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SA statement on Howard's racist 19th century plan to 'defend' children in Aboriginal communities

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“There’s no crime that John Howard won’t stoop to to preserve his miserable racist government”, Socialist Alliance Indigenous rights spokesperson Sam Watson commented today.

Watson was responding to the Howard government’s authoritarian “emergency” solution for ending child sex abuse by banning remote Indigenous community access to alcohol and pornography, controlling the spending of welfare benefits and forcing children to go to school.

“It’s convenient for Howard and the tough-love-sloganeering Noel Pearson to blame everything on the welfare system”, Watson said. “But it is the absence of any system to actually end the racist oppression, economic marginalisation and poverty of Indigenous communities that is the cause for these problems.

“Welfare has never been able to do anything but patch and band-aid and cannot be expected to address the real issues.”

Watson stressed: “Howard's headline-grabbing, prejudice-tapping ‘emergency program’ is not designed to address any of our community’s problems. It's simply a way to press the racist button in the coming federal elections. It is this election’s Tampa.

“Indigenous Australians realise that we are the football in a cynical political game between the Coalition and Kevin Rudd’s spineless Labor ‘opposition’. Once again, without a second thought, Labor has been cowered into standing ‘shoulder-to-shoulder’ with the racist and authoritarian Coalition.”

“Howard tears over child abuse in Indigenous communities are those of a calculating political crocodile”, the Socialist Alliance spokesperson added. “How many Indigenous kids have died as a result of his government's criminal inhumanity since 1996? How many children have been abused and neglected because entire communities have been left in squalor and hopelessness?

“How many Indigenous people have died in police and prison custody because of the failure to implement the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Black Deaths in Custody? How many of our people have been spiritually and emotionally destroyed by that indifference?”

Watson stressed that Howard’s ‘solution’ to child sex abuse was worse than the problem. “Sixty coppers are to be sent to Northern Territory remote Aboriginal settlements. Has everyone forgotten the real record of authoritarian and paternalistic regimes and child abuse? How many commissions of inquiry into institutional abuse of Indigenous children have been buried and forgotten?”

Watson added that the prime minister’s ‘plan’ also smacked of desperation. “Who’ll be fooled into thinking Howard really cares about Aboriginal children even after he's dismissed the many appeals by Aboriginal leaders, health and aid bodies for urgent action to address the Indigenous health crisis?

“Any concerned Australian knows that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders die 17 years earlier than non-Indigenous Australians and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander infant mortality is three times that of non-Indigenous Australians.

“They also know that the Howard government has deliberately rejected tackling the roots of these scandals, to the point of recently dismissing the modest appeal by Oxfam and the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation for spending on Aboriginal Health to be increased by a measly $450 million a year.”

The Socialist Alliance spokesperson concluded by pointing out that a properly funded program of positive discrimination for Indigenous people in education and training and a real Indigenous job creation campaign could have started to solve the problems of Aboriginal communities’ hopelessness years ago.

“The Socialist Alliance will be putting forward such a program at the federal elections. In the meantime we’ll continue to do everything we can to build community resistance to Coalition and Labor racism and indifference.”

Media comment: Sam Watson (0401 227 443)

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Peter Boyle | June 23, 2007

In overseas media coverage, Howard's cynical election stunt (this election campaign's equivalent of the Tampa/child-overboard saga) over child abuse in remote Aboriginal communities in the NT, is being correctly labelled racist. See here and here, for instance.


But almost all the mainstream, newspapers in Australia have welcomed it. Racism clearly remains prevalent and deep-rooted in Australia, as Professor Larissa Behrendt said in the Mabo ration recently.

However, another factor here is the prevailing sense of despair at severe oppression still suffered by Indigenous Australians. Sam Watson is a rare militant and socialist voice in the Indigenous leadership today, offering a challenge to the conservative voice of Noel Pearson which has been eagerly used by Howard to come in with his racist White Man's Burden act.

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