The Statement from the Heart calls for a ‘First Nations Voice’ in the Australian Constitution and a ‘Makarrata Commission’ to supervise a process of ‘agreement-making’ and ‘truth-telling’ between government and Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander Peoples. The Statement movingly closes with a reference to the 1967 referendum which brought about changes to the Constitution of Australia: “In 1967 we were counted, in 2017 we seek to be heard. We leave base camp and start our trek across this vast country. We invite you to walk with us in a movement of the Australian people for a better future.”
It would be treated with contempt by the Deputy Prime Minister of the time, and with pusillanimity by Prime Minister Turnbull.
Mind you, there is at least two points over which the Statement must be seriously criticised.
1) It is deeply, prospectively offensive to a future, modern Australia to accept that there be, as it is proposed in the Statement, a dual loyalty: one to [the] “sovereignty [which] is a spiritual notion: the ancestral tie between the land, or ‘mother nature’, and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples who were born therefrom, remain attached thereto, and must one day return thither to be united with our ancestors. This link is the basis of the ownership of the soil, or better, of sovereignty.”
2) Such sovereignty (the basis of the ownership of the soil) cannot “co-exist with the sovereignty of the Crown.”
The glaring contradiction could be the product of pressure exercised by some in the Liberal Party and accepted by compromising Indigenous representatives (it certainly would not even be considered by the Nationals).
One should add; in all this commotion very little attention is paid to the position of the Torres Strait Islanders. Yet it is there that Mabo began.
It is only possible to the present Labor Party, which has a Platform of 310 pages in which everything and nothing is possible, where a serious approach to ‘reconciliation’ or a call for the advent of a modern, vital republic of Australia. Only a party which has long time ago ceased to have any ‘doctrine’ (if it ever had one: R. Ward, Socialism without doctrine [originally by Albert Métin], Alternative Publishing Co-operative Chippendale, NSW 1977) would not blush at the five lines which mention an Australian Head of State and consultation on a republic.
Labor should be ashamed of proposing to “provide the national leadership required to modernise our Constitution.” (ALP A fair go for Australia, National Platform, Resolution for Chapter 10, An Australia Head of State, at 258).
To talk of the present piece of paper which is the Imperial constitution as a ‘birth certificate’ is only possible to people who have never read it or could/would not understand what is in fact a retrograde, undemocratic, soulless piece of paper. Forty-five years ago, the Australians got themselves an ‘Australian born head of state.’ Indeed, Falstaff Kerr was born to a Balmain boilermaker and posed for some time as a Labor man and look what he (and The Monarch?) did.
There is a malicious, nevertheless, quite conceivable explanation for Labor’s lack of serious commitment to the process of becoming a republic: a proposal for a constitutional convention, with a duty to prepare a new constitution, to be put to the people.
The key to such essentially lacks of enthusiasm could be that Labor learned its lesson of 1975: quieta non movere, do not move settle things, better still do not disturb a sleeping dog. With Hawke Labor began to place itself in a position similar to that of the former Liberal Party – an alternative liberal party in the Westminster System. It was done before.
In 1975 the case was one of a Queen’s servant, imbued with power (also), surrounded by well protected consiglieri, who would call up his ‘reserve powers’ to dismiss a truly reforming, repairing and re-conciliating Labor government.
Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition Leader Mr Albanese should know that the ‘reserve powers’ are so arcane, complex, almost imperscrutable – and always elastic and secret to activate – that they required some 808 pages of explanation by a highly distinguished constitutional law scholar (A. Twomey, The Veiled Sceptre – Reserve Powers of Heads of State in Westminster Systems, Cambridge University Press, 2018).
Mr Albanese might have already shown some cheap workableness on two occasions since the opening of Parliament.
One is the rush with which he attempted to expel from the Labor Party a Neanderthal thug who happens to be a powerful unionist but also a man capable of harassing his own wife with a series of disgraceful text messages. Precipitously acting ahead of a foreseeable recourse to justice, Mr Albanese could find no way of waiting for a sentence which could give him a better ground for expulsion.
Prime Minister Morrison kept relatively silent on the disgusting events, quite likely because he has in mind bigger fish to fry: reproposing an already tried piece of legislation to target and punish trade unions. It is called the Fair work (Registered Organisations Amendment (Ensuring Integrity) Bill 2017. Introduced by the Turnbull Government on 16 August 2017, it went up the parliamentary process to the second reading move in the Senate on 17 October 2017 but was not proceeded further. The content is really what would please a good government such as Mr Morrison’s: it was designed to amend the Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Act 2009 and described as to include certain serious criminal offences as a new category of ‘prescribed offence’ for the purposes of the automatic disqualification regime in relation to registered organisations; to establish an offence for a disqualified person to continue to act as an official or in a way that influences the affairs of an organisation; to allow the Federal Court to prohibit officials from holding office in certain circumstances or if they are otherwise not a fit and proper person; to allow the Federal Court to cancel the registration of an organisation on a range of grounds; to allow applications to be made to the Federal Court for a range of other orders; to expand the grounds on which the Federal Court may order remedial action to deal with governance issues in an organisation; expressly to provide that the Federal Court may appoint an administrator to an organisation or part of an organisation as part of a remedial scheme; to introduce a public interest test for amalgamations of registered organisations; and to make minor and technical amendments.
The other occasion in which Mr Albanese let many expectations down was the rush which followed the exercise of logorrheic callisthenics, and the totally risible naming of the amendment to the tax bill presented by the government, the Treasury Laws Amendment (Tax Relief So Working Australians Keep More Of Their Money) Bill 2019. If the naming was questionably funny, the substance of the bill was not: it meant dealing with very serious legislation which had the potential to cost the budget $158 billion over a decade. The tournament concluded with the Opposition voting for a grant, now, of special favours to the rich, in the future. Such clownish manoeuvre was presented with all sorts of twisted explanations. One needs no special knowledge of the treatment of taxes by the Australian parliaments to reflect that it is infinitely easier to cut taxes than to propose to raise them. What the government did was a triumph of greed and cowardice. What the Labor Opposition did was missing the chance to resist and defend one remaining principle it and its voters thought it had: progressing taxation to pay for a decent society. For the next three years it will be more trickle-down economics, the money to the rich, more inequality and more misery to everybody else.
In the midst of scandalous invasions conducted by the Australian Federal Police in June on the Canberra home of a News Corp journalist and the ABC’s Sydney newsroom, over allegations that classified material was used in a news report, to retrieve thousands of documents, Shmo knew nothing – except for delivering an homily to support “the tradition of compliance with the law.” The Attorney-General knew nothing at all. Parliament knew nothing; it ‘buried’ the matter in the usual special committee, which will report – sometime in the future, may be.
On 10 July, speaking at the Global Conference for Media Freedom in London, England, celebrity-by-reflection and human rights lawyer Amal Clooney called out Australia over its press freedom following the AFP invasions. She added that the current laws and actions Down Under could be used by oppressive leaders as an excuse to “clamp down even further on journalists.” “All governments – she noted – say they believe in a free press – the right is even enshrined in North Korea’s constitution… what matters is enforcement of this right.”
At the conference Ms Clooney said categorically that such things as the AFP invasions could not happen in the United Kingdom or the United States. Hmmm.
Ms Clooney told The Sydney Morning Herald that the decline in press freedom around the world “is not limited to non-democracies”.
“What happens in a country like Australia, or the UK or the US will be looked at by every other leader in the world and potentially used as an excuse to clamp down even further on journalists,” she said. (N. Miller, ‘Be better than North Korea’: Amal Clooney warns Australia on press freedom, The Sydney Morning Herald, 11 July 2019).
In reply, Australian Senator Marise Payne, Minister for Foreign Affairs, said that: “While Australia ranks relatively highly on the World Press Freedom Index, we recognise that a sensible balance needs to be reached between protecting our national interest in the face of ever-evolving security challenges and upholding the public’s right to know.” [Emphasis added]
She said that was why a parliamentary committee was looking into law enforcement, intelligence and press freedom. (SBS, ‘Australia, Amal Clooney issues warning to Australia over press freedom’, AAP – SBS, 11 July 2019).
Ms Clooney, as well as Senator Payne, have all means and assistance to check the recent press freedom index. This is an annual ranking of countries compiled and published by Reporters Without Borders based upon the organisation’s own assessment of the countries’ press freedom records in the previous year. (Reporters without borders, 2019 World Press Freedom Index).
And how high does Australia rank? 21.
Australian politicians, absolutely loyal to the Westminster System and everything which comes from ‘the mother country’ and then from a ‘Great and Powerful Friend’ and going absolutely nowhere else for comparison or information, could notice this: United Kingdom, 33.
And the United States? 48.
And what are the first seven countries on the list? 1) Norway, 2) Finland, 3) Sweden, 4) Netherlands, 5) Denmark, 6) Switzerland, 7) New Zealand. And spare a time for Iceland, 14 and Ireland 15. (2019 World Press Freedom Index).
Rather importantly, Iceland is the country which, as a result of the so called Global Financial Crisis, gaoled its dishonest bankers. Ireland continues its resurrection from Anglo and Catholic oppression and barbarism.
Out of the listed countries, Finland in particular has found a dignified solution to living with their First Nation: the Sami. Australians could have a lot to learn from Finland’s Constitution. (Finland’s Constitution of 1999 with Amendments through 2011).
As to the means, how many of Australian public persons would know that English is compulsory as a second language in a country which has no private schools and where universities are completely financed by Finns’ taxes.
But, of course, Australians public persons feel much more ‘at home’ in Ukania. They find the USA a place of great entertainment, ignoring of course that the Unhinged Orange Creepoid is driving that country to a new receptacle for ‘white supremacy’.
Indigenous People have a possible, even probable remedy, if the Australian Government were serious about ‘reconciliation’.
The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples delineates and defines the individual and collective rights of Indigenous Peoples, including their ownership rights to cultural and ceremonial expression, identity, language, employment, health, education and other issues. It “emphasizes the rights of Indigenous peoples to maintain and strengthen their own institutions, cultures and traditions, and to pursue their development in keeping with their own needs and aspirations.” It “prohibits discrimination against indigenous peoples”, and it “promotes their full and effective participation in all matters that concern them and their right to remain distinct and to pursue their own visions of economic and social development.”
On 13 September 2007, after years of work, the United Nations voted by a vast majority of 144 in favour – with 4 against, 11 abstained – of the Declaration. It is now referred to as UNDRIP. One of the countries voting against was Australia – the Howard Government being on its death bed.
Of course, as a General Assembly Declaration, UNDRIP is not a legally binding instrument under international law. Nevertheless, in the view of the United Nations, it does “represent the dynamic development of international legal norms and it reflects the commitment of the U.N.’s member states to move in certain directions” – was is called ‘reconciliation’ in Australia. The UN describes it as setting “an important standard for the treatment of Indigenous Peoples, and it would undoubtedly be a significant tool toward eliminating human rights violations against the planet’s 370 million Indigenous People, and assisting them in combating discrimination and marginalisation.”
UNDRIP codifies “Indigenous historical grievances, contemporary challenges and socio-economic, political and cultural aspirations” and is the “culmination of generations-long efforts by Indigenous organisations to get international attention, to secure recognition for their aspirations, and to generate support for their political agendas.”
All it would need on the part of Australia are two simple words: good faith.
The Australian government opposed the Declaration in the General Assembly vote of 2007. That was Howard’s work. Referring to the provision regarding the upholding of Indigenous Peoples’ customary legal systems, the relevant minister said that “There should only be one law for all Australians, and we should not enshrine in law practices that are not acceptable in the modern world.”
In October 2007 Prime Minister Howard pledged to hold a referendum on changing the constitution to recognise Indigenous People of Australia – if re-elected. He said that the distinctiveness of people’s identity and their rights to preserve their heritage should be acknowledged.
On 3 April 2009 the Rudd Government formally endorsed the Declaration.
It is, just like every other international treaty and convention that Australia has signed and ratified, dead – a forgotten piece of paper, even more useless than the copy of the Magna Carta which is so sacredly preserved in Parliament House.
Should the representatives of the Indigenous People take serious notice of the situation, read the Declaration, become aware of their power under it and – if one may say so without malice but totally unconcerned of offending either side of Parliament – stop playing the game of the Westminster System Duo, they would call Government and Opposition out to enact the Declaration. That could mean no more cushy seats in Government or in Opposition, but a great step forward under the aegis of the United Nations.
The Morrison Government intends to place before Parliament a bill in substance. A review of religious freedom was commissioned by the Turnbull Government in 2017 in light of the Australian Marriage Law Postal Survey and the introduction into federal parliament a private member’s bill to enact the Marriage Amendment (Definition and Religious Freedoms) Act 2017. It was one further manoeuvre by Turnbull to protect himself from attacks of the ‘conservative’ wing of the Coalition: the Nationals plus many so-called Liberals, backwoodsmen – and some women, too.
Oddly the person in charge of such reform was Philip Maxwell Ruddock, who had been in Parliament from 1973 to 2016 and won for that then title of Father of the House. All forgotten was his part in the so-called ‘children overboard affair.’ This was in fact a scandal, both morally and legally wrong, involving allegations by Prime Minister Howard and Ruddock as Minister for Immigration (and Multicultural Affairs) in October 2001, in the lead-up to a federal election. On 7 October 2001 a fishing boat overloaded with desperate asylum seekers encountered the HMAS Adelaide north of Christmas Island. The warship fired warning shots to stop the boat from moving into Australian waters. Frightened by the shots, some people jumped into the water. Asylum seekers held children in the air to alert the navy that there were children on board. One parent held a child over the side of the boat so it could defecate. A confused navy communication about threats to throw a child overboard was sent to Immigration Minister Philip Ruddock. Based on this, Ruddock declared that children had been thrown overboard, in a presumed ploy to secure rescue and passage to Australia. Howard and his government fully knew that it was a lie. Ruddock had engineered it.
Australia, of course, is the sole English-speaking country without a Bill of Rights. The reason is to be found in a backward-looking leading class which relies on Common Law and the Magna Carta – no less.
Attorney-General Christian Porter is said to be proposing a religious discrimination bill to Parliament in the near future. Prime Minister Morrison has promised a new ‘Freedom of Religion Commissioner’, despite Ruddock and his team recommending against such an office. Examination of the issue would go a long way; suffice it to say that any such legislation, particularly if left to the Human Rights Commission as it seem the intention, could almost inevitably be construed by the government as a right of religious people and organisations to discriminate on the basis of religious values and convictions. The debate could be extended to the protection of the “right to be a bigot” – a suggestion already put forward in all seriousness by former Attorney-General George Brandis, since May 2018 now His Excellency The Honourable George Brandis, Q C, Australian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom.
The best one does say in such circumstances is to join the choir to sing “Onward, Christian soldiers”, which is a 19th-century English hymn, in one’s favoured processional. Alternative one may join the happy-clapper slogan bogans and get down to study Prosperity theology with Shmo. Come to think, the same friend who provided the correct reference to Shmo has a new spelling for the words The Westminster System: he is very fond of The Westminster Shitstem.
He says so, firmly.
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