I have spent the last few weeks travelling around remote Indigenous communities collecting signatures in support of a Royal Commission into the AFP and statements in support of my application to the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights(“OHCHR”). Simultaneously, I have been drumming up support for a personal message to the United Nations Security Council arguing that Australia, because of the entrenched and systemic racism that infects a large part of the Australian Community, is unsuited to hold a non-permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council (“UNSC”) until it addresses the racism issues within its own borders.
While it would appear that the on-line version of the petition for a Royal Commission into the Australian Federal Police (AFP) is not progressing as quickly as I had hoped, the paper versions in circulation around the country have performed much better. To date we have collected in excess of 4,000 paper signatures. Supporters of Blak and Black in Victoria and South Australia have started campaigning for signatures in those states. At this stage I anticipate achieving 10,000 signatures by the end of the year.
Racism and mining
A recurrent theme in my travels amongst indigenous people around the world has been the destruction of traditional lands by multi-national mining conglomerates, which can only be viewed in the context of the struggle for indigenous rights as a form of racism. It is certainly a manifestation of neo-colonialism. What is happening to the Yindjibarndi at the hands of Fortescue Metals is a clear example of the type of neo-colonialism I am talking about at work and is another example of why Australia has proved itself too immature as a nation to be rewarded with a seat on the UNSC.
What is happening to the Yindjibarndi is not dissimilar to what has already happened in Africa, with all of the disastrous results that have followed in the wake of the neo-colonial exploitation of that all suffering continent. Through foreign investment, the tentacles of foreign capital spread throughout every sector of Africa’s economies, as financial consortia make:
The most sinister penetrations […] From south to north industrial and financial consortia have spread across Africa, busily staking out claims to mineral, metal and fuel resources, to forest and land produce, and erecting extensive and primary conversion industries in which they are entrenched as stanchions. (Nkrumah 1965: 65-6)
He emphasized the way in which international monopoly capital’s control of the world market constrained possibilities for autonomous development in the former colonies, and already in the early 1960s drew attention to the role of debt and high interest rates imposed by western creditors in extending neo-colonial control (1965 chapter 18). He also drew attention to the “widespread and wily use of ideological and cultural weapons” (1965: 246) and the imperial monopoly control of news and film media.
While 21st Century Australia is a long way removed from 1960s Africa, the arsenal at the disposal of wealthy neo-colonial interests remains virtually unchanged. In the world’s first Murdochracy, the “widespread and wily use of ideological and cultural weapons” is concentrated in the hands of a few and according to the British, unscrupulous media barons. In support of the media barons in Australia, who generally have nothing positive to report about Indigenous Australians, wealthy multi-national mining conglomerates can call on an impressive array of auxiliary forces centred around the nations ‘just-us’ system. These auxiliary forces include a racially and culturally biased judicial system which is open to further manipulation by well-heeled and unscrupulous lawyers supported by a cadre of self-interested sycophants known as parliament.
It is to this system, designed to support the haves at the expense of the have nots, that Indigenous Australia is asked, nay demanded, to bring its grievances against the very people and entities the system is designed to protect. How can we as a people be expected to continue to place our trust in a system that uniformly and routinely ignores our natural, sovereign and international rights in favour of neo-colonial monopoly capital and those in its hip-pocket?
If the world community is truly seeking justice and equality for the many and varied cultures that make-up Planet Earth of which Indigenous Australia represents 700 of the myriad, if the 21st Century is truly to be an age of truth and justice, then there is no place on the world stage for a nation that hides behind a façade of justice and ‘rule of law’ whilst all the while practicing a corrupt form of ‘just-us’. While everyone accepts that corruption distorts the markets and is economically inefficient, how much more inefficient does it become when it is hidden, albeit in plain sight and is only available to the few. I think that most Australians will recall with horror the destruction of the old-boys network known as the Melbourne Club wrought on BHP, reducing ‘The Big Australian’ to a mere shadow of its former glory.
The BHP saga is proof of just how corrupt Australia’s ‘just-us’ system really is. BHP as an entity has benefited for well over 150 years from the theft and destruction of other people’s property, from plundering resources that rightfully belong to Indigenous Australians, without compensation. What is truly amazing about this is that, even with all the advantages that legally sanctioned theft and environmental vandalism bestowed on the company it was not sufficient to buffet it from the corruption that passes as ‘just-us’ in Australia.
‘Just-us’ and Corporate Australia
While doing some preparatory sketches for a series of paintings I’m planning on “the face of Sydney” I happened upon a ‘chap’ in a suit sitting in a park in Redfern frequented by Sydney’s down-and-out. After I had finished sketching the haunted faces on the not-so-lucky in the lucky country, I asked this ‘chap’ what he was doing, a move made more out of curiosity than anything else. After engaging in conversation for a while, he informed me that he had recently been retrenched from Westpac. The reason for his retrenchment, from a corporation that recently announced the biggest ever profit achieved by an Australian bank of nearly $7 Billion was that his regional manager was told that his annual bonus was at risk unless he could make immediate cost savings of $2.3 million. This he achieved by retrenching seven staff.
The ‘chap’ in the park as I now call him, supported a wife and three children on his Westpac salary. He informed me that his six colleagues retrenched at the same time as him were of roughly the same socio-economic circumstances (each pay packet supporting five people). This means that to ensure his annual bonus in this environment of greed and self-interest an upper level manager at one of Australia’s biggest corporations was prepared to sacrifice the future of thirty-five individuals. True ‘just-us’ for those without power and influence in this land of equality we call home.
The reason he was sitting in the park in his ‘work suit’ was that he had then not yet found the courage to tell his wife what had happened. It is the same narrow minded bigotry that sanctions the destruction of entire cultures to line the hip pockets of a few well connected thieves, that sees nothing wrong in sacrificing the lives of thirty-five individuals to ensure the annual bonus of one person.
Australia, your greed and corruption is going to become your undoing. While this undoing is in process, the international community should refrain from rewarding Australia’s corrupt ‘just-us’ system with a seat on the UNSC.
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