Ideas@TheCentre brings you ammunition for conversations around the table. 3 short articles from CIS researchers emailed every Friday on the issues of the week.
The recent revelations about systemic child protection failures in the Northern Territory as reported by The Australian are no surprise — as Jacinta Price has pointed out — to those familiar with the circumstances on the ground in some Indigenous communities.
Child protection authorities Australia-wide are reluctant to remove Indigenous children from clearly dysfunctional families for ‘cultural’ reasons related to the legacy of the Stolen Generations.
The response by the many federal and state politicians, and echoed by other commentators, is that — as a matter of fundamental principle — culture should never be used as an excuse to fail to remove a child from harm’s way.
Child welfare should of course take precedence over culture, and children should never be treated differently in modern Australian based on race — as currently occurs under Australia’s ‘apartheid’ Indigenous child protection regime (as labelled privately to me by a well-informed veteran of the system).
But if these principles are to be put into practice, this will not only mean removing more Indigenous children. It will also mean stopping the common practice of placing children back into the same communities in accordance with the Aboriginal Child Placement Principle (ACCP) which often leads to children being placed back in harm’s way in unsafe ‘kinship care’ placements into which non-Indigenous children would not be placed.
All child protection reform takes political will — as the recent ground-breaking reforms in NSW demonstrate.
This is doubly so regarding Indigenous child protection, as the Indigenous lobby is shouting about a ‘new stolen generation’ and campaigning hard to reduce the number of child removals and increase compliance with the ACPP.
The political stakes are high; because the battle over Indigenous child protection is really a battle over the ‘separatist’ experiment with Aboriginal self-determination in rural and remote ‘homeland’ communities.
If all the children who need removing are removed, and not returned via the ACCP, this will bring the long-term future of the homelands into doubt — and thereby jeopardise the future of the taxpayer-funded ‘Aboriginal industry’.
Hence the real political challenge facing policymakers is to stop the politics of Indigenous affairs taking precedence over the best interests of vulnerable Indigenous children.
The Spirit of Australia has slumped further at what was once our proud national carrier. No longer content with changing the way we fly, the Flying Kangaroo now wants to change the way we think.
No sooner had Alan Joyce marched with a handful of uniformed pilots and cabin crew up Oxford Street in the Mardi Gras parade, than Qantas marched ahead with its “Spirit of Inclusion” campaign.
Committed to promoting “diversity of thought and experience” — so says the company’s Inclusion Statement — Qantas has decided it’s time to police the language and behaviour of its staff.
“Manterupting” is out, as is the use of “gender-inappropriate” words such as ‘guys’, ‘darling’, or ‘honey’ which, apparently, can make groups of people feel invisible and excluded.
‘Chairman’ is also vetoed for the staff. But for fear of denting the image of the airline’s super-elite travel lounge, it remains the Chairman’s Lounge. Inclusion seemingly takes second place to exclusivity marketing.
But wait, there’s more: not content with policing the language, Qantas is also patrolling our history, and actively promotes the ideology that Australia was “invaded” and not “settled”.
Alan Joyce has led the field among his corporate peers in promoting the idea that business is no longer about… well, business. For him it is primarily about social engineering.
With its up-market customer base, Qantas is, of course, signalling its virtue about diversity to Australia’s elite. So far, none of this has permeated to Jetstar, its budget, low-end subsidiary.
Change the language, and soon enough, behaviour will also change. Under the guise of diversity, Qantas is effectively promoting division, and sleepwalking into segregation.
Relations between women and men will atrophy; affection and empathy will be withheld; and no gesture or remark will be free from being interpreted as oppressive, demeaning, or hateful.
“Travesty, as a phenomenon of politics and culture, is what happens when exaggeration has no place left to go,” says American essayist Lance Morrow.
With its latest diversity antics, Qantas has burst the bounds of exaggeration and is soaring in the realm of travesty which will lead, soon enough, to a further splintering of our society.
And that’s definitely not ‘The Spirit of Australia’.
As Australians, we have become used to isolation from currents of change around the globe. In the case of the world’s recent populist tsunamis, we shouldn’t be so confident.
Since federation, the major parties’ voter share has fallen below 75% on only two occasions, both major realignments — in 1934, following the labour party split, and in 1944, preceding the creation of the liberal party. The two-party share at the last general election was 76.77%. Current polling data has it at 72%.
Should such a realignment occur, attempts to analyse it by the intelligentsia will inevitably miss the point. One can see this overseas. For example, British Philosopher AC Grayling has proposed a solution in ‘compulsory civic education’ and tougher broadcasting rules — appearing to blame the idiocy of the mere masses for exercising their democratic rights.
Not only is Grayling’s attitude ahistorical, it also exhibits a type of elitism that can cause reactionary politics. Such attitudes remind one of the admiration the British progressive intelligentsia had for the planned economy. Similarly, such views contradict two centuries of democracy enduring alongside ill-educated populations and vulgar demagogues — India and Brazil come to mind.
Democracy — like the ecosystem of the market, allows the greedy, the irrational, and the selfish to function towards the greater good. However, this depends on underlying institutional structures — which currently are in a process of decay. As such, responsible government requires a return to fundamentals: participation, accountability, and the rule of law.
Thus, our politics needs a great rebalancing. Party procedures such as preselection should be opened up not just to members but to the general public. The size of cabinet should be reduced and conscience votes should be increased. Staffer positions — sinecures for party loyalists — must be dramatically reduced in number and their functions taken on by parliament and the public service. Ensuring the rule of law involves an effective constitutional scrutineer and executor. As such, the public service, senate, and judiciary need secure and impartial tenure, while largely deferring to the democratic will.
Institutional reform is often ignored because it requires politicians to sacrifice their powers. But the price of ignorance may well be the end of our idyllic isolation.
Terence Duggan is an intern at the Centre for Independent Studies.