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Choosing to Lie About Indigenous Australia: Why Tony Abbott Should Do More Than Just Apologize

Tony Abbott has, yet again, demonstrated his appalling lack of knowledge on even the most basic aspects of our society with comments made last week that claimed the problems Aboriginal people face are a result of “poor lifestyle choices”.

The irony of a rich, Catholic white male lecturing a people who have routinely been consciously disadvantaged by government after government after government in this country is palpable.

Anglo-saxon relationships with the indigenous people of Australia have been consistently poor, to understate the matter, since our cultures first crossed paths. The response of our “noble forefathers” to the presence of what they considered to be savages was to engage in mass killing, in genocide, to allow easier access to the land and it’s resources.

There are no Tasmanian aborigines left with 100% aboriginal genes.

Just think about that for a moment.

Imagine what it must be like to know that from an indigenous perspective, to understand that the white man has since the beginning been a force of slaughter, of death, of discord to your people.

Imagine then what it must feel like to hear one of these white men telling the nation he leads that it is the fault of the Aboriginal people that their living conditions rank among the worst in the developed world, that white police officers murder them in custody, that mining magnates such as Lang Hancock, Gina Rinehart’s father, have proposed they be sterilised.

In short, Tony Abbott is blaming the victims, and he’s not apologising for it.

“I’m not going to concede that. I accept people have a right to be critical of me, but I’m certainly not going to concede that.”

This statement made by the prime minister in response to journalists remarking that his framing of indigenous living conditions as a choice may have been a poor choice of words, demonstrates that this monkey in a suit has even less understanding of the situation than he does empathy towards it.

Was it a “lifestyle choice” that resulted in children of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders being forcibly removed from their families for over a century?

Does the prime minister believe that these human beings are choosing to live seventeen years less than non-Aboriginal Australians?

This behaviour, from the man who is supposed to represent Australia on the world stage, is despicable. It alone is reason enough to oust Gina Rinehart’s praetorian guardsman and ensure he never holds a position of power in this country again.

For those wanting to learn more about Aboriginal Australia and the horrifying disparity between indigenous people and the rest of the populace, head on over to youtube and watch John Pilger’s excellent film, Utopia.

You can find it here.


This article was originally published on the author’s blog, which you can find here.

51 comments

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  1. kate ahearne

    Thanks for this Rob. It’s all truly awful.
    But just one quibble, and it’s a bigggie. I think that what you meant to say is that there are no longer any Aboriginal Tasmanians who have 100% Aboriginal genes. But there are many Tasmanians who consider themselves to be Aboriginal, and who are proud of this aspect of their heritage and identify with it. You’re in grave danger of lining up alongside Andrew Bolt on this issue. Please, let’s be careful.

  2. Pingback: Choosing to Lie About Indigenous Australia: Why Tony Abbott Should Do More Than Just Apologize – » The Australian Independent Media Network | winstonclose

  3. Loz

    Shame on Abbott. He is unfit to be the PM of Australia.

  4. Florence nee Fedup

    I wonder if it is dawning on Abbott, that he knows little about Aborigines. That they have been humouring him. As always, he was hearing, what he wanted from Pearson,

    The man is clueless as usual. Same goes for most groups in our society,. Has no insight or empathy whatever

  5. Awabakal

    Abbott is right in that, there are some “communities” with less than a dozen people in them; I know of one community that has 4 houses, graded road, power, water supply and satellite phone tower and three houses are empty with the residents at larger communities.

  6. Zolf

    And this wanker has the gall to talk about death cults 17 thousand times a week.

  7. Zolf

    That’s not the point Awabakal. The government is spending hundreds of billion dollars on our lifestyle choices, while trying to boot out those poor people from their own land, thus jeopardizing their native title.

  8. Rob Marsh

    kate, thanks for your correction, I’ve edited the article to reflect your more nuanced description of the situation. The last thing I want is to seems as though I’m in some way trying to discredit people who identify as aboriginal/tsi, that is unequivocally not my intention.

  9. seachange

    @ Awabakal
    what are the names of these communities please?

  10. kate ahearne

    Thanks for your acknowledgement of my worry, Rob, and thanks for your correction, although I haven’t seen it yet.

    We need a lot more information than we’re getting about these remote communities. You’ve written what you think and feel, but we really do need information.

    There’ll be people who’ll support one side or the other and tell us that they’ve been there. This is not information.

    And then there’s conscience and care.

  11. John Fraser

    <

    Abbott is "the best friend Medicare ever had".

    Abbott is Australia's Indigenous populations "best friend".

    Abbott spews out bullshit every time he opens his mouth.

  12. Wally

    Previous leaders have tried to sweep the problem under the carpet, thrown cash at the problem hoping it will go away and even ignored the problem but Tony Abbott is the first PM to be stupid enough to show a total lack of respect, understanding and consideration to our indigenous population. You have to give Tony credit for proving that he is a bloody idiot over and over.

  13. Lee

    Gina wants the land that indigenous folks are living on and they can’t make claims under the Native Title Act unless living on the land. So invent some bullshit excuse to separate indigenous people from their traditional lands.

  14. eli nes

    Spot on(although, surely Tassie Aborigines have Aboriginal ancestors and both deserve a capital letter).
    To us pre-baby boomers, we saw the difference shown to the southern Europeans compared to the northern even from the same country.(wogs, dagos, ities, they’re a weird mob).
    Sadly the real Australian racism is readily picked up by immigrants(especially those from Asia) and is rife throughout our society. A modern society whose people can talk with black Africans as equals but not with Aborigines.
    Recently, an Irish woman with a thick accent that was hard to understand interviewed a shire president who spoke clearly and succinctly but as he was an Aborigine from a remote community, the sub-title facility was used. it mirrored every word and there wasn’t a plurry or a yes boss to be heard. Absolutely racist and pathetic when the interviewer couldn’t speak english,
    In 1988, an old Aborigine, from Turkey Creek, was on display in Canberra.
    Bill Hayden(GG) was with Archbishop Tutu looking down on the old man’s works. They wandered on chatting. The journo asked him a question and the old man’s words, still burn in my brain. “He can talk with that blackfella! Why can’t he talk to me?”. Now more than 25 years on our PM heads a society that still can’t talk to Aborigines and do not consider them as ever being superior or even equal to the rest of society.(sound familiar girls)

  15. Ned

    40,000 year old Dreamtime lifestyle Vs Mr Abbott’s 18 month Nightmare thought bubble

    40,000 year old Dreamtime lifestyle Vs Abbott’s Its dream-team-time.

  16. paul walter

    The insensitivity streak seems to turn up over and over again. TheSaturday Paper just ran a story marvelling at his attiude to the brutalisation of asylum seekers. When are people going to bcome a wake up.

  17. mars08

    Abbott is doing everything he can to ensure that the Coalition’s “base” comprising bogans, bigots, bed-wetters, and the brainless are going to stick with him.

  18. Kaye Lee

    It’s not working mars08

    “In none of the four seven-person focus groups did anyone say anything positive about the Prime Minister.

    All of the participants were selected because they had switched their vote from Labor to Liberal at the 2011 NSW election which saw the ALP thrown out of government with a historic 16.5 per cent swing.”

    http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/nsw-state-election-2015/the-tony-abbott-factor-what-western-sydney-voters-really-think-about-the-pm-20150315-144g5k.html

  19. Lee

    Whilst it is good to see that voters are waking up to him, I still didn’t see the views that I would like to see expressed in that article. Of course, it could be intentionally selective on the part of the journalist. I’d like to see some Liberal voters saying that the way the govt treats asylum seekers is wrong, or point out that the govt is demonizing disadvantaged/minority groups. I’d like to see them point out inconsistencies in the message, like Pyne threatening to sack 1700 scientists but we’re being told that proposed Medicare savings will fund research.

  20. francescaagosti

    Well said, Rob Marsh. An apology for this display of utter ignorance of the complex issues faced by our First Australians is nowhere near enough. Abbott’s immediate resignation would be more appropriate.

  21. Michiela

    Lee, I agree with you 100 %. This is about easy access to mining land …that’s all I can envisage from this government.

  22. jimhaz

    It could be about access to mining land, but I hope not. I would think some form of legal protection could been found in that case.

    Though I have a big problem with the insensitivity of Abbott’s remarks, I don’t have any problem with the issue needing to be sorted out. By experts though, not politicians.

    High level of taxpayer support should not be given if over the long term it is not producing improvement. I can imagine how expensive services would be to provide in these remote areas. It is probably way too costly to sustain indefinitely. The cost of aboriginal welfare is double that of any other group, and as many aboriginals now do not live remotely, the cost of servicing a remote area must be 10 times that of anyone else, other than perhaps handicapped folk. The problem is that aboriginals themselves and the population generally wont except negative health consequences if funding is reduced for remote areas.

    I come from the basis of the aboriginal culture as a practising culture, as being something that cannot otherwise but die out within 50 years (other than for tourism and ceremonial purposes). I see employment as the only cure for aboriginal unhappiness and that means becoming westernised. I can argue that continuing welfare dependency itself destroys the culture in any case, as it means that the culture is practiced as more as a hobby.

    This issue is similar to the medical care for vegetablised older folk with no hope of recovery – maybe we need to sort that out first before being too savage with remote community minimisation.

  23. Kaye Lee

    jimhaz,

    How much does negative gearing for wealthy property investors cost us? A damn sight more than support for remote communities! How much do superannuation tax concessions cost us? Much more than welfare for Aborigines! The subsidies we give to fossil fuel miners could support these communities and provide schools and health clinics. To suggest that culture is practised as a hobby is unbelievably paternalistic.

  24. mars08

    Is having children at a (government subsidised) private school some sort of lifesyle choice?

  25. Lee

    “I can imagine how expensive services would be to provide in these remote areas. It is probably way too costly to sustain indefinitely. ”

    One area in WA has 3 remote settlements – 2 black and 1 white. Only the funding from the black settlements is being removed. Why aren’t the whites deemed to be making a lifestyle choice by living in a remote community? How does it cost more to fund indigenous people in a remote community than it costs to fund white people?

  26. Awabakal

    @ Zolf – it is a point, it may not be your chosen point.

    @ seachange – how would it help you by knowing where they are, the fact is they are part of the collective that Abbott and Barnett are bitching about.

    I do not agree with what the government wants to do. Long-grassers live just fine wandering their traditional nomadic lifestyle. I’m not sure whether Abbott wants to impact them as well. At the moment it is all about the small communities that are copping the brunt because Abbott thinks that everyone should be working for their tucker and the kids should be going to school so that they can ‘assimilate’ into the patchwork of contemporary Australian lifestyle.

    There is a definite schism in some communities, a bit like the air of contention that exists about having to vaccinate children in modern Australia. Some communities do not like the white-fella way and encourage children to avoid the education system. Who is going to alter that mindset?

  27. jimhaz

    [How much does negative gearing for wealthy property investors cost us? A damn sight more than support for remote communities! How much do superannuation tax concessions cost us? Much more than welfare for Aborigines! The subsidies we give to fossil fuel miners could support these communities and provide schools and health clinics. To suggest that culture is practised as a hobby is unbelievably paternalistic.]

    I agree. I said this to my niece (who is an emphatic leftie like most here) on Facebook earlier today.

    “Actually the big one is the superannuation system, where in it is being used by the wealthy and semi-wealthy for tax avoidance. Howard and Costello purposefully designed this loophole to be this very avoidance. This system is subsidising the lifestyle choices of better off retirees in a big way.
    Even the pension system ever subsidizes average baby boomer retirees by not forcing them to reverse mortgage million dollar homes – this is the same sort of lifestyle choice.

    The federal budget deficit (supposedly causing WAs remote community reduction policy) wouldn’t be such a great problem if things like the above were fixed, but no chance of either party really doing the right thing there, the LNP because they conduct class warfare against the working classes, and the ALP because too many votes would be lost”

    One thing though is that I think we may be expecting that money to be enough to solve all our woes. The budget deficit is over the income that is obtainable from those areas.

    [One area in WA has 3 remote settlements – 2 black and 1 white. Only the funding from the black settlements is being removed. Why aren’t the whites deemed to be making a lifestyle choice by living in a remote community]

    Sorry I don’t know the details, but would assume the white area has a much higher level of employment and self-sufficiency. If not its racism.

    [Long-grassers live just fine wandering their traditional nomadic lifestyle. I’m not sure whether Abbott wants to impact them as well]

    Umm, not sure I’d call the situation “just fine”. Interesting this 2013 article uses the term “lifestyle choice”

    http://rightnow.org.au/writing-cat/article/life-in-the-long-grass/

    [Some communities do not like the white-fella way and encourage children to avoid the education system]

    As a white-fella, I don’t like the contemporary white-fella way either – it is becoming way too inhumane. My workplace often feels like a sort of jail for me – too robotic (overspecialised), no satisfaction, too much reliance of others to do the right thing (which they don’t). In terms of neighbours, I have insufficient in common with them, so don’t mix (all are immigrants).

    Still, these pains are far, far less than the average blackfella’s living pains. And bearing in mind that humans cannot be fully satisfied on an overall basis, I just think these negatives are something that we have to evolve through, and I don’t accept the concept that aboriginals should not be required to evolve where they receive white-fella money, just because they are of native heritage.

  28. Wally

    I question if removing negative gearing property would be a benefit or a burden to the government, without private rental properties there would be a huge void that would need to be filled by public housing at a huge cost. The problem wouldn’t stop there everything we buy would be more expensive because Australian retailers operate from leased premises, if the property owners cannot offset the cost of newer buildings against income from buildings they own (negative gear) the tenant would pay more rent. If you cut out negative gearing how do you apply that to business that purchase their own premises and plant.

    People tend to lose focus on how the tax system works, many believe that if a business or someone who negative gears has a taxable expense the expense comes off of the tax bill. This is incorrect it reduces the taxable income so a $100- taxable expense would reduce tax for someone paying 30 cents in the dollar tax by $30- the other $70- comes out of the business or negative gearer’s pocket. Don’t forget that all property other than the family home attracts capital gains tax and typically you cannot tax something without making tax deductions for the costs incurred to make the profit. Business wouldn’t very long if they paid tax on every dollar earned, they would all go broke.

    What is a sham is the Australian superannuation system, probably the best money laundering racket in the world. Capital gains tax can be avoided by putting the money received from the sale of a property into super until retirement. A friend of mine sold a property for 100% more than the purchase price 4-5 years earlier and his wife was 64 so they put the proceeds of the sale into her super and avoided paying any tax, 12 months later they had access to the money tax free. I don’t agree with this at all but anyone in their situation would do the same thing if it was going to save them over $100k.

    Private schools are an area we should cut funding to, at the most they should only receive what it costs on average to educate a child at that level in the public system. If there is a lifestyle choice that the tax system is paying for this is at the top of the list and if we cannot afford to educate Aboriginal children without them leaving their communities we should cut funding to private schools and educators all together. Recently I have been receiving emails from private tertiary educators promising free laptops/tablets provided by the government if I sign with them for a course and the spool indicates that the cost of education will be paid by the government.

  29. Wally

    @Dandark the picture of Abbott at Green Left makes him look like or as stupid as Frank in the TV show Some Mother Do Have Them. I wonder if his mother ever wonders if she is the mother who had one?

  30. DanDark

    Wally…. to funny, yeah I can see the resemblance there, I found this pic of Frank/Tony
    Who is the real Frank, I reckon its Tony, Tony has morphed into Frank, but yep two peas in a pod
    Frank was as useless as tits on a bull and as nutty as a fruit cake same as Tones

    http://www.planetcalypsoforum.com/gallery/files/1/0/6/8/7/frank_spencer.jpg

  31. crypt0

    jimhaz “vegetablised older folk with no hope of recovery” ???
    We already solved that one …
    We voted them into office in Canberra …
    Wasn’t a very good idea but …

  32. cairnsnews@hotmail.com

    Is this site the unofficial newsletter of the corrupt ALP? Why don’t you write something positive about the unionists and white collar crims in the ALP? You could start with that grubby Shorten. We wait with baited breath for the ruling of the Royal Commission and the police to charge Shorten et al for the tens of millions they stole from the equally corrupt unions. And no I don’t vote Liberal!!

  33. stephentardrew

    Duh and I don’t vote Liberal.

    What a load of absolute crap.

    Who gives a shit you’re still a rabid troll.

  34. Kerri

    Two things concern me about the MSM reporting of Abbott’s insensitive and racist remarks.
    1/ Why is no one remarking on the subsidised lifestyle choices of miners and farmers?
    2/ Why has no one sought opinion from more sensitive ex PMs ie; Fraser or Keating?
    Or maybe I just haven’t noticed??

  35. Lee

    “Is this site the unofficial newsletter of the corrupt ALP? ”

    We’re not all Labor voters here. Some of us don’t recognise Labor as aligned on the left of the political spectrum. Some who do vote Labor have readily admitted numerous times that there is room for improvement within the ALP. Many of us have expressed a desire for a federal ICAC to expose all corruption. I don’t vote Labor either.

  36. Florence nee Fedup

    Yes, as daughter of a cocky farmer, farming is indeed a lifestyle. Not a bad one at that.

    Do we really want all that vast inland unoccupied. Should we not we encouraging people into the region.

    would these people’s lives be better, if force into bigger communities that is foreign to their lifestyles. Would lead to disaster for many. There is plenty of evidence to support this would be so.

    Government should spend same amount of each, no matter where they live. All communities have government support, not only Aborigines in the outback.

    Yes, the children must be educated. Does it follow that all children are receptive to the same method of education, the same need. We have in our community, many kids that do not thrive in the local school. The system has had to find alternative ways of getting through to these kids, Some, when old enough thrived in the TAFE system.

    The same goes for the kids on out-stations and isolated communities. I am sure the parents want education for their kids. They just do not see “white man’s” education as suitable. Some lateral system is needed.

    Maybe begin by teaching them in their own culture, even own language. Yes, reading/writing in English but a curriculum they find some sense in. If they have basic writing and reading skills, can move onto normal curriculum as the grow. Does not even need highly trained teachers in the communities. School of the Air, with locally educated Aborigines helping the community, would be a good start.

    As for communications, power and water, thanks to modern technology, is no longer a big problem. Yes, renewals and satellite phones bring such luxuries to the bush.

    These kids need to be abled to learn the skills to care for the land, that is so important to them

    There is no need for them to discard their own culture, to be productive members of society. Just do not force them to give up their culture. Not needed. They have a lot to offer.

    Just a few thoughts.

  37. Trevor Mills

    Just a thought,

    How about pushing a petition to call for Abbott to either resign or be dismissed by your Governor-General. It’s happening here in New Zealand against Key.

  38. robmarsh777

    cairnsnews, I’m actually an anarchist when it comes to my political views, and I always vote independent with preferences to Greens. I’ll get fined if I don’t vote, else I wouldn’t bother.

    That said, Labour unions have, historically, been the largest driving force behind social progression and human rights according to Noam Chomsky, who is practically the most respected intellectual in the Western world. He cites numerous examples in his books, which are essentially required reading for anyone interested in politics beyond the bullshit they show us on television.

    We’re all aware here of the corruption within both sides of politics, and many of us recognise it as a function of the systems of social hierarchy and power common to all democracies worldwide. The reason I primarily target Liberal policy is because they do not make decisions in the best interests of the lower or middle class, i.e. the majority of the population, have not, and will not in the forseeable future.

    They exist to mind the interests of big oil and mining, they are a praetorian guard to Gina Rinehart and not much else.

  39. Blanik

    Good to see that the ‘no aborigines in Tasmania’ has been corrected. A very silly mistake.

  40. jimhaz

    [who is an emphatic leftie like most here]

    Not that it matters, but I actually meant “full of empathy”. C- s/b sympathetic

  41. CommonA

    @Wally, from what I understand, if the government were to fund the private system on the same rate as the public system, it would actually increase the amount they get…. (http://isca.edu.au/about-independent-schools/funding-of-independent-schools/)… just sayin’

    Back to the whole Aboriginal thing, I like Florence nee Fedup’s comments the best… I mean, if we are all about protecting Aboriginal culture and their right to live on the land… then what part does Western money, housing, education, etc have to do with that? If you ask me the whole premise of “closing the gap” is the wrong concept to start from. Either we are respecting, protecting, listening to and working with the Aboriginal people to live on their own terms, or we are westernising them…. and if we are westernising them, then please let’s do it efficiently, safely, and stop pretending that we are not.

  42. Wally

    @CommonA those figures are based on total expenditure so I assume it would include the cost of building and maintaining public school building. I saw some figures a few years ago (during the Howard era) for the costs directly related to education and private school received more per student. Accurately determining the figures is difficult most sources have a vested interest to obscure the truth. Another reason we need better governance with more transparency.

  43. Mark Needham

    Bill Shorten believes that people who make certain lifestyle choices should not be supported with public money. So at least Tony and Bill agree on one thing.

  44. Anon E Mouse

    How about a news article on the protests that have occurred all around Australia against the closure of the remote communities and Abbott’s lifestyle choices attitude.
    Indigenous Australians have protested, but the mainstream media is ignoring the fact. Is it too confronting to think that Indigenous Australians might actually be able to mobilise, nationally united, without non-Indigenous people noticing. Is this why it is being ignored by mainstream and alternate media.

    International support for the protests, from Indigenous peoples around the world, and also from a few celebrities is being totally ignored. I wonder why.

    Could it be that non-Indigenous people are fearful, as they have been for centuries, that one day the Indigenous people may stand and fight back. This scenario could be worrying, especially as there are so many ‘light skinned’ Aboriginal people who are regularly told they couldn’t be Aboriginal because they ‘look like us’, yet still strongly identify as Indigenous. Is it possible that people are afraid to talk about the mob protesting?

  45. SS

    Abbott can be genocidal if he chooses, just as someone may choose to erase him

  46. Michael Taylor

    I hope they don’t SS. As much as I despise the man, the worse thing I want to see befall him is an election loss or lose a leadership spill (while he is still PM, of course).

  47. Florence nee Fedup

    Don’t want to see him portrayed as martyr. victim or hero. Just want to see him get his just desserts.

  48. June M Bullivant OAM

    Mr Abbott opens his mouth before he engages his brain, he does not know Aboriginal cultures or history, neither does his advisors, it is about time that he and his advisors learn about how the culture works, they are a proud people who had a way to stop inter breeding from time in memorial, they know how to manage the land and being nomadic did not stay in the one place so they did not eat too much food from one place. Abbotts discrimination of these people cannot be described, he expects that every one should make his life choices (living on the public purse), sir the entire Australian population would not be able live like you, privileged rich people making the rules for the remainder of Australia is not working, telling lies to cover up, Ziggy Forrest telling us what is good for us is not a good look, he robbed the Elders so he could mine their land, what an example for us to follow.

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