“Behead all those who insult the prophet!” So read the banner in Sydney on Saturday, in a protest ignited by a film released in the United States. Really, the lack of respect shown by the creators of the video and by the protestors are equally abysmal. One group insults another, the other feels it acceptable to damage the property of the place they have immigrated to and chosen to call home. And all of it is perpetuated by someone outside of our own shores. Remember, I told you Australia, the racism that underpins the narrow-mindedness of our national psyche and that erupted with the Cronulla riots in 2005 has never been properly dealt with. And here it is reaching a boil again, here it is right in front of our eyes. So much for all the efforts to address racial intolerance. Here we go, yet again and we really have no-one to blame but ourselves, for the double standard was set long ago and has continued unabated for over 200 years. Just last week a non-Indigenous man in his twenties was recounting his disgust at a man in Melbourne who had asked if he knew of any “whites only” hotels.
In January of 2004, the Australian Capital Territory’s (ACT) first and to date only Indigenous Commissioner of Revenue (aka ‘Pat’) was dismissed from the ACT Department of Treasury after a racially based campaign instigated by a Treasury employee identified on Blak and Black as the Inquisitor for his delving into Pat’s personal and employment history without justifiable legal cause or authority. His efforts were abetted by the inaction or purposeful misrepresentation of people within the ACT Department of Treasury, the Australian Federal Police, the Australian Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission and Ernst & Young. In delving into Pat’s past, the Inquisitor alleged that Pat had falsified his qualifications to attain the role of Commissioner of Revenue and produced copies of his supposed application to justify the racist invective within his letter of complaint of 9 May 2002:
“I have attached a copy of [Pat’s] applications for your information. [Pat] holds unrelated qualifications, being a Bachelor of Arts Degree and a Diploma in Education … I have discussed [Pat’s] background with Ms Tanya Taylor, Recruitment Consultant of Ernst & Young who has confirmed my assessment that Aborigines are compulsive liars and criminals and that [Pat’s] teaching qualification made him unsuitable to work at either Ernst & Young or ACT Treasury …
I request that [Pat] be dismissed from the ACT Public Service due to his unethical behaviour and the general disposition of Aborigines to lie and the criminal records of his family.”
The Inquisitor to Howard Ronaldson, Chief Executive, ACT Dept of Treasury
This letter of 9 May 2002 is of particular interest for several reasons. It states Pat’s actual qualifications at the time he was appointed to the role of Manager Policy, Legislation and Projects and subsequently to that of Director Revenue Management Branch (the substantive title of the role being Commissioner for Revenue). More importantly, it reflects and coincides with the letter of advice from Ernst & Young Partner Andrew McCrossin two years earlier dated 13 July 2000. Additionally, as Pat had been recruited to Ernst & Young by Tanya Taylor, who is dobbed in by the Inquisitor for bad-mouthing Aborigines in general, and as the letter from Ernst & Young (EY) itself demonstrates, he was in fact offered the role with his salary reduced in consideration of his lack of specific “… formal qualifications in law and accounting.”
Seventeen months later on 13 October 2003, Meredith Whitten, ACT Dept of Treasury Director, Corporate Services, penned the following to [Pat]:
Notice anything unusal? Think about. I’ll wait … Pat’s qualifications are not listed. The assumption must be made that no copies of Pat’s qualifications were held in his file at the time Meredith Whitten sent this communication to Pat.
“Ah I hear you say, but evidence of Pat’s qualifications were in the Inquisitor’s letter in 2002. How could that be so?” Indeed how could it be so, if they weren’t on his official ACT Department of Treasury file some seventeen months later? The only probable answer is that the qualifications the Inquisitor mentioned in his May 9, 2002 letter came from Pat’s Ernst and Young personnel file.
Interestingly, Pat was appointed internally by Tu Pham to the Commissioner’s position on a contractual basis without a formal interview process, initially for three months and subsequently renewed for varying periods on at least seven further occasions. Pat’s substantive and the role for which the ACT Department of Treasury maintained a personnel file for him, was that of Manager Policy, Legislation and Projects, to which he should have reverted had he not continued in the Commissioner’s role on a permanent basis. Of course, sour grapes at failing to succeed in rising to the role of Commisioner and racist intent can cause a black man to lose not only his contract, but his entire career. Just ask Pat’s family.
Intolerance indeed. Intolerance is what leads to the sorts of traumas that Pat and his family have suffered. Intolerance is what leads to Jill Courtney being stereotyped and victimized because she happened to subscribe to a religion others refused to respect, let alone try to comprehend. Intolerance is responsible for the mock lynching Bakchos was subjected to last Easter.
Intolerance yes, but it is so much more than just racism. At the base of racism is the pure, ugly truth – power. I said it in my poem earlier:
… There cannot be a master race if contamination be
All power, all truth, survival lies with no-one else but me!
Commissioner Scipione, Peter FitzSimmons and anyone else with their hand on the steering wheel of justice or power and a voice to rally commonsense, I am in complete agreeance with you about the image set on Saturday and the setback to inter-racial relations. But I am not with you when it comes to the two-faced manner in which Australia has managed the racism within its own border. Peter FitzSimmon, go do an investigative article on what happened to Pat. You’re a researcher, you’re a story-teller. Do you have the guts? Do you have the guts to peel open the rancid innards of the country that professes to want to Close the Gap but has marginalized some of its hardest working Indigenous people?
I have grown to despair for integrity, for I believe that it does not exist in this country any longer. The people who lead this country no longer have a sense of right and hence cannot act consistently with truth. The rule of law is little more than rhetoric; I see the evidence daily. Take the victims king-hit in the streets on a Friday night who see their assailants walk away with a good behaviour bond while their broken jaw, concussion or spinal injuries leave lifelong damage. Take the gutter tactics used by so-called lawyers, politicians and employers intent upon not truth or justice, but a win at any cost, no matter how many people they hurt. Forgiveness for failures and transgressions is possible, but there comes a point beyond which the repetition of such failures and the excuses for bad behaviour cease to be excusable. After ten years, I think the failures of the multitudes that sacrificed Pat are no longer excusable and that this country has bred the discord within its own borders that so worryingly raised its head this weekend. Monkey see, monkey do.