We can always count on Tim Rowse for a deeply …

Comment on Will we better understand the ‘Recognise’ referendum than we did the 1967 one? by Dave Price.

We can always count on Tim Rowse for a deeply thoughtful and elegantly put together opinion piece. Thanks Tim and to Erwin for publishing this piece.
We need to hear more from the likes of Tim on this issue. For decades now I have been erroneously telling all who’ll listen that before that 1967 referendum the Constitution would not allow the Commonwealth to count Aboriginal people in the census.
I am always grateful to be corrected in this way. I don’t like being wrong although I often am.
There is a lot of nonsense believed about the consequences of that referendum and I have not been immune to it. In this vexed area of our national debate we need cool heads, thoughtful analysis and serious consideration of the possible unintended negative consequences of taking action in areas that affect our national life that seem like a good idea at the time but may create more problems than those solved.
The award wages decision applied in 1968 is such a case. There is no good argument against the paying of the same wage for the same work and discrimination in this area on the basis of race is totally unacceptable.
However I am led to believe that the decision resulted inadvertently in the sacking of around a third of the Aboriginal workforce from their jobs right across northern Australia and we are still trying to deal with the devastating results of this unintended consequence.
I would like to hear Tim’s opinion on this issue. I do worry about the term “political elites” though in this context.
Australia is one of the most successful democracies in the world. It’s got problems but I believe that nobody else does it better.
We can choose not to give power to the competing political elites. We can choose who we vote for.
Increasingly, as the last NT election showed us, Aboriginal politicians are joining those elites and exercising the power that brings them even if Noel Pearson doesn’t recognize that fact.
We could say that there can be very good reasons for avoiding reducing the authority of those we elect to then give more of it to other unelected powerful elites like lawyers and judges – via the Constitution.
The USA has a bill of rights, 5% of the world’s population and 25% of its prison population, a disastrous level of gun violence and so on. It doesn’t solve all of their problems.
There are other unrepresentative, unelected but very powerful elites that should worry us – the academics who teach our kids, the leadership of some significant indigenous organisations, heavily funded, ideologically driven, yet unelected and irresponsible activists of all kinds, over paid journalists, and not just the shock jocks, with enormous political influence who never have to face an election and so on.
A change in the Constitution will directly affect all of my immediate family and all of my descendants. I favor a minimalist change because I trust the Australian people and those they elect more than I trust those I don’t get to vote for.

In relation to discrimination in recruitment to certain jobs: When I was a public servant under Equal Employment Opportunity policy several target groups had been identified because the government believed that they were faced with unfair barriers to employment and career paths.
One of those groups was Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.
Others were women, those with identifiable disabilities and those from English Speaking Backgrounds up to the second generation. This targeting was worked out on the basis of the statistical evidence.
I belong to the minority of Australians not targeted. I had no problem gaining and holding Indigenous identified positions because of the lack of competition from members of the target groups.
Would those who regard the identification of Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders as a group that would benefit for special assistance also argue against targeting women in general or any of the other groups?
Or is there a fixation on that one group only even though the statistical evidence of the barriers they faced was overwhelming?
If Erwin Chlanda had competed with me for the jobs I held in the APS and it was deemed that his qualifications and experience were at least equal to mine, than he would have trumped me because of his Non-English Speaking Background.
The same goes for Kieran, because she’s female. Anti Discrimination laws didn’t prevent any of that happening and I was happy to go along with it all.
Governments often get things wrong and they can do some strange things sometimes, and they never get it completely right, that’s why we have such an effective process for changing laws compared to other societies.
Our system is better than any other that I know about.
Let’s just make sure that the merit principle over rides all other considerations and we should get it close to right. And let’s make sure that those who decide how we live our lives have to face us at election time.

Recent Comments by Dave Price

Jimmy Cocking: Council not an ideological pedestal
I agree completely with you Jimmy on almost everything you’ve said.
But drawing attention to past politically inspired actions and their consequences and asking questions relating to significant issues is not smearing, it is asking for honest responses.
The divisions are already there and the campaigning for allies make those divisions worse.
A supporter [of a party] abused a young woman today bringing her to the point of tears. Now that’s divisive.

Politely passionate: council candidates front invited guests
You are right Evelyne I don’t know for certain who is behind this disgraceful action but my experience of the behaviour of Labor supporters in the last NT election makes me pretty confident that I’m on the right track. I have been told by another candidate that she has had the same happen to her posters but doesn’t want to talk about it. I condemn whoever is doing it to anybody’s posters.

Politely passionate: council candidates front invited guests
Somebody has started stealing or vandalising Damien Ryan’s, Jamie de Brenni’s and Jacinta Price’s posters around town.
Worse was done out bush during Jacinta Price’s mother’s campaign last year. Her property was also vandalised, vicious graffiti appeared, her life was directly threatened.
She was advised not to do anything about it by the stalwarts on her side of politics and so the perpetrators got away with it.
We are urging our supporters not to react by vandalising and stealing the posters of the opposition. We condemn criminal behaviour and we are almost as tired of seeing our loved ones locked up as we are of burying them.
Respect for the rule of law is the only way we can heal our community and allow it to thrive.

Politely passionate: council candidates front invited guests
Two Greens dominated local councils in Melbourne have abolished Australia Day at the request of a tiny minority of radicals who want to tear us apart and destroy our culture.
Jimmy Cocking is not a member of the Greens but his list of preferences will show you how close he is to them.
The Greens have put up Barb Shaw, our resident loud, cranky protestor, as a candidate in the past.
She and her friends have gone out of their way to close down those with views different from their own.
It is totally reasonable for the voters in this town to know the views of each of the candidates on whether we should celebrate Australia Day or not.
As one commentator has already said it would make sense to sort this issue out in the NT rather than in inner urban Melbourne.
We are already hearing protests from Aboriginal leaders in Melbourne and Sydney that they haven’t been consulted and are happy to celebrate Australia Day.
If it comes up in a meeting of an Alice Springs council dominated by the Greens and their close friends I would like to know how the candidates would vote.

Surprising conservative on council: Jacinta Price
All of this kerfuffle over a few words. You are spot on John. The terms left and right, usually interpreted by the lazy media as really nice and very nasty came from the beginning of the French Revolution.
We could probably come up with some better terms all these years later. I would have called myself progressive for most of my life, now I am happy to call myself conservative because I want to preserve the planet but I don’t want to destroy our economy in the process. I want Aboriginal people’s lives to vastly improve but I don’t think they are going to do that without changing some of their worldview to make it work better. I am keen to preserve the bits of my own culture, and theirs, that still work well. And I don’t think that getting rid of Australia Day is going to help.
When I was a ratbag, overconfident youngfella, I called Noel Fullerton a racist in public and had a stand up argument with him because I was a newly arrived ignorant idealist.
If he were still around I’d apologise to him and tell him that I now agree with what he was saying at the time. I was wrong.
My conservatism, like that of my mate Jamie de Brenni and his wonderful hard working wife Alice, is of the “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it” kind.
And I believe that if you’re going to make big changes do it carefully so that you don’t cause more problems than you fix – like the 1968 equal pay law.
You can’t argue against the principle of equal pay but did they have to do it in such a way that it took away the jobs of around a third of the Aboriginal workforce across Northern Australia?
I think they should have been more careful.
To me conservatism is about common sense, which, as my Mum used to say, ain’t all that common.
People very quickly forget that it was conservative coalition governments that gave Aboriginal Australians the right to vote in 1962, repealed the Aboriginal Ordinance in 1964, that made my parents in law and their family, including my wife, citizens for the first time.
It also gave them the legal right to destroy themselves with alcohol, the world’s most damaging drug – put the much lauded, constitution changing referendum to the people in 1967, gave Aboriginal people equal pay in 1968 and passed the NT Land Rights Act in 1976.
And during that period they thoroughly dismantled the White Australia policy. Not a bad record for a bunch of predominantly middle aged, white, male conservatives that Labor would rather we forgot.
The ALP was the last political party in Australia to formally give up the White Australia Party.
When I was a young Lefty I underwent union training as the Teacher’s Federation Rep at Yuendumu. One of the old union stalwarts told a group of us assembled faithful that we should have shot all the blackfellas when we had the chance.
At the Worker’s Club in Darwin I was told by another old union stalwart that they sent Bob Collins off to the Senate because the NT wasn’t ready for a Chief Minister with a gin for a wife.
That was in the seventies and that’s when I started to think about changing my political loyalties; it took a while after that though.
I would see Martin Luther King as a Christian conservative.
He insisted on ridding the US of the hideous perversion of racism and wanted to bring back the essentially conservative Christian value of the equality of all of our species despite the fact that many Christians ignored that value at the time.
My proudly multicultural family take him very seriously when he taught that we should judge people by the content of their character rather than by the colour of their skin.
Some of my best friends are white males and my daughter actually lives with one – a left inclined Margaret Thatcher hating Scotsman who puts his family first in everything.
We don’t mind conservatives of any colour and agree passionately with many progressives in relation to some issues.
What we don’t like is being called names and threatened by those who call themselves progressives but who would deny us the right to disagree with them.
I have disagreed with many things that Steve Brown has said and agreed with others.
We have managed to have conversations without resorting to name calling and threats, I can’t say that about many who position themselves on the extreme left who act as if they speak for all Aboriginal people and any don’t hesitate to call anybody who disagree with them racist.
My wife’s and daughter’s lives have been directly threatened many times. Those doing that think of themselves as indigenous activists, and anti-racism warriors. They have never been threatened by genuine racists, who tend to be a mentally ill and cowardly lot rather than a real threat to anyone.
Oh, and another thing. Considering that two Greens dominated local councils in Melbourne have now decided to abolish Australia Day maybe it’s about time that journalists here asked the local Greens if that is what they intend to do here if elected. Just a thought.

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