Monthly Archives: November 2007

The Greens and indigenous issues in the 2007 election

The following is a couple of comments I posted (amongst others) on Greensblog in response to what has been the Greens only indigenous policy platform for this election, their indigenous health policy. See - “Australia’s Duty of Care”.  

The policy was released on the same day as the A.L.P.’s official campaign launch and failed to get coverage in the media.

I have criticised the Greens before for neglecting indigenous issues in their campaigns, this was my open letter to the Greens following the 2006 Qld. state election – here and now I have criticised them again.

Here are the comments -  

1/ 

I just got a Greens leaflet in my letterbox at home in Brisbane. It is titled “Greens commitments to peace, justice and human rights”.

Absolutely nothing about Aboriginal Australia.

Today is the 3rd anniversary of the Palm Island death in custody.

The leaflet says the Greens “will oppose the death penalty, torture and mistreatment” What about opposing these things in Australia?

It says “The illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq is a disaster built on a lie” What about the illegal invasion and occupation of Australia?

This Terra Nullius consciousness allows the Greens to whinge about human rights abuses overseas while ignoring the reality before their white noses here in Australia.

2/

For those people who do not know me, I am not an Aboriginal person, my grandfathers country is Tipperary, Ireland.

I am not taking cheap shots at the Greens in support of some other party. I have indeed endorsed Andrew Bartlett in Queensland on my blog because he has done the hard yards in Aboriginal affairs, especially stolen wages and he has made indigenous affairs his prime policy for his election platform.

However much of my above critique of the health policy can be (and has been) equally aimed at the Democrats policy. Bartlett has a much more comprehensive policy platform than the Greens but it is all still just tinkering around the edges of something that needs a radical change of direction.

The Greens have played a brilliant role on climate change. They have provided real leadership in the nation. The Greens started on this issue over 10 years ago when it was a marginalised fruitloop idea and not taken seriously. But the Greens did not back off, they pushed and pushed and pushed. They had education campaigns – active outreach to the community. They consistently included carbon reduction as a key policy platform. Today the Greens can not only say “we told you so!” but have credibility to demand the next obvious step, enforcible reduction targets and the rejection of coal and nuclear, even though it is still unpopular and requires radical social change.

Only the Greens can play such a role on indigenous issues.

Even if the Democrats were to survive this election they couldn’t do it. They can only tinker with the status-quo as they did on the original native title legislation which, even in its original form, was a mechanism for extinguishing, not enforcing Aboriginal rights and interests.

The ALP must entrench the interests of both international capital and a racist and conservative population, they cannot head in the right direction.

ANTAR play an important education role – Their Close the Gap campaign has informed Green, Democrat and Labour health policy this election.

However the real task is self determination – for Aboriginal Australia to be calling the shots. Not just being consulted or giving input into policy frameworks but to be actively managing land, economy, public services and all aspects of Aboriginal life. This will require a change in land law, public service design and delivery and a whole range of social structural re-engineering.

The Greens need a policy for this re-engineering.

A Treaty, self determination, land rights, alternatives to prison, compensation, etc. These are all things that will not flow naturally out of the present indigenous debate. They will require leadership, a leadership that must be willing to, at first, adopt a radical, marginalised, controversial policy framework that is holistic, intellegent and in essence true.
Then push and push and push.

Just like what the Greens did on climate change.

If the Greens do not take this leadership on indigenous issues in parliament and in community education, like they did on climate change, where will this leadership come from?

The Aboriginal leadership – the family and tribal elders, the community councils, the intelectuals and statespeople are all in place ready to go right now but they have no resources to do anything. Where is the point of engagement with white Australia that can bring about the necessary changes?

If not the Greens, who? If not now, when?

It is simply a matter of priorities.

Too late now, but maybe a indigenous issues could be included amongst the core platform at the next federal election? I am bitterly dissapointed that it was not this time, again.

JT

Leave a comment

Filed under Aboriginal, australia, ecology, politics, reconciliation

The Carers Alliance – election message

The following message is from Robert Gow, Qld Campaign Manager of the Carers Alliance. The Carers Alliance are running candidates for the senate around Australia
more info – http://www.qld.carers.org.au/

Hello all,
Many thanks for the support you have all given, the election draws near
 and we are getting many contacts from carers who are desperately
 seeking a better deal.

Carers are asking questions, like:
Why will Indonesian Orang-utans receive several thousand dollars each
 over 4 years when Australian Carers will only receive an average of
 $15.38 each per annum for the next 5 years according to the government’s
 promises.

Carers days are numbered at the rate of interest that governments are
 showing. Will they join the ranks of endangered species though sheer
 neglect by government?

Have you seen our You Tube Video?
http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=6ZHkrgNlk9w

When you visit it please click on the favorite’s link. This will
 promote the clip and therefore the issue onto the political agenda and may
 gain us some more much needed press before Saturday.

Over the last two weeks we have published stories of difficulties that
 Carers are having with Centrelink. Many other carers have contacted us
 regarding their problems with the same body. There have been three
 overriding themes emerge:
• The officiousness and inflexibility of Centrelink staff
• The rudeness and flippancy of Ministerial staffers, and
• The non-responsiveness to issues raised by carers with Ministers,
 Shadow Ministers and local Federal members (not even the courtesy of a
 reply)

It has become clear that carers are a home grown endangered species.
  We are a finite resource – we will not live forever. We cannot continue
 to be exploited as a perceived cost effective alternative to a
 properly funded community support system. Governments are consigning carers
 and our sons, daughters, family members who require support and
 assistance, to the scrap heap.

Many of the 2.6 million Australian Carers and the other people that
 they influence (estimated to exceed 6.5 million) will ask “How do I make
 my vote ensure a future for our carers if neither party is serious about
 the issue?”

There is only one option; send a carer to Canberra and force government
 to take notice. A vote for the Carers Alliance Party is the only
 course of action for voters that want to influence the next government to
 make critical changes before carers are extinct in our population.

Without support Carers will become an extinct sub-species of the
 Australian community. Most are at breaking point and many are desperately
 beyond. At current rates of neglect many of the 2.6 million carers will
 join the ranks of those who need care. It will become a vicious circle
 and where does that leave the country?

Once again, please forward this to your mailing list and request that
 they do the same.
Don’t forget to visit the web site, http://www.qld.carers.org.au. We
 have had over 80,000 hits this month alone.

so many thanks,
Robert Gow,
Qld Campaign Manager
Carers Alliance

Leave a comment

Filed under australia, disability, justice, politics, society

“Unlikely Travellers” voted best documentary at IF awards

ut.gif 

Congratulations to Michael Noonan and John Hart and for their film “Unlikely Travellers” winning the Inside Film (IF)  award for best Australian  documentary.

“Unlikely Travellers” will be screened on the ABC over the next three weeks beiginning Monday November 19 at 8pm.  more details here. 

Here is my review of the launch of Unlikely Travellers in August –   movie review

UPDATE – While Unlikely Travellers is now recieving the acknowledgement and praise that it deserves, the controversy and condemnation is continuing at Irish Indymedia – here  and at the Courier Mail – here 

3 Comments

Filed under art, disability, film, society

The Progressive Spirituality movement.

This post was inspired by the recent ABC Compass program on the Uniting Church in Australia, “The Uniting Church” highlighting a divergence of opinion within the church between conservative Christian traditionalists and a new movement emerging called “progressive spirituality” (P.S.).  P.S. is challenging traditional Christianity at its core by questioning key doctrinal concepts such as the virgin birth, the physical resurrection of Jesus and the church’s rejection of homosexuality.

I don’t believe the Compass program did justice to the ideas of either faction in this schism and seemed more interested in highlighting the existence of conflict within a church that calls itself “uniting”.

The Compass program did touch on what I consider to be a major issue which did not appear to be aimed at either side of the debate, and then dissapointingly did not return to it.  The Uniting Church’s modus operandi in its mission to the poor, oppressed and marginalised is a bureaucratic/welfare mode by way of welfare institutions. “But this work has become more professionalised, congregations have become less directly involved” according to Compass. I shall return to this issue.

The P.S. Movement is not confined to the Uniting Church. it has members and curious followers from all Christian denominations, it struggles with the word “Christian” as it excludes other faiths. However despite welcoming invitations to members of other faiths the movement is dominated by Christians or ex-Christians. The P.S. Movement is infinitely diverse, it cannot be pigeonholed as a particular tradition, philosophy or theology. It actively challenges preconceptions of religion and spirituality and as such is incapable of articulating a party line. It is indeed a post-modernist movement that sees respect for difference as part of the essence of their movement.

The P.S. Movement seems to have defined itself by way of adherence to the writings of radical theologians such as Bishop John Shelby Spong who recently visited Australia and invigorated this movement.

The movement holds scholarship in very high regard and its main spokespeople have been academic theologians which has its blessings and its curses.

Amongst the blessings of a theologian lead movement is a direct connection to the tradition and knowledge of ancient scriptures such as the bible and gnostic gospels. The cultural illusions that have been the substance of modern Christendom are stripped away with great authority and scholastic accuracy. This deconstruction of traditional Christianity has opened the gates to authentic spiritual experience without the constraints of artificial and outdated modes enshrined as holy and eternal. The scholars have assisted in liberating the captive Christian mind.

However the curse of scholastic spiritual leadership is the same as of academia in general in that the root or base experience of all (or most) knowledge is the written word.

I wonder if literacy itself is an obstacle to spiritual reality?

I am no anti-intellectulaist. However I am concerned that spiritual experience and knowledge is contained when it is a product of a book (or website). This would perhaps be my major criticism of traditional Christianity, in that it has demanded that the book, the bible, be the only source of knowledge of god.

Very few of the main characters of the bible got their wisdom through books, that was predominantly the domain of the often despised religious authorities. The new testament church taught spirituality by way of active engagement and participation in the Jesus community, through the oral tradition of story telling and through engagement in ritual such as baptism – bathing in the waters of a healing sacred site. Spirituality was a historical reality that people – all of them, body and all,  participated in, not an idea or a thought or anything contained in text including holy scripture..

Western industrialised society, not just the church has made literature the basis of our entire educational system from preschool to PhD. However literacy – the monotonous, one dimensional experience of shape recognition on a piece of paper or computer screen that triggers memory of pre-existing concepts in our mind by way of chemical and electrical impulses does not get to the truth of the matter.

Learning through literacy is a secondary, represented reality instead of a direct engagement with the subject being studied.

Spirituality is not an ideology but a lifestyle and the consciousness that grows from that, a holistic connection of physical and mental and of ourselves to everything else. Spiritual wisdom is the experience of living a holistic lifestyle, not a rational justification or idea that has been read in a book.

The greatest spiritual tradition this continent has ever known is Aboriginal culture. This is of course relevant to this P.S. Movement and indeed all Australians. However knowledge of this tradition cannot be gained through reading books but only by direct engagement with Aboriginal people, culture and sociology.

I believe that spirituality is a non-rational, subconscious reality on a dimension different from literacy and the experience of reading. Spirituality is multi dimensional and holistic but literacy is not holistic and just a simple exercise of our visual senses impacting on our intellectual capacity.

We all learn of spirituality and the depth of human experience when we encounter death. Our understandings of life that flow from the grieving process can barely be articulated in text and cannot be taught to another through text, yet the spirituality of life and death is the most profound of all. The funeral of a loved one is an intensely spiritual experience, whatever religion or ideology. It is this reality without language, from grief to joy to dialogue with the devil in the desert, that we find and share and teach spirit. Life, death and spirituality are all “lived” experiences not book-learned ones.

And this is where I return to bureaucratic/welfare modes of mission or engagement in the world. Can the P.S. movement incorporate service to the poor within a spiritual framework? Can this mission itself be a generator of spiritual experience for them?

The poor and marginalised’s direct experience of the church, by way of welfare agencies is of an empty structure while the congregations are having their own spiritual experiences and journeys somewhere else, in church on Sunday, social groups or theological colleges.

 I do not believed detached welfarism is the model of engagement with the community that occurred in the historical church of the bible.

I have seen nothing (yet) in my searchings to suggest that the P.S. Movement has a vision for any other modes of engagement with the poor other than managing, or in other ways engaging bureaucratically with, welfare or social justice agencies – the traditional church model.

This I believe is the challenge of the P.S. Movement, to explore a spirituality, lived experience and social engagement that is not so much outside the theology of the traditional church but  actively and intentionally outside of the culture of the traditional church.

I believe that the P.S. Movement could develop, on the one hand as a distillation of mainstream, secular consciousness and morality and engage with society on that level. On the other hand it could embrace a spirituality similar to the radical Christian community movement of the 1970′s which emphasised an alternative communal lifestyle (of different sorts) and real and active connection to the poor. This movement existed within traditional theology but lived a holistic spirit that had little to do with the institutional church and its Sunday services.

Can a new, liberated spirituality of the Progressive Spirituality movement get beyond a theological/academic tradition and evolve into a lived, daily experience and social reality that is accessible and relevant to those in need as well as church members?

 The emerging awareness that we have to relate to the Earth differently, for theological or ecological reasons, provides another reason to re-engineer the culture and lifestyle of the church, for its own sake and to have some positive relevance to the wider society.

 More info -

http://www.progressivereligion.org.au/ Centre for Progressive Religious Thought

 http://commondreams.org.au/ “Common Dreams”

http://www.progressivespirituality.net/index.htm Progressive Spirituality Network – Brisbane

12 Comments

Filed under australia, justice, philosophy, psychology, society, spirituality, Uncategorized

Political addiction and the 2007 election ( Revenge of the Pseph)

“Well may you say God Save the Queen, but nothing will save the governor General”

gough-on-steps.jpg

I just had to say that on remembrance day. Every time I visit Canberra I have to stand at the front of the old parliament house and recite this mantra. Today is a holy day for political junkies.

I find election night television coverage to be a highlight of my viewing year. Every now and then I like to sit in the TAB and make a few bets, there is something mesmerizing about studying the numbers on the screen and trying to make sense of them followed by an exhilarating or disappointing climax as the race is called. I get the same petty buzz on election nights.

My name is John and I am a political junkie.

My craving for more and more is profoundly dissatisfied by this Federal election. I feel I am being subjected to involuntary cold turkey and being denied access to any solid political hits.

I am bored silly with the present election campaign. I agree with Mark Latham’s analysis that this election is a Seinfeld election – all about nothing. Senator Andrew Bartlett makes similar observations on his blog “Empty vessels and hollow men”.  

Kevin Rudd and the ALP have been running fast in all directions to avoid any argument with John Howard and the incumbent government and the substance of all media coverage has been meaningless visits to shopping centres, workplaces, schools and old peoples homes. The media hunts for bloopers and mishaps. When they get such a spontaneous distraction they feature that as the lead story.

When John Howard and Kevin Rudd met for a televised debate the headlines were not interested in any political issues but focused on the sensation of “The Worm”, the perception of the audience. The only exciting news presented about the election to date has been the almost daily release of opinion polls and the endless speculation about the size of the swing to the ALP.

Unfortunately much of the election commentary on the blogosphere has been similarly shallow, often just commenting on the media pulp but more and more  engaging in the esoteric art of psephology (the statistical study of elections).  

Independent psephylitics have been raised to a higher pedestal than political commentators.   The ABC’s Antony Green, the unchallenged Lord of the Psephs, has emerged as the most authoritative election analyst on the web and on the T.V. Journalists of the ilk of Laurie Oakes or Paul Bongiorno who have dominated past election coverage with their inside leaks, policy juxtapositions and eagerness to find or create political conflicts have been sidelined by Lord Antony’s speculative number crunching.

Politics has been reduced to the level of a cricket match. We, the people, sit in the grandstands cheering for one side or the other and watching the scoreboard.  However we will be quickly evicted if we wander on to the pitch. The thing that makes the 2007 election different to other cricket matches is that the ALP is content to bowl under-arm for the whole test. The government is swinging wildly trying to make contact with the ball but it rolls so slow and so low they cant do anything with it.

It is easy to be cynical about politicians detachment from the real world, about their minimal contact with their constituents who have no real power or voice in parliamentary business. Consent is given to these removed politicians once every three (or six) years by way of a cross in a box next to their name on a ballot paper which is the only political engagement required of a “responsible citizen”. It is similarly easy to be cynical about the expansive gulf between policy principles discussed in parliament and the real working (or not working) of government policies and public service delivery in the real lives of real people on the ground.

The only knowledge we have of the exercise of political power comes from a severely refracted, minimalised and biased mass media, not necessarily biased within the parliamentary spectrum but intensely biased in the construction of notions of society, citizenship and politics. The mass media, as our only common cultural experience as a nation defines our notions of “normal”, “reasonable” and “desirable”. The media is biased in favour of a growth/consumerist economy and sociology. Alternative perspectives of the world and the perspectives from on the ground in real peoples lives are simply not represented in the cultural parameters of mass media product.

So, through a combination of detached and alienating parliamentary political process and a one dimensional mass media, mainstream political discussion and activity is simply engagement in this clumsy illusion.

This mass adherence to illusion is a matter of consciousness. It is what we flawed humans do, we adopt or create illusions and then cling to them as if it was absolute reality.

The shallow, mechanical nature of the 2007 election is actively dumbing down the Australian population – and our consciousness, our understandings of what politics is and what is our role in it. We are more and more accepting our position as a passive market rather than an active body-politic.

Public opinion, as expressed through surveys, petitions, political campaigns and focus group research is not used as a basis for democratic policy development but as data that influences the advertising campaigns for undemocratic, unrepresentative policies devised by small elites detached from any public control or even input.

Politics and ideas have been reduced to conversation and “public opinion” (whatever that is). The concept of an idea metamorphosing into action and history is a notion that is not even considered by us ordinary people except within our privatised existence at work or within the fence lines of our home.

It does not matter if our politics is Green, revolutionary socialist, christian, feminist, libertarian or anything else if we engage in politics as simply conversation, ideas detached from existential reality and material history, then our politics is an illusion with no connection to the exercise of power. The adoption of alternative political illusions is not alternative to political illusion itself which, as I mentioned, is a matter of consciousness not ideology.

On matters of consciousness, Jiddu Krishnamerti had something to say on the matter…. “The core of the teachings”

2 Comments

Filed under australia, blogs, history, philosophy, politics, psychology, society, spirituality

QUT controversy resolved but patronising attitudes to disability continue.

The long running QUT dispute over the sacking of two academics seems to be over with an out of court settlement. Courier Mail article  “QUT academic brawl ended by settlement”

It seems to me however that there are 3 issues that marked this affair which remain unresolved. These are…

 1/ attitudes towards disability,

 2/ attitudes towards free speech and

3/ The allegations that Michael Noonan forged signatures on release forms for Aboriginal people he filmed.

1/ Attitudes to disability.
 The original flashpoint of this controversy was the criticism of Michael Noonan’s film work with people with intellectual disabilities. This criticism has continued and none of the critics have changed their tune. However Noonan’s film “Unlikely Travellers” has now been widely praised for its representation of people with disability since it was released. Similarly the footage presented to Noonan’s QUT PhD confirmation hearing that was released to the Courier Mail has received almost unanimous praise, the exception of course is the issues of permission raised about the Aboriginal woman in his footage, which I will get to soon.

Since the release of “Unlikely Travellers” I have personally written several letters to Queensland Advocacy Incorporated asking them to retract their criticism of Noonan’s film but they have not responded to any of my correspondence.

The Australian Catholic Disability Council continues to criticise the film project as recently as last month, indicating that they are incapable of admitting they were wrong or that they hold a totally repressive attitude towards disability and they are offended by “Unlikely Travellers”, but my guess is they still haven’t seen the film or Noonan’s PhD. rushes and are still commenting in ignorance. Australian Catholic Disability Council speaks out against degrading research project

Noonan’s film is now an international landmark in positive representation of people with intellectual disabilities in the media. His work deserves support and praise but instead this whole affair has demonised Noonan and has never, ever, raised any serious and rational discussion about issues of disability. The ignorant, repressive and patronising attitudes of the criticisms have been reinforced and largely unchallenged in this whole episode. The so called “speaking up for the disabled” has created one more brick in the wall that contains people living with disabilities.

2/ Free speech issues.
The academics and their supporters called for Michael Noonan’s film project to be stopped, for the screening of his movie “Unlikely Travellers” at the Brisbane International Film festival to be stopped and for the issue of what universities ought and ought not to teach to be determined by the federal court, a course of action that has been thankfully aborted through the out of court settlement – all in the name of free speech.

Nothing is black and white, even the most ardent anti-censorship libertarian realises that there are times to censor. The extreme case is snuff movies but there are less dramatic compromises such as racist or sexist vilification and exploitation of the vulnerable. Many libertarians accept the need for moderation and control of the media in some areas.
However any call for a film or any other project to be censored needs to have a good reason, a rational explanation of why its production or broadcast directly exploits or oppresses somebody. The calls to censor Michael Noonan’s work was not based on any such explanation. The criticism was based on false information about the capacity of the on screen performers and an academic critique that it was an example of post modernist ammoralism.

It seems absurd to me that such a campaign of censorship could have existed under the banner of a free speech campaign.
  This campaign was perhaps the most significant parochial left wing campaign that Brisbane has seen for decades, it defined the evolution ( or slowed the devolution) of that strange phenomenon known as “the left”. Yet this campaign went from start to finish with absolutely no discussion or exploration of any of the core issues of the campaign. The powerful force of solidarity was corrupted and transformed to a mindless witch hunt and gang mentality relying on personal slur and gossip rather than any intellectual reflection and learning. It was this ignorant gang mentality that justified the call for censorship, not a concern for people with disabilities or the principle of free speech.

3/ Allegations of fraud and issues of filming Aboriginal people.
Firstly, I was at a meeting with Ted Watson (representing the Aboriginal woman in Noonan’s rushes), Michael Noonan and John Hart (The producer of “Unlikely Travellers”). At this meeting Noonan produced to Ted (and myself) signed releases from The Aboriginal woman and her husband. The signatures on Noonan’s release forms were the same as those on Ted’s documents of authorisation and complaint (in my opinion with no expertise in forensic handwriting analysis). I have never doubted Noonan’s honesty on this matter. At this meeting the issues of dealing with Aboriginal people and protocols was discussed at length and Noonan was genuinely disturbed by May’s concerns and has apologised to her.

However it seems that the issues of representation of Aboriginal people in the media were always only secondary to the legal defense of the two academics in their struggle with QUT. The complaints and allegations were administered as an addendum to the other legal actions. Now that the QUT issues are resolved what will happen to the the conflicts and controversy that has been stirred up about Aboriginal representation, in particular the interests of Aboriginal individuals at the centre of this? Will the issues of Aboriginality now conveniently disappear along with the issues of disability?

In conclusion I will recount my own involvement in this. As a long term proponent of free speech and as a person who has many connections to disability I was particularly interested in this issue. Initially I supported the academics but had not even read their criticism of the movie, I just assumed it to be valid. The fact that academics could be punished for being critical was an obvious attack on free speech.
However, somewhat belatedly, I read the critical article “Philistines at the gate” and was very disturbed by the patronising, moralising Roman Catholic attitude to disability expressed by the two authors. I had seen nothing of Noonan’s work but I knew the criticism was very wrong. This debate between humanisation vs. protection of people with intellectual disabilities was, and still is, an important debate to be had by the mainstream society – as it is the mainstream that embodies the attitudes of repression and exclusion.   I wrote the following critique of “Philistines at the Gate”“Laughing at the disabled, power perception and prejudice

As I surfed the net looking for more information I discovered that complaints had been made to the Adult Guardian, asking them to investigate Noonan’s “exploitation” of people with impaired capacity. I was outraged at this point. Regular Paradigm Oz readers will know that my family has been at war with the Adult Guardian who are a secret totalitarian agency that has complete power of peoples lives and can intervene and smash families with no accountability structure at all.  Background on the Adult Guardian

I was absolutely disgusted that people who mouthed rhetoric of freedom and human rights could be appealing to a fascist institution to intervene in the lives of people who are perfectly happy and supported.

Somewhere along the line I made contact with Michael Noonan and he gave me a copy of Unlikely Travellers. I was very impressed by his treatment of disability issues and realised that not only was the criticism of him based on a repressive ideological framework, but his work was extremely significant to changing mainstream attitudes about disability.  I wrote this review of “Unlikely Travellers” 

The campaign to support the suspended academics continued throughout to demonise Noonan, they never gave up attacking him for being an exploitative scum. This has disillusioned me terribly for I now have absolutely no respect for the Brisbane “left”. I was arrested at a land rights protest at the age of 16 – The concerned Christians arrests in Queens Park. I was arrested countless times marching, speaking and leafleting against Joh. From that time until very recently I identified as part of the “left” movement. But no more! What that movement has become is nothing more than a nest of malicious gossips, a petty and ignorant social clique that has nothing to offer the crises and issues of the modern world.

2 Comments

Filed under australia, disability, film, Paradigm Oz, politics, protest, society