Sir: Douglas Drummond (March 2023) makes a strong case for his claim that metropolitan activists would “dictate the Voice”, pointing out that the Langton–Calma model has been designed to vest power in metropolitan Aborigines. This puts me in mind of the Australia Council’s Aboriginal Arts Board, which was a genuinely inclusive indigenous body when founded in 1973. Representatives were brought in from remote tribal communities across Australia and had a genuine say. This did not last.
The Yolngu artist and elder Wandjuk Marika, who was a board member for the first two years then worked as chairman from 1975 to 1979, was distressed to see tribal Aborigines being sidelined and then pushed out during the 1980s. “Today now it is changed, many things have changed,” he wrote in his 1995 autobiography. “Because in the Aboriginal Arts Board, Australia Council, no tribal Aborigines working there now, only southern people.”
Sir: For years we have been considering the Aboriginal Voice to parliament. But now the proposal is a Voice directly to executive government. Bypassing parliament is dangerous because demands made by the Voice won’t get the parliamentary debate or scrutiny needed for good decisions. Parliament would no longer be needed. The Voice might not even inform Parliament of what it asks ministers to do. Without parliament the Voice might advise executive government to make bad decisions and to squander taxpayers’ money. And we won’t ever be able to vote the Voice out of government.
Statehood for the Northern Territory
Sir: I read Keith Windschuttle’s enlightening essay “Living on Stolen Land” (March 2023) and its critique of the nationalism of separate and prior political sovereignty for an Aboriginal nation or nations that allegedly never lost the political sovereignty or sovereignties once held.
I sensed the credit he gives Lidia Thorpe for stating her position, while disagreeing with it. Watching Senator Thorpe lying on the ground in front of the Mardi Gras Police Float, I net-searched the useful Hindu word juggernaut.
This pushing to the limits of the ideas at stake is what is needed, not the schmaltz of good-vibe, good-blokism being dolloped from Canberra; or what I sense when the minister speaks—“Mandrake gestures hypnotically”.
I wish to add a suggestion about representative voice and identity, one that would add to the high participation rate of Aboriginal politicians in the elected parliaments.
The idea of the Northern Territory achieving statehood has been around for fifty years, and generally canned. I suggest that the State of Northern Australia be put back on the table and added to the mix, for these reasons:
- The Northern Territory has a higher population than Tasmania had when Tasmania entered the Federation as an equal member, tiny as its population then was.
- The Northern Territory has a higher percentage of Aboriginal Australians than other states.
- Full state responsibility would see highly representative and multi-layered governmentality, from the local, the state and the federal levels.
- With so many carefully considered voices elected, and with so many instrumentalities emerging to fix the distressingly obvious broken dimensions of society (the gap, health, alcohol, domestic violence, imprisonment, illiteracy) it would be a miracle if wonderful outcomes were not obtained.
- At one stroke, we could see Aboriginal-majority rule locally, and a distinctive voice in Canberra, enmeshed with the voices of the urban, educated elites.
- In my opinion, the economic basis for statehood could be found within the Northern Territory.
- Statehood would show the depths of the existing Australian Constitution and would become a cause of national celebration as this new thing was done.
- If not now, when? Bring it forward from over the horizon.
- Statehood would oblige the diverse human streams that comprise the Commonwealth to establish effective national unity in Northern Australia, regardless of difference while noting difference.
- In that sense, Northern Australia would exemplify a Cultural Australia in which the “multi” was presumed and included and in which the tendencies to race-based politics of separate nationalisms would be dissolved.
Shifting the Blame to the Right
Sir: I refer to Christopher Akehurst’s excellent review of our current cultural/political situation in his article “No Signs of Light in the West” (January-February 2023). Perhaps he could have enlarged on the Nazi/Neo-Nazi debate currently highlighted in New South Wales.
Google tells me that the term “Nazi” was extensively used by the Allies to describe Adolf Hitler’s regime, although as it was slightly derogatory, it was rarely used by the Germans themselves. Encyclopaedia Britannica tells me that Hitler rose to power with his Nationalsozialistiche Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (NSDAP), which translates into English as “National Socialist German Worker’s Party”.
As Hitler’s rise to power was on a socialist ticket, he centralised industry, eliminated many of the nation’s sole traders and generally carried on like Stalin and Mao, and appeared to have little interest in real conservatism, I feel we need to ask why he is not classified in the public mind as of the Far Left, rather than the Far Right. Is this another shifting of blame, as Christopher Akehurst has shown is so often the case with the Leftwit mind?
The Undermined Church
Sir: The two speeches by the late Cardinal Pell (March 2023) summarise the many forces that seek to oppose and undermine any teachings of religion, but they only mention two failings of the Catholic Church. Namely, the five years for nothing of the Australian Plenary Council and the cover-up of the pedophilia of its religious since the 1970s. The second may be a fatal mistake.
In Vatican II the clergy absolved itself of any responsibility for its presence. It set up churches so that the priest was not leading the congregation but opposed to it in the Mass. The introduction of the vernacular removed any exclusivity of its message and achieved nothing. Rome accepts no responsibility for the decline of the Western Church.
Church men fail to explain reasons why we should be “good”, but is there a loud statement of this or the virtues of the Church? There is just a presentation of the biblical teaching as ethical instructions to the remaining attendees. The cardinals and archbishops of the Vatican are remote and seem to stand like aristocrats, indifferent to the millions outside it. The Church has to match what it preaches. It has to speak to the general public, not just to its remaining followers.
The Church presents itself as a religious dictatorship, one man and a few faithful acolytes that fail to adopt any good management in its parts. With so many opponents in method and volume, turning the other cheek is ineffective against the vast available commercialised social networks that drown out any effect of this action.
The Curia has been publicly shown to be at least partially corrupt. It would be a sad state for the Church to be seen as rotting from the head, with its management bureaucracy that is now moribund.
K. de Courtenay