I leave you to make up your mind about what I said then: Tony Abbott was right: we really should move on. I still commend the material I referred you to there, but should make clear that I very much support proper recognition of Indigenous Australians in the constitution.
But a few follow-ups on that great Oz Day fracas.
First Jim Belshaw today: “Talking to a work colleague who was at the Embassy at the time, she wanted to know (as I had) just what bleeding idiot organised an official Australia Day function in an insecure venue metres from such a significant Aboriginal location. At the least, it displays remarkable insensitivity.”
Second, John Quiggin: “Looking at the latest TV news I have mixed feelings. On the one hand, I’m sick of the confected outrage surrounding the Australia Day incident. On the other hand, if this is what it takes to make the Labor Party realise they have to go back to Kevin Rudd, and sooner rather than later, then I suppose I can live with it.”
Third, Matt da Silva:
Along with the commentariat, Liberal Party politicians have been pushing hard to keep the issue in the news. The saga goes on and on like a bad and boozy lunch from the bad old days of the fat-jack expense account and the Beemer at the curb on Queen Street. It’s time, folks, to fold up our napkins, visit the necessary one last time, and "move on", in Tony Abbot’s parlance, to other, more productive debates.
Let’s put the thing in perspective.
First, the protesters. Aboriginal activists are not like the anodyne-sounding Institute of Public Affairs, which is actually a highly-active conservative think-tank that ruthlessly campaigns on issues that it deems important. Aboriginal activist groups do not have dozens of well-paid text monkeys researching issues and writing the opinion pieces that the IPA is famous for. They have their Tent Embassy, they have their voices, and they have their passion. At the IPA it’s all a bit more civilised, but it’s no less raw, the protesting and campaigning. Instead of voices and bodies, scribes at the IPA deploy nouns and verbs. But the upshot is the same: publicity. So let’s give credit to the folks at the Tent Embassy. If what they wanted was publicity, they eminently achieved their goal…
So a few noisy protesters made a fuss outside the restaurant. That didn’t justify the response of Julia Gillard’s security detail in treating the event like an assassination attempt. Dragging a puzzled PM off toward the waiting car was bad enough. Making her lose her shoe? It’s truly novelistic. Treating the Tent Embassy protesters like an organised posse of axe-wielding maniacs was the first crime. Treating the event like a major story of national interest was the second. Can we please just turn off the music, put away the cask wine, and clean our damn teeth? At some point we need to start thinking about the serious stuff.
Fourth, Patrick Dodson:
AMY BAINBRIDGE, REPORTER: The political fallout over the Australia Day protests has lasted days, with the Opposition continuing to demand to know who knew what and when.
But at the inaugural Gandhi Oration, hosted by the University of New South Wales, Professor Patrick Dodson implored the public to look at what caused the ugly scenes.
PATRICK DODSON, INDIGENOUS LEADER: It would be simplistic however to condemn outright the behaviour of protestors associated with the tent embassy last week without considering the sense of oppression that some of our people still feel towards our governments on a whole range of matters.
I will always condemn bad manners and unnecessarily aggressive behaviour by whomever. But I will also defend people’s rights to assert their political position and try to look at the heart of why people feel so oppressed that they feel violent confrontation is the only recourse to the resolution of their position.
AMY BAINBRIDGE: Professor Dodson says the events in Canberra won’t derail the bid to recognise the nation’s first peoples in the Constitution. He’s part of a panel that has handed a report to the Prime Minister recommending changes to the Constitution to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.
PATRICK DODSON: But even now, in the second decade of the 21st Century, full and proper recognition of the status of the Indigenous peoples as first peoples, with rights and responsibilities that go with that status, is regarded with alarm by some within our country.
This is despite the fact that countries like Canada, New Zealand, Norway, demonstrating that it is possible to agree and give substantive recognition to Indigenous peoples.
AMY BAINBRIDGE: And he says the world is watching Australia.
PATRICK DODSON: The world must think we’re crazy that we – if we do not go to a referendum on this, just contemplate for a minute: the nation of Australia does not support in its constitution non-discrimination against people on the basis of colour, ethnic origin or nationality. Just contemplate that when you go to New York or you go to Bangladesh or you go to China or India.
AMY BAINBRIDGE: For now, it’s only the politicians continuing the attack over Thursday’s events. Professor Dodson wants to move on.
AUSTRALIAN governments present a different face on the international stage from the one they show when dealing with indigenous people, the ”father of reconciliation” Patrick Dodson said in Sydney last night.
Speaking five days after a fracas embroiling the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, he said: ”I struggle with this hypocrisy, particularly when they seem happy to intervene in the affairs of other countries but become very defensive when criticised for their treatment of the first peoples of this land.”
Mr Dodson was delivering the inaugural Gandhi Oration at the University of NSW.
Mr Dodson defended the expert panel he co-chairs against criticism that it had gone too far in recommending changes to the race powers contained in the constitution to allow positive discrimination for indigenous people. He said there should be no referendum on it if politicians did not agree.
”If there is no cross-party support for the proposition, it will more than likely fail,” he said.
Fifth, Pat Corowa on Facebook.
Before I left the tent embassy late on Saturday night, there were 3 Buddhist monks from Sri Lanka who had flown into Canberra a couple of hours earlier.. they came straight to the ATE, after they saw the news about us on TV.. They performed with Brothers from Stradbroke Island (Denis B Walker’s sons and grandsons) and then with a brother on the Didge from the Yuin Nation on the South Coast of NSW…
Linked to an album recommended by Pat Corowa
All this to balance my earlier post, but I stand by the view that there is a very real debate to be had about what matters most – as I think Bob Carr is saying. I very much share that concern.