Will dogma continue to smother compassion?

Has not the dogma of the religious sect supported by a minority (less than 25%) of Australia’s population prevented voluntary (repeat, voluntary) euthanasia, or physician-assisted merciful death?

Offer compassion to those suffering severe unalleviated pain, and for whom palliative care has been shown to be inadequate, and there will arise stern warnings about ‘killing.’ This is a favourite word for those whose religiosity (involving arbitrary definitions) over-rides all other considerations. This will be followed by a further warning about the ‘slippery slope,’ a concept denoting a downward-spiral of communal morality.

Ah, the certainty of it all. Commence with a definition of choice, and following pure logic, one can reach a conclusion to satisfy one’s bias.

The following letters to the Sydney Morning Herald should be read by those for whom theology has a right to bury compassion for fellow-humans.

“The proposed NSW Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill would establish the most tightly controlled regime of any of the 13 jurisdictions in the world that allow choice (‘Euthanasia poll: most doctors and nurses back bill on assisted death,’ June 25). The NSW bill is based on the Oregon model, operating for 25 years. It has strong support from the community and medical profession, and similar regimes have been adopted in five other US states, plus Washington, DC. Eligibility criteria are clearly and strictly defined, and there is no slippery slope. Opponents try to sow seeds of fear and doubt, but their claims are not supported by evidence. Out MPs must be guided by facts and not fear.” Dr. Sarah Edelman, President, Dying With Dignity, NSW

“Finally, palliative care doctors are breaking ranks to acknowledge they cannot alleviate all suffering and that voluntary assisted dying can be part of a continuum of medical care for the terminally ill. (‘Euthanasia poll: most doctors and nurses back bill on assisted death,’ June 25). In jurisdictions where assisted dying is legalised, it works hand-in-glove with palliative care. This is the model we want.” Penny Hackett, Willoughby.

Western democracy of the Australian kind allows our politicians to dance to a beat determined by their respective controllers. If politics allow, surely they will dance to the beat of their religious beliefs.

We will remain a backward nation for another generation or two.

White Australian attitudes towards Aborigines

The attitude of Australian whites to their indigene is bifurcated. There are, firstly, the lamp lighters and flag bearers. These are the humanitarians. Colonial values do not cloud their perceptions. They look forward, not to the past. They support reconciliation (a more accurate word might be conciliation) and efforts to have the viability of, and the respect shown to, the Aboriginal people raised to that of the rest of the Australian people. These include the honest people who recognise thefirst nation’ status of the indigene. They seek to have fellow non-indigenous Australians become more aware of the history, cultural values and traditions, art, environmental wisdom, and spirituality of the Aborigines.

Then, there is that majority (a large number of whom have told me about their feelings), with their soul-destroying perceptions of the indigene. This is a grab-bag filled with an interesting assortment of human failings. First, there are the greedy and the rapacious, who may be the cultural descendants of some of the founding fathers, and their protectors in government. Then there are the intellectually-deprived, with their retinal after-image of the white coloniser’s cultural and racial superiority. These are followed by the emotionally damaged fear-filled, lacking the confidence to relate to those not like themselves.  Those afflicted with subconscious guilt about the terrible things done to the inoffensive indigene by their predecessors, not all of whom were linked to them genetically, are also found in this grab-bag. One can sympathise with these. … …

Refusing to accept that the indigenes got the rough end of the pineapple collectively, whilst their women were collaterally used freely to create a new creole people, some modern moral purists argue that the major cause of the initial near-extinction of the indigene was not slaughter but disease. One of these iconoclasts even claimed that it was the Chinese and other Asians who had brought the deadly diseases to Australia. How many Chinese did Cortez take with him into America?

Another defender of ethnic cleansing claimed that the Aborigines should thank God that they were “displaced by Christian people”. On the contrary, I think that the Indians and Chinese might have treated the indigenes better. Their historical record, from the Arabian Sea to the Gulf of Tonkin, down to Bali, suggests that.  … …

The same sort of negative attitudes surfaced when the report on the ‘stolen generations’ was released, except that the counter-attack was strangely bitter. The authors of the report, their motives, methodology, definitions, and findings were all attacked, but only by a noisy handful. The semanticists, pretending to be fair, focussed on the meaning of ‘stolen’ and the scope of the word ‘generation’. The other critics, seemingly less erudite, simply went ballistic, with all manner of quaint arguments. Yet, no one could deny, that many, many, lighter-skinned children were removed from their mothers (pounded may be a more appropriate term in some cases) in ways which were both immoral and illegal. … …

The claimed motivation for removing the children seemed to be multi-faceted. The need to save them from a terrible future amidst the dust of the cattle stations was one claim. A related caring claim was that, as part-whites, they could be assimilated through separation from their mothers and the rest of their people. If these motives were genuine, how did those in authority see the rights of the mothers and their communities? Since the children were to become no more than servants, what did assimilation offer them?

In the event, what does this policy say about the morality of those involved?  A more honest motive was to ‘to fuck them white’, in order to avoid a biological throwback to their indigenous heritage. Preventing the allegedly ‘quick-breeding half-caste’ from contributing to the growth of the creole community seems a more honest motive. As the Aborigine was then seen to be an early version of the Caucasian stock, there were thus hopes of breeding out the black peoples as a whole. But was there any intention to have white families adopt these poor kids, as claimed by a friend of mine?  What were the odds of white families even considering such adoptions?  I am inclined to believe that some did.

(These are extracts from my book ‘Hidden Footprints of Unity’ published in 2005. Regrettably, Aborigines lacking that attractive tan colour are alleged by some as not being Aboriginal. So, colour remains a determinant of culture and heritage in the eyes of those who want Aborigines to assimilate; yet imported ethnic peoples are able to integrate, with their cultural values intact, into the nation. Why is there so much prejudice?) 




Did squatters destroy an Aboriginal civilisation?

“A few years after the initial ‘discovery’ by Captain Cook, it was apparently known that the indigenes not only occupied the land and used it with economic purpose, but also (according to the highly respected Dr.Coombs) “… lived in clan or tribal groups, that each group had a homeland with known boundaries, and that they took their name from their district, and rarely moved outside it.”  It was also known that they had, and applied, firm rules about trespass, kinship ties, marriage, child rearing and other matters, the hallmarks of an organised society; that they had a “habit of obedience” to their rulers and leaders, a hallmark of a political society; and that they had an ordered ceremonial life, reflecting the sharing of a spiritual vision, a hallmark of a civilisation. Apparently, they also had their own zodiac, which guided their activities. Their artistic records are also well known and respected.

It has now been accepted that the indigenes did not cede any of their land. As the famous poet Oodjaroo Noonuccal said, “We are but custodians of the land”. Whilst the settlers saw themselves at war, and killed to acquire land, officialdom (later supported by local jurists) preferred occupation to conquest. Occupation follows discovery, of a presumed empty land. How were the natives to establish ownership without a Titles Office?

Because the morally political Australian rejected the idea of an invasion, a Senate Committee came up, in the early 1980s, with prescription. This apparently applies when there is no clear title to sovereignty by way of treaty, occupation or conquest. An extended occupation, and an exercise of sovereignty were apparently enough to vest title in the Crown.

But, prescription requires a show of authority on the one side, and acquiescence on the other (says Prof. Reynolds, the renowned contributor to the nation’s enlightenment on this black subject). Since the natives never acquiesced to anything, voluntary abandonment was claimed. The Senate’s clever semantic exercise seemed to accept that being killed or driven away is tantamount to voluntary abandonment! A prominent white Australian sociologist reminded me that cities such as Melbourne and Sydney represented the most effective sites of ethnic cleansing; and that every fence in Australia encloses land that was once the soul, or the shared possession of a particular group of Aborigines.

A very substantial majority of the Aboriginal people died in the years following the invasion. Killing was both official and private. “My father used to round you mob up and shoot you for Saturday and Sunday entertainment”. This was uttered by a school mate of a recent head of ATSIC (the Aboriginal and Torres Straits Islander Commission). One does not visit the sins of the father upon the son. Yet, there are Australians today who attempt to defend the historical brutality that led to women and children being shot without compunction, and large numbers of fellow humans being killed through the use of poison. What sort of humans were the early arrivals that they could do this? What does it say about their origins, the way they lived before arriving in Australia, and their moral and cultural values? Why were these casual killers so debauched? “ … …

“It would not be quite fair to apply the aphorism ‘The criminal cannot forgive the victim he has defiled’ to those who deny what they call the ‘black armband’ view of Australia’s history. Why someone who cannot claim any ancestors who ‘cleared’ the land so vehemently rejects an honest view of a black history, makes sense only if one accepts that such people have strong tribal affinities, ie their people could not have behaved so brutally; or that, because that was normal colonial behaviour then, the perpetrators cannot be judged by current criteria for morality.

 I have had similar statements made to me when I occasionally refer to my exposure to Aussie racists. Some of these defenders of past brutality, however, confuse guilt with responsibility. That is, they cannot accept that today’s generation has a moral responsibility to compensate, but without any sense of guilt, for the damage done by earlier generations.

(These are extracts from my book ‘Hidden Footprints of Unity: Beyond tribalism towards a new Australian identity.’  My hope is the Australian Family of Man, arising eventually from, and through, cultural differences. Our indigenes need to find a place in the sun as a community before participating within a mesh of integrated cultures forming the nation. However, a generation or two of superior white Australians have to join their Maker before that can happen.) 


Extinguishing Native Title – Keating 2011

Extinguishing Native Title through 10-point Plan  (June 1  2011    Sydney Morning Herald)

The 10-point plan that undid the good done on native title – Paul Keating

As prime minister, the pastoral lease question was a vexing and torrid one for me. And for this reason: notwithstanding that the Commonwealth government’s legal advice was that the Mabo (No. 2) judgment had the effect of extinguishing native title on lands subject to pastoral leases – I did not agree with that advice. That is, I did not personally agree with the logic behind the advice.

I had lots of supposedly good people urging it upon me; like the former leader of the National Party Tim Fischer, who was doing his level best to turn pastoral leases into quasi-freehold titles at the expense of Aboriginal people.

I knew there was a massive potential loss here for Aboriginal people – because in 1993 a very large proportion of the land mass of Australia was subject to pastoral leases. In Western Australia it was 38 per cent of the state, in Queensland 54 per cent, South Australia 42 per cent, NSW 41 per cent and the Northern Territory 51 per cent.

Given the scale and importance of it, I was determined not to deny Aboriginal people the chance to test this question before the High Court. So to keep the naysayers at bay and to fend off the opportunists, I decided to record in the preamble of the bill that on the government’s view, past leasehold grants extinguished native title.

I had these words in the second reading speech and in the preamble to the act but I refused to make extinguishment a fait accompli under the operating provisions of the act.

I knew that the whole idea of pastoral leases over Crown land arose because squatters decided to move on to land for which they had no title and where their activities, grazing or otherwise, were uncontrolled. The motivation for the legislative regime, first in NSW in the late 1820s, was to put some control on squatters without conferring on them a freehold title to vast tracts of the country; country largely occupied by Aboriginal people. So I understood that when the various colonial and state governments came to issue pastoral leases they did so knowing that the pastoral activity would occur over lands where Aboriginal people were still conducting a traditional way of life.

I told officers of the Attorney-General’s Department at the time that I regarded their advice as black letter property advice, wherein they failed to understand how and in which ways the High Court was peering through the common law to the development of native title rights over the course of Australian history following European settlement.

As it turned out, in the Wik decision of 1996, the High Court held that the grant of relevant leases did not confer on the lessees exclusive possession of land under lease and correctly, in my view, made clear that, in the case of the Wik and the Thayorre people, that a relevant intention to extinguish all native title rights at the time the grants were issued was not present. That is, the grants did not necessarily extinguish all incidents of the native title rights.

Of course, that decision of the High Court was attacked mercilessly by the Howard government. That villain Tim Fischer boasted that there would be bucket loads of extinguishment, in the Howard government’s response to the decision.

Many will be familiar with the sorry tale that became part and parcel of the Native Title (Amendment) Act 1998. That amendment arose from the Coalition government’s so-called 10-point plan, a plan facilitated in the Senate with the support of Senator Brian Harradine under the advice of the Jesuit priest Frank Brennan.

As an aside, and as a Catholic, let me say, wherever you witness the zealotry of professional Catholics in respect of indigenous issues, invariably you find indigenous interests subordinated to their personal notions of justice and equity: because unlike the rest of us, they enjoy some kind of divine guidance. And so it was with the Wik amendments.

The amendments were titled ”Confirmation of past extinguishment of native title”. But it was never clear that all freehold grants and leasehold grants permanently extinguished native title. Mick Dodson said at the time: ”By purporting to ‘confirm’ extinguishment by inconsistent grants, the Commonwealth is purposely pre-empting the development of the common law – not allowing sufficient time to integrate the belated recognition of native title into Australia’s land management system. This does not require the obliteration of indigenous interests so as to favour non-indigenous interests.” Quite so.

The Howard government’s 1998 amendments cut across the spirit of the Keating government’s 1993 act; the notion that the legislation was, first and foremost, of a beneficial kind – enacted to redress historic inequities, rather than to compound ones sanctioned by earlier acts.

Paul Keating was prime minister from 1991 to 1996. This is an edited extract from the Lowitja O’Donoghue Oration delivered at the University of Adelaide yesterday.


The demise of terra nullius through Native Title

The High Court opened up a very large can of worms when it determined (in the Mabo case in 1992) that the Torres Strait Islanders (TSI) and, by implication, the Aborigines, had native title rights under common law. This did not help to contribute land to an Aboriginal or TSI nation. A native title right refers simply to a residual right to share in the use of land, but only in a customary way. Under the High Court’s later determination (in the Wik case in 1996), the rights of the Aboriginal community are subordinate to that of the lessee.

In the Mabo case, the Court said: “Where a clan or group has continued to acknowledge the laws and … to observe the customs based on the traditions of that clan or group, whereby their traditional connection with the land has been substantially maintained, the traditional community title of that clan or group can be said to remain in existence”.  Native title refers to the common law rights of access and use of traditional land by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. The rights include hunting, gathering, fishing, ceremonies, and just living.

The High Court thus put away for good that useful argument favoured by settlers and Australian jurists that Australia had been an empty land (‘terra nullius’) when occupied by Britain, contrary to all the evidence against that view.

The Court, by finding that the indigenes of Australia had indeed been in possession of their lands, brought the law in relation to Aboriginal land rights into line with current standards of justice. As the eminent historian Prof. Henry Reynolds said, “Terra nullius was out of step with international standards of human rights, on the one hand, and with fundamental values of common law, on the other …”. Mr. Justice Deane of the High Court (subsequently Governor-General of Australia in the late 1990s) remarked back in 1985 that “The common law of this land has not reached the stage of retreat from injustice”, in relation to the nation’s recognition of native title.

However, justice did arrive at last — at least, in the legal realm. In the mid 1990s, the High Court again upset the conservatives, the racists, and sundry fellow travellers. The resulting outbursts were most illuminative, displaying a range of bitter and irrational assertions, suggesting that professed beliefs in law and justice by many in influential positions (including parts of the media) are not deeply held. As Thomas Carlyle said “Can there be a more horrible object in existence than an eloquent man not speaking the truth?”

The High Court, by a majority decision (in the Wik case), held that a pastoral lease did not necessarily extinguish native title. In some cases, some native title rights can survive the grant of a lease. However, in any conflict between the pastoralist’s rights and native title rights, the former rights prevail.

Reportedly, the decision took into account an official policy dictated from the UK in 1848 that the grant of a pastoral lease gave “… only an exclusive right of pasturage for their cattle and of cultivating such land as they may require …”, but that the lease was “… not intended to deprive the Natives of their former right to hunt over these districts, or to wander over them in search of subsistence, in the manner they have been hitherto accustomed”.

Following the Wik decision, farmers and pastoralists on Crown pastoral leases sought ‘certainty’ for themselves, by the federal government formally extinguishing native title. Certainty also means the freedom to diversify their operations beyond the terms of existing leases. This would effectively make the leases de facto freehold, independently denying any native title right. Since many of the leases are reportedly already being used for a wide range of purposes, the question is how a pastoral lease, which is surely for pasturage of cattle, allowed full scale farming (as distinct from farming for sustenance). More intriguing was the claim that certain governments had ignored the law in granting mining leases.

(The above is an extract from my book ‘Hidden Footprints of Unity.’ Is it surprising that Australian politicians and their acolytes see no need for human rights legislation? Have Mabo and Wik empowered the TSI and Aborigines in any meaningful way? Have Native Title rights been undermined by officialdom since Wik?)    




The Australian Aborigine – a 1997 view

The following are extracts from ‘Destiny Will Out: the experiences of a multicultural Malayan in White Australia’ by Raja Arasa RATNAM. The author has lived a highly integrated and contributory life in Australia (including holding leadership positions in civil society) since 1948. This and his later 4 books were based on his work and settlement experiences.

For 9 years (in the 1980s), his work covered policy (at the level of Director) on ethnic affairs & multiculturalism; citizenship & national identity; refugee and humanitarian entry; and settlement assistance. Endorsements of his books by senior academics indicate that the author has a sound understanding of his adopted nation (of which he is proud).

Urban Aborigines are rarely seen in employment in offices and shops, or in public transport. I have been told in recent years by Aborigines that many of them are educated and have usable skills, but white employers will not give them jobs. Their poverty is endemic. “To fry poverty, you need no butter,” is a very apt adage.

‘Educated’ whites openly utter statements of prejudice. Their basic premise is that the Aborigine is lazy and will not work. What a convenient stance. Any anti-social conduct by youths is a class problem for whites, but a racial problem for blacks. It may not be long before this underclass (visible because of its colour) stops being quiescent. They might feel that “revenge is profitable, gratitude expensive.” In the event, Australia’s violations of human rights will come out into the open internationally. This may force some of our superior folk to get off their high horses and to desist from arrogantly squawking about the conduct of other nations, usually of coloured people. “Everyone loves justice in the affairs of another,” is a relevant Italian saying.”

“I am beginning to think that it is subconscious guilt that fuels the white man’s prejudice against the Aborigine; whereas, his dislike, initially, of European ‘reffos’ and latterly of the Asians, is more of an inter-tribal stance.

Unless Australia’s treatment of its blacks is seen by observers in Asia to be just, no one will expect equitable treatment for those of coloured descent in Australia. This would be disastrous for the nation.”

“A recent news report claimed that a volunteer effort for Aborigines in the north of Australia to provide a TV service for their people was opposed persistently by vested interests. The community at large accepts (I believe) that the white man’s greed controls the politician and his administration; and, inequitable treatment of the dispossessed is perpetuated. How does one get across the concept of karmic laws to those whose loss of their own faith allows them to behave in such an oppressive way?”

 “More honest government policies might have included the payment of substantial funds to each Aboriginal tribe driven off its land.”

(Reconciliation Week has just ended. I doubt, however, whether our indigenes can find a place in the sun as an ethno-cultural people, without officialdom admitting the injustices of the past – including the killing and the despoliation of cultures which followed. RAR 6/2017)  


Unacceptable religious interference

Nothing divides people more effectively than beliefs derived from their religions. For years, compassionate people, and those suffering ongoing severe pain (undiminished even with palliative care) have sought legislation permitting voluntary euthanasia. While reliable sampling estimated public support at about 85% – stable over decades – Australian politicians have refused to accept that compassion should over-ride religiosity.

It is not that our politicians are all religion-bound. It is that they fear the power of Christian churches – even in a secular nation – the principal objector being of the Roman kind. From time to time, legislation to enable physician-assisted death, under the strictest, most stringent protective criteria, is rejected by politicians. (Even human rights legislation is denied, allegedly through religious interference.)

Our politicians profess to represent their electorates in parliament. In reality, they represent their political party only – or face career extermination; and they are clearly under the collective thumb of authoritarian priesthoods.

What is strange is that “We are not allowed to have it. So, you too can’t have it” is the line followed by vociferous objectors to voluntary euthanasia. Then, archbishops, bioethicists, other religious functionaries, and some lay people go public, seemingly in a co-ordinated manner (as they are doing now in the State of New South Wales).

They claim that people will be killed – even by themselves (through suicide). Then, they bring up the slippery slope argument. The essence of this argument seems to be that the elderly will be put to death by their family – presumably for financial benefit.

As well, medicos are told that they are to save lives, not ‘take’ lives. Whereas the Hippocratic Oath says simply that medicos should do no harm – not keep patients alive at any cost (usually at the patient’s cost).

Not that long ago, the head of a State Branch of the doctors’ union asked the Federal Parliament for the right of a doctor, in his expertise, to over-ride the legally-binding document known as the Advanced Health Care Directive (AHCD) or its equivalent. This effectively says ‘Do not resuscitate’ in specified circumstances; or ‘Do not operate on me unless I say so.‘

More recently, the General Manager of a private hospital stated that his professional staff were “unhappy” at their being constrained by AHCDs (Really!); but nothing was said about their religious proclivities. Then an academic ethicist asked about the rights of his conscience. But, could each set of variable faith-based ethics have an independent legal status, binding all residents in a secular nation?

It cannot, however, be denied that a couple of European nations of a predominantly Roman Catholic persuasion already have laws permitting physician-assisted death (viz. voluntary euthanasia).Reportedly, they have adequate safeguards to prevent ‘killing’ and ‘slippery slopes.’  How backward is Australia, and how lacking in compassion. (This situation also allegedly applies in the non-availability of medicinal marijuana for those who can benefit most significantly from its application. I have seen a video of its benefits.)

In a multicultural nation whose citizens are encouraged by the government to maintain their diversity in cultural values and practices, ridiculously, the religious edicts of a minority Christian population are allowed to dominate the lives of other communities.

It should be noted that voluntary euthanasia will not be compulsory. Do allow compassion free reign. If an authority will not extend compassion to fellow humans, then that authority will necessarily be time-limited. Does God not see all that happens?