An Aboriginal writer on Aboriginal culture

The plight of Australia’s Aborigines is so sad that I was pleased to hear about Bruce Pascoe’s book ‘Dark Emu Black Seeds: agriculture or accident?’ A retired school teacher drew my attention to this valuable book. Have our media paid any attention to its findings?

A book about pre-invasion Aboriginal culture, written by an Aborigine, is far more credible than writing by even a sympathetic non-Aboriginal writer. Pascoe’s sources are journals and diaries of (white) pastoralists, explorers, and the like. His sources are plentiful. When British beneficiaries of invasion, killing, and despoliation of native culture say honestly what they saw and experienced, one would expect Pascoe’s narrative to be accepted by one and all.

Not so! A retired Anglo-Aussie school teacher told me that she did not find the book credible. I repeat a belief I uttered way back in the racist 1940s and 1950s: that the oldest generation of (British) Aussies had to join their Maker before the lives of Asian students in Australia would be easier. That did happen.

Those supremacist white Australians who will not even accept that their indigenes are First Nation People, or who are unwilling to allow the Aborigines to have a say on policies to ‘bridge the gap’ in life expectancy, health, education, and a jail-free life have to leave us – in my view, as soon as possible.

Pascoe’s report also suggests that the behaviour of settlers generally, and some explorers, was decidedly despicable and un-Christian. Pascoe’s book also confirms what the redoubtable Dr. Coombs had earlier written about the Australian Aborigines. Their lives had all the hallmarks of a settled people, an organised polity, and a civilisation; and they had spiritual values of a high order, as well as a view of the Cosmic order.

Would not any intelligent person expect that a people who had survived this harsh land for 35,000 to 60,000 years know how to relate to Nature and to heavenly bodies? I doubt that modern man does. He wants control, not balance.

British settlement turned a settled people with agriculture, aquaculture, solid buildings, and a co-operative way of life into nomads. Being converted to Christianity did not protect the indigene from exploitation for more than two centuries. Now, they are expected to be ‘like us.’ Some already are; what about the rest?

Multiculturalism policy permits, even encourages, ethnic communities in Australia to identify themselves as identifiably separate; but not our indigenes. Why so?


Beyond the free-trade spin

You find ‘free trade’ is covering up a lot of special deals that may or may not be good for the economy. This is the conclusion I draw from the paper What do trade agreements really do? by a leading US expert, Professor Dani Rodrik.” So wrote Ross Gittins in the March 3-4 2018 issue of The Sydney Morning Herald. I have followed him for decades, as he is a most perceptive analyst.

He accepts the benefits from international trade. “… we all benefit from specialising in a particular occupation we’re good at, then exchanging goods and services with people in other specialities, so further ‘gains from trade’ can be reaped by extending specialisation and exchange beyond our borders to producers in other countries.”

In relation to NAFTA, Gittins quotes Rodrik as saying that recent research suggests the deal “produced minute net efficiency gains for the US economy while severely depressing wages of those groups and communities most directly affected by Mexican competition. So there’s a huge gap between what economic theory tells us about the benefits of free trade and the consequences of highly flawed, politically compromised deals between a few countries.”

Rodrik: “How can economists be so certain the gains to the winners far exceed the losses to the losers – and that the winners have compensated the losers?” Gittins: “What many economists don’t realise is that the international battle to eliminate tariffs and import quotas has largely been won (though less so for the agricultural products of interest to farmers).” Ignore ‘Trumpology’ for the moment.

Gittins also points out that “… so-called free trade agreements are more about issues that aren’t the focus of economists’ simple trade theory: “regulatory standards, health and safety issues, investment, banking and finance, intellectual property, labour, the environment and many other subjects besides.” Rodrik names 4 components of agreements that are worrying.

First, intellectual property (IP): Gittins points out that “the US just happens to be a huge exporter of intellectual property –in the form of pharmaceuticals, software, hardware, movies and much else.” “… with IP the rich countries’ gains are largely the poor countries’ losses.”

“Second, restrictions on a country’s ability cross-border capital flows.” “… it’s a good thing for less-developed economies to retain some control.”

“Third, ‘investor-state dispute settlement procedures.’ … They allow foreign investors – but not local investors – to sue host governments in special arbitration tribunals and seek damages for regulatory, tax and other policy changes merely because those changes reduce their profits. How, exactly, is this good for economic efficiency, jobs and growth?”

“Rodrik concludes that ‘trade agreements are the result of rent-seeking, self-interested behaviour on the part of politically well-connected firms.’ ... They may result in greater beneficial trade, but they are just as likely to redistribute income from the poor to the rich under the guise of ‘freer trade.’”

(Does not economic theory support the view of certain nations that only the rich save to invest, and thus take their economy forward?)

The El Dorado of welfare

When the Soviet regime allowed some of its Jewish citizens to join close relatives in Israel, 85% of those allowed to leave were (according to Israel’s Prime Minister in the early 1980s) deflected to the El Dorado of the USA (and to less-attractive nations such as Australia). This is the power of economic opportunity.

In recent decades, beardless Middle Eastern men and niqab-free women paid large sums of money to ‘snake-heads’ to deliver them to the (no reciprocity of payment required) welfare regime of the El Dorado of Australia.

The extent of support for welfare (and attempts to widen its scope in Australia) is most impressive. While ‘other people’s money’ is a natural drawcard, what motivates those who recommend (even demand) widening and deepening welfare eligibility for others? Paying students to study maths at school is the latest thought-bubble of a poobah in education policy.

And, until recently, there was a strident demand from a sector of the community that Australia should take in more economic migrants claiming asylum – without regard to the UN Convention defining a refugee. Is it not curious that their wish to offer charity is circumscribed by the availability of taxpayer money?

A concealed form of welfare takes the form of tax subsidies to the well-off. The most interesting one is described as ‘wealth creation’ by Conservative politicians. The most flagrant form is through ‘negative gearing’ of investments in property. Costs – actual or staged – are deductible against income from any source; a most generous unintended gift by other taxpayers, who have to make up the deficit in government revenue, and who are unable to reduce their tax burden honestly.

Interestingly, an article by Jessica Irvine in the Sydney Morning Herald of 9 Feb. 2018, about a report by the Grattan Institute on Australia’s compulsory contribution by workers, suggests increasing rent assistance to vulnerable retirees.

What was the objective in establishing the ‘superannuation guarantee charge’? Was it not intended to progressively replace the age pension, which is now popularly regarded as a right, and which is a very heavy budgetary burden?

Multicultural, ethnically diverse or one people?

In the 1970s and 1980s, ethnic empowerment (my phrase) became federal government policy. Since 1948, selected able-bodied European immigrants had to find their way wherever they lived in Australia. Now, their successor entrants had to be shown their way by social workers. These would be employed by their ethnic communities at taxpayer expense. Settled ethnic (European) populations, with few new entrants, were to be served too!

Coincidently, during that period, both sides of politics decided (on obviously faulty advice) to chase the so-called ethnic vote. Instead of a residence of 5 years out of 8 to qualify for the grant of citizenship, one government reduced the qualifying period to 3 years; this was followed by the other government reducing it to 2years. The beneficiaries would have included those with a criminal intent; by keeping their heads down for only 2 years, they could go back with Australian citizenship. Dual citizenship was not then available.

Multicultural policy was also introduced – to manage multiculturalism; that is, to tell us ethnics how to relate to one another. Quaintly, some British then claimed to be an ethnic community too, displaying a revived Morris dance. Since the Anglo-Aussies had already accepted us foreigners as fellow-Australians, what was there to manage? By the very fact of being foreigners, we got along with one another. Ethnic enclaves had not been formed as yet.

To guide the government, ethnic advisory committees were established. There was also a Minister for Multiculturalism, with attendant public service staff. What did they all do? The parallel migrant-settlement service managed by the ethnic committees was also never evaluated for its effectiveness.

State governments were not slow in establishing counterpart ethnicity-focused structures. What did they achieve? In essence, what ethnic tribal chiefs opposed was ‘mainstreaming,’ where governments provided necessary services to the public irrespective of ethnicity; that would have saved a great deal of taxpayer money. Needed services, when ethnicity based, emphasised cultural differences.

Why were cultural differences relevant? Interpreters were available in both public and private agencies. Gone were the days when children interpreted for their parents; or when some host people raised their voices to be understood.

A prime minister and a state premier then replaced culture retention with shared citizenship, and pride in being one integrated people. Most of our children had already led the way to one people through their education, socialisation, sport, and habituation.

In what ways do people display their ethnic origins in day to day living? Are not diverse clothing styles over-laid by a shared Australian accent in spoken English? And in shared community attitudes?

Could we just be Aussies without burbling about how culturally diverse our origins were? Do allow our young to lead us.

Celebrating nationhood

The celebration of Australia Day has come and gone, exacerbating the division in the populace as to the appropriateness of the date.

Pride in one’s nation is wonderful; and advisable. However, when the visible, audible, and palpable underlay of the populace, the indigenes of Australia, remain the underclass in the nation after more than two centuries of control over their lands, their lifestyles, and their life-chances, could they be expected to commemorate the anniversary of the date of invasion by the British?

Australia was formed as a nation on 1 January. Celebrating Australia Day on the date would, however, deny an extra public holiday. We can’t have that. Public holidays should also fall on a Friday or Monday, enabling a long weekend for full-time employees. The operators of small businesses and their traditionally casual employees can have no say in this matter. How then decide on an appropriate day?

Then there are the ‘trogs’ of this nation. Another generation of these will have to join their Maker before any Aboriginal rights, or even recognition as First Nation Peoples, could ever be considered. In this allegedly democratic nation, what a large majority (say 80%) of electors or the population want has been repeatedly over-ridden by (concealed) cultural superiority, sectarian religion, or political-party affiliation. Our elected representatives represent only their parties, which represent only their own interests. Re-election is all that matters.

Now that the federal government has increased both entry numbers and the ethno-lingual diversity of the immigrant intake, seemingly in the belief that the world will soon run out of migration-seekers, there will be a natural tendency for some new settlers to remain involved in the politics ‘back home,’ to the extent of returning to fight their tribal opponents.

Others will yearn for some aspect of their traditional culture which is incompatible with Australia’s institutions or cultural values and mores. It may be the next or succeeding generations which feel Australian – and with pride.

Successful migrant adaptation can be expected in a country known for its ‘fair-go’ ethos.

When will our Aborigines be accepted as a distinct people, and that ‘bridging the gap’ in disadvantage goes beyond political rhetoric? I fear, not racism based on skin colour, but tribal superiority based on cultural conditioning over more than two centuries.

‘They need to be like us’ used to be said frequently. They clearly have. What now, in this highly-vaunted multicultural nation?

Asianising Australia

Prime Minister Holt, the one who seemed to have given himself to Neptune (the Lord of the Sea), was the first Prime Minister to realise that his now independent Asian neighbours had no time for the superior white man. Mindful of an electoral backlash, he allowed only a few tanned Asians to enter Australia as permanent residents in the 1960s. Was it not strange that they were all medicos?

Later, when medical specialists had also arrived, as a couple of them told me, Anglo-Aussie GPs would tell them to call upon their own people to provide referrals. A medical degree touched not the racism of these Aussie GPs; or, was it only ethnocentricity? Or, a fear of competition?

Then, there arose the issue of tribalism dividing immigrants. When, in my role as Chief Ethnic Affairs Officer for Victoria in the early 1980s, I addressed members of the Indian Association at a dinner, I relied on advice from their president. I said that, were I to be seen urinating on the wall of a building, all Indians would be tarnished by public disapproval; and I am not an Indian.

The president’s concern was to avoid splitting the Indian community in Australia by tribalism, although strong tribal links may be the norm in India. In contrast, the Ceylonese (Sri Lankan) community in Australia was already split by ethnicity into 3 representative organisations; tribalism prevailed. But that was also the norm with a number of European ethno-cultural communities in Australia.

As for an allegedly open immigration door operating from the early 1970s, there was a strong hand limiting the entry of immigrants from the Indian subcontinent. Until the end of the 20th century, preference was given to the lighter-coloured East Asians, preferably those who claimed to be Christian.

By then, many wealthy people from Hong Kong had obtained residence rights in Australia through a quaint policy which allowed immigrant entry were the entrant to possess half a million dollars. The official theory was that these entrants would commence businesses in Australia. I am not aware of any official follow-up (Australia does not seem to do that.)

Since these Hong Kong businessmen were only seeking a bolt-hole were China to change operational practices after its recovery of Hong Kong, many of these new Australian residents went back to their usual high life-style as soon as possible; but leaving their offspring behind in large homes. Auckland in New Zealand had a similar experience. As I was told by a local, the suburb of Howick became known as Chowick.

After my retirement, I was told by a Chinese from Southeast Asia that he had sent his half-million to his brother, who had then also migrated. Later, it was reported that certain bankers in China had enabled a number of Chinese to become Aussie residents by recycling the same half-million. Who would be surprised by such enterprise exploiting incompetent policies?

Today, non-residents are apparently able to buy residential property in Australia in order to obtain capital gains. This practice prices homes beyond the financial capacity of first-home buyers.

Today, Asians and other coloured people help to fill the land at a rapid rate (in case the globe runs out of requisite applicants for entry), with very rich Chinese also reportedly buying productive enterprises, farms, and infrastructure. The ’yellow hordes from the North,’ the ‘Chinks’ and ‘Chows’ are no more. I have not been a ‘black bastard’ for ages.

Clever, hard-working Asian-Australians can be expected soon to enter the political arena, to nudge white Vaticanites off their pedestals of power. Multiculturalism also means the sharing of political power.

Yet, Australia, not being in Asia, cannot be of Asia. We will continue to belong to the political West, led by the USA.

Racial discrimination law presents confusing concepts

Australia’s racial discrimination legislation successfully confuses acts of discrimination and words indicating prejudice, a feeling. Discrimination involves treating an individual or group differently from others, generally less favourably. Examples would be: a denial of equal opportunity, or paying wages below a legal entitlement. There may be no antipathetic feeling associated with the act of discrimination.

Whereas prejudice can be displayed in looks of disdain, or in spoken words, such as those used by bullies (or idiots) in a playground or in a work situation.
Denial of a right or entitlement will hurt – emotionally and materially. The effects can be very long term. Do read my 2 posts titled ‘The myth of racial discrimination’ to fully appreciate what actual discrimination is all about.

The discrimination I had to endure in not only the White Australia era but also in the 1980s was substantial, not imagined or coined. Initially, the discrimination I experienced reflected responses to my skin colour and to my being foreign. Latterly, the trigger was tribo-religious (‘not one of us’); and I had to ‘go with the flow’ to be allowed to work in peace. I thought it wise to retire prematurely.

Words uttered by rude people – mainly through ignorance or stupidity – can hurt, but only if one allows that! Why would one want to do that? Would one feel hurt and humiliated were the heavens to open suddenly, and deposit cold water on one’s head? Of course, one would feel chastened and a little hurt were a parent or a teacher or one’s boss to be rude in correcting one’s attitude, behaviour, or quality of work.

The Australian Aborigine has had to put up with more than 2 centuries of oral abuse! Has racial legislation provided significant protection? Yet, some recent coloured immigrants have allegedly spoken about being hurt and humiliated by nasty people addressing rude words at them. Is it time to adopt this adage: “The dogs may bark but the caravan moves on”?

Legislation should legitimately focus – and be restricted to – acts of discrimination (ie. to a denial of rights), and be couched in semantically and legally clear terminology. However, the current legislation in Australia offers the opportunity for harmless words of disapproval to be posited as harmful and humiliating.

Immigrants are traditionally ‘adventurers,’ displaying resilience and fortitude in travelling to another nation, and integrating with those already in the country they chose to enter. Some of them can, of course, be opportunistic.