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Friday, June 27, 2008

Missionary elites: born of ignorance, deafness and confusion

Let's call this for what it is. Hypocrisy. A brazen display of utter, craven hypocrisy. Tony Abbott was a minister in the failed Howard Government: the Howard Government which ignored - until a losing election was looming in its rear vision - Aboriginal Australia and, not to mention, the needs and aspirations of remote white Australia. And this sanctimonious ignorance was delivered at that centre for hypocrisy and we-know-what's-best-for-you, the Centre for Independent Studies. How long will we have to wait to hear this drivel reprised on Counterpoint - the mouthpiece for the CIS on the ABC?

Six years ago, Miss Eagle was working in Walgett in north-western NSW. The local whitefellas there had organised themselves to provide a scholarship for rural doctors. Medical personnel in private practice are in short supply in mainstream communities in remote Australia. People want to bring doctors to their communities and want to work hard to give them a good lifestyle and so retain them as long as possible. Whitefellas in the bush realise that their best chances are:
  1. Train doctors who have grown up in the bush and are likely to want to return to the bush - or at least have a good think about it.
  2. Encourage new doctors to the bush by doing part of their practical training in bush hospitals and situations and further encouraging them with a purpose-built bush scholarship.

In a difficult situation, this is reasonable thinking - but it does not absolve governments of their responsibilities - and it expresses the commitment of a local community.

Unfortunately, Aboriginal communities are not able to get together to raise the great wads of cash needed for medical scholarship funding. Even if those concerned gave up their grog and their drugs, the money would have to go to families first.

However, the best bet of getting medicos out into remote Australia is the same two points that have swung white remote communities into action.

More Aboriginal health professionals are coming through our universities. There has been good work done with the training of Aboriginal Health Workers (the original idea came from that of the Barefoot Doctors in Mao's China). A generation further on what are we doing to fund and build on the professionalism of Aboriginal Health Workers so that that from these ranks more Aboriginal health professionals can be put through universities and back into the areas of highest need?

The thing that has always sickened me in the language and actions of Howard and his lackeys is they carry on as if no one prior to their military intervention was doing anything of any value. They had turned their backs years before - meanwhile other parts of humanity, black and white and brindle, were carrying on through thick and thin, funding cuts, isolation, deaf ears and everything that the Howard lot found politically on the outer, politically incorrect. The deaf ears and detachment of the Howard crew cost lives and cost progress.

And Abbott says that self-determination breeds detachment!

WHAT! If self-determination breeds detachment, the only evidence of it is that Aboriginal self-determination was abhorred by the Howard Government and its lackeys and, as a consequence, THEY detached themselves from any interest in Aboriginal people, their situation, their communities.

Sure pay people good money - but pay Aboriginal people already in place and on the ground good money too. And money is not everything. If someone does not have the right spirit and attitude, money won't keep them there long and it certainly won't keep them there through the hard yards.

Will government provide professional development on the ground for all professionals: health, education, justice irrespective of whether of whether they are university or TAFE qualified? You see, governments are very good at doing the flashy stuff like toys and technology and the flash-in-the-pan stuff of big budget announcements. It is not good at the incremental building of solid foundations and structures which will last and which will deliver. Whitefellas lose interest and head back to their capital cities - and blame everyone else for any failures.

And, finally, how will government help to build and revive economies in inland Australia. The mining companies fly in and fly out and do not contribute to community building and localised economies as once they did. Corporate agriculture does not always contribute to local communities in meaningful and substantial ways - but then family owned farming enterprises don't always either. I always remember the quote from western Queensland " long as there's a post office to pick up the mail." But may be, in these days of email and digital phones and faxes, he can live without the post office. And then there's the shopping. Woolworths and Coles don't sprout in much of inland Australia. You go to major cities or regional centres for that and the dollar goes away from local communities and economies.

But this nation has made millionaires (including a Labor Prime Minister's wife) out of employment programs for unemployed people, so why can't the same fertile minds turn their attentions to the building of economies in remote Australia for both black and white communities. They would benefit. We would all benefit. Communities would be stronger and more cohesive. Tax coffers could get some additional input. Let's do some real nation building in the inland for black and white communities.


When you can do nothing else: bear witness.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Samuel's Pratt-fall

Melbourne can be a very small pond sometimes - particularly if you are well-heeled and influential as Richard Pratt and Graeme Samuel are and have been. Because the pond is small, people criss-cross one another's lives here, there, and in all sorts of places: boards, football clubs, the arts, Crown Casino, public events and - not to mention - politics. There are plenty of people to map the criss-cross of the lives of Pratt and Samuel. Thus, when everyone thought that Pratt had settled the Visy-ACCC matter and the ACCC comes back for a personal crack at Pratt, the odd eyebrow headed northward - but we won't give words to thoughts for most obvious of reasons!
Some have been heard to ask - surely when Pratt settled the matter last year part of the settlement would have closed off all avenues of further prosecution? Maybe, maybe not. But then, one assumes, that if one can be proved to have told porky-pies then all bets - or deals, if they were made - would be off?
Anyways, Samuel has denied there is any vendetta by him against Pratt.
Miss Eagle supports Samuel's call for stiffening ACCC's capacity with the possibility of jail terms. Australian white collar crims are seldom seen in handcuffs let alone in prison - although it has happened that a few have had a taste of barred existence lately. Yet in the land of USA Inc they get to see their crims arrested, in cuffs and being hauled off. It happened with Enron and now it has happened with the Bear Stearns people in the sub-prime mortgage rip-offs.
Pratt stood down from the board of Carlton Football Club. We await his future. And Samuel is not answering questions on his - will he remain at the ACCC?
When you can do nothing else: bear witness.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Presumption of innocence? The cases of Pratt and Cousins

Photo: The Age

Tim Lane in to-day's The Age highlights the treatment within the AFL of Richard Pratt, who has now stepped down from the role of President of Carlton Football Club, and compares it with the treatment of Ben Cousins.
See previous post on Pratt here
When you can do nothing else: bear witness.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Is the Australian jury still out on this one?

Our Kiwi cousins across the ditch, have often led the way for their more conservative Australian cousins. Kiwis have a radical history that Australia has seldom shared. Aussies bring up the rear.

Now first let me declare my position. I am a 100% supporter of juries. For me, they are an ancient British system which has served us well. Trials of all sorts have become more complex these days. Some of that is due to technology. Some of that is due to the sophisticated crims that abound to-day. But an awful lot is due to the legal profession/system itself, particularly with nit-picking approaches to law that leave citizens wondering if there is any justice and whether they might be better served taking the law into their own hands.

Now, not everything about the jury system is perfect - never has been. And, in recognition of this, we have adopted the motto "Better that ten guilty people go free, than one innocent person be convicted". In short, there is often a price to pay for the way the jury system operates.

Jury verdicts in Australia have been required to be unanimous - 12 out of 12 decisions. But there have been various tamperings around the edges of this. Scotland, however, has traditionally allowed majority verdicts. Now our Kiwi cousins have voted overwhelmingly for majority verdicts from Kiwi juries.

Not only that, they have gone a step further and stepped into the dangerous waters of double jeopardy. There have been cries in this country for the abolition of double jeopardy. One particular Queensland case going back decades - know names, no pack drill - raises its head on a regular basis in this regard.

The advances of DNA technology seems to have influenced many of the calls for the abolition. Again, the principle of double jeopardy has served us well - and it is not only Miss Eagle who thinks so. Various nations around the world - although not Australia - have enshrined the principle as a constitutional right. If the principle is abolished, it might be possible for people to be tried and tried again until the desired result is achieved. As it stands to-day, once a person is declared innocent of a charge then that is it. Except...and the exception has meant that if the powers-that-be believe it to be warranted, people are arraigned on other charges where possible. These may be lesser charges - but the whole community reads the sub-text.

My view - for what it is worth: I am prepared to go to exceptional use of majority verdicts but only as far as 10 out of 12 majorities, no further. I am not prepared to abolish in any shape or form the principle of double jeopardy. The power shifts away from the community too far into the hands of law enforcement for my liking.

I would, dear Reader, draw your attention to the views and experience of Chester Porter. Since his retirement from the Sydney Bar, Chester - the father of the wonderful poet, Dorothy Porter - has taken to writing. In his autobiography, Walking on Water, Chester gives a lot of time to putting forward his view that the next round of improvements in the legal system have to come through better police work. He expounds his argument with history that will be familiar to any reader of the daily press and brings in his own experience. So, Miss Eagle's view on double jeopardy is: give us high, impeccable, impartial, incorruptible standards of police work and I have confidence that juries will tend to give the right verdicts in the first place.
When you can do nothing else: bear witness.

A community assembles at Ringwood for justice

When you can do nothing else:
bear witness.
Employee relations under the Howard Government were a low point in employer-employee relations in Australia. The election of the Rudd Government has not restored normal service - hence the ACTU has now embarked on Your Rights At Work Mark II.
Union Solidarity was established to provide community support for unions and union members who withdrew their labour from employers in an effort to gain better wages and conditions, to press for union involvement at the bargaining table, and generally to right those wrongs that can come into the workplace when employers consider only their rights and economic interests and no one else's.

You will find Union Solidarity community assemblies in support of unions and their members across Melbourne as and when the need arises. The caravan, the coffee pot, the barbie, the warm fire and a microphone and cardboard and textas to explain to passers-by what is going on. Union Solidarity is something of a free-form organisation. No membership fees, joining-up handshakes or anything like that. It relies on community support - and how often the community turns up!

On Monday next, 23 June,
Union Solidarity will assemble not at a workplace
but to rally outside the
Ringwood Magistrate's Court,
39 Ringwood Street, Ringwood
at 9.30am.

The prosecution at Ringwood Magistrate's Court that Union Solidarity is interested in is that against Anthony Elliott, of Elliot Engineering. Elliott is the defendant in a trial arising out of a community assembly in May 2007. Elliot faces a number of charges. The prosecution will argue that he drove a truck in a reckless manner through a picket line. A number of Union Solidarity supporters sustained injuries as a result of Elliot's alleged actions.

Union Solidarity expects to see that justice takes its course.

Will Pratt fall flat this time?

O'Neill carton in The Sydney Morning Herald 071013
They're after him again. The ACCC are after Richard Pratt again for lying to them in the course of an investigation. Last year's fines are clearly not enough. Do Graeme Samuel & Co at the ACCC want their pound of flesh as well? Is the corporate Richard Pratt not enough that they are now going after the person - because it is a person who has the capability of lying? Pratt has given back his Order of Australia honours. Don't know if he has given back his Woodrow Wilson Medal for Corporate Citizenship.

Pratt has stayed on a President of Carlton. They desperately need/ed him and his money. But if the ACCC are successful in this prosecution, will Carlton be looking for a new President?

Pratt is a rather popular good ol' boy. He and wife Jeannie support quite a few good causes, not least of which is the Yarts. Former Prime Minister (doesn't that sound good) Howard spoke out in his favour after last year's verdict.

So, while the ACCC chasing Pratt again might be just legal and bureaucratic tidying up after last year's episode, it also could be designed to further diminish Pratt the person unless - to make a dreadful pun which is irresistible in the circumstances - the ACCC is using a Pratt to catch a mackerel.

When you can do nothing else: bear witness.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

It takes a village...

I had a call this afternoon from Denis of The Nature of Robertson. For the last few years - in among bouts of very serious ill health - Denis has, along with others in the Save Water Alliance in the Southern Highlands of New South Wales, been doing battle with Sydney Water and the NSW Govt in regard to robbing the water of the Kangaloon Aquifer. Pop over to the blog and read up in the 146 posts on Kangaloon.

This afternoon when Denis rang it was to tell me that the NSW Govt was shelving - but perhaps not losing interest in - the Kangaloon Aquifer. He was bathed in the sweet smell of success. The battle has been long and hard. It has had its horrible moments. Denis has dragged every bit of skill he has - in putting reports together for government representations, in addressing public meetings, in photographing the invasion and the damage caused - into the fight.

And all this work by Denis and the community has brought positive results. What a community can achieve when it works together!

This is what Denis loves about his community of Robertson - a tiny village atop the Illawarra escarpment of the Southern Highlands. The spirit. The spirit that welcomed him and by which he feels supported. And now it has proved to have the spirit to fight off a government which wants to have its water and drink other people's too.


When you can do nothing else: bear witness.

Close the Gap and Intervention events coming up...

There will be a Close The Gap event at the Victorian Aboriginal Health Service, 186 Nicholson Street, Fitzroy on Wednesday 25 June from 10am-2pm. Attendance at this event would provide an opportunity for those with a health interest to build bridges and network with health providers in the Aboriginal community. However, it would be helpful and courteous if you could phone ahead and express your interest in attending on 9419 3000.

On Saturday 21 June next, there will be rallies right across Australia as part of a National Day of Action to protest the intervention by the Australian Government in Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory. If you are interested be outside the State Library of Victoria on the corner of Swanston and La Trobe Streets, Melbourne at 12 noon. Planning for these rallies has been taking place for some time within Aboriginal communities across the country. Focus will be the non-consultative approach of the intervention and the over-riding of the Racial Discrimination Act to provide the legislative base for the intervention.
When you can do nothing else: bear witness.

Friday, June 13, 2008

I was up at my favouritest Parents Without Partners Opp Shop in Upper Gully to-day.
To-day, Friday 13 June, and to-morrow, Saturday 14 June, they are having a Dollar Day.

They are stocked to the hilt and they want all their regulars to benefit from the sale.
As well, they want to welcome lots of newcomers too.
So, time to hotfoot it to Rose Street, Upper Ferntree Gully.

Head east to the Dandenong Ranges,
turn right from Burwood Highway into Dawson Street, Upper Ferntree Gully
(Ferntree Gully Plaza Shopping Centre on one side of Dawson Street
and the Royal Hotel on the other side)
Take first turn to the left - along Rose Street.
Rose Street bends to the left.
On the bend look right and there it is!
Your money is well spent
because PWP at Upper Gully contributes to the support of Emergency Housing in the south-east and, in addition, pays the wages of a Social Worker to assist those in need of the housing.

When you can do nothing else: bear witness.

Thanks to Louise who has advised of the following event:

Forum Two: Dangerous and Persuasive Women: Doing Politics Differently - Australian Women's 'History of Success'
Centenary of Suffrage in Victoria 1908 - 2008
WHEN: Monday 16 June 2008
WHERE: BMW Edge Theatre, Federation Square,Melbourne
WHEN: 6.30pm for 7.00pm start

Book now to reserve your seat for the Women's Trust's second free forum celebrating 100 years of Victorian women's right to vote. Join us for a unique and entertaining oral and visual presentation - a journey across the century detailing how Australian women have done politics not only differently, but also very successfully.
Drawing on the works of significant feminist historians and the Women’s Trust's own research, a unique, first-time and compelling public narrative will be delivered, co-presented by radio presenter and journalist Angela Pippos, comedian and entertainer Tracy Bartram, social historian Adjunct Professor Judith Smart and Women's Trust Executive Director Mary Crooks.
The Trust's first forum was a terrific success - drawing a crowd of over 300 people - so make sure you don't miss out on this next event!
Book now - phone the Trust on (03) 9642 0422 or email to reserve your seat.
The Trust will hold a third a final event to commemorate this important
anniversary in October

When you can do nothing else: bear witness.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Productive capacity

When you can do nothing else: bear witness.

The Mighty Maroons triumph

To-day Miss Eagle bears witness to an incredible Queensland win in State of Origin II last night - 30-0.

Miss Eagle is an expatriate Queenslander living in Melbourne where there is one dominant code - not Rugby League - and the majority of people don't understand, try to understand or care about any other game. Not even the World Game, Soccer.

For a Queenslander, State of Origin - three matches played between Queensland and New South Wales every winter - is a religion. The reasons for this are ancient and deep. If, dear Reader, you want to come to grips with a Queenslander's attitude to New South Wales and how State of Origin came about, read my uncle Jack Gallaway's superb history The Brisbane Broncos: the team to beat.

Jack, in the early part of the book, takes the reader on a journey through Queensland football history to show how Rugby League enmity between Queensland and New South Wales festered and grew to the extent that, some years ago, Billy Mohr came down the tunnel chanting "Queenslander, Queenslander, Queenslander" and Queensland hearts exulted and beat a little quicker. After all, so many shared religious experiences have a chant - and now Queensland had one.
But State of Origin loyalties can be tug of heart things. Instance the case of the coach of the New South Wales team, the wonderful Craig Bellamy - to some, the best coach in the world currently.
Bellamy coaches the Melbourne Storm. The Melbourne Storm has countless Queensland and Brisbane Broncos connections. The captain of The Storm and the Australian Rugby League Captain is also the captain of Queensland's State of Origin team - Cam Smith. Quite a few Queenslanders inhabit The Storm. Bellamy has coached with the Broncos under the redoubtable Wayne Bennett.
He has also coached at the Canberra Raiders under Mal Meninga who is the Queensland coach in State of Origin. There was a time when the connections between the Raiders and Queensland were so strong that the Raiders was regarded as the de facto Queensland team when the Broncos weren't playing. In fact, my friend Denis over at The Nature of Robertson in New South Wales - who has never ever lived in Queensland but is a former Canberran - barracks for Queensland in the State of Origin.
That's the history. That's the heart. Last night's achievements were so exhilarating and the stars of such good play were so numerous that I will leave you, dear Reader, to explore the links.
Congratulations, Cam and team.
Commiserations, Craig.
On to Sydney for the next Queensland triumph.


When you can do nothing else: bear witness.

Thursday, June 05, 2008


Don't human beings love monuments. We love remembering meetings with God, where famous people lived, and remembering our dead.

One of our most famous monuments is Stonehenge. Ancient stones whether standing alone, with friends, or in circles fascinate us. And Stonehenge has certainly fascinated us. We have considered it an astronomical observatory marking the sun and the seasons. We have believed it to be a place of ancient worship and the neo-druids frequently gather there to-day to revive ancient rituals.
But another lot of know-it-alls is now telling us that it is an ancient burial site.
However, I do prefer Yoni Brenner's up-to-date and straight from pre-history account of the burial site of Og. As Yoni says:
...although we may never see eye to eye on legacy of Og or Massive-Rocks-Arranged-in-Mysterious-Circle, me believe this debate is valuable in itself; and me think we can all agree that when public work of art generate this sort of spirited dialogue, it can only be good thing.


When you can do nothing else: bear witness.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Home at last....sort of

Back in 2003, we knew - we, the people of Australia. We knew that the US invasion of Iraq was a giant sized mistake. We knew we did not want Australian troops there on an American joy-ride. Well, a joy-ride for the Bushies - not for the families of the American war dead with whom we mourn. And we marched and we marched and we marched to tell Howard and his henchman. But to no avail.
To-day Prime Minister Rudd announced the Australian troop withdrawal. Well, most of the troops will be withdrawn. Troops to guard the embassy will remain along with a further 800 Australian troops supporting troops in Afghanistan and providing diplomatic security.
Australians will not be satisfied until all troops are out of Iraq. But this begs the question of when the USA - which has put more emphasis on poor military decisions and strategies than constructive nation building - of when the USA will go home. After all, it seldom leaves a nation once it has arrived.


When you can do nothing else: bear witness.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Blogging this year has been sporadic. Miss Eagle has been living life instead including pleasuring herself in the Northern Territory during the last month. But I have to burst into print to-day over Kevin Rudd and his so called "work ethic".

Let's take a little walk down memory lane.

It is Queensland in the 1990s and Wayne Goss (Wayne Swan was State Seceretary of the ALP) has just ousted the National Party from 32 years in government. Wayne Goss was elected Premier of Queensland on 2 December 1989 and remained there until 1995. Two things characterised the Goss period of government - arrogance and aloofness - and they were demonstrated before Goss was ever sworn in as Premier.

On election night in the tally room, he famously told a group of cheering young Labor supporters who were beside themselves with understandable excitement that they should take a cold shower. In my view, it was - eventually - this same sort of arrogance and aloofness which brought the Goss Labor government unstuck so that, on the morning after the loss, Queensland Treasurer Keith de Lacey could say "There's a message in there somewhere but I don't know what it is."

And what has this to do with Kevin Rudd's so-called work ethic? Heaps - if one could just learn from the Queensland experience.

It is said that, when Rudd was interviewed by Goss for the position of Chief of Staff, Goss was taken aback when Rudd asked if there was any objection if he took Sunday off. And so the Rudd "work ethic" entered political life.

But it is not just this anecdote that provides our lesson. When the Goss government came to power it had the support of most of the Queensland Public Service. To be sure, not the support of the high-ranking bureaucrats who were put to one side with in-trays and no out-trays. But, generally speaking, the support of most members of the Queensland Public Service. Within about twelve months, the Goss Government - with Rudd as a significant player - had lost the support of the Queensland Public Service because of the way it was treated.

There was no mention then of huge work demands - they were just treated shabbily. In fact, all round many long time, long term supporters of the ALP and the incoming Goss Government were treated shabbily. However, it could also be fairly said that the Queensland Public Service was the first to feel the heat, the first to lose the faith.

So my heart goes out to the public service tribe of Canberra when people say it is a public service town, a Labor town and now people there, the "working families" there, cannot stand a fair chance of establishing the work-family balance.

I have often wondered what Kevin Rudd has learned from the Queensland experience that would change his attitudes this time around - if change there would be at all. And then I thought that Canberra is a large stage with a diverse group of players which might limit some of the attitudes seen in Queensland. Perhaps this is happening. Perhaps, behind the scenes, Rudd is receiving some astute advice - if he is not too arrogant and aloof to listen.

But - as I have always said to my kids -
if you don't chose to listen and take on board good advice.
That's OK.
Life has a way of teaching you.
It seems that the
might just have a life lesson for Kevin Rudd.

When you can do nothing else: bear witness.