Welcome to Quadrant Online | Login/ Register Cart (0) $0 View Cart
Menu
December 12th 2016 print

Roger Franklin

Recognition’s Split Personality

Two articles, each appearing in The Australian, present the twin faces of the push to amend the Constitution. One the one hand, the demand for a treaty and the independent nation that implies. On the other, the bland assurance that there is nothing, not a thing, intended to break up Australia

r for recogniseAt the end of a long demonstration of specious logic in The Australian, the Cape York Institute’s Shireen Morris observed, “You don’t address irrational fears. You dispel them.” It’s her final dismissal of those who harbour grave misgivings about the push to enshrine Aboriginal recognition in the Constitution, not least Quadrant‘s Keith Windschuttle, whose most recent book warns of the movement’s “hidden agenda” to see the “break-up of Australia”.

Ms Morris’s thoughts appeared on the opinion page. In the news pages, however, there is another story which suggests it is Windschuttle, rather than his pro-Recognition critic, who has the real measure of the attempts to divide Australia along lines demarcated by skin colour, heritage and identity. The headline says it all: “Drive for indigenous recognition knocked off course by treaty demands“. Taken as a matched pair, both articles are something of an education.

For example, here’s Ms Morris:

Last Saturday, Inquirer ran an extract from Keith Windschuttle’s new book, The Break-Up of Australia: The Real Agenda Behind Aboriginal Recognition, which contends that indigenous activists seek constitutional recognition because it will lead to Aboriginal sovereignty. Windschuttle asserts that indigenous people think recognition will be “one more step towards” Aboriginal “sovereignty over their own separate state or nation”.

The argument is an example of an attempt to whip up irrational fear. It also oversimplifies the complex ongoing discussion in indigenous Australia.

Contrast that dismissal of the concerns of  Windschuttle and others with the news that leaked from behind the closed doors of a meeting addressing how the Recognition proposal might be worded and presented. It was,  one gathers, a topic that inspired a discussion that was intense, divisive and, most of all, an indication of the ultimate goal being advanced by many of the movement’s advocates and supporters:

Constitutional recognition of indigenous Australians has been blindsided by more radical ­demands, with an official forum in Hobart insisting that plans for a referendum must be accompanied by treaty talks.

The gathering, the first of 12 such invite-only indigenous community meetings nationwide, concluded that all delegates were “firmly committed to pursuing treaty” and that this must deal with “among other things, sovereignty, a land and a financial settlement” as well as an agreed time frame.

“A discussion of constitutional recognition (can) only take place simultaneously with a proper consideration of treaty,” states a written communique issued yesterday — and sighted by The Australian — setting the tone for fiery negotiations at the upcoming gatherings.

The key word here is “treaty”, which presupposes by definition an agreement between two sovereign entities, ie nations.

Buy Keith Windschuttle’s book here

So, do Recognition supporters, such as Ms Morris, envision one nation, Australia, with a Constitution amended to include a few pious words about those whose ancestors were here to see the arrival of the First Fleet? Or is it, as noises emanating from Hobart suggest, that Recognition’s supporters want Indigenous Australia accorded the status of a nation within a nation?

If the latter, Windschuttle’s reservations about the Recognition movement and it’s ultimate goals would seem to be on the money.

Roger Franklin is the editor of Quadrant Online

Comments [9]

  1. en passant says:

    Give ‘them’ their own state, then build a wall to fence it off and set them free to return to their ancient ways.
    South Australistan could be removed from the Commonwealth, split in two and given to those who do not want to integrate or be part of modern Australia.
    For the natives, I am sure traditional medicines and pointing the bone are just as good as penicillin.
    As for those who believe the only book that is necessary for all things is a 7th Century incoherent tome. Sounds good to me, give them lots of copies and close the door once they have passed through.
    Neither of these bands wants us, so let them go.
    All those celebs who want to flee from the USA to get away from Trump should be granted entry, but without an exit.
    It is all just another money-grubbing scam.

  2. Richard H says:

    Pardon my sarcasm, but considering the untold billions of dollars that non-indigenous Australians have transferred to indigenous Australians in the past half-century and more in the form of welfare payments and payments for indigenous-only services: How much of that will be paid back in the ‘financial settlement’ promised in that proposed deal that includes “among other things, sovereignty, a land and a financial settlement”?

  3. Bran Dee says:

    Remember the most basic ethos of Australia’s hunter gatherers is ‘demand sharing’. Share the food, share the women [they have few other possessions] and survive at a marginal level. This is the culture that is anti-modernity and it is the culture that must be transformed.

    When the British arrived here over 200 years ago there was a clash of culture as an advanced civilization entering the steam age confronted a stone age people who could not boil water. It presented a grand opportunity for people of the stone age culture to rapidly modernize. Most did to some degree and they enjoy the fruits of modernity.

    However there is a remnant of cargo-cultism that sees advantage, especially for an aboriginal mixed race elite and their lawyers, in trying some traditional demand sharing on the people of the imported culture with their wealth and technology. We must see it for what it is and totally reject it!

  4. Bill Martin says:

    Two very simple questions to advocates of recognition and/or treaty.

    Is there anyone anywhere in the world with a modicum of knowledge about Australia who does not already know or disputes that Aborigines were here before white men came to this land?

    Given that the constitution of a country consists of a set of rules for the governing of the country, do we know of any such document anywhere in the world which also contains some details of the history of the country?

    The inescapable a answer to both questions is NO. That being the case, it should also be the vote of every fair minded Australian at the proposed “recognition” referendum.

  5. Ian MacDougall says:


    Constitutional recognition of indigenous Australians has been blindsided by more radical ­demands, with an official forum in Hobart insisting that plans for a referendum must be accompanied by treaty talks.
    The gathering, the first of 12 such invite-only indigenous community meetings nationwide, concluded that all delegates were “firmly committed to pursuing treaty” and that this must deal with “among other things, sovereignty, a land and a financial settlement” as well as an agreed time frame.

    This leaves open the question as to who the parties to this ‘treaty’ will be. Treaties are normally signed between sovereign entities such as states and nations, who recognise each other as such. With the financial settlement, the sky has to be the limit, but it will none the less be subject to the usual claim of ‘we wuz robbed’. How long it would take to reach a final, final, final….., settlement satisfactory to all is anyone’s guess. But endless future claims by Aboriginal-Australians that they were dudded by the whites and sold out cheap by their own black leaders are always possible.

    But as hunter-gatherers and nomads with Mesolithic technology, the Aborigines could not have held this country long into the 19th C. Numerous Aboriginal leaders (eg Noel Pearson) are on record as admitting that the British were high up on the list of good possible colonialists, if not the very best going in the late 1700s. It strikes me therefore that at the same moment that some Anglo-Australian puts his or her moniker on the ‘treaty’ along with the signature of someone on behalf of the Aboriginal-Australians, a bill could be presented to the Aboriginal-Australians for the protection afforded them by the enormous infrastructure that has guarded them from non-British invasion since Cook planted his flag, and Phillip founded his colonies in NSW, Tasmania and Norfolk Island. Otherwise they would have been colonised by the Indonesians (who still I believe have maps showing this country as ‘South Irian’) the French, the Germans, Belgians, Portuguese, Japanese (who did have a bloody good go) and God knows who else, and under whose rule they would likely have done a helluva lot worse. (They could consult any West-Papuan about this.)

    That infrastructure includes all the defence facilities in the country, plus the roads, railways, power grids etc that have proved useful in times of national emergency, and without which all of the country would have been taken over.

    Which would mean there would be no net financial settlement owing. We would all just be left with some squiggles on a bit of paper.
    Fair enough?

  6. Jody says:

    I’ve just seen a casual discussion in a pub between Janet Albrechtsen, Andrew Bolt, Tim Blair and Rowen Dean and I’m feeling heartened by the way things are slowly changing for conservatives of late. Let’s hope 2017 will see the Left further on the back foot – preferably on the run!!

    As to the aboriginal demands (over and above somebody making sure their children and women are safe) – all I hear is Bwaaaaaaaa and the unambiguous sound of toys being thrown from the cot.

  7. [email protected] says:

    My dear wife was Indigenous, Ngarrindjeri, and our kids therefore are of Aboriginal descent. We’ve lived in cities – Melbourne, Auckland and Adelaide – and in a southern ‘community’, now deserted. In the event of a separate Aboriginal state, presumably out in the sticks (don’t mention Apartheid), where are they supposed to live ?

    Apart from their initial thought-bubbles, have any of these ‘leaders’ thought anything through ? Over forty years? I can’t believe that they are so politically naïve as to re-invigorate Apartheid, which clearly (to anybody with half a brain) any form of separatism would amount to. Surely not.

    Let’s boil down some of these grandiose demands: ‘Treaty’ means agreement, arrangement, contract. There already such agreements with Indigenous people simply by virtue of the fact that they are Australians: Indigenous people are entitled to all the benefits that accrue to all Australians, land title has been recognised, Indigenous organisations are generously funded (relative to their actual outcomes). More than forty thousand Indigenous people have graduated from universities, overwhelmingly in mainstream fields of study, including around ten thousand post-graduates (including my own kids). Around eighty per cent of Indigenous people live in towns and cities. Upwards of ninety per cent of Indigenous people in cities inter-marry, and, from my observations, quite happily. In fact, their children are even more likely to go on to university. And inter-marry.

    Aha, is this what the separatists are afraid of ? Even those who themselves have been to university and who have inter-married ?

    Research I carried out more than thirty years ago indicated that Indigenous people in ‘communities’ were living on incomes roughly equal to the Australian average. So, thirty years later, what Australian benefits DON’T Indigenous people receive ? Not to mention national park royalties, mining royalties, etc.?

    As for Apartheid, I suggested to a friend that if many Indigenous ‘leaders’ were presented with a description of it, they would perk up and say, ‘Hey, that’s a good idea.’ God save us, especially Indigenous people, from such ‘innocents’.