As is the practice of all us media moguls, Paradigm Oz will reveal its editorial bias in the lead-up to the Federal Election.
Unfortunately I do not have the breadth of readership of my colleagues in the major media corporations so I cannot expect to influence the election by promoting a particular party over another. However I would still like to share some of my considerations about indigenous issues and the Queensland Senate election.
While we are not yet aware of the full line up of Queensland senate candidates, many candidates have already begun their campaigns. There are two candidates who are at this stage prioritising Aboriginal issues, Andrew Bartlett, sitting Democrat senator and Sam Watson, third time runner for the Socialist Alliance.
I am not yet prepared to forgive the Qld. Greens for ignoring indigenous issues in the last state and federal elections. They have recently been making public statements about the Northern Territory intervention but have still failed make meaningful contact with Aboriginal Queensland or applied themselves to Qld. Indigenous agendas.
The Greens have reason to be optimistic that Queensland will finally get a Green senator as a result of the very high profile of global warming in this election, but it is by no means certain. The Greens failure to campaign on indigenous issues has left them open to a significant leakage of votes from their traditional base towards Andrew Bartlett of the Democrats who has maintained a high profile on Indigenous issues, especially stolen wages, in the media and at community meetings around the state. I declare my own vote to be amongst this leakage.
Nationally the Democrat vote is looking very sick indeed but Bartlett’s polling outshines all the other states. He has developed an independent profile of his own since the Democrat split on the G.S.T., which is identified by many commentators including myself as the beginning of the end for the Democrats.
Sam Watson, an indigenous person himself, has taken a leading role in the Brisbane Aboriginal community in the campaign to have Chris Hurley charged for the death in the Palm Island watch house in 2004.
Sam is perhaps the most famous Aboriginal person in Queensland except for Noel Pearson because of his decades of activism and being a spokesperson for indigenous issues. He has become one of the figureheads of Aboriginal resistance – which is why I am disappointed that he has aligned himself with a marginalised and unpopular political entity such as the Socialist Alliance.
Sam will no doubt get a boost to his personal vote as a result of the Palm Island business that has been bubbling away for the whole term of the present parliament, however this is the third time Sam has run for the S.A. and despite his high profile in the past the SA’s minimal vote declined considerably between 2001 and 2004.
There are so many “left” and “progressive” movement’s that have had such a bad experience of the proselytising and interventionist tactics of the Democratic Socialist Party and Resistance organisation over the decades, few have been prepared to support their present “united front” the Socialist Alliance. They are so on the nose they will dissolve any benefit from having Sam lead their ticket yet again.
It seems the last senate seat after the major parties claim theirs will be a competition between the Greens’ Larrisa Waters, Andrew Bartlett and our old favorite Pauline Hanson. Senate preference mechanisms will ensure that this seat will be won by a lucky dip, not necessarily primary votes.
It would take a miracle of greater proportion than Family First getting a seat in Victoria for Sam Watson to get a seat in Queensland, but according to S.A. propaganda that is OK because they are not trying to win.
It would be a curse if Pauline Hanson was to get the seat.
So for any realistic strategy to deal with the rollback of Aboriginal rights and interests in the time of John Howard’s prime ministership we are looking at Larrissa Waters or Andrew Bartlett.
The ALP have signed up to all Howards sick schemes so there is no honour at all to be found in them at this stage, although I hope they are just providing a small target until after the election when, if they win, they will begin to take a position of more integrity.
For this to occur they will need to be pressured from parties holding the balance of power in the senate. A Green or Democrat in Qld. will be a crucial element of this balance of power.
Bartlett has the experience of exercising the balance of power and has proven with his senate inquiry into stolen wages that he is capable of wheeling and dealing with the enemy to achieve progress in indigenous goals.
The Greens, if elected will be “green”, meaning naïve and inexperienced, in both the exercise of the balance of power as well as indigenous issues.
If things go well for the Greens they are likely to be faced with a new dillemma beyond the balance of power – should they form a coalition of some sort with the ALP to have direct access to government policy development? – They are sure to tear themselves apart arguing about that one.
Having said all this, anyone who expects change to come from a change in government is a fool. It is only through the activity, organisation and continuous pressing of indigenous issues in the community that the governing parties will ever even consider justice for Aboriginal Australia.
Indigenous policies of the Greens, Socialist Alliance and Andrew Bartlett.
Australian Greens Indigenous policy This is the best and most comprehensive policy framework in my opinion, but a good policy is useless if it is ignored – as it has been.
“Sam Watsons New Vision for Australia” A surprisingly shallow manifesto without detail, a missed opportunity to put some real issues on the table. The only specific is a call for a bill of rights to protect Aboriginal rights. No mention of a democratically elected indigenous body to replace ATSIC.
Socialist Alliance Indigenous Rights Charter. An unfinished document (since 2004) – includes repealing Native Title legislation without offering an alternative.
Andrew Bartlett’s Indigenous Issues page. Bartlett has had the advantage of years in the senate and therefore involvement in Qld. indigenous campaigns, in particular initiating the senate Stolen Wages enquiry. He has responded well to these campaigns but has not been a leader of them. This role could be easily replicated by the Greens.