Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Labor plans "behind-the-scenes" tour of Crown Casino as party fund-raiser . . .

. . . male members salivate over what delights from "the catering side" of the business could await them.

Monday, June 28, 2004

Terra nullius and Henry Reynolds

John Quiggin has a post on this piece of odiferous shiite by Christopher Pearson.

I haven't read the Bain Attwood article that Pearson refers to, which supposedly calls into question Henry Reynolds' whole historiography and oeuvre. What seems clear from Pearson's summary of it though, is that Reynolds's chief sin has been to write "juridical" rather than "academic" history.

As it happens, the particular fault for which Pearson turns his blowtorch onto Henry Reynolds - the origin of the terra nullius doctrine in Australian law - is one which I've researched in depth. I reproduce my (drum roll, please) seminal article here "The Gove Land Rights Case: Hard cases make hard law" below. (NOTE: It's mostly plain text (i.e. names of cases and quotes are de-italicised - manually re-doing the footnotes was labour enough!)

Otherwise, Pearson's other noted Henry Reynolds antagonist – Tasmanian author and newly-minted PhD, Michael Connor – seems a spectacular non-entity. The late 50-something (I’m guessing) Connor’s main claim to fame in life so far seems to have been his dabbling in amateur theatrics in Hobart, and compiling a book of some saucy old newspaper columns. Despite such an undistinguished life, Connor sees fit to write of Reynolds’ The Law of the Land:

What a muddle, what a mass of eloquence has sprung from it. Books, articles, sermons, passions, bitterness, self-righteousness, HSC courses, university courses: all from 10 1/2 lines in a Penguin paperback.

I think that it’s safe to say that Michael Connor’s entire life and oeuvre will never amount to even a single line in a Penguin paperback.



Published: (1994) 1(1) Canberra Law Review 97

This is one of those cases which occur rarely but which, when they do occur, test the genius of the British common law.
- Edward Woodward QC, senior counsel for the plaintiffs in
Milirrpum and ors v Nabalco Pty Ltd and the Commonwealth of Australia (1)

I Introduction

A repeated and vociferous criticism of the High Court's recognition of communal native title in Mabo and ors v State of Queensland [No 2] (2) ("Mabo") is that it represents "new" law, and, as a secondary point, it comes after too long a period of authoritative legal pronouncement on the point to be legally credible (3). Three general types of rejoinder can be made to this.

The first answer involves the application of trite and formal jurisprudence: naturally the common law in its evolution must occasionally do what could be termed making new law. Consistent with the paradigm of the common law's moving at glacial pace is the time lapse of more than one and a half centuries between the ostensible non acceptance of the existence of communal native title and the handing down of Mabo in 1992 (4).

The second general answer to the Mabo case being "new" law is a deconstructionist one: the case is simply one of its time. Quite probably then, it would have been decided differently at an earlier time. At a very functionalist level, there has been a significant and relatively recent change in the law. The coming into operation of the Racial Discrimination Act (C'th) on 31 October 1975 operates as a legal watershed date for the broader outcome of the Mabo case; any recognition of communal native title prior to this date would have been a hollow one, as it would not seem to have rendered even future Crown expropriation of communal native title compensable (5). Another significant legal change was the cumulative effect of developments in the 1980's which gave a plaintiff international legal recourse for breaches of human rights obligations for the first time (6). Other suggested ingredients of the deconstructed zeitgeist of the Mabo case are: the mass anti-bicentenary protests, followed by the Prime Minister's Barunga Statement in 1988; the fall of the National Party government in Queensland in 1989 (so changing the underlying identity, and to a lesser extent, the sympathies of the main defendant (7) in the case) and even a best-selling book, for its genre: Henry Reynolds The Law of the Land, first published in 1987, which brought into the broad arena the gist of the reasoning that was to be accepted by the Mabo majority judgements. In this process of deconstruction, there is a built-in rejection of that case's ratio being either capriciously new or suspiciously belated.

But both the ultra-orthodox first answer - jurisprudence - and the rather legally unorthodox second answer - deconstruction - are arguably overly stretched, extreme rejoinders to the criticisms of Mabo. Certainly they are mutually exclusive models of the law. In the middle ground between them there is a third, hybrid approach: the deconstruction of precedents in the case, the old law, rather than the present case. One particular precedent will be the focus here, one which Mabo overruled: the Gove Land Rights Case (8).

The third answer to criticisms of the Mabo case being "new" law is thus to concede them in part; in proportion to the importance of the precedent that was overruled. The legal weight of the overruled Gove ratio - that Australia was and remains terra nullius (9) - was far greater than its textbook legal status, as a mere single Supreme Court judge's decision. Even for Mabo case critics not legally trained, the Gove case had a palpable solidity: it both stood for a considerable length of time and was sufficently well known to be "famous" (10), or "infamous" (11). Over time, most legal writers on Gove came to concur that Gove was wrongly decided (12). Yet this seems to have entailed a dubious tactical choice of approach: Gove was surely best dealt with summarily, as inconsequential law. The outcome was that Gove became anything but inconsequential law, and so the perjorative epithet "new law" does indeed stick to the Mabo case. This label can, however, be effectively removed by the relabelling of Gove.

Gove was a hard case; it was, viewed from almost any angle (13), hard law. Successfully overcoming a hard case, as the Mabo case did, does fairly raise criticisms of "new" law, unless the scale and methods of the endeavour in so doing are recognised. To an extent, the High Court shied away from this sort of transparent decision making in Mabo, for reasons which underscore the almost impenetrable hardness of Gove.

Whether, and to what extent the Mabo case was "new" law thus depends on the deconstruction of Gove, which will occupy the remainder of this article. The particular criticism of the Mabo case being belated can be more shortly answered here. Gove was, of course, the first Australian case to consider the possible existence of communal native title. Hence, in the overall legal scheme of two centuries, the Mabo case was only a tad later than Gove. Nor was Gove itself suspiciously late (14); it was only in the 1960's that the first significant acts of dispossession of the local Aborigines occurred (15).

II The Power ...

Justice Blackburn's 263 page decision in Gove was handed down in Alice Springs on 27 April 1971. In probably the first comment in the legal press on the case, the July 1971 Australian Law Journal gave a short summary of the case preceded by a one paragraph commentary under the title "The Non-Doctrine of Communal Native Title". The article started with the rather strange comment:
The Commonwealth's expressed wish to have .... a definitive ruling on whether the common law in its application to settled possessions recognises communal native titles has been generously granted (16).
In fact this point was more darkly suggestive than it was obsequious (as it would first seem). The Commonwealth had decided to fund the plaintiffs' case after the plaintiffs' success in the interlocutory Mathaman (17) case (18). It is arguable that the Commonwealth had thus placed itself in a position of conflict of interest (19).

The Australian Law Journal went on to state:
[Gove] stands as a mine of reference material of almost encyclopaedic utility which will, no doubt, be worked over for years to come whenever a question concerning customary native title arises (20).
With the mere allowance of some reading between the lines, the effusive praise of the legal scholarship of Gove was more like gloating; in fact, the plaintiffs' defeat in the case was near total, losing on almost every issue of both fact and law (21). With the additional allowance of some hindsight, the prediction of the case's utility for future cases on communal native title was both ludicrous and wrong. The Mabo case, which commenced in 1982, was the next case that directly raised communal native title (22).

Most other commentators in the proximate wake of the Gove decision did see the outcome as one of legal annihilation, from which very little could be salvaged. "The Lost Dreamtime Forever Lost - A Critique of the Gove Land Rights Decision" (23), the title of a conference paper given in August 1972, seems to sum up the then prevailing mood. From very early on, the only escape hatch from the disastrous result in the case was seen as a High Court reversal of it. As a High Court appeal in the actual case itself was ruled out (24), the hopes of a High Court reversal were, for many years, only vague ones, based on another, but then-inchoate, test case. A constructive insight was made early on that the next test case should preferably not involve "a large, well-financed, overseas mining company" (25), such as Nabalco Pty Ltd (26), as defendant. But there was little, if any, momentum towards a new test case.

The scale, and circumstances, of the plaintiffs' defeat in Gove thus stymied both a High Court appeal (27) and, for a long time, a new test case. But arguably there was at least a hint of irrationality here; particularly in the non-formulation of a new test case. Psychologically, a process akin to a shock reaction had set in; the immediate post-Gove legal fallout was a general numbness (28). The reaction was complicated, and submerged, by the promise of statutory land "rights" (29) by the newly elected Whitlam Government in December 1972 (30).

After the initial shock, and the Whitlam Government's election, the legal analysis of Gove did "move beyond" (31) its rawer emotions, and into colder legal analysis. But it was mostly only in the early, though post December 1972, wake of Gove that the formal legal inconsequentiality of the case, as a single judge decision of a Supreme Court, was confidently asserted (32). Likewise, the obvious point that most of Justice Blackburn's judgement, and especially his finding that communal native title was unknown to the common law of Australia, was obiter dicta, was only forcefully made in the earlier writings on the case (33). There was an aura of legal haplessness, attributable, it would seem, to the emotional fallout from the case, which, though unacknowledged, clouded objective critical analysis. One commentator, apparently insulated from the emotional fallout of Gove, ironically expressed his "shock":
A shock because of the curious mystique that has attached in Australian legal, anthropological and lay communities to the decision in Milirrpum. To the foreign observer it is suprising that a decision of a comparatively junior court should have been regarded as so significant as to almost foreclose further legal action (34).
It was to take a generation before the High Court reversed Gove; over this time, the decision hardened to become a legal shibboleth. "[T]he genius of the ... common law" (35) had been tested and had failed; thus it seemed the law itself had reverted into something primitive and irrational.

The "curious mystique" of Gove thus came to entail much more than its formal status of being both wrong in law and not binding on most Australian courts. Part of the mythology of Gove is that it outraged and impelled into action many people who are now prominent Aboriginal rights proponents (36). Another aspect of the mythology of Gove, particularly at the time of the actual running of the case, was its much-vaunted "novelty" (37). Rather than being a weapon in the hands of the defendants - the "new" law accusation - the novelty of the case generated an excitement, an atmosphere of boyish bravado amongst the plaintiffs' counsel, at least in the early stages. The novelty factor also provided a bridgehead to the later mythologising of the case (38).

At the business end of the case, though, Gove was truly hard law. It has to date largely deflected the "repeated scrutiny, analysis and criticism" (39) it is said to have been put through. If anything, most analysis was, perversely, complicitous with the Australian Law Journal's rash, but first in, comment on the decision as "definitive" (40), by seeking to be equally, albeit contra-, definitive. But all this was merely obiter replicating itself; the piling of obiter upon obiter avoided confronting the emotional fallout from the Gove decision.

The critical treatment tended to lock the Gove case up from the inside, not from the outside, as the artificial discourse of pure law would have a case locked up. The case was evocatively termed a "roadblock" in 1973 (41), but arguably it was a species of an emotional, rather than a legal blockage all along. Balanced against this it must be said that the mainstream academic analysis of Gove was later invaluable for formulating the legal reasoning in the new test case, the Mabo case (42). It was also perhaps even a necessary diversion, as the running of the blockade may have thwarted the plaintiffs' chances in the Mabo case. But in any event, these considerations no longer hold; now that the Mabo case has finally overruled the hard case of Gove, the emotionally charged Gove case can now be exploded, rather than gingerly handled.

III ... and the Passion

The Gove dispute had a relatively swift run through the courts (43) but a much longer history, from which a striking pattern of human passion and vulnerability emerges. The first chapter (in the late 1950's and early 1960's) is largely self contained. Without the knowledge or consent of the local people the Commonwealth had granted two mining leases in the Gove area over bauxite-rich land to large mining companies. Following the presentation of a celebrated bark petition to the House of Representatives, a Senate Committee recommended compensation to the Yolgnu, the local Aboriginal people. Even this seemingly modest achievement had come at great personal cost to one man, however. Edgar Wells, in charge of the Methodist mission at Yirrkala during 1962-63, and who had been very much on the Yolgnu side in a brewing controversy, was forcibly transferred from Yirrkala by church authorities (44). This chapter closed when the second of the original leases was forfeited, in 1966. The second chapter began when, also in 1966, Nabalco Pty Ltd, a new entrant, started developing large scale mining operations in the area. Again this was without regard to the wishes of the local people and without any promises of compensation. Starting from a plea for legal help in a letter from Edgar Wells to the Australian in 1967 which John Little, then a newly admitted barrister, answered, an ambitious test case was decided upon and assembled, in contrast to the political redress tactic tried in the first round.

The plaintiffs' case was sought to be struck out as vexatious by the defendants in proceedings before Blackburn J in March 1969 (45). The outcome was that the defendant's case was dismissed, but the plaintiffs needed to lodge a fresh statement of claim. The reconstituted pleadings were to later be inflexibly adhered to by Blackburn J in the substantive case (46). Later in 1969, a dispute ballooned between members of the plaintiffs' legal team (47). On one side was John Little, one of two junior counsel on the team; on the other, the instructing solicitor, Frank Purcell, and senior counsel Edward Woodward QC. The dispute concerned a settlement proposal the latter wanted to put, that was vehemently opposed by Little. The compromise would have been that compensation would be paid in any event, and an "in principle" declaration of land rights made over the plaintiffs' land, apart from the Nabalco lease, in return for dismissing Nabalco from the case. This settlement would have protected the plaintiffs from the possibility of losing completely and also created a precedent of some value for other Aboriginals. John Little, however, countered that the proposal involved sacrificing bargaining power in return for obtaining an "empty declaration" (48) and compensation "of the beads and bracelets variety" (49). Contentious points, that appear never to have been settled, were whether the settlement offer was made pursuant to the plaintiffs' instructions (50) and whether the settlement offer, which involved renouncing any interest in the Nabalco lease, would at least stop further inroads into the plaintiffs' land. The dispute lead to John Little resigning from the plaintiff's legal team, but the dispute lapsed when the Commonwealth rejected the settlement proposal (51) and John Little rejoined the plaintiffs' legal team as preparations for the substantive case were commencing.

Other subtexts were also unfolding in the meantime; the original first named plaintiff, Mathaman, died in January 1970 (52). The new first named plaintiff, Milirrpum, Mathaman's brother, was arrested in February 1970 (53), on charges of resisting arrest and assaulting a 14 year old girl who was promised to be Milirrpum's wife under Aboriginal customary law (54). Two others, including another plaintiff, Dadaynga, were also charged with resisting arrest. These arrests sparked a near riot at Yirrkala. The accused were represented by John Little. Milirrpum's assault charge was dismissed as trivial, but he was convicted and fined on the charge of resisting arrest. The 14 year old girl was abducted by welfare authorities and taken to Darwin. Shortly afterwards, the Gove case began in the Darwin Supreme Court.

In the last days of the case, heard in Canberra in November 1970, a second flash point occurred between members of the plaintiffs' legal team (55). John Little wanted to argue a new and distinct point, that the abolition of slavery in the British empire in 1834 effected a fundamental change in the legal status of Aboriginal people, and hence 1834 was the date at which the law started to resile from the terra nullius assumption. At the request of other members of Little's team Blackburn J refused to hear Little on this point. The substantive argument Little sought to put has not been vindicated in the Mabo case, but there was arguably a solid case in favour of putting the argument at the time: at least for Little, the plaintiffs' case, at that late stage, seemed doomed to fail (56). Little's retainer was terminated that same day (57). In 1973 Little wrote that the legal profession "disgraced itself" in the Gove case (58).

Other participants in the Gove case and its broader background have stories that echo the motif of John Little's painful experience, stories that were only told much later. Edgar Wells, of whom Little wrote of as being "bruised but not subdued" (59) in 1967 when they first met, wrote a book, published in 1982, about the shameful conduct of his employers, the Methodist Church, towards him and the Yolgnu (60). Also in 1982, an anthropologist, L R Hiatt, whose work was used to cross-examine one of the two expert anthropological witnesses in Gove, W E H Stanner (61), wrote to correct what had been pointed out, by another anthropologist, to be "an almost unbelievable conflict of [anthropological] evidence [that] came entirely from one side [ie the plaintiffs']" (62). Hiatt enclosed a letter he wrote to the plaintiffs' legal team in 1969 (63). He suggested that the contents of this letter should have prevented the conflict of anthropological evidence that eventuated in Gove, a conflict that was highly damaging to the plaintiffs' case (64). A recurring theme across each of Little's, Wells' and Hiatt's experiences is that of the individual's powerlessness in the face of a fait accompli (65). Hard law obviously falls as a crushing weight on some. Arguably, vicariously included amongst those crushed was the mainstream legal psyche, hence affecting the nature and content of academic debate on the Gove case itself.

IV Conclusion

The collective emotional blockage, post Gove, meant the fictional construction of a legal roadblock, that was to be ceremoniously torn down in the Mabo case. For a generation, the post-Gove legal discourse was constructed as a dichotomy between law and morality, or between law and justice; rather than seeing Gove formally as both bad and inconsequential law, or transperently as hard law. The nadir of this was in Justice Deane's judgement in Gerhardy v Brown (66):
Yet almost two centuries on, the generally accepted view remains that the common law is ignorant of ... communal native title ... : see Milirrpum v Nabalco (1971) 17 FLR 141. If that view of the law is correct, and I do not suggest that it is not, the common law of this land has still not reached the stage of retreat from injustice ..." (67).
Many other commentators had expressed essentially the same view (68).

The contrary view, that of taking the hard line against Gove by saying it was unequivocally wrong in law, was taken by Murphy J in Coe v Commonwealth and anor (69), who alone in 21 years of High Court pronouncements said that Gove was "not binding on this court" (70). The trouble with taking such a hard line was that saying merely that Gove was bad or inconsequential law was a non sequitur. What had to follow from Gove being wrong in law was that the common law itself had jumped from its tracks in that case. John Little made this point forcefully and clearly in 1973: Gove "is wrong in law and racist in its assumptions" (71).

By focusing on Gove being morally wrong or colloquially unjust, mainstream criticism of it became easily adaptable to suit the arguments of those critics who saw evidence of moralising or "guilt" infiltrating the purity of the law. This type of argument was made by some critics of Gove (72), and it is, of course, another common line of attack on the Mabo decision (73). The intellectual masterstroke, however, against morality and justice being played off against "the law" was made by Richard Bartlett, who pointed out that saying the recognition of communal native title was a matter of morality was "necessarily obiter" (74) anyway.

As the High Court demonstrated in the Mabo case, the legal recognition of communal native title was always going to be more than a matter of pure law. The intervening 204 years was bound to make the turning point, confronting and utterring the accumulated "national legacy of unuterrable shame” (75), an emotional moment. The lost chance for the legal turning point, the "new deal" (76), to have happened a generation earlier, in the Gove case, must now be counted amongst this shameful legacy and so be finally drawn out of its own shell, into its own belated emotional moment.

*Paul J Watson, School of Law, University of Canberra.



1. (1971) 17 FLR 141; transcript p 2515. Contrast Justice Blackburn's less confident view of himself making legal history, (1971) 17 FLR 141, 262. Barbara Hocking, "Does Aboriginal Law Now Run in Australia?" (1979) 10 FL Rev 161, 174 suggests Blackburn J was saying there that a definitive ruling on the matter should be left to the High Court.
2. (1992) 175 CLR 1.
3. See references in Richard Bartlett, "Mabo: Another Triumph for the Common Law" (1993) 15 (2) Syd LR 178 n 2; Barbara Hocking, "Aboriginal Law Does Now Run in Australia" (1993) 15 (2) Syd LR 187, 197; and Sir Harry Gibbs' Foreword and R D Lumb, "The Mabo Case - Public Law Aspects" in M A Stephenson and Suri Ratnapala (ed), Mabo: A Judicial Revolution (1993) xiii; 1, 5.
4. Cf Mabo and ors v State of Queensland [No2] (1992) 175 CLR 1, 120 per Deane and Gaudron JJ: "Long acceptance of legal propositions, particularly legal propositions that relate to real property, can of itself impart legitimacy and preclude challenge".
5. Mabo and ors v State of Queensland [No 2] (1992) 175 CLR 1, 15 per Mason CJ and McHugh J.
6. Ibid 42 per Brennan J.
7. Below n 19.
8. Milirrpum and ors v Nabalco Pty Ltd and the Commonwealth of Australia (1971) 17 FLR 141.
9. This is perhaps an oversimplification of the ratio of Gove. As to what exactly was the ratio, and hence, more importantly, what was merely obiter in the case; see below n 33. The High Court in Mabo differed over exactly what they were overruling in Gove: Mabo and ors v State of Queensland [No 2] (1992) 175 CLR 1, 38-39 and 101-102, per Brennan J and per Deane and Gaudron JJ respectively. Sir Harry Gibbs, above n 3, xiv doubts the legal pedigree of the phrase "terra nullius", used repeatedly in the Murray Islands judgements. The phrase is not used in the judgement in the Gove case: "Blackstone's own" words of "'desert and uncultivated'" were used instead; Milirrpum and ors v Nabalco Pty Ltd and the Commonwealth of Australia (1971) 17 FLR 141, 201.
10. Jack Horner (1972) 46 ALJ 476 (letter); Gordon Brysland, "Rewriting History 2: The Wider Significance of Mabo v Queensland" (1992) 17 (3) Alt LJ 162.
11. Noel Pearson, "204 Years of Invisible Title" in M A Stephenson and Suri Ratnapala (ed's), above n 3, 75.
12. Barbara Hocking, above n 3, 177; Richard Bartlett, "Aboriginal Land Claims at Common Law" (1983) 15 UWALR 293, 293-94; Geoffrey Lester, "Aboriginal Land Rights: Conquest or Peaceful Settlement?" Australian Law News, June 1985, 14, 15; Richard Cullen, "Mabo v Queensland" (Casenote) (1990) 20 UWALR 190, 194. See also n 32 and 33, below.
13. Cf Gordon Brysland, above n 10.
14. Although it was, of course, too late for hundreds of thousands of dispossessed Aborigines. The local point can also be made that the actual decisions in both Gove and Mabo were too late for the original first named plaintiffs: W E H Stanner, White Man Got No Dreaming: Essays 1938-1973 (1979) 278, and Frank Brennan SJ, "Mabo and its Implications for Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders" in M A Stephenson and Suri Ratnapala (ed's), above n 3, 45 pointing out three of the five original plaintiffs in the Mabo case died before the decision was handed down.
15. John Hookey, "The Gove Land Rights Case: A Judicial Dispensation for the Taking of Aboriginal Lands in Australia?" (1972) 5 FL Rev 85. Blackburn J arrived at the same conclusion via a quite different tack: "I venture to doubt, on the evidence before me, whether it would have been possible to [claim communal native title] before the work of anthropologists of quite recent years": Milirrpum and ors v Nabalco Pty Ltd and the Commonwealth of Australia (1971) 17 FLR 141, 199. Cf Gordon Brysland, above n 10: "[Blackburn J] felt that he could not, at that late stage, rewrite legal and constitutional history to reach some other result".
16. (1971) 45 ALJ 333.
17. Mathaman and ors v Nabalco Pty Ltd and the Commonwealth of Australia (1969) 14 FLR 10.
18. Unpublished manuscript by John Little, 23; and in Garth Nettheim (ed), Aborigines Human Rights and the Law (1974) 97. Prior to this, the case had been funded by the Australian Council of Churches; John Little, 6.
19. Although the Commonwealth also largely funded the plaintiffs in the Mabo case, the Commonwealth there was not nearly as pro-active a defendant as it was in Gove. The Commonwealth was dismissed as a defendant to the Mabo case on 5 June 1989 by the Queensland Supreme Court: Mabo v State of Queensland [1992] Qd R 78, 81.
20. (1971) 45 ALJ 333. Compare "The Yirrkala Judgement" a paper prepared by the Legislative Research Service, Law and Government Section, Parliament of Australia Parliamentary Library, June 1971, reproduced in Smoke Signals June 1971 (Vol 9 No 4) 7 - 12: In a judgement which is both fascinating and erudite ... Mr Justice Blackburn ... has handed down an opinion of great importance in the field of Aboriginal land rights ... [I]n the very scholarly nature of the presentation of the reasons for the judgement of Mr Justice Blackburn against the plaintiffs much value for scholars and lawyers alike may be found.
21. Kent McNeil, Common Law Native Title (1989) 295-96; cf John Hookey, above n 15, 88: "the plaintiffs had been defeated on every substantive issue".
22. Communal native title was obliquely raised in Coe v Commonwealth of Australia and anor (1979) 24 ALR 118, 129-30 and 135 per Gibbs J and per Jacobs J dissenting, respectively.
23. Upendra Baxi; cited in Geoffrey Lester and Graham Parker, "Land Rights: The Australian Aborigines Have Lost a Legal Battle, But .... " (1973) 11 Alberta LR 189, 191 n 5.
24. This decision seemed to have been made by senior counsel for the plaintiffs, almost immediately after Justice Blackburn's judgement was handed down; John Little, above n 18, 40. This decision was probably a sound one at the time: the High Court's rejection of the indigenous Bougainvillean's claim (though this case was not pleaded as a matter of communal native title) in Teori Tau v The Commonwealth of Australia and ors (1969) 119 CLR 564, handed down extempore during the pre-trial preparation for Gove, was described at the time as "immediate, unanimous and ... 'contemptuous'"; W E H Stanner, above n 14, 279.
25. John Hookey, in Garth Nettheim (ed), above n 18, 101.
26. Alusuisse, a Swiss company, owned 70 % of Nabalco Pty Ltd.
27. Kent McNeil, above n 21, 295.
28. Eg: "a swingeing judgement"; John Hookey, above n 15; and "the manifest injustice of the decision", Geoffrey Lester (1971) 41 ALJ 773 (letter). Note also the presumed authorial empathy in: "[i]t would be unfortunate indeed if the failure in this first attempt at victory in the courts resulted in a general Aboriginal disullusionment with this method of redress for their long standing land grievances"; John Hookey, above n 15, 114 (emphasis added).
29. Kent McNeil, above n 21, 296: Aboriginals may ask why they should have to rely on the goodwill of the legislature for recognition of what to many must seem perfectly obvious, namely that they have rights to the lands upon which they and their ancestors have lived for countless generations.
30. It is universally accepted that the adverse decision in Gove precipitated, or at least hastened, the introduction of statutory land rights. But this was only a small consolation for some. John Little thought that the statutory land rights proposal was fundamentally flawed because the Aborigines were bargaining from a point of powerlessness, and further, that the lengthy process involved was "murderous"; in Garth Nettheim (ed), above, n 18, 98-99. Geoffrey Lester and Graham Parker, above n 23, 190 and 237 seemed resigned to the debate being forced from the judicial arena into the political arena, but possibly into the streets as well. The extreme realpolitik view, that statutory land rights overcame the ills of Gove, was put by Gareth Evans at a conference in 1973: "The point is that the Labor Government .... has made a series of quite unequivocal promises about land rights, about this very basic thing that everyone is worrying about, the acceptance of land rights as a principle.... [T]he job now, as I keep saying, is to move beyond [the Gove decision]."; in Garth Nettheim (ed), above n 18, 113 -14.
31. Id.
32. eg John Hookey in Garth Nettheim (ed) above, n 18, 100.
33. Id; cf "The Yirrkala Judgement", above n 20, 12. Barbara Hocking, above n 1 points out that Justice Blackburn's obiter was not gratuitous, but "at the request of counsel": Milirrpum and ors v Nabalco Pty Ltd and the Commonwealth of Australia (1971) 17 FLR 141, 151. Writing more recently, Kent McNeil, above n 21, 295 observed that while almost all of Justice Blackburn's judgement was obiter, this was to be read against His Honour's own statement to the contrary: 17 FLR 141, 293. Such an all-ratio approach is certainly against the grain of legal orthodoxy: Chris Enright, Studying Law (1991) 279. W E H Stanner, above n 14, 276 brusquely, but perceptively, said that the reasoning in the interlocutory Mathaman case had a "delphic ring" to it. The same criticism can be made of the Gove judgement; despite its apparent academic weight and good intentions, Justice Blackburn's overall reasoning is the epitome of the pejorative "palm tree justice".
34. Richard Bartlett, above n 12.
35. Above n 1.
36. Gordon Brysland, above n 10, 162.
37. Mathaman and ors v Nabalco Pty Ltd and the Commonwealth of Australia (1969) 14 FLR 10, 23; Milirrpum and ors v Nabalco Pty Ltd and the Commonwealth of Australia (1971) 17 FLR 141, 150 and 199.
38. John Hookey, above n 15, 85.
39. Richard Cullen, above n 12.
40. Above n 16.
41. "How Much of a Roadblock is the Gove Case?", in Garth Nettheim (ed), above n 18, 93.
42. Mabo and ors v State of Queensland [No 2] (1992) 175 CLR 1, 120 per Deane and Gaudron JJ.
43. The plaintiffs' writ was issued on 13 December 1968.
44. Edgar Wells, Reward and Punishment in Arnhem Land 1962-1963 (1982) 109-118.
45. Mathaman and ors v Nabalco Pty Ltd and the Commonwealth of Australia (1969) 14 FLR 10.
46. Upendra Baxi, and Geoffrey Lester and Graham Parker, above n 23, 191 and 196; Richard Bartlett, above n 12, 322.
47. John Little, above n 18, 10-18.
48. Ibid, 17.
49. John Little in Garth Nettheim (ed), above n 18, 98.
50. Ibid: John Little asserts that Edward Woodward QC had stated in the settlement proposal to the Commonwealth that "we do not have any instructions from our clients on these points". Woodward had continued: "We believe there is no point in trying to obtain instructions (which would involve a trip to the Gove Peninsula) unless and until it appears that some substantial agreement can be achieved"; Little, above n 18, 11. In contrast, Frank Purcell, solicitor for the plaintiffs, maintained that specific instructions had been given to him by the Yirrkala Village Council in February 1969: "that they wished for the mining company to proceed and that they wanted to have protection of their culture and civilisation against the mining company. They also deeply wished to have a public recognition of land ownership which can stop further inroads into their land"; letter from Purcell to Little 23/10/69, quoted in John Little, above n 18, 15. The broader Gove dispute spanned the 1967 constitutional changes that gave Aboriginals a voice in the polity; the allegation of the failure of the plaintiffs' legal team to obtain proper instructions, if it is true, demonstrates that the wardship mentality carried on past 1967.
51. W E H Stanner, above n 14, 291.
52. Ibid 278; Nancy Williams, The Yolgnu and Their Land (1986) 32 (photo).
53. On the day on which the final statement of claim was lodged: ibid 280.
54. John Little, above n 18, 20-23.
55. Ibid 26-40.
56. Ibid 26.
57. Ibid 39.
58. In Garth Nettheim (ed), above n 18, 95.
59. John Little, above n 18, 2.
60. Edgar Wells, above n 44.
61. Milirrpum and ors v Nabalco Pty Ltd and the Commonwealth of Australia (1971) 17 FLR 141, 187.
62. Marc Gumbert, "Paradigm Lost: An Analysis of Anthropological Models and their Effect on Aboriginal Land Rights" Oceania December 1981 (Vol 52 No 2) 103, 110.
63. Oceania March 1982 (Vol 52 No 3) 261.
64. As to the broader misunderstandings concerning anthropological evidence in the Gove case, see Nancy Williams, above, n 52, 158-203, esp 162-63: "[t]he balance of Blackburn's general description of Yolgnu social organisation ... consists of negative characterisations hedged with dubiety".
65. Edgar Wells, above n 44, 52.
66. (1985) 159 CLR 70.
67. Ibid 149; emphasis added. See also Mabo and ors v State of Queensland [No 2] (1992) 175 CLR 1, 42-43 per Brennan J.
68. eg Howard Morphy, Quadrant September 1978 38, and March 1979 55; Gareth Evans, in Garth Nettheim (ed), above n 18, 114. In a intriguing twist, Gordon Brysland, above n 10 has written that "[f]rom a social justice point of view, the Gove Land Rights Case was clearly wrong. Everybody knew that and even the judge said as much".
69. (1979) 24 ALR 118.
70. Ibid 137.
71. In Garth Nettheim (ed), above, n 18, 93.
72. P W Nichols, Quadrant, January-February 1979 71; C A Fryer (1972) 46 ALJ 45 (letter).
73. Cf the disclaimer as to attributing "moral guilt": Mabo and ors v State of Queensland [No 2] (1992) 175 CLR 1, 120 per Deane and Gaudron JJ.
74. Richard Bartlett, above n 12, 322.
75. Mabo and ors v State of Queensland [No 2] (1992) 175 CLR 1, 104 per Deane and Gaudron JJ.
76. Edgar Wells, above n 44, 32 quoting the Rev T T Webb, who wrote in 1944 that there must be "no further filching of the country from this rightful minority".

Friday, June 25, 2004

The bunny-eared Catharine Lumby

Sydney academic Catharine Lumby’s particular research interests are (i) teenage girl’s body image (with a special focus on Sara-Marie, from the first “Big Brother”), and (ii) pornography. Although I assume that there is not too much overlap between the two areas of interest, I can safely guess that Lumby must be the world’s number one authority on the Semiotics of Bunny Ears, from the Playboy Mansion to Perth’s white-trash broadacres.

I point out her specialties because it is fair to say that otherwise, she knows shit – as demonstrated by this Op Ed tangentially about Big Brother 4 contestant’s Merlin’s “free the refugees” stunt.

The (unnamed) recent article which so offended Lumby, is here. While I agree that it “epitomises much other media commentary on the subject” – i.e. it is standard baby-boomer drivel – I don’t think that it otherwise deserves any real attention. What Mark Coultan wrote is so ludicrous that he could be secretly taking the piss, in parodying a washed-up soixante-huitard, for all I know or care.

What I do know is that spectacle of middle-aged adults like Lumby, rushing in to defend the heroic idealism of yoof, is altogether unedifying. Particularly when she is not even addressing the said yoof, as demonstrated here:

The reality is, of course, that for every free-love pot-smoking radical trying to smash the system in 1968, there were 10,000 others glued to Pick A Box, wondering whether to vote for the DLP next time and ironing another short-sleeved shirt to wear to the office the next day.

(In case you don’t get it, Lumby is playing a game of boomer-centric “Trivial Pursuit”, masquerading as a joke).

Ha ha, Catharine. You just juxtaposed the typical boomer’s (and mine, and – I’m guessing – your) parents against the soixante-huitard yoof. Gee, you could/should have been a cheesy US sitcom writer – in 1972.

Where Lumby’s “joke” falls flattest is in its the implication that the wheels of fusty-oldster-ism have now turned full circle – 1968’s yoof have now become their dinky, conservative parents. If only it were that seamless; if only there was no middle-bit.

Catharine, you may want to take a look even down the corridor from your tenured (I’m guessing) office in academia. Guess what? Whatever the soixante-huitards have become now is almost beside the point. The fact is that they ruled and rule the world, and – needless to say – they have fucked it up to its neck.

“Ironing another short-sleeved shirt to wear to the office the next day”. In 2004, if only. So go back to your hear-no-evil Bunny Ears, Catharine Lumby.

Thursday, June 24, 2004

Law and Order II

The ALP’s Centenary House rort is back in the news, yet again. A good summary of the actual 1991-93 deal is here.

Before I read up on the deal and its background, I was going to write on how the thing should be easily solvable, to something like the following effect. As landlord, the ALP is NOT the central villain in the story. Yes, it got an outrageously good deal, courtesy of Australia’s taxpayers, but what landlord wouldn’t say “yes” to such a sweet little prize? The real villain/s then, is/are whoever signed and negotiated the lease on behalf of the Australian government (= taxpayers). Again, if there is no provision in the Commonwealth Crimes Act making what they did a serious criminal offence and making the actual signatories personally liable for the lease – thus allowing the Commonwealth to rescind it – then there should be. Now. And make it retrospective, if need be.

If only it were that simple. Unfortunately: (i) a Royal Commission by Trevor Morling QC has thoroughly whitewashed the whole situation, and (ii) the impeccably-connected, corporate sleazebag-central Macquarie Bank was central to the whole deal.

BTW, TR Morling QC is the long-time Chairperson of the Australian Electoral Commission – that bastion of competence and impartiality. You know, the one that allowed Peter Garrett to “vote” – repeatedly – even though he was not on any roll. And also the one that washed it hands of the Tony Abbott slush fund issue last year.

Nice one, Trev. Your biggest concern, apparently, is to make sure that ordinary Australians vote – once – or else. Meanwhile, high-level corruption mysteriously flourishes all around you and you don’t see a thing.

Law and Order I

I’m generally cautious about tub-thumping on the issue of a specific lenient sentence because (i) by definition, I’m not possessed of all the facts/evidence, and (ii) such rants are a shock-jock specialty.

I can’t resist commenting on this one, though. For further facts, see here and here.

Why wasn’t Paraskevi Kafetzis charged with culpable driving? She has been proved, at the very least, to have (i) driven an unroadworthy vehicle in (ii) a street teeming with primary school-age pedestrians.

Apart from the fine she got – token in the circumstance, although maximum for the actual offence – as a Melbourne driver/pedestrian/cyclist, I am disgusted and discomfited by the fact that (i) Kafetzis has been free to drive (the car* which caused the death, at that) after the accident and up until yesterday’s verdict, and (ii) she will be free to drive again in one year’s time.

Paraskevi Kafetzis has demonstrated an error of judgement and/or driving ability as bad as that of any drink driver, and a life-ban on her driving seems eminently reasonable. And if there’s no law that currently allows this, it’s about time there was – and if it’s got to be retrospective, to keep Kafetzis from ever getting behind the wheel again, then so be it, too.

* By then, presumably roadworthy – or so one would hope

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

The aspirations of Jackie Kelly MP

I’m not sure whether to declare Jackie Kelly, the 40 y.o. former Minister, and now Parliamentary Secretary to the PM a GenX pin-up girl or not.

On one hand, the fact that her career (like me, she’s a former lawyer) has gone steadily backwards in recent years reasonates with me. Morever, when the MP for Lindsay, in Sydney’s West, baldy tells a journo "No one in my electorate goes to uni", you’ve seriously got to wonder if she has a death wish of Saudi suicide-bomber* proportions.

OTOH, as a Liberal member of a formerly strongly working-class area, her electorate has “aspirational” written all over it, and aspirational voters and the tertiary-educated are inversely correlated. Therefore, it's arguable that Kelly is simply doing what she’s paid to do – not to mention following her leader – when she utters clangers (for me, anyway) like this:

And university fee rises of up to 25 per cent do not rate on the political radar because, she says, no one in Lindsay attends. Asked if they aspire to, Kelly says no.

Predictably, some of the voters of Lindsay – as well as those from more salubrious point east – took umbrage at this. Rather bizarrely, the MP got a letter to the ed in herself, among the expressions of umbrage at the previous day’s story on her. Her interlocutory and pre-emptive defence went like this:

The last thing I want is for your readers to think it's not worth aspiring to go to university or that I do not believe that a university education is important. That was not the impression I meant to convey . . . Of course people in Lindsay aspire to go to university and that is why I have repeatedly said that UWS must become the No.1 choice for all western Sydney students.

Translated, I think that she’s saying it’s all right, after all, for the people of western Sydney to aspire to go to uni as long as it's to the University of of Western Sydney (UWS). Personally, I have little idea why Sydney westernites aren’t expected to have the same choice in tertiary education as everyone else.

One thought is that UWS’s degree parchment must look particularly good hanging on the wall of triple garages, right next to the mini-fleet of shiny on-top, toddler splattered-underneath 4WDs.

Another suggested reason for Kelly's keenness here relates to UWS’s being the graveyard of 10,000 books buried under its lawns - better than a rag atop a school flagpole even, UWS's ghost library is a monumental piece of installation art that celebrates government information-disclosure policy, post-“Children Overboard”.

Finally, with (AFAIK) UWS still not having announced its intentions apropos of the 25% HECS increases (that most other universities will be implementing from next year), Jackie Kelly’s enthusiasm for her local uni could soon be put to the test. According to UWS Vice-Chancellor Professor Janice Reid (in March), even if the uni chooses to raise its HECS rates by the 25% maximum, UWS’s financial position will still be dire . . .

. . . and going backwards, just like Jackie Kelly’s career.

* Saudi suicide-bombers (9/11) and snuff-film making terrorists (subsequently) have been 100% GenX, AFAIK

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Four-wheel-drive owners to be compelled to have special licences?

Yes, but not for four-wheel-drivers who buy their vehicle with no intent to drive off road, says Norman Bee, accredited trainer with the Australian National Four Wheel Drive Council:

I don't think you can make the training mandatory for those type of people.

After all, what's the harm in a parent killing one of their kids, every few days?

Dr Patricia Edgar, and other monsters

After the issue of banning junk-food advertising on kids’ TV came up in Federal Parliament on June 16, Dr Patricia Edgar (founder of the Australian Children's Television Foundation) could reasonably be expected to have promptly chimed-in. Perhaps she decided to hold her fire for a while, because two days earlier she had had published a quite bizarre Op Ed, recommending censor leniency when it comes to rating quite-scary kids’ films – as long as such films are styled as fairytales, that is. Whatever – I’m sure the business/union combine known as Hollywood couldn’t have put the argument for their naked commercial interests any better if they’d paid someone to write it. And Dr Edgar sure knows how to unpack a fairytale:

One of the myths that has been perpetuated about J. K. Rowling is that she was a single, unemployed mum, living on the poverty line, who wrote in cafes because she couldn't pay her heating bill and who just happened to churn out a story that appealed to millions of children around the world. She was, in fact, a tertiary-educated woman who had studied classics and had been writing stories since the age of six.

Huh? Apparently, out there in Patricia Edgar-land, a person can’t be unemployed and a writer, or tertiary-educated and poor. If so, beam me up, Patty.

Today though, Edgar belatedly did weigh-in to Fat Kids: the Issue. She observes – quite correctly – that Mark Latham’s proposal to ban junk-food advertising on childrens’ TV could only be a part-solution at best. However, as to her own decades (c. 1980 – 2002) of complicity in the problem – as founder and then long-term boss of the Australian Children's Television Foundation – Edgar is nonchalant:

Twenty-five years ago, I chaired the children's program committee of the then Australian Broadcasting Tribunal. Bruce Gyngell (the first face on Australian television and then chairman of the ABT) was the father of the new Children's Program and Advertising Standards, which are still in place. Bruce, who loved the industry, believed there could be a trade-off on behalf of children, and he promulgated the quotas and limits on advertising that became the standards. There were to be no advertisements in programs for preschoolers, whom it was recognised did not know the difference between programs and ads. And the number of advertisements in C-classified programs for six to 12-year-olds was reduced . . .

The fact is that restrictions on preschool advertising were meaningless. The way around it was to make the program the advertisement. And so we have Bananas in Pyjamas, Teletubbies, Postman Pat, Bob the Builder, Thomas the Tank Engine, The Wiggles, Hi-5, and so on. And the public broadcasters, the BBC and the ABC, are the worst offenders. The characters are tied in with the products and junk food is a dominant part of the mix.

If the childrens’ TV industry so took the public for a ride then, the fact is that the now-retired Dr Edgar should have spoken out about the “meaningless” nature of the restrictions on preschool advertising at the time. And since she didn’t (AFAIK) – she should be held to account on this (aka: Fat kids of the nation, stuff suing Macca’s: it’s at least as much Patricia Edgar’s fault too, so why not “shop locally”?). At the very minimum, Edgar could do a General Pinochet, and retire in graceful disgrace (= shut the fuck up).

Finally, and with the disclaimer that I’m not into either the Harry Potter or the Shrek franchises, why is the former all-good because of its fairytale-ness, while Shrek – who even I know is a fat monster – is simply evil incarnate in the medical (= non-fairytale) sense of the word:

Free speech for the advertiser means, it seems, having the right to tell children that eating is fun; that it's fun to be fat (like Shrek)

So evil monsters must be skinny, Dr Edgar? Or is that fat monsters must be no-fun? I’m confused.

All I’m hoping for is that the nation’s chubby cherubs follow the trail of Kinder Surprises all the way to Dr Evil-witch Edgar’s front-door, and serve her with a big, fat, gingerbread writ. Now, that would be a fairytale for the whole family.

Modern Boomer-nomics 101

This is a post that I’ve been meaning to write for a while; since Ronald Reagan’s death teased out a few articles scathing of Reagan-nomics. Not being economically-trained (in both senses), I hope that I don’t come across as too crack-potty in this post – I stress here that, unlike Mark Latham, the following ideas are almost entirely my own work.

As is now well-understood, 80s-style Reagan-nomics (and so Thatcher-nomics, Hawke/Keating-nomics, etc) boiled down to two things: a credit binge in the domestic and speculative (= non-productive) parts of the private sector, and big spending by government (which is not, of course, the same as a credit binge if it is used to build/fund infrastructure).

The credit binge led to an acute risk of inflationary paralysis, hence the high-interest rates of the late 1980s. By this stage, Reagan-nomics (or neo-liberalism, as it was by then termed) could fairly be called a failure, or at best, a nil-all draw. What happened next was the real stroke of genius, though.

Historically, credit bingeing was closely correlated with employment growth – as people spent up, unemployment naturally went down. The triumph of post-80s neo-liberalism was to de-couple this connection: henceforth, the relationship would be an inverted one.

To achieve this, first the labour market needed wholesale rescaling. Privatisation, as we know now, is a synonym for de-efficiency, but for at least a decade it was an ideal cloak for the disruption of the job market for disruption’s own sake. Several factors helped to disguise the savage cuts that privatisation was making in the labour market, numerically and psychologically. Those born between about 1964 and 1978 (GenX) were told to shape up – by going to university, largely at their own expense – and then ship out – either by emigrating, or by entering the job-underground as un- or marginally-employed. For those born prior to 1964, the expected accomodation was quite different: house price-inflation provided almost all of the older displacees with a financial cushion, which they could use to muddle-along until actual, formal retirement.

Finally, house price-inflation acted as a pincer on GenX. The plain fact – that they would have been much better off financially by wholly forgoing tertiary education, and just speculating and credit bingeing like their elders – was never admitted. Compounding this, and from the other direction, GenX emerged from university into a scarified labour market. House price-inflation created a booming economy in some sectors, like waiting on tables, selling $10k TVs, and the building sector. If they were lucky, and could eat sufficient humble pie, the tertiary educated members of GenX might hope to get a job in the first two of these. As for the third boom sector – the only one that paid/pays above $13/hr – its “who you know” nature precluded entry into it for those who had spent their crucial post-school years poring over books, so “networking” only with those who would be joining them in the dole queues and cafes of the land.

Monday, June 21, 2004

The opaquely horrible Don Watson

In April, Don Watson had this to say, apropos of Mark Latham’s borrowing from an old Bill Clinton speech:

There is no habit (among politicians) of precision. There is a habit of regurgitation of dullness and clichés.

As I wrote then – and also earlier, from Adelaide Writers Week – when it comes to throwing around stone-sized clichés, Don Watson appears to be living in a rather large glasshouse,. Instead of pointing out the obvious – Mark Latham simply doesn’t want to employ a competent speechwriter because there are no votes in ideas and vision, certainly not out there in Aspirational-land – Don sticks within his own blinkered dogma, so leading to some inevitable howlers.

So what was that about politicians not being precise, Don? Two months on, evidently PM John Howard is a boulder-sized exception:

I think his best quality is the ability all good politicians have, to see where an argument can be constructed and make it sound like he really believes it.

Now, if only Don could now learn the art of constructing an argument himself. As it happens, Don (and Mark), I’m qualified and available for the task, right now. Too bad that you’re both apparently too scared of ideas to take me up. And that’s "transparently” scared, Don – just in case you need a redundant adjective to make my offer to you sound more appealing.

Saturday, June 19, 2004

Juice bar chain adds "university" arm?

Not quite yet, but I fear that it's only a matter of time before the noughties' most annoying franchise rules the world - or at least the under-40s element of it.

Fortunately for me, as of 12 hours ago, I no longer have anything to fear on the juice bar front (not that I've been in one, so far). Happy birthday to me!

Friday, June 18, 2004

"You guys are probably fathers . . ."

. . . so said the 20-something American Paul Johnson, son the 49-year-old Lockheed Martin employee currently been held hostage by Saudi Islamofascists, pleading for his father’s release.

While sympathising with the Johnson family’s plight, I wonder how Americans can have so little objective insight into terrorism’s demographics. A handful of boomer bosses/“venture capitalist[s]”, terrorists are almost entirely single, well-educated GenX men. In fact, if they all lived in one place (which of course they don’t), they could well be the biggest such cohort to be found outside the vicinity of Sydney’s Darlinghurst. Not that I’m necessarily making an allusion to a typical terrorist’s sexuality here – these people don’t even humanize themselves, so I’m sure as hell not going to do it for them.

All I’m saying is – and this is a survival lesson every gay man either knows or must learn – that cunts can only be out-cunted. This was a lesson (mostly) lost among those onboard the four hijacked planes on 9/11. “Just stay quiet and you'll be OK”: the advice given to passengers by that famously-suave negotiator, Mohamed Atta. As the 80s gay motto goes, Silence=Death. Cunt the Saudis, and cunt them now, I say.

Update 19 June 2004

Nice one, cunts. Mark Steyn – with whom I am poles apart on most issues – has a piece on Saudi in today’s Oz, with which I basically concur. You can find it online here§ion=current&issue=2004-06-05&id=4678 (free rego required).

My only differences with Steyn are one (perhaps) minor, one major. The headgarbless Saudi schoolgirls being sent back into their burning schoolhouse by the religious police story was shown to be an urban myth, was it not? The Saudis can justly be demonised for many things, but piling colourful falsities on known facts is simply playing The Protocols of the Elders of Mecca – a game with whose downside Steyn is surely familiar with.

Then there’s Steyn’s bottom line, on what exactly cutting-off the House of Saud should entail:

Washington needs to have solid, detailed contingency plans for securing the oil fields, and making sure the Hashemites are on stand-by to return to Mecca and Medina.

This seems absurdly naïve. Forgetting about the country’s oil, sealing its borders - and its $800bn invested in the West - for a few decades, and otherwise letting nature take its course is a more realistic “minimum”, if you ask me. I call it the "cut and grin (and get out your old pushbikes)" strategy.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

The dole-go-round

Ah, the sweet changing of the seasons, of which for a long-term unemployed person in this neck of the woods, there are but two annually – six months of “mutual obligation” activity, followed by six months of “intensive assistance”, followed by six months of “mutual obligation”, etc.

I have just finished my “intensive assistance” period, which probably contrary to outsider expectations, and the everyday meaning of the word, is a time for lying fallow – under IA, dole forms only have to be lodged monthly, and the jobs-gone-for section on the forms goes out the window. Don’t ask me why – all I know is that it suited me, and I’m sure as hell it also suited Sarina Russo (my IA provider), whose property portfolio must be getting ever-fatter, thanks to such nice little taxpayer-funded farces.

Regular readers may, however, be puzzled at this point: haven’t I just been working for the past few months? Most definitely "yes", and earning too much to get even part-dole, at that However, because of previous experience, in spending months trying to get on the dole after a sessional contract had ended (Centrelink wouldn’t budge unless I provided a termination letter, and the uni had never heard of a sessional academic getting such a thing), I decided to keep putting my forms in this time, just to be on the safe side*. This decision was also made easier by the coincidence that I was in IA at the time – I didn’t have to fill out any jobs-gone-for section (which is otherwise a definite requirement if you’re lodging a form, even if you’re working mega-hours at the time. Again, don’t ask why.)

Anyway, also coincidentally, my six months in IA and my three months in gainful employment have ended together, leaving me staring at six months of “mutual obligation”, even before I’ve got my first cent from Centrelink since February. Through some fancy footwork, I managed to put off this day of destiny – aka signing a Preparing for Work Agreement – by a few days. So what, you ask? The difference is that I turn 40 in the interim (this weekend), and Work for the Dole** for the over-39s is a “light duties” type proposition (of about one-third the hours that the under 40s have to serve). Yay, for the first time in my life, I get to play the old-and-feeble card!

I’m also glad that I put off til next week going into Centrelink to sign a new Preparing for Work Agreement, because the other day I got a quite similar letter, requiring me to (probably) sign a quite separate Preparing for Work Agreement – on the same day (but different time), this time at my local Sarina Russo premises. Yay for bureaucratic confusion! (I don’t mind; I’ve got all day to traipse along to both, and it’s easier to turn up in person, than to try and convince someone at Centrelink’s call centre – assuming you can get through, that is – that their computers have gone nutso on my case). And yay for Centrelink taking outsourcing (and so Sarina’s bank balance) one step further – this sort of redundant duplication is so new that it’s not even mentioned, as part of the “One to One Service” those signing PWAs are promised on Centrelink’s website. And finally, yay for Sarina Russo – after six months of fruitlessly giving me “intensive assistance”, they’ve generously decided to take-over some of Centrelink’s paper-work on my case, despite having no formal basis to do so (AFAIK, I am an ex-customer of theirs, and if I’m wrong on this, I sure as hell soon will be - an ex-customer, that is).

For the record, I’ve scanned and reproduced both letters, below.

* If you don’t put forms in, then you go off Centrelink’s books completely.

** As I wrote recently, there are other way of meeting “mutual obligation” apart from doing WfD, choices attractive in comparison, in fact, for almost everybody except those who are, like me, already educated and trained up to our eyeballs.


[Centrelink letterhead]

4 June 2004

Mr Paul J Watson

Dear Mr Watson

You need to come to an interview with us to discuss issues arising from your recent completion of a Centrelink Approved Activity or Program. An appointment has been made for you with a Customer Service Officer.

At this interview you will be required to negotiate and sign a Preparing for Work Agreement, which is an Activity Agreement under the Social Security Act 1991.

Please come to:

Date: 22 June 2004

Time: 03:00 pm


• If you have a Jobseeker diary, please bring it to the interview with you.
• You are required under the Social Security (Administration) Act 1999 to attend this Interview.
• If you don’t attend this appointment or make other arrangements, your payments may be stopped. If you start receiving payments again it may be paid at a reduced rate.
• Please bring this letter with you when you come to the interview.

If this time does not suit you, please get in touch with us within the next three days to make new arrangement. Our address and phone number are at the top of this letter.

At this interview you will be required to negotiate and enter into a Preparing for Work Agreement.

A Preparing for Work Agreement is an Activity Agreement under the Social Security Act 1991.

Failure to enter into an Activity Agreement without a reasonable excuse may result in your payments being stopped or reduced for a period of time.


Please read the back of this letter. It tells you what you should have with you for the interview.


[Centrelink letterhead]

9 June 2004

Mr Paul J Watson

Dear Mr Paul Watson

We have arranged an interview for you with Sarina Russo Job Access (Australia) so that you can discuss the services you are receiving through Job Network.

The purpose of this interview is to negotiate a new Job Search Plan to help you reach your employment goals.

During this interview you may also be required to enter a Preparing for Work Agreement which is a Newstart Activity Agreement under the Social Security Act 1991. Your Job Search Plan forms part of your Preparing for Work Agreement.

Your interview is at:
Time: 11:30 am
Date: Tuesday 22 June 2004
Place: ********

Under the Social Security (Administration) Act 1999 you must attend this interview.

If you do not attend this interview your Newstart Allowance may be stopped or reduced for a period of time.

Under the Social Security Act 1991 if you do attend the interview but fail to negotiate a Preparing for Work Agreement, your payment may be stopped or reduced for a period of time

If you are unable to attend the interview or want to talk about this letter, please call Sarina Russo Job Access (Australia) on ******** before the interview. If necessary, another interview time can be made.

If you have special needs for the interview, such as an interpreter or special building access, please call the above number before the interview, so that arrangements can be made.

We wish you well in your job search.

Centrelink Customer Service Centre Manager

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Frontline charity collectors

This company’s “Info for Jobseekers” page is just hilarious.

Note the three boxes, side-by-side. The first is for GenX Australians, including uni graduates. The hook? “Great money”, “training”, and “[being] passionate about the environment, child welfare, international aid, human rights or finding cures for deadly diseases?”. Next, comes the don’t-worry-about-appealing-to-altruism shpiel directed at twentysomething Pommie backpackers: “Would you like to have your costs subsidised and travel from Cairns to Adelaide, to be paid well to recruit new donors for charities and not-for-profit organisations?”. Finally, there’s this fairly generic appeal to those feeling “desk-bound” in their current employment: “Do you want to earn a good income, get involved with interesting issues, and work for an ethical company that is going places?”.

“An ethical company”? Yeah, right – a chameleon company, more like it. Backpackers are all but explicitly told to not worry about the pretext of working for a charity, while we European passport-less young Australians are expected to suck on the twin delusions of (i) working for a noble cause, and (ii) getting a career, or at least one rung-up on the job ladder out of it. (Note the “training” word here: a company’s employing backpackers and purporting to offer bona-fide career advancement are mutually-exclusive, a priori).

A spokesperson for this company got a bit of a grilling on “A Current Affair” a couple of months ago. The angle of complaint? That its spruikers weren’t really tied to the particular charity whose praises/needs they were singing so loudly on any given day day. From memory, the spokes-guy didn’t really deny that the workers did, from time to time, swap causes from among the company’s roster of clients, but that this was all good in the bigger picture, what with the many jobs his outfit created for "young people".

He didn’t mention the lesser, but still presumably substantial, number of new-ishly created supervisory jobs (of and over the said "young people") – presumably the “ethical company that is going places” oxymoron is boomer code for “Do you want a job pimping on naïve, idealistic GenXers?”

But there are, arguably, still-worse operators in the face-to-face charity collection (“chugging”) game, at least according to this SMH article. Note this massive understatement:

The commission system may boost a charity’s income but the money may come at the cost of good will.

Who would have thought good will could be lost through such practises? Anyone stupid enough to give their credit card number over, in the street, to some fast-talking Pommie git deserves to have it debited for all eternity, if you ask me – I’m more concerned with the corrosion of good will among employees, inter se. How any employer can expect an idealistic, career-focused uni graduate to work alongside backpacker blow-ins is beyond me. Or more accurately, is a scathing testament to the Australian labour market’s deliberate and open contempt for the most talented members of a generation.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Reality TV gets real?

Last week, the Midnight Oil lyric-inspired clichés were flying around thick and fast. This week, it’s the death-by-a-thousand-paper-cuts turn of the reality TV show “Big Brother”. Today's Letters to the Ed in the Oz offer some choice samples, from Alice "for the refugees . . . there isn't a weekly shopping budget, a pool, a spa" Nash, of Brisbane's leafy St Lucia:

I was embarrassed watching, thinking how redneck and arrogant Australians can be#. In this case, conservatism has bred ignorance – spurred and shaped by the Government.

to Kingsbury, Victoria's Andrew Gilbert:

It's the most realistic reality TV ever broadcast.

An honorable mention must also go Attadale, WA's Dean Durber, for almost (he uncharacteristically missed only this week's buzzword) pulling-off the fortnightly cliché quinella:

We are too concerned with establishing a high international profile on the right hand side of our American God . . . Congratulations Merlin Luck. Thanks for showing this country how its beds are burning all over again.

Meanwhile, over in Op Ed land, it's a case of Pull-eaze, Dean Bertram:

Ironically, what was most shocking about Merlin's protest was not the message that it carried but that it was delivered within the medium of a reality TV show; a place where the audience apparently neither expected nor desired to see the unfolding of a real, uncontrolled event.

Regardless of Merlin's intentions, the insight that his protest offered was just how lacking in reality reality TV usually is. His unscripted actions appeared in sharp contrast to our expectations of this kind of programming. Of course, the event was hurriedly appropriated back into the reality TV format.

In fact, “the reality TV format” is just as fluid/“uncontrolled” as (i) whatever rates and (ii) what the sponsors (and other putters-up of the bucks, if applicable) will wear, "retrospectively" if it comes down to it (and on live TV it well might). That Merlin’s protest did no apparent ratings harm might cast a thinking person’s mind back to the 1976 film “Network” (Dir. Sidney Lumet, Wr. Paddy Chayefsky), and forward to today’s Islamofascist snuff film mini-industry. PhD student Dean, on the other hand, is too busy watching the TV show – patiently waiting for the history howlers to come out of the mouths of yoof – to care too much about the bigger picture. Just as well his PhD is as good as written already – Dean knows exactly who’s buttering his bread, when he name-drops in some obligatory 80s yawnsters (here, Jean Baudrillard and Umberto Eco).

As for the sponsors: why does the average PhD arts student’s conception of “reality” never extend to financial reality? “Big Brother” is obviously expensive to produce, and it’s on free-to-air TV; ergo, someone has to pay – lots – for it. While I don’t personally care about the balance-sheets of the sundry fast-food merchants and purveyors of fine household disinfectants who infest the ad-breaks of the show, Dean Bertram could have showed a bit more sympathy for the studio audience, many of whom were booing the stone-faced, silent Merlin. All of these people paid – up to $85 each – to see a show. And every show has its climax, of which the immediate post-eviction debrief (i.e. the five minutes for which Merlin chose to be silent) is clearly the let’s-all-do-the-can-can moment for a “Big Brother” live eviction. (Sounds weird, particularly if you haven’t seen the show, and your tastes run to giant chandelier-type musicals, but it’s true.)

Finally, there’s the curious, coincidental overlap of the Merlin incident with transsexual Miriam’s brief stay in the “Big Brother” house. Proving the aphorism* that left-leaning PhD students should not live on 80s’ theory alone, comes this rather off-colour observation:

Viewer Hayden Robson, 41, of Springvale, said he was delighted by Luck's message. "So the network that's had Miriam in there, setting the sexual agenda, does not like other social agendas being set for it," he said.

Err, Hayden – if the sight of a good-time lovin’ transsexual in a house (two-thirds) full of sex-starved straight young men doesn’t rate for you – fine. As long as you’re aware that “agendas” are often only as good as the person spouting them, and your little hate-tinged spray (since when was transsexuality an “agenda”?) does worse than nothing for your cause. As does, I suspect, Merlin’s hijacking of his own debriefing – every “What happened to the show?” booer in that crowd could henceforth have a heart, on the mandatory detention issue, as stony as was Merlin’s face the other night (and quite properly so, IMO).

# (16/06/04) I can't recall which Continental high-priest of Theory observed that TV studio audiences were only ever the drop of a cue away from turning into a bloodlusting Nuremberg-rally crowd, but I'm sure there was one.

* Which I just made up, of course.

Friday, June 11, 2004

Paul Watson admits “I was wrong on baby boomers”

Yes, it’s true – stereotyping people on the basis of age is intellectual sloppy. More immediately though, attributing behaviour to a class can result in an epistomological catch-22: when the stereotypical attributes are found in an unusually high degree in one individual (member of the class), there is simply no adequate word to describe him/her.

Hence, I need to say here that baby boomers generally are fine and dandy. But Melbourne’s Professor Sam Ball is not one of them. On the contrary, Ball is a fuckwit of monstrous proportions, a living testament to how some soixante-huitards deserve to be force-fed until they choke on their little Robert Pirsig chapbooks.

In 1968, Ball was in America, working as “director of research and evaluation” for a proposed children’s television show, “Sesame Street”. Which might actually make him too old to be a boomer, but I’m going to go with a hunch, and put Ball in that job at 22 y.o. Ball’s smugness is a giveaway here:

[W]e made a major effort to develop a values orientation . . . “Sesame Street” decided to show children of different backgrounds playing together. It also decided to show preschoolers that it was OK to make mistakes when you are learning. Think Big Bird.

But these kinds of decisions were based on the views of parents and not just the whim of the writers or producers.

Oh, how truly radical – Ball and his team of underlings decided to include black people on a kids show! And not only that, their decision to do so was certifiably whim-free and 100% parent-approved.

Taking Ball’s argument to its logical conclusion, each children’s television show in Australia should have a full-time Research and Evaluation Department*, to develop and refine a “values orientation” based on the continual focus-group testing of parents.

Some would call this a pointless waste of money, but living the high life on the taxpayer teat comes naturally for Ball, then and now (he is currently CEO of the Victorian Board of Studies, the body that sets the school curriculum).

As to why Ball simply presumes that in 2004, Australian parental-values recoil in horror at the sight of a lesbian couple (with children!) is a moot point. My guess is that his much-vaunted parental-approved thang for “Sesame Street” was a crock to begin with, and Ball’s Research and Evaluation Department was never too concerned with the wearing-down-the-shoe-leather stuff. Certainly, a goodly proportion of white American parents would have, in 1968, thought that showing black kids playing with white kids was, to use the modern term “political correctness in the extreme”.

But hey, that’s Ball, and a minority of baby boomers for you. They spent their youth in cushy jobs in which they only had to pretend to work, and then towards the other end of their working life they get immense satisfaction by pointing out how wrong some things are, and how they could and should be fixed by throwing money at the problem and employing arrogant young tossers.

Professor Sam Ball – what a piece of vapid, self-righteous scum.

* Ball’s job was no pilot-project-only one: the position of director of research and evaluation at “Sesame Street” apparently continues to this day. Nice work if you can get it.

Thursday, June 10, 2004

Peter Garrett and “Gay School”

The right-wing Catholics who are the Labor bedrock of Kingsford Smith have so far refrained from throwing the ultimate knock-out punch at Peter Garrett. Being people to hold long grudges (or so it is reputed), they should now be reminding Garrett of what Labor did to him during the 1984 Federal election, at which he came within a whisker of a Senate seat for the Nuclear Disarmament Party, and was only defeated because Labor preferenced the Liberals ahead of him.

Thus, I would have thought, the local branch wotries could quite reasonably argue that either: (i) Garrett has the moral consistency and memory of jelly (at least by right-wing Catholic Labor standards), or (ii) he should not be trusted, as he must be merely biding his time ino order to take sweet revenge on Labor, revenge as a dish served very cold, in this case.

As for the Latham-in-the-Lodge merits of Garrett, I’m a bit confused. Many say he’ll be good for the yoof vote, while Andrew Norton correctly points out that Midnight Oil fans of their 80s heyday are now well into their 30s. Certainly, that’s me. At the Oils’ Kooyong stadium gig in 1985, I badly sprained my ankle in the moshpit, but somehow moshed-on, one-legged. That night was also the high-point of the Oils musically, as far as I’m concerned – January 1986’s long-awaited “Red Sails in the Sunset” was a big disappointment, especially after “10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1” (easily one of the ten best albums of last century) and its under-rated precursor “Place Without A Postcard”.

Similarly, the mid-80s were the high-point of Peter Garrett’s politics. I voted NDP in 1984 and, unlike Garrett, I still value principles above political convenience. AFAIK, Garrett is yet to announce the effect of his Labor candidature on his current position as president of the Australian Conservation Foundation. And as far as that body goes, when the Garrett-factor is combined the recent Trish Caswell debacle*, the ACF is starting to look perilously like a grooming academy for flaky sell-outs.

Otherwise, the Garrett candidature has over-shadowed what is actually a much more important story: the “Gay School” controversy. On the morning the story broke, I made light of it, assuming that the predictable homophobic blowhards, a la Fred Nile, would weight in for a day or two, then the whole thing would be forgotten, and everyone move on. Clearly, I was wrong – most especially in underestimating the listening-to-the-shock-jocks basis of Mark Latham’s policy (in this respect, Latham joins the PM, of course).

“Gay School” is an appeal to censorship and prejudice, plain and simple. Unlike the controversy over gay marriage, where IMO the balance of convenience* lies with leaving things as they are, the implications of the shock-jock/Lathamite line on “Gay School” are frightening. And if Nicole Brady and I are representative of inner-city left-leaning voters, Labor has just lost two votes, because of “Gay School”, for every vote that they could possibly hope to pick-up thanks to Garrett and his “Arnie” factor.

Correction 11 June 2004

As noted in the comments box, Peter Garrett has resigned as ACF president. For whatever reason, this fact - effective from the afternoon of Wednesday 9 June - received scant media coverage.

* Caswell, a former head of the ACF, is now boss of the Victorian Association of Forest Industries

** a legal concept, used for deciding when an injunction (= urgent legal remedy) should be granted.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Kick it to me, cry boomers . . .

. . . when “it” is the pleasure of being incessantly marketed to

What is the jarring disconnect in this upbeat Op Ed by Leon Gettler?

It could be (but it isn’t), the weirdness of wanting to be marketed to – when for most everyone else, omnipresent advertising is the bane of their existence. Because poofterdom has actually been-there-done-that (with the “pink dollar” thing of the 90s), I’ll allow the boomers to have with this one. Yes, they are running with a once-fashionable idea – that being rich enough to Be Especially Marketed To – is a thing worth shouting about. For gays, the pink dollar sloganeering of the 90s was presumably an acceptable, if not desirable, proxy for basic civil rights – things which hetero boomers have never once been short of during their lives. But who am I to cavil with boomers copy-catting, a decade too late, that which was a bad idea in the first place, and without a shred of the original’s underlying conviction?

Nor is “it” the last-kid-picked-for the-footy-team sense of self-pity sought to be elicited by stats such as these:

With one study showing that 80 per cent of people in marketing and advertising are younger than 40 and 50 per cent younger than 30 . . . the people selling the products and services ha[ve] trouble understanding older consumers.

So the whole marketing industry is inherently ageist? Bullshit: marketers, like hookers, naturally gravitate to wherever the dollars are. And they ain’t fussy about age when it comes to servicing their clients – marketers, that is (Some hookers, at least, have standards).

Plus the relative youthfulness of the marketing industry hides a truth that most boomers well-understand, but prefer to keep mum about. Like corporate law, IT-project work and media monitoring, the big money in marketing is made by charge-out arbitrage – clients are charged a multiple (usually at least of four times) of what the employee doing the actual work receives. Even once employee on-costs are factored in, the mark-up on this human cattle (sorry, capital) is usually well north of 100%. And remember that this is money for nothing – unless you count lunching with other boomers as “work”. Needless to say, the capitalists in this scenario are almost all boomers (or older) and the serfs GenX.

Well what is “it”, then? It’s quite simple – nothing more, in fact, than the curious inclusion of some stats in Gettler’s article:

Research from the National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling at the University of Canberra showed that by 2003, 40 to 54-year-olds held an estimated 38 per cent of total household wealth, up from 33 per cent in 1986. In contrast, the share of total wealth held by 25 to 39-year-olds declined from 27 to 19 per cent over the same period.

The stats are old news, of course, and at first I was mystified what they were doing in the article anyway. Wouldn’t it have been better for Gettler to state boomer wealth/disposable-income/whatever in “$X billion” terms, rather than to remind GenX that boomers are not, in large part, wealthier because they are older, but they are wealthier because GenX is poorer. (Here, it’s a funny thing* that white-collar charge-out arbitrage was an industry barely known before the mid-80s, when the massive wealth transfer from the – once-upon-a-time, anyway – home-buying and kid-rearing age** to the middle-aged began in earnest.)

Then I realised why Gettler saw fit to be rubbing salt into GenX’s wounds. The boomers’ “We want you to take our 'grey dollar'-stuffed wallets off us, and we want it now!” campaign is, after all, about civil rights. Gettler, who I’m guessing is Jewish, may have unusual prescience in foreseeing a c.2006, 1930s German-style PlasmaScreen-nacht; in which GenX’s anger explodes across the land, from boomer lounge (sorry, media) rooms to boomers’ fusion restaurants.

Not that I would condone such a rampage, of course. I do note, however, the lesson the gay movement learnt from its ill-fated “pink dollar” escapade: once you start shopping for your civil rights, then you truly shop till you drop.

* Ken Parish would call this a mere coincidence, of course.

** See this letter to the ed from Les MacDonald. The telling fact is he has to remind the nation that today’s 25 to 39-year-olds have the same needs as those of that age group in the 1980s.

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Unemployed at last

It’s a good week to be sitting in front of the box; with “Angels in America” a six-hour telemovie, on for the next three nights, and “Miriam” going into the "Big Brother" house on Friday. I was going to add Mark Latham’s being interviewed on “Rove” tonight (a first for a major party federal leader, as far as I know), but since his gutless cave-in on the “Gay School” controversy, I’m now quite sure that Latham is a man altogether bereft of a sense of humour, or perspective. Just like Rove (the TV persona, not the live stand-up), in fact. Bland and blander can go fuck each other, then.

As far as “Angels in America” goes, I read the two-volume play in 1994 – and thought it fantastic. Here is a rah-rah American take on the telemovie; in today’s Oz, Peter Craven offers – as would be expected – a more muted, although still quite favourable, assessment.

Craven, who is gay himself, obviously needs to get out more – in both senses of the word – what with lines like this:

It's as if AIDS has impelled Kushner to create his gay characters, but he has nothing much to do with them – at least when they're interacting – except play ring-a-ring-a-rosie with the actuality of their homosexuality.

So there’s actually something else out there, other than playing the game of self-referential poofter-dom? If you’ve actually stumbled on such a thing, Peter, you owe it to gay humanity to share the secret. Oh, and does it come in magenta boucle?

Not content with rewriting the laws of physics as they apply to gaydom, Craven’s review goes on to even dogier ground here:

Compared with “Angels”, Stephen Sewell's terrorism play “Myth, Propaganda and Disaster in Nazi Germany and Contemporary America” – a play which some people thought was over the top – is a masterpiece of sophistication and political intelligence brought to life. It comes out of more mature vision and Sewell knows how to dramatise his politics.

I saw “Myth, Propaganda and Disaster” last year, and it was a crock. This review by Tim Richards picks up its main weaknesses, but personally, I would have been much nastier. Here, it’s not that I don’t see the prospect, post 9/11, of state power being abused under the guise of “security”; it’s just that I find it ludicrous that universities - cowering and gutted as they are by two decade of undermining by the Right - would be central stage in such a crackdown. As Tim Ferguson alluded the other day, the reality would/will be much less prosaic – and a lot scarier.

Plus, "Angels” is, of course, set in the 80s. Again, if Peter Craven knows a single instance of "mature vision" from (or about) that decade, then stop press - the history books are going to have to be rewritten to the effect that the 80s weren't, after all, time of big hair, big lunches, and naive undergrads, oblivious to the fundamentalist revolutions happening all around them.

Sunday, June 06, 2004

Ministerial responsibility and Mal Brough

Why is Labor so pissweak, when it comes to taking the high ground (and preferably, then attacking) on important domestic policy issues – like unemployment. Ever since Channel Nine (onya, Kez) gave the Libs a free kick against so-called dolebludgers just before the 1996 election, government policy in this area has been characterised by two things: (i) ongoing demonisation of the unemployed, and (ii) (more recently) a shocking waste of taxpayer funds.

Speaking as a freshly-(re)minted member of the unemployed, and as one who was a taxpayer until a couple of days ago, Labor should, of course, be concentrating on the second of these aspects. Instead, we get Labor employment services spokesman Anthony Albanese urging the Government to apologise to job seekers for "vilifying them". Actually, Anthony, I don’t think the unemployed particularly want an apology – and since you personally seem to be a fan of the “kiss it better” school of remedial economics, perhaps you could lead by example – having my anus caressed by your tongue may only be a temporary salve, but it would sure mean a lot more to me than a few words from whoever into my ear (but hey, I'm shallow like that).

For my earlier travails on the misdeeds of Employment Services Minister Mal Brough, see here and here.
If (non-existent) WMDs in Iraq were, IMO, a justifiable – just – pretext for invading Iraq and so hopefully sending Saudi Arabia and its oil to the nether regions that they most assuredly belong in, the furphy of (non-existent) dolebludgers surely deserves double the amount of attention/marching-in-the-street/whatever from the Left that the Iraq war has been getting. Moreover, Mal Brough, even from his media statements, has left a nice paper trial along his stumbling way, whereas the WMD issue only winds back into a thicket of woulda/coulda/shoulda.

The facts are plain – the privatised Job Network has, particularly since its last (July 2003) revamp, been an expensive failure, motivated only by bloody-minded ideology, and/or the desire to enrich shonks such as property developer cum employment services (sic) provider (sic), Sarina Russo.

It’s time to fall on your sword, and/or be swung from your pathetic, single bad apple "tree", Mal Brough.

Saturday, June 05, 2004

Sex slave trial update

After originally being scheduled for September 2003, the trial of Melbourne’s Wei Tang, her husband John Davies, Paul Pick and Donporn Srimonthon has finally commenced.

In a rare instance of first-hand reportage by this blog, I can state that Tang and Davies moved out of their home (which was also the domicile of the alleged slaves) at 27 Rae Street, North Fitzroy in late 2003, after which a “For Lease” sign went up. Prior to this, mail built up at the premises’ letterbox for a considerable period. Therefore, I’d be surprised if Tang is indeed still “of North Fitzroy”, as this report claims.

While the trial is still in its early days, it has already seen one significant development: the withdrawal of all (5) sex-slavery charges against Davies, leaving him facing just one count of perverting the course of justice.

Otherwise, the 50 y.o. Davies seems to have remained on board as a senior executive at the Australian Taxation Office throughout the last year.

While Davies and his wife are entitled to a presumption of innocence at this stage, I find it remarkable that the ATO stillhas not a batted an eyelid over a fact that is not in any dispute – this holder of a very sensitive public office is married to a licensed (= “legal”) brothel-keeper. Which is itself no crime, of course.

However, given the milieu that Davies would inevitably be mixing in as a result of his wife’s position (quite apart from the current charges), his ongoing tenure at the ATO suggests that senior executives being socially associated with the criminal underworld is seen to be nothing out of the ordinary for and by that organisation.

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