Cross Post: Terry Barnes – Constitutional smoking ceremony

The push for changing our Constitution to recognise explicitly the special status in Australia of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders is well and truly on, but misguided. Tony Abbott is sincerely passionate about combating Aboriginal disadvantage, as his volunteer work in remote communities shows. He wants a new preamble adopted by referendum by May 2017, the fiftieth anniversary of the historic 1967 vote. Whilst Noel Pearson proposes both a Declaration of Recognition outside the Constituion (which we support) as well as an Indigenous advisory body in the Constitution (which we don’t), others like Mr Abbott’s chief Indigenous adviser Warren Mundine fear this proposal could stymie Recognition – as he writes in this issue. Good ol’ Bill Shorten simply plays contrarian and says symbolic recognition doesn’t go far enough anyway.

When the Recognise campaign launched in early 2013, Abbott and Julia Gillard made dignified and genuinely heartfelt parliamentary speeches. Both placed a constitutional amendment in a line of social evolution running through the ‘67 removal of provisions empowering the Commonwealth to make laws in relation to Aborigines, and Kevin Rudd’s 2008 national apology to the so-called ‘stolen generation’. This month, John Howard said he too supports recognition ‘because it asserts an indisputable fact’.

Outspoken Recognisers happily appropriate Abraham Lincoln’s ‘better angels of our nature’: a favourite Abbott quotation. While appealing to our sense of moral duty, they lay on collective inherited guilt for the many wrongs done to Aborigines from Captain Cook’s landing at Botany Bay onwards. The sins of the fathers are visited on current and future Australians who had no part in past wrongs: not just by bleeding hearts, but conservatives, too.

But constitutionally enshrining Aborigines’ status over all others sends a powerful message that one group of Australians is more special than the rest. That their ancestors were here first is undeniable, but singling them out in our foundation document puts them on a pedestal of which no other Australian is considered worthy. Is that right, or fair, in a country that prides itself on its egalitarianism?

Like Rudd’s apology, symbolic constitutional recognition might help the tone of the national conversation, but won’t undo the past. We can only build the future as we wish to build it, so let’s just get on with what Howard called ‘practical reconciliation’: sensible policy and programmes supporting Aboriginal communities and people to better help themselves. Feel-good words might warm urban white elite hearts: a sort of constitutional smoking ceremony and about as authentic. But they won’t make a jot of difference to the quality of Aborigines’ lives in the cities or the bush. Such words would be like the black character, Token, in the television series South Park: visible but having no real purpose. What’s more, our melting pot of a country draws on the skills, talents, cultures and social and economic contributions of people from all over the world, not just Aborigines or those from Britain and Ireland. Shouldn’t this collective contribution be acknowledged, not just one group of Australians?

Surely the only form of Aboriginal recognition that matters is in our hearts and minds, and that’s where great progress has been made since ‘67. Singling out Aboriginal and Islanders in our constitution might honour them, but implicitly relegates everyone else to the second division and risks creating ammunition for the few racist extremists. Instead, everyone should be equal in the eyes of each other regardless of race, and certainly must be equal before a colour-blind law. As for Aboriginal advancement, will constitutional symbolism help advance their social and economic conditions any more than they are being advanced now? Sadly, no. If recognition passes, indigenous life expectancy and unemployment rates will still be shameful, and remote Aboriginal communities will still struggle with Third World living conditions. Chronic problems with grog, nutrition and family violence will still confront too many Aborigines and Islanders. That’s where the Coalition and Labor must focus their energies, not on symbolic gestures changing little. Above all, there will still be the Aboriginal industry of parasitic bureaucrats and consultants, activists and lobbyists, who thrive on perpetuating Aboriginal victimhood on one hand, and talking up Middle Australia’s guilt on the other. Constitutional recognition will simply embolden such rent-seekers to reach even deeper into taxpayers’ pockets. What’s proposed instead paradoxically would address discrimination by enshrining positive discrimination. A strong but wrong message would be sent to all Australians that, while we are all equal, our Constitution would say some are more equal than others. Defending recognition recently, Alan Tudge MP wrote of: ‘includ(ing) the Aboriginal face in our national family portrait’. But as Pearson, Mundine, and even Adam Goodes attest, that face is already there, front and centre. No smoking ceremony is needed.

This article first appeared in the print edition of The Spectator magazine, dated 27 June 2015

This entry was posted in Cross Post, Federal Politics. Bookmark the permalink.

48 Responses to Cross Post: Terry Barnes – Constitutional smoking ceremony

  1. Rabz

    The referendum has two chances of getting up.

    None and Buckley’s.

    But what the hell, let’s just throw away millions of taxpayers’ dollars flogging this dead horse anyway.

    Morons.

  2. AP

    I saw an ad on telly from the Recognise campaign, and it claimed our constitution allowed discrimination against Aboriginals. What a disgraceful misrepresentation of our constitution, which actually punishes states that would pass laws that discriminate against Aboriginals.

  3. john malpas

    And what should the many immigrants do?
    This Australian preocupation with aboriginals seems increasingly bizarre. Especially as there is so few of them and the total population growing deliberatly – diverse.
    As well – is this not the racism we are all compelled to reject.

  4. Louis

    These idiots play with fire.

    I love how they claim that Aboriginals can’t be considered equal until they are legally required to be considered special. That they don’t have a voice in government until they get their own special representative body (which would quickly be dominated by a bunch of formerly white Aboriginals pushing socialist environmentalist causes). I wonder how many Aboriginals stay at home on polling day whenever there is an election actually thinking that they aren’t allowed to vote?

    Additional land rights, additional heritage preservation rights, additional courts, additional housing, health and welfare programs, additional defences to criminal acts, additional scholarships…I wish I was so disadvantaged by such discrimination!

  5. Like the Rudd apology, did one more Aboriginal child get breakfast the next day?
    Did one less Aboriginal child get molested the next night?
    Did one more Aboriginal child get to spend a fruitful day in school the next day?
    And did one less Aboriginal woman get beaten and raped by a drunk Aboriginal man?
    Not one.
    This is symbolism of the worst kind – it achieves nothing for the Aboriginal people, but it achieves a warm inner glow for the luvvies.
    Change the Constitution so the Left can award themselves more meaningless accolades and emo baubles?
    NO!

  6. Fred Lenin

    The dismal condition of aboriginals and perpetually unemployed whites is self inflicted . Drunken drugged laziness cannot be cured by Bullshitb,no matter what the Stupid elitists think . The only way to get on in life is to get off your Butt and work , some aboriginals were assimilating into society well ,untill the useless elites gave them free money and victimology to play with ,like all illiterates they found this better than discipline and work . The only time these useless mouths are disciplined is when they are in jail which with most of tgem is a lot of the time . Free them from socialist opression ! Make them Work ,and leave the constitution alone it wasnt written by socialists .

  7. Alfonso

    If Tone gets his Catholic guilt assuaged by his ‘racial privilege forever’ Referendum he will not be able to prevent activist High Court Judges using it to provide legal “context” to the rest of the Constitution. Imagine this Preamble in the hands of the next Justice Kirby.

  8. Sirocco

    ‘because it asserts an indisputable fact’. What fact is that? “That their ancestors were here first is undeniable”? That is highly contentious.
    Just what evidence is there for the aboriginals claim to “first” status? It is clear from the fossil record that Homo erectus had been in Java for over a million years until the arrival of H.sapiens about 50,000 years ago. There was co-existence until the disappearance of H erectus from the record about 30,000 years ago. There were many fluctuations of sea levels during the million years H. erectus was in Java, and it is perfectly conceivable that they entered the australian landmass during that immense time span. Having got to Java from Africa, why would they not continue the journey?
    H. sapiens was a late arrival in Java and H. erectus soon disappeared. Was this their fate also in Australia? There is serious doubt as to “first” status as claimed by aboriginals.

    And is it asserted that there was only one wave of immigration during the 50,000 years? Just one wave of “first” people? Sea levels rose and fell with regularity during that time, and there would have been successive waves of peoples. So who was here “first” and what does that mean? Early explorers commented on the fact the tasmanian aboriginals looked more “african” than mainlanders, a pointer that there were indeed many waves of immigrants.

    That they were here before europeans in an indisputable fact, but it is disputable they were here first, whatever that means.

  9. Woolfe

    How does one define an Aboriginal and is definition not racist? How many generations do you go back? Humanity originally came from Africa so are we not all Aboriginal?

    And what is the point? What will be achieved? Cui Bono?

  10. Botswana O'Hooligan

    One would doubt that the military in the first fleet treated the aborigines any differently from the way they treated their own soldiers or convicts because generally the British are a fair minded lot and they would have flogged or hung miscreants anyhow no matter what their skin colour was as a matter of course. One might opine that the aborigines were particularly lucky that the British did settle Australia for other nations probably would have done a bit of ethnic cleansing and thus solved our present problem. We can argue the toss about all this forever because we have been arguing the toss and throwing money at the problem for a long time and it hasn’t resolved the problem one little bit, and it never will until the aborigines themselves decide to lift their game.

    Should we recognise aboriginals in the constitution, a racist act in my opinion anyway, and would we only recognise full blood aborigines for anyone with a drop of so called “white” blood in them should be disqualified from being a “first person.” Who would we have to judge the question of a persons blood content that would either qualify or disqualify them for first person status for at the moment it appears that just about anyone can call themselves an aborigine if they feel so inclined and are accepted What a field day the legal people would have over that one, and if all and sundry with but a drop of aboriginal blood in them were allowed first person status and get all the welfare and other benefits, what would the cost to the taxpayer be?

  11. mundi

    Any one who has ever been involved in these issues knows that it’s only about money.

    They don’t stop at getting a claim on land, they demand the government lease the land perpetually, providing a nice little income stream for anyone they accept as part of their community.

    Have a look at the regions where private ownership of land is banned, they want it that way. The government has to pay the aboriginals for the right to use their own land to build them public housing. Is there anything more insane?

  12. The government has to pay the aboriginals for the right to use their own land to build them public housing. Is there anything more insane?

    The government has to pay the tribe for the right to use the land upon which sits the community health centre.

    It is more complex than that. For first the government has to negotiate with the tribe for the right to build them a health centre.

  13. Mk50 of Brisbane, Henchman to the VRWC

    So the left wants Australia to introduce apartheid?

    Told you leftism was, by definition, racist.

  14. incoherent rambler

    Who would we have to judge the question of a persons blood content that would either qualify or disqualify them for first person status …

    Blood testing would have problems and would be just another medicare scam.
    We could try using “traditional lifestyle” as the benchmark. So only those who do not use the products of European culture. e.g. Landcruisers, cloth, electricity, petrol, alcohol, steel, …

  15. duncanm

    That their ancestors were here first is undeniable

    No.. their ancestors were here before us, but there’s strong evidence they weren’t the first.

  16. Richard H

    Fred: While I am inclined to sympathise with your comment about “self inflicted” damage – a comment that as you implied applies to all regardless of race – there is an elephant in the room on this issue that no-one wants to talk about and most refuse to believe is even present.

    The elephant is the persistent and well-documented difference in the average intelligence of racial groups. The cold, hard truth is that, on average, indigenous Australians have significantly lower intelligence than white Australians: the Pearsons and Mundines are of course far from average, just as the “perpetually unemployed whites” are far from average in the other direction.

    The general refusal to recognise this means that most attempts to lift remote Aborigines out of their often dire circumstances are doomed to failure. To quote James Watson (talking about Africa): “all our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours – whereas all the testing says not really”. That comment, of course, was so unacceptable that it ended his career. But no-one proved him to be wrong.

  17. old bloke

    One would doubt that the military in the first fleet treated the aborigines any differently from the way they treated their own soldiers or convicts because generally the British are a fair minded lot

    Quite so Botswana. Our first Governor, Arthur Phillip, made it quite clear from the outset of European settlement that the Aborigines were to be treated as equals under the law, and any settler who mistreated an Aborigine would be punished. Phillip personally demonstrated his commitment to this law on a visit to what is nowadays Manly Cove in Sydney Harbour.

    When he arrived, accompanied by some Royal Marines, a local aborigine speared him in the shoulder. The Marines raised their muskets to fire on the aborigines but Phillip, with the spear still lodged in his shoulder, ordered them not to fire. He ordered his escort to capture the man, which they did and Phillip then had him released without punishment after commenting on his “manly appearance” (hence, the place name Manly these days).

    Some individual white settlers have acted poorly to Aborigines, but there never was a Government decree authorising genocide, and many European settlers who did murder Aborigines ended up swinging on a rope. Phillip deserves more praise for establishing non-racist guidelines and laws governing European settlement in Australia than he has received, and I wonder if he hasn’t received these accolades because he was a Jew.

  18. JimD

    “Is there anything more insane?”
    Yep.
    Mabo got Native title over an island, the borders of which are indisputable, probably fair enough.
    Post Mabo , Govt funded, the mainlanders have chopped the country up via GPS to claim Native Title.
    The Tribunal was carefully considering things but not handing out Title quick enough for Roxon & Co.
    Enter the Labor stacked Federal Court to speed things up.
    Ironically , at least in the claim we’re involved in, it’s slowed things down somewhat because all started over again and the claimants have been arguing amongst themselves before the Court for 4 or more years as to who the rightful claimants should be. All courtesy of taxpayer funded Aboriginal Legal Service..
    That’s Insane.

  19. Oh come on

    The government has to pay the tribe for the right to use the land upon which sits the community health centre.

    Sounds perfectly reasonable in a country where people are willing to ascribe property to them due to their backburning via the purchase of carbon credits supposedly generated as a result of this activity.

  20. old bloke

    Just what evidence is there for the aboriginals claim to “first” status?

    Given that the Aborigine’s DNA indicates mixed African and Indian antecedents, I would suggest that their claim to first status is in doubt. The early Phoenician explorers and miners who appeared in Australia brought with them slaves purchased in Sudan and the Indus Valley to work their mines, which would date their arrival in Australia to around 3,000 years ago. I would suggest that freed slaves or run-aways would explain the Afro-Indian DNA in Aborigines these days.

  21. mark

    Simple. The constitution amended to enshrine the individual. All reference to groups or races be removed.
    The power of the clan must never be enhanced by or enshrined within the constitution.

    Post Mabo land disputes are rife with nepotism and avarice. The correct clan may not be the most numerous or strongest. Land rights enshrines the clan. This needs to be modified to allow individual ownership within the town boundary. Every effort must be made to protect and empower the individual before and above the clan mentality.

    Section 51 must be amended to remove the ability of the commonwealth to legislate with respect to race or special group. All recognition of race or group as special or separate from the majority must be removed. I firmly believe this was the thrust of the ’67 referendum…to have our indigenous peoples accepted fully as individual Australians.

  22. duncanm

    Given that the Aborigine’s DNA indicates mixed African and Indian antecedents, I would suggest that their claim to first status is in doubt

    Indeed – Mungo man (amongst others) has been shown to be unrelated to Aborigines, possibly from an extinct species.

  23. gabrianga

    If you went round and sat down with the occupants of all the Aboriginal outstations in Australia this discussion about “recognition”, referendums,, land use would not arise.

    Go to a gathering of a Solidarity, union officials Aboriginal activists, black, white, brindle and these items are top of the Left’s agenda.

    The Left’s agenda to use the “Aboriginal cause” has has been the case long before Gough “handed back” a handful of dirt to Lingiari.

    Abbott’s choice of “advisers” is,, in my opinion, the result of dodgy advice from “experts” such as Mundine, Pearson ,Langton Ah Kit and the Dog Brothers The “New ATSIC.

    Comrades Dreaming?

  24. Austin Mangosteen

    Speaking of blood—which is thicker than water, and we do not want to dilute anybody’s rights—why not test everyone’s blood today, before we get into the necessity of testing DNA. If the blood types of Aborigines are not any of the four principal types: A, B, AB, and O, then they may have a case that warrants DNA testing. If Aborigines possess the four principal blood types then they are no different from the rest of us who do.

  25. johanna

    All this stuff about blood testing, DNA, who was here first and so on is the essence of racism.

    FFS, it doesn’t matter.

    All of us who are Australians, whether by citizenship or birth, should be equal under the law, including its highest instrument, the Constitution.

    The provisions in the Constitution relating to race were put there to address some anomalies between State and Federal governments. That’s all ancient history now. All gone, no longer needed.

    This is another Abbott blunder, which will not win him any votes from his enemies, but alienates his potential friends. But then, he supported inserting local government into the Constitution, which highlights just what a blind spot he has about constitutional law.

  26. jupes

    Additional land rights, additional heritage preservation rights, additional courts, additional housing, health and welfare programs, additional defences to criminal acts, additional scholarships…I wish I was so disadvantaged by such discrimination!

    Spot on.

  27. jupes

    One might opine that the aborigines were particularly lucky that the British did settle Australia for other nations probably would have done a bit of ethnic cleansing and thus solved our present problem.

    Every nation that was settled by the English was particularly lucky.

  28. Biota

    The absence of funding for a NO case says that the YES case is on weak grounds so they want to impose it rather then earn it. Much the same as the ‘science is settled’ meme for CAGW.

  29. Boambee John

    Woolfe and Botswana (11:19 and next post):

    As it now seems essential that we accept the right of individuals to “identify” as whatever they feel to be (people with penises as women, people with pale skin and north European ancestors as African Americans, et al) the solution is for everyone to “identify” as indigenous (note, not aboriginal) and then to scream “racist” when challenged.

  30. Leigh Lowe

    I discovered an interesting racket about a three months ago whilst helping prepare a Government tender for works out past the black stump.
    Of course, every red-tape box has to be ticked including Indigenous Cultural Heritage, which involves “extensive consultation” (ie effective right of veto).
    But here’s the thing.
    Anyone from the Witchety Grub tribe who wants to come to the consultative meetings can do so … and get paid for it.
    So think about that one.
    Even if the Witchety Grub tribe actually want the development, how quickly do you think they give their “cultural assent” whilst they can pick up a lazy $200 to have a snooze time and again whilst whitey draws on the whitey board?

  31. Leigh Lowe

    As it now seems essential that we accept the right of individuals to “identify” as whatever they feel to be (people with penises as women, people with pale skin and north European ancestors as African Americans, et al) the solution is for everyone to “identify” as indigenous (note, not aboriginal) and then to scream “racist” when challenged.

    I heard a good one the other day on radio.
    A woman was complaining that, as a member of a “gold prospecting/fossicking” social club that, if they have an outing in a National Park involving more than twenty members, they have to seek approval from the local tribe.
    Now, she raised the issue of the bruvvers having their “R” protests and blocking off main city streets every other Friday because “right to protest”.
    In quite a lateral thought she asked “why can’t we just call our outings into the parks a “protest” and no-one can stop us”.
    Nice thought but I think there would be a whole different rule book brought to bear.

  32. johanna

    Some protests are more equal than others.

  33. cui bono

    We Recognise BS when we see it.

  34. Lem

    What really is ironic is that the whole “race” movement which began many decades ago supposedly to lift indigenous people up and integrate them (apparently without success), now seemingly wishes to make them a people apart.

    Australia as a nation did not exist prior to federation.
    Prior to colonisation by the British, Australia the continent was peopled by widely dispersed hunter gatherers, with no concept of a nation as we now know it.

    The constitution of Australia is a document that should hold all people to be equal regardless of race, and it need not actually say that, because we can just make the assumption that we are all human beings.

  35. JohnA

    But constitutionally enshrining Aborigines’ status over all others sends a powerful message that one group of Australians is more special than the rest.

    johanna #1722321, posted on June 27, 2015 at 5:51 pm

    Some protests are more equal than others.

    Nearly Johanna. 🙂

    I recall the expression came from Animal Farm, and was originally

    “All Animals are Equal
    But some are more equal than others”

  36. boof

    Not one full blood Aboriginal has been asked their opinion, not even the two ruling party members in the NT ,the journalists can’t find them even though there are more than 50,000 of them on the phone in northern Australia, instead a barrage of noise is coming from those who would be more familiar with a shillelagh than a woomera, they also might ask them who they regard as Aboriginal so that we don’t end up with the same problem America has with membership of Indian tribes.

  37. Boambee John

    boof:

    Not quite as bad in America, as i understand that one needs at least one “full blood” grandparent to make the cut.

    I recall reading some years back about an Amerindian woman having to decide whether to marry a member of the tribe or a non-member, the problem being that if she went with the non-member, her children would not be recognised as native Americans.

    Not sure, however, if this rule has since fallen to PC.

  38. Baldrick

    Constitutional symbolism is a Leftard meme.

    What matters is getting Aboriginal children out of dysfunctional, abusive, alcohol stricken and welfare dependent communities.

  39. I’ve lived and worked near an aboriginal community for a long time. The problem with so much of this us-and-them stuff is that, unlike me, most of my aboriginal neighbours are the descendants of white people who displaced aboriginal people. They carry their surnames, their features. When we divide white from black, we divide these people from themselves.

    Anyway, elites don’t work. I thought that’s why we went through this long process called Modern History. On the other hand, it would be great if every kid around here got a decent breakfast. Money and recognition and Toyotas don’t make brekkie. People do.

  40. Gab

    Bess Price was barred from speaking at Griffith University in 2013.

    I guess”Recognition” does not extend to her by the leftards at GU.

  41. johanna

    Bess Price isn’t black enough for them, Gab.

  42. rickw

    That their ancestors were here first is undeniable

    Mungo man? Drawing any line on “firstness” is purely arbitrary. This is complete bullshit.

  43. rickw

    What really is ironic is that the whole “race” movement which began many decades ago supposedly to lift indigenous people up and integrate them (apparently without success), now seemingly wishes to make them a people apart.

    I lived in Cairns for a couple of years, this was the take from people who lived there and went to school in the 1970’s: I had aboriginal friends in school, they are still my friends today. My children don’t have any aboriginal friends, in fact, they hate them. (This dislike was simply built on experience, the aboriginals were the lawless ones, threatening them, waking them up with screaming in the middle of the night, which was not the way things were in the 1970’s).

    Differentiated treatment is not a recipe for respect, or achievement. The fact that Tony Abbott supports this shows what a complete dunce he is. Special treatment hasn’t achieved anything in 30 years, so more special treatment is going to fix the issue?

  44. Anne

    What if an Aboriginee changed his race by converting to Islam?

    You then have God and Government extolling his supremacist station.

  45. a reader

    Ahhhhhh…Anne don’t introduce victim poker. Then we’d be completely snookered!

  46. Yohan

    The R for recognition adverts are highly effective and will go a long way to winning the vote for them.

    They give the impression that somehow Aboriginals are 2nd class citizens, and a ‘yes’ vote will just restore the balance to equality. We know this is propaganda and pure lies, but to the average person it is seems reasonable.

    It will take a brutal ‘no’ campaign to call them out directly on these lies, confront them head on. But I fear any potential ‘no’ campaign will be unwilling to do this for fear of being tarred racist.

  47. hzhousewife

    What if an Aboriginee changed his race by converting to Islam?

    You then have God and Government extolling his supremacist station.

    You talking about Junaid Thorne? It’s all happening – he’s in jail isn’t he, best exposure placement possible for spreading the ideology.

  48. Ren Durham

    Fear not, at least there wont be any problem dealing with all and sundry “self-identifying” as indigenous by ticking the box when the time comes after the referendum to collect the prize, whatever that might be. The National Socialists faced a similar quandary in 1930s Germany when non-Aryans “self-identified” as Aryans which messed up their records terribly. So there evolved a typically teutonic and sophisticated solution. The Aryan Certificate. Yes, you could get an official, wax sealed document guaranteed to be valid at the exit of any jewish ghetto to get you and yours out. Of course that led to a great deal of corruption as those certifying these documents were only too eager to look the other way when finding the odd “blemish” on ones record (for a price. of course). I’m sure the Indigenous Certificate scheme, managed by Indigenous elders and modeled on the Nazi version would be a wonderful success here.

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