’t always gone down well I must say), even though I think he acquiesced too much in letting himself be used as a vehicle for validating Howard’s assimilation agenda. In any case, there will need to be some realigning all round on Indgenous issues over the coming months and years, which does present some opportunities.

  11. John T. says:

    I’ve never met Pearson so I can only make ignorant guesses about his personal motivation and direction.

    However we can make some observations about the historical Pearson phenomenon, which manifests mainly through the media and commentators commentating about him, not that I would ever do that.

    One apparent fact is that Pearson has entered the consciousness of non-Aboriginal Australia, this very post giving anecdotal evidence by way of Mark B.’s dream. (I dreamt about Tony Abbott the other night and dare not explore the meaning of that).

    I am sure, especially given the timing, that the heartless snake comment has given reason for Rudd to give some ongoing thought to Pearson, even with his very busy election schedule.

    Pearson has been used and disguarded by politicians, especially Beattie and Howard. Pearson is no fool, he has no illusions of a white conservative salvation for Aboriginal Australia. But Pearson, more than any other Aboriginal leader since the guerilla fighting, has got as close as he possibly can to the epicentre of white power. Even closer than Neville Bonner or Aiden Ridgeway got. He has not only cultivated relationships amongst politicians but more importantly amongst corporate economic power.

    Pearson is a player in the game, he has entered the ring. His concern appears not to be with ideological harmony but with winning – something, anything.

    Pearson is an opportunist in the tradition of the hunter gatherer and the guerilla warrior. The same cultural logic has been applied to contemporary historical conditions, in particular the media, government and economy.

    Dont get me wrong, I disagree with much of Pearsons rhetoric. But I suspect his rhetoric is not his main game.

    No positive thing for Aboriginal Australia has ever come through the good will of white Australia. Everything has been as a product of struggle and fighting. Nothing has ever been given, all the positive advances have had to be taken.

    I found the heartless snake comment to be the most profound and powerfull utterance in years about the reconciliation agenda.

    It was a refreshing change from the warm fuzzy bi-partisanship sludge.

  12. nasking says:

    Mark, couldn’t agree with you more.

    imho, there was something in the core of Pearson’s approach & attitude that bothered me no end. I’m not saying he didn’t have some good ideas & he obviously cared enuff to desire change for the dispossessed & abused…but I always felt there were other motives underlying his support for the Libs. But i’m a suspicious bugger at the best of times.

    Btw, I thought your post-election piece for New Matilda re: Australia not being the 51st State after all, was effective. All I can say is “thank Gawd for that!”…let’s hope it stays that way…the less i see of NY-based attempted manipulation of our media & elections…& Holy Rollers in glass houses selling CDs the better…:)

    Havin’ a long weegend buzz on w/ friends (mates)…w/ the barbee sizzlin’ & plenty of beer/wine & spirit hittin’ the spot…on the verandah/patio…after a mornin’ hike or swim…talkin’ about the latest alternative/innovative/exciting music, movie, book, cricket match, TV show, blog, science discovery, festival, art display, theatre performance…& fall from grace by dumbo celebrity or pollie…is enuff of a spiritual experience for me.

    I don’t need the BIG Extravaganza, BIG Show, BIG Sell, BIG Billboards, BIG Glass House, BIG finger-pointing pontification, BIG Game…that why i reckon this is the “best Country in the World”…let’s keep it that way.

  13. Andrew Bray says:

    Who said nuance was lost on me…..or him….


    Look for Pearson himself in image 8

  14. Foucault A Go Go says:

    John T

    “Pearson is an opportunist in the tradition of the hunter gatherer and the guerilla warrior.”

    I think that is an unnecessarily coarse and racist perspective. If anything Pearson’s tactics are those of the GPS private school boy and sandstone university graduate. It is no coincidence that Pearson and Marcia Langton are so like-minded.

  15. Gaz says:

    “I think that is an unnecessarily coarse and racist perspective.”

    Er what about “Uncle Tom” Now that can’t be racist surely?I mean shit, it’s in house so to speak,he’s one of ours.Most Aboriginals I know,and I know lots of em,can read this man like a cheap novel.A nuance, a nuance, my land rights, for a nuance.

  16. The Rockstar Philosopher says:

    I had a dream the night before the election that I was attacking Kevin Andrews with a plastic scimitar.

  17. Paul Burns says:

    One of my main objections to Pearson has nothing whatever to do with Aboriginal affairs. Years ago, when Labor was previously in power, Pearson was amomng the first to lay the groundwork for the destruction of the welfare state through his ideas on welfare. When Howard came to power he seized on Pearson’s ideas with gusto, and damned near did destroy the welfare state. He boasted that was his aim in his campaign speech and Pearson has supported him mindlessly all the way.

  18. John Tracey says:

    Foucault A G G,

    “please explain”. What is racist about my comment?

    It seems to me that criticising Aboriginal leaders for not conforming to the expectations of white political schisms is racist, as is attacking Aboriginal leaders on the basis of generalisations about the school or university they went to.

    It is one thing to critique Pearson’s (or Langton’s) plans, it is another to throw mud.

  19. FDB says:

    “I had a dream the night before the election that I was attacking Kevin Andrews with a plastic scimitar.”

    I had a dream last Thursday night that although ALP won the election, Howard held Bennelong and somehow it was my fault. From Carlton I managed to fuck it up and could do nothing about it.


  20. frodo441 says:

    Yes, this underclass, once the defunct nobility was out of the way…saw their opportunity to move up…

  21. frodo441 says:

    quite looking like the Fallon Gong and send more yellow tail…

  22. Greg says:

    Interesting comments all round.

    The one comment I will pick up on is the reference (from Mark B) to Labor’s promise to create a national representative body.

    In my view the lead up to and announcement of this body will set in place how and which Aboriginal leaders Labor will allow to represent its policies. Howard chose an eclectic set of conservative unknowns for his National Indigenous Council.

    Who will Labor choose to win over Aboriginal confidence for a new body? Remember ATSIC elections only enjoyed less than 20 percent of voluntary voting in its elections.

    Labor cannot ignore those Aboriginal leaders who have held the line against Howard over the past 11 years. And Pearson is not one of them.

    There are many past models of representation such as the NAC and of course ATSIC to choose from.

    Bear in mind that Labor has also promised to ratify the UN’s declaration on the rights of Indigenous peoples.

    What would Pearson’s response to this be?

    Remember he has not been a part of any elected Indigenous body for many years and has instead chosen to create the voice of a public intellectual (with lots of help from the Murdoch Press)

    What Jim Tornier (elected member for Leichhardt /Cape York) thinks of Pearson will be telling. Will he has his own views or will his views be sanitised by Labor minders?

    Pearson’s dislike of Rudd goes back to the late 80’s early 90’s and Pearson is loathed by many Aboriginal activists but they also know that without him in a leadership role at the top it leaves their flanks open to his attacks.

    My sources tell me jockeying has already begun within the Aboriginal politico (as one would expect) but for me what will be interesting is what role Pearson plays in declaring his opinion on the structure of a new body. I think he will be happy if he heads up a regional Cape York agenda rather than partaking in a national body.

    I think other regional leaders would prefer this as well and they would rather design these regional zones than have them imposed as did ATSIC’s electoral zoned mapping.

    How this is played out in urban areas where the majority of Indigenous people live will be interesting and especially with the backdrop focus on remote communities.

    I think the real brawl will not be between Pearson and Labor but between Pearson and whatever the next “Frankenstein like” Aboriginal rep body Labor it gives life too –especially if it threatens to disenfranchise his own quango.

    What ever you think of him Pearson’s opinion on this new body will matter – but only insofar as his views are supported by his own constituents communities in the Cape.
    The huge drift to Labor by Aboriginal communities in the Cape on the 24th suggests he is very unpopular. But I may be wrong.

  23. kimberella says:

    Chris Graham made that point about the swing to Labor in the Cape being a repudiation of Pearson as well, if I recall correctly.

  24. hartv says:

    Yes Chris G made that point as well.

    Cape politics:

    I would qualify my observation by suggesting that Cape Communities may well vote on the same issues regardless on whether they vote in a federal or state or local election.

    The repudiation of Pearson’s approach to land privatisation in 3 communities is well known. His megaphone diplomacy skills are also well known if not legendary in the Cape.

    The manufacturing of consent around Pearson’s ideas enjoys more consensus here in the urbs, often with people I thought would be intuitively more inquisitive and critical. One must also remember that the readership of the Courier Mail and Australian in these communities is non existent. Politics in communities happens at very much more intimate levels in Aboriginal communities in the Cape and its not just about traditional ideological calibrations of Left or Right.

    National politics:

    Pearson has regularly attacked so called latte lefties here in Brisbane who have alternative views to his and this is cleverly deployed wedge to position himself as a progressive centrist.

    This will not change once a national Indigenous body emerges – which will provide some ideological clarity, not just of the black politico but also of how federal and state government see their respective roles and responsibilities

    I sense we will see a mix of utilitarian blackocrats and some traditional Rights advocates making up the state and federal teams.

    The old guard vs. the new progressive youth? Political generation change happens much faster in our communities.

    One thing is for sure, Pearson will not play ball with an emerging national leadership culture and his ideological alliance to individual leaders are already bedded down.

    The black culture wars have only just begun – meaning they will become more public than usual.


  25. Peterc says:

    Pearson stepped over a line with his “snake” comments. It seems he has an agenda that is not fully transparent. He certainly chose to play politics with Howard. Nearly everbody I know who did on any “progressive” matter got shafted down the track.

    Pearson’s “model” is not proven or accepted by all the communities around the Cape, so it was very premature to “roll it out”. It would appear he has now also burnt a few bridges.

    Forget the preamble. Indigenous Australians deserve a section in the body of the Constitution. And a treaty. And the word “sorry”. And consultation.

    They don’t need a paternalistic racist “intervention” that treats them all equally badly with $100k pa bureacrats telling them what to do.

    More has now been spent on the NT “intervention” than the money required to boost existing health services to a standard equivalent to that which non-indigenous Australians enjoy.

  26. Greg says:

    Agree PeterC,

    I too get tired of commentary talking about better policy development and programs.


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