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Who do you trust?

By John Tomlinson - posted Thursday, 8 November 2007

In February this year I wrote:

The Howard Government will be remembered for progressive gun control in the aftermath of the Port Arthur massacre, helping to liberate East Timor from Indonesia, drawing Australia into the Iraq morass, the expansion of Federal control (particularly in the area of Work Choices), balaclavas on the wharves, attacks on the welfare state (particularly its crackdown on single parents, disability support pensioners and unemployed people), repressive treatment of asylum seekers arriving without visas, paternal intervention in Indigenous affairs, neglect of David Hicks’ rights as an Australian citizen and taking over of the Murray Darling River system. (Howard's gone to water).


In that article I stated that: "In political terms, it matters not one jot whether Howard’s plan delivers more water, better environmental outcomes or more secure water supply to irrigators. The next election will be well and truly over before the outcome of the Howard plan can be assessed. So Howard is running on water and Rudd’s joined the swim". Before concluding that:

Clever, consistent politician that he is, nothing will save Howard from losing the next election. The Government, even with its new faces, looks tired and all the spin in the world won’t be enough to hide its 2007 use-by date. There are just too many people who have woken up to the fact that they have been conned by clever words and half truths. They want a change and will turn to the dream team to provide it.

Many of my friends at the time suggested I was being overly optimistic about the chances of a Rudd-Gillard victory. Since that time, the public opinion polls have consistently shown Labor maintaining a strong lead.

In the February article I suggested that the Murray-Darling water plan would be the last major initiative of this government. I was wrong is one particular regard. The intervention in Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory announced in June is an initiative in Aboriginal policy, albeit one that returns us to the 1960s (See Altman, J. and Hinkson, M .(eds.) [2007] Coercive reconciliation. Arena, North Carlton). Minister Brough has even re-established the old ration voucher system for groceries that I had had to utilise when I worked as a social worker in the NT Welfare Branch between 1965 and 68.


In late June I wrote:

Howard’s failure to address the practical problems confronting Indigenous people is a disgrace. Over the last 11 years the Government he leads has not significantly improved the health, housing, sanitation, employment, nutrition and even access to clean drinking water confronting the majority of Indigenous Australians in most rural and remote areas.

To rub salt into the wound he has denigrated those who have requested he come to terms with the need for symbolic reconciliation. He has refused to say "sorry". He has demonised those who have sought self-determination for Indigenous Australians.

Now, in the dying days of his government, he is again attempting to stir up a storm of moral panic about the mess that confronts many Indigenous communities in rural and remote areas of this continent. It’s time he admitted that his government’s policies and actions are a substantial part of the practical problems facing Indigenous Australians (We are having a 'save the Aboriginal children' blitzkrieg).

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About the Author

Dr John Tomlison is a visiting scholar at QUT.

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