As in part one, unattributed quotes are taken from Brough’s parliamentary speeches on the legislation introduced as the core of the Northern Territory intervention (and the related welfare reforms).
more on welfare
The federal government is also removing what are known as “remote area exemptions” from activity tests for welfare payments, throughout the Northern Territory by the end of this year. This is partly just to make everyone subject to the full disciplining to be possible through Centrelink, and partly to make sure that “clean up activities related to the Northern Territory emergency response are available and that job seekers can be compelled to participate in these activities”. In other words, to create a cheap labour force available for use by the intervention, and to put those used as such coerced labour under greater control and supervision.
As Brough pointed out, they’ve just got too much time on their hands.
the lease over the community
“This is not a normal land acquisition.” Mal Brough
“We believe that this government is using child sexual abuse as the Trojan horse to resume total control of our lands.” Pat Turner
So, continuing my reading and summary of Brough, and stoutly hacking our way through Hansard, we get to the legislation on NT National Emergency Response, and to the other legislation passed by the Liberals and ALP. Even prior to the legislation, Brough notes, they’ve established the ‘Northern Territory Emergency Response Taskforce’, chaired by Magistrate Sue Gordon, with the very manly Major-General Dave Chalmers heading up the “operational command headquarters” in Alice Springs. (I picture it like that military base inside the mountain in Stargate, only in Uluru and without as convincing a performance of benevolence.) They have deployed federal cops to the ‘affected areas’, who will be “special constables” with all the powers of NT cops, and are covering the costs of state police sent in, and of course have sent in the military. A “proper police presence” being “at the core of the stabilisation phase of the emergency response”.”
I was reminded of an article in The Guardian from June 23, which noted, amongst other issues, that:
Doubts have also been raised about the ability of local prisons to cope with a possible influx of Aboriginal prisoners in already full jails.
However, Kevin Rudd, leader of the opposition Labor party, dismissed suggestions that the plan was a political stunt and said he would work with the government on a “positive, non-partisan basis”.
Mr Howard was standing his ground. “We’ve been too timid in the past about interfering,” he said. “I’ll be slammed for taking away people’s rights but frankly I don’t care about that.”
According to Brough, those intervening have identified 73 townships for ‘intervention’, and sent in ’survey teams’ to “explain to local people the steps being taken, to listen to their views, to answer questions and to assess the state of play in terms of infrastructure and services”. So far, survey teams have hit 47 townships, Brough claimed. In addition, five hundred ‘health checks’ have been conducted of under-16s, with the emphasis on detecting sexual abuse and referrals to child protection authorities. (Brough managed to discuss the proposed medical check-ups of all children in “affected areas” - you know, black ones - without referring to the public controversies, the suggestions by respectable medical types that sexual abuse checks performed without parental consent might in themselves constitute assault, the federal government backing down by backing forward in that parental consent would now be required and the check-ups would be justified as a search for health problems beyond simply a fishing expedition for abuse.)
But this is to be only the beginning, pre-legislative initiatives prior to the full-scale invasion. Next is the stabilisation phase: we’re going to normalise them, in their relations to work, family, property, through control of land, bread, freedom. This is seriously how everything is being framed. “Rebuilding social norms” in Pearsonspeak. Oh those capitalists with their social engineering. We don’t need to find uranium under the soil or documents exposing a plan to bury nuclear waste in sacred sites in order to see imperatives at work here beyond the protection of the innocent.
So while Pat Turner’s comments reflect something of the reality of these interventions, child sexual abuse is a Trojan horse deployed to help seize total control of not merely land, but lives - something rendered more opaque when the two intersect in multiple ways. As an example of what this project of normalisation is supposed to mean, Brough notes:
We need to show people that it is possible to own and control your own home, which can only happen when you have a lease over the land that it is built on. […] Currently there are too few jobs in these communities and land tenure arrangements work against developing a real economy.
They have examined the permit system, therefore, and “in the larger public townships and the road corridors that connect them, permits will no longer be required.” This will allow “public scrutiny”. And: “Closed towns also prevent the free flow of visitors and tourists that can help to stimulate economic opportunities and create job opportunities.” Indeed, tourists and the “real economy” are continuing themes in Brough’s presentation: tourists
have been discouraged, leading to limited contact and no involvement with the real economy and the financial support that can be derived from tourists attending these communities and buying from the various art outlets and from other economic activities that can flow from it.
Land councils and traditional owners will no longer be able to revoke permits issued “by another party”.
So the areas to be covered by this Act are:
land scheduled under the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976; community living areas which are located on a form of freehold lease issued by the Northern Territory government to Aboriginal corporations; town camps in the vicinity of major urban areas, held by Aboriginal associations on special leases from the Northern Territory government; and other areas prescribed on advice from our expert task force.
The five year period of “intensive Commonwealth oversight” isn’t set in stone. For example, the government has mooted the possibility of taking freehold title over town camp areas after this period. And:
The government has been in negotiations with the Alice Springs town camps for some time, and we remain hopeful that they will agree to sublease the housing areas of their land to the Northern Territory for 99 years to be run as normal public housing.
(Brough has criticised the NT government’s response to the Little children are sacred report (and to the intervention) for failure to deal with housing issues to the federal government’s satisfaction, lamenting the lack of “real housing reform” Brough added that “there is a real void in the housing and economic development aspects of today’s announcement, with no mention of 99 year leasing - which was the NT Government’s idea in the first place.” Though framed as a competition about who is willing to “put money on the table”, it seems that the politics of land can only be effaced, not erased.)
Whereas in the past government funding for buildings and other infrastructure on indigenous land has not qualified indigenous ownership, so that such facilities become owned by the indigenous owners, the governments concerned, whether Commonwealth or NT, will now own any buildings or infrastructure they help fund on indigenous land, whether they fund the building or merely the upgrading of such. Traditional owners/land councils will have to consent to any such arrangements, but if the other option is the withholding of all government funding this consent might be said to be acquired in something of a rock-and-hard-place scenario.
And since we mentioned Pat Turner, she also stated that:
That’s why the Prime Minister called it a national emergency. You know, because in the national interest, he can move on the Northern Territory land rights act. Right? We’re not stupid. We didn’t come down in the last shower. We were there at the beginning.
managing selected communities
The Commonwealth is creating new positions, called “government business managers”, who will have extensive powers within the “selected communities”, terminating or changing any Commonwealth funding agreements, able to direct government-funded services and control the assets used for those services, able to appoint people as “observers” on bodies “carrying out functions or services”, and able to place bodies under “external administration” if they are judged to have ‘failed’ in their provision of government-funded services. These powers are aimed at “community organisations” which receive government funding, those “unable, or unwilling, to make the changes” that are being imposed.
Recognising that shop-owners in outback areas are capitalist profiteers, the government is stepping in. Oh, those capitalists with their central planning! Since everyone on welfare is going to have half their payments ‘managed’ by Centrelink, - see previous post - the government is going to be licensing particular stores, which will then be acceptable places for people to spend ‘their’ payments on approved purchases. Where a store doesn’t want to be part of this system of surveillance and control, they will not only face the lost income from those no longer permitted to shop there; the government intends to create new stores which will drive others out of business. These new stores will be called ‘Outback Stores’, and I have no idea how they will come about, though the feds are giving Indigenous Business Australia some $18.9 million “to provide an expanded network of outback stores as well as support for existing stores in conjunction with welfare payment reform”, whatever that means. This isn’t me projecting coercive intent where there is only the desire to provide: the government is already making use of the threat of what Brough humorously calls “competition”. Toto, I don’t think we’re in neoliberalism anymore.
stemming the flow of alcohol, drugs and pornography
Banning porn in these “prescribed areas” means banning things which are not banned in other areas; some “pornographic material and advertisements” are already banned nationwide, and we’re presumably not talking about just those, though we are certainly talking about new means of enforcement. Indeed, categories 1 and 2 restricted publications will be prohibitted; there goes American Psycho, anyway - as a Category 1 restricted book, it will be an offense to possess a copy even “without the intention to copy or sell”, and here come the soldiers. It will also be a criminal offense to send the novel in to the NT, or even to send or deliver the book from somewhere within the NT to somewhere else within the NT, whether for commercial purposes or otherwise.
Though these rules end after five years, the Commonwealth is making efforts to have the NT government legislate identical restrictions, which presumably would not end. Sunset clauses would thus not truly hamper the dawn of a new age of censorship.
Enforcement, of course, requires omnipresent police, if not the military, and that authorities have the power to seize, which means the ability to raid and search. More soon.
and on The Greens
The Greens have become increasingly critical of this ‘intervention’, albeit starting from a pretty low point.
Greens Senator Rachel Siewert says the bills, to be introduced to parliament today, declare anything done under the legislation to be a special measure - effectively exempting them from the Racial Discrimination Act.
“Basically this is racist legislation, the Government knows it is and they’re exempting themselves from the act,” she said.
Senator Siewert says the legislation strips Aboriginal people of their rights.
“The Racial Discrimination Act provides, as does the international convention, for special measures for the advancement of a particular racial group,” she said.
“We do not believe that the measures contained in this legislation are for the advancement of Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory.
“It clearly takes their rights away, it takes away their right to make decisions over their land.”
They’re not wrong, those Greens, but I don’t think they or anyone else has yet effectively indicated the kind of agenda actually at play here, at least not comprehensively, at least so far as I have seen, which mostly means that neither the white commentators who infest the broadsheets, nor Noel Pearson, have thoroughly or honestly described what is going on, in the NT or nationally. Though Jon Stanhope, ALP boss of the Australian Capital Territory, has made a couple of not-insane remarks. (And see this text, and the discussion underneath, for some interesting and suggestive analysis.)
Part three to follow. Amongst other things, this next part should make it clear in detail, in case it wasn’t completely obvious, why no-one should look to the ALP, not even to an ACT chief minister, for meaningful opposition or critique. After all, as the ever-revolting Miranda Devine put it in the Sydney Morning Herald on June 28:
It is a measure of Rudd’s character and of his understanding of the shift in the public’s thinking on Aboriginal issues that he has gone along with Howard’s plan, and that he made an unscheduled appearance in Cairns on Tuesday at a conference on “rebuilding social norms” put on by Pearson’s Cape York Institute.