05 | 15
2011

Derision, lies and the death of OUR DEMOCRACY

Categories: Australian Federal Police, Culture, Democracy, White Australia

by: Bakchos
Leave feedback | 4 Comments »

I lived in Australia for a year and was astounded at the level of casual racism in all walks of Australian life.

The term ‘wog’ is used by many people in casual conversation and looks of shock are met with “It’s just a word mate, they use it too!”

(Samfromstroud 12 May 2011 at 10:59)

Really? If this is true it is a terrible reflection on Australian society. Casual racism is even more worrying than overt racism, for it breeds beneath the skin of the civil state and normalises or institutionalises prejudice.

(Mortimer Bloomington, in response to Samfromstroud, 12 May 2011 at 12:21)

What is it that caused samfromstroud and Mortimer Bloomington to articulate such views about “Our Great Southern Land”?

Before I launch into a tirade about Aussie racists, again, I thought that it might be worth taking a minute to review Australia’s National Anthem. For those of you who are only familiar with verses one and three which are usually the only ones sung, I am including the whole anthem for the purposes of this discussion.

Verse 1

Australians all let us rejoice,
For we are young and free;

We’ve golden soil and wealth for toil;

Our home is girt by sea;

Our land abounds in nature’s gifts
Of beauty rich and rare;

In history’s page, let every stage

Advance Australia Fair.

In joyful strains then let us sing,

Advance Australia Fair.

Verse 2

When gallant Cook from Albion sail’d,
To trace wide oceans o’er,
True British courage bore him on,
Till he landed on our shore.

Then here he raised Old England’s flag,
The standard of the brave;

With all her faults we love her still,

“Britannia rules the wave!”

In joyful strains then let us sing

“Advance Australia fair!”

Verse 3

Beneath our radiant Southern Cross

We’ll toil with hearts and hands;

To make this Commonwealth of ours
Renowned of all the lands;

For those who’ve come across the seas
We’ve boundless plains to share;

With courage let us all combine
To Advance Australia Fair.

In joyful strains then let us sing,
Advance Australia Fair.

Verse 4

While other nations of the globe
Behold us from afar,

We’ll rise to high renown and shine
Like our glorious southern star;

From England, Scotia, Erin’s Isle,
Who come our lot to share,

Let all combine with heart and hand
To advance Australia fair!

In joyful strains then let us sing
“Advance Australia fair!”

Verse 5

Shou’d foreign foe e’er sight our coast,
Or dare a foot to land,

We’ll rouse to arms like sires of yore
To guard our native strand;

Brittannia then shall surely know,
Beyond wide ocean’s roll,
Her sons in fair Australia’s land
Still keep a British soul.

In joyful strains the let us sing
“Advance Australia fair!”

The Anthem’s title Advance Australia Fair seems like a fitting place to commence an examination of Australia’s attitude to race. The song was created by the Scottish-born composer Peter Dodds McCormick and was first performed in 1878, but did not gain its status as the official anthem until 1984. Until then, it was sung in Australia as a patriotic song.

White Australia Policy

When Prime Minister Edmund Barton rose in the first federal parliament, in Melbourne, to support the measures that comprised the White Australia policy – the Immigration Restriction Bill and the Pacific Islands Labourers’ Bill – he held aloft a copy of Charles Pearson’s prophetic book, National Life and Character: A Forecast, and quoted the following passage:

The day will come, and perhaps is not far distant, when the European observer will look round to see the globe circled with a continuous zone of the black and yellow races, no longer too weak for aggression or under tutelage, but independent, or practically so, in government, monopolising the trade of their own regions, and circumscribing the industry of the Europeans; when Chinamen and the natives of Hindustan, the states of Central and South America … are represented by fleets in the European seas, invited to international conferences and welcomed as allies in quarrels of the civilised world. The citizens of these countries will then be taken up into the social relations of the white races, will throng the English turf or the salons of Paris, and will be admitted to inter-marriage. It is idle to say that if all this should come to pass our pride of place will not be humiliated … We shall wake to find ourselves elbowed and hustled, and perhaps even thrust aside by peoples whom we looked down upon as servile and thought of as bound always to minister to our needs. The solitary consolation will be that the changes have been inevitable.

Pearson, a former professor in modern history at King’s College, London had become by the 1890s a leading Melbourne intellectual, a headmaster and journalist, a politician and educational reformer and mentor to future Prime Minister Alfred Deakin, the architect of the White Australia policy. Pearson was a progressive: he had written in support of land tax, women’s rights, the Polish uprising and the Haitian revolution. His book, published by Macmillan in London and New York in 1893, with its prediction of the decline of the white man and the rise of ‘the Black and Yellow races’ caused a sensation around the world.

Deakin praised those who drew up the Australian Constitution (of whom he was one) for improving on the American example. He highlighted the significance of Section 51, sub-sections 26-30, in equipping Australia to deal with the problem of ‘the admixture of other races’:

Our Constitution marks a distinct advance upon and difference from that of the United States, in that it contains within itself the amplest powers to deal with this difficulty in all its aspects. It is not merely a question of invasion from the exterior. It may be a question of difficulties within our borders, already created, or a question of possible contamination of another kind. I doubt if there can be found in the list of powers with which this Parliament, on behalf of the people, is endowed – powers of legislation – a cluster more important and more far reaching in their prospect than the provisions contained in sub-sections (26) to (30) of section 51, in which the bold outline of the authority of the people of Australia for their self-protection is laid down…

… Whereas the United States Constitutional Amendments provided ‘special inhibitions’, Section 51 of the Australian Constitution made provision for ‘special laws’ to deal with other ‘races’.

In supporting the legislation to expel the Pacific Islanders, Higgins, a member of the same parliament, again referred to the history of the United States:

I say that that country, more especially the Southern States, would have been ten times better off if the negroes had not been left there. There are no conditions under which degeneracy of race is so great as those which exist when a superior race and an inferior race are brought into close contact.

At issue for Higgins were the prospects of white workers:

I feel convinced that people who are used to a high standard of life – to good wages and good conditions – will not consent to labour alongside men who receive a miserable pittance and who are dealt with very much in the same way as slaves.

The legislation was, according to Higgins, who would shortly become president of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, ‘the most vitally important measure on the programme which the government has put before us’. He watched its course, he said, with the ‘deepest anxiety’. In 1907 Higgins would use his position on the Arbitration Court to define a ‘living wage’ designed to secure the status of the white men as workers, whom he was always careful to define as ‘civilised beings … living in a civilised community’.

With the passage of the Pacific Islands Labourers Act in 1901, the Commonwealth of Australia was inaugurated in an act of racial expulsion. Australians would do what the United States – with a population of eight million Blacks – could not. For Deakin and his fellow members of parliament, the sovereignty of the people meant the capacity to protect their racial character. But when they spoke of the necessity of ‘self-protection’, they spoke not as ‘Anglo-Saxons’, but as ‘white men’. Although neither the Pacific Islands Labourers Act nor the Immigration Restriction Act referred to race by name, their intention was clear enough. ‘The two things go hand in hand’, advised Attorney-General Deakin. They were ‘the necessary complement of a single policy – the policy of securing a “White Australia”.’

McCormick, Pearson, Barton and Deakin were all contemporaries. They shared a common vision, ‘Advance Australia Fair’ – a theme that McCormick most ably reduced to verse and which a white, xenophobic, Australian Labor government made Australia’s official national anthem shortly after coming to power in 1983.

The ‘white’ Australian national psyche is summed up succinctly in the following few words from Australia’s national anthem:

Our land abounds in nature’s gifts
Of beauty rich and rare;

In history’s page, let every stage

Advance Australia Fair …

Brittannia then shall surely know,
Beyond wide ocean’s roll,
Her sons in fair Australia’s land
Still keep a British soul …

Yes, Australia does ‘abound in nature’s gifts’ and the current modus operandi of Australia’s political and business elite is to keep, as far as possible, the proceeds from the theft of ‘nature’s gifts’ which are properly the property of Aboriginal Australia for the benefit of a few ‘white’ men.

The role of the Murdoch press in the on-going subjugation and humiliation of Aboriginal Australia for the benefit of a few ‘white’ men

Political power in Australia often rests in the control of resource-rich land. Most of the uran­ium, iron ore, gold, oil and natural gas is in Western Australia and the Northern Territory – on Aboriginal land. Indeed, Aboriginal “prog­ress” is all but defined by the mining industry and its political guardians in both Labor and coalition (conservative) governments. Their faithful, strident voice is the Murdoch press. The exceptional, reformist Labor government of Gough Whitlam in the 1970s set up a royal commission that made clear that social justice for Australia’s first people would be achieved only with universal land rights and a share in the national wealth with dignity. In 1975, Whitlam was sacked by the governor general in a “constitutional coup”. The Murdoch press had turned on the prime minister with such venom that rebellious journalists on the Australian burned their newspaper in the street.

In 1984, the Labor Party, the same Labor Party that made Advance Australia Fair Australia’s national anthem “solemnly pledged” to finish what Whitlam had begun and legislate Aboriginal land rights. This was opposed by the then Labor Prime Minister, Bob Hawke, a “mate” of Rupert Murdoch. Hawke blamed the public for being “less compassionate”; but a secret, 64-page report to the party showed that most Australians supported land rights. It was leaked to the Australian, whose front page declared, “Few support Aboriginal land rights”, the opposite of the truth, thus feeding an atmosphere of self-fulfilling distrust, “backlash” and rejection of rights that might have distinguished Australia from South Africa.

In 1988, an editorial in Murdoch’s Sun in London described “the Abos” as “treacherous and brutal”. This was condemned by the UK Press Council as “unacceptably racist”. The Australian publishes long articles that present Aboriginal people not unsympathetically, but as perennial victims of each other, an “entire culture committing suicide”, or as noble primitives requiring firm direction: the eugenicist’s view. It promotes Aboriginal “leaders” who, by blaming their own people for their poverty, tell the white elite what it wants to hear. The writer Michael Brull parodied this: “O White man, please save us. Take away our rights because we are so backward.”

This is also the government’s view. In railing against what it called the “black armband view” of Australia’s past, the conservative government of John Howard encouraged and absorbed the views of white supremacists – that there was no genocide, no Stolen Generation, no racism; indeed, white people are the victims of “liberal racism”. A collection of far-right journalists, minor academics and hangers-on became the Antipodean equivalent of David Irving Holocaust deniers. Their platform has been the Murdoch press.

The real problem with all of this is that Murdoch controls seventy precent of the press in Australia’s capital cities and the country’s only national daily, The Australian. This provides the Murdoch press with unprecedented power and opportunity to influence the way Australian’s think and act. This power is being used by Murdoch to reinforce and entrench negative stereotypical attitudes about Aboriginal Australians and justify our continued subjugation and humiliation at the hands of the decendents of those very same ‘white’ men who devised Section 51, sub-sections 26-30 of The Australian Constitution.

The Murdoch press and the ‘Office of Disinformation’

Typical of the type of trash the Murdoch press dishes up about Aboriginal Australians is this headline from The Australian from April 14, 2011.

More offensive than ‘sex with a horse’: Larissa Behrendt’s Twitter slur against Bess Price

What followed was a lengthy article attacking Behrendt and supporting Ms Price, who as I understand it, not only does not live with her ‘community’, but instead resides in a ‘white’ middle-class part of town and does not represent the views of her community’. None of this was brought up by The Australian.

It is also worth noting at this juncture that Andrew Bolt, columnist on Murdoch’s Melbourne Herald Sun tabloid, sister paper to The Australian, is the defendant in a racial vilification case brought by nine prominent Aborigines, including Larissa Behrendt. Again The Australian failed to mention this salient fact when it launched its broadside against Professor Behrendt.

Putting aside Aboriginal issues for a moment, it is also worth noting that the Murdoch press has been deathly silent on other issues that go to order and good government in Australia. Here I’m referring to the ongoing abuse of power and process that appears rampant in the Australian Federal Police.

Australian Federal Police abuse of power and process in the Capt. Fred Martens case is unprecedented in the annals of Australian law enforcement. Mr. Martens had his conviction on trumped-up child sex tourism charges quashed by the Queensland Court of Appeal in 2009 with the Court finding that:

[169] After his arrest the petitioner was released on bail, a condition of which was that he not leave Australia. It was therefore impossible for him to travel to PNG to conduct his own inquiries of the CA Authority. It was, in any event, eminently reasonable for him to rely upon the resources of the Director of Public Prosecutions and the AFP to obtain the records. They undertook the task and informed the petitioner that the records did not exist.

[170] The records have always existed and have now been produced. It is a poor reflection upon the two organisations that one should have failed to find them, and denied their existence, and the other object to their use in the reference on the ground that the petitioner should have obtained them earlier. (My emphasis) (R v Martens [2009] QCA 351)

The actions of the Australian Federal Police in the Marten’s case represent an unprecedented attack on Australia’s democratic institutions by an organisation that journalist Susan Merrell described as having:

morphed into something unrecognisable. It’s forgotten its core business and turned into a rogue arm of government at the government’s disposal to help effect political goals…

Where is the outcry in the Murdoch press about this attack by the Australian Federal Police on Australia’s democratic values? As far as I can see it is nowhere to be seen. But, surely, the abuse of power and process that the Australian Federal Police subjected Capt. Martens to is something that should be of greater concern to the average Australian than “Larissa Behrendt’s Twitter slur against Bess Price”.

It should be of more concern, because it is not an isolated incident. If readers pause and again consider what the Australian Federal Police and the Commonwealth Department of Public prosecutions (CDPP) have done to the former Solomon Islands’ Attorney-General Julian Moti in light of what happened to Capt. Martens, alarm bells should start to ring. Not in the Murdoch stables. On Friday 8th April 2011 the High Court approved Mr. Moti’s application for special leave to appeal a Queensland Court of Appeal ruling allowing the politically motivated prosecution of him to proceed. While this is obviously good news for Mr. Moti, the Commonwealth didn’t leave the court without firing one last and very ominous shot in the direction of the civil liberties of all Australians.

The CDPP’s John Agius stated the intention of the CDPP to file a notice of contention, challenging the constitutional validity of the High Court reviewing the legality of the Australian government’s actions in the Solomon Islands during Mr. Moti’s illegal rendition to Australia. In a nut shell, the CDPP will argue that Mr. Moti’s rendition to Australia from Honiara in December 2007 falls into the category of “non-reviewable executive action”, or executive action carried out internationally that, under the Australian constitution, cannot be assessed by the judiciary

If the CDPPs application succeeds it will be bad news for all Australians, as it will amount to giving the Australian Federal Police carte blanch to abuse their power against Australian and foreign nationals, so long as this abuse of power and process occurs outside of Australia’s territorial boundaries. How is this good for Australia’s democracy? Surely this attack on OUR DEMOCRACY by the Australian Federal Police and the CDPP is of greater national importance than “Larissa Behrendt’s Twitter slur against Bess Price”!

It appears that the Murdoch press is hell-bent on ushering in Orwellian style press on Australia and the rest of the world at the expense of OUR DEMOCRATIC values.

 

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4 Comments

  1. Davo says:

    .. but you have to admit that the words (such as they are) are slightly more ‘progressive’ than “God save our gracious King’ (or Queen) .. heh.

    • Bakchos says:

      Hi Dave,

      Yes the words of Advance Australia Fair are indeed an improvement on God SaveThe Queen. But surely we could come up with something a little more inclusive and less Britshcentric.

  2. Davo says:

    yep, i know, i know .. understand – but trying to get this incredibly diverse (modern?) nation of a multitude of different attitudes to cohere under one notion .. ain’t that easy.

    • Bakchos says:

      Totally agree, I guess that the problem is finding something that truly represents all Australians.

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