Sorry about the noise: it's just the weasel-word alarm going off. A copy of the ALP's draft human rights platform has sent the contraption completely berserk. Any wonder. Never before have so many good intentions for the future of Australia's Indigenous peoples been gathered together in the same place. In fact the Brotherhood of St Laurence could do worse than distribute this little number to the homeless folk on cold winter nights, so that they might benefit from the warmth radiated by the document.
Labor, for example, “respects the right of Indigenous Australians to meaningful self-determination arising from their First Nations status” and will “harness Indigenous decision-making power in relation to the formulation and delivery of policies and programs”.
Later in the document we learn that a Labor government will “act as an enabler of business development”. This is presumably after they have “introduced a national policy framework with transparent goals and timeframes based on research and statistical data”.
Don't get me wrong. It's exciting to discover that Labor will take an evidence-based approach to improving the social, cultural and economic well-being of Indigenous Australians.
But I wonder what this approach supersedes? The “Buggered if I know, I just approve every third funding application” approach? The “You've won a CDEP scheme on the wheel of fortune” approach? Or the “Spend as little as you can, coz there's no votes in blackfellas” approach?
Whatever it was, it's reassuring to know that evidence is now going to be factored into the decision-making process.
That's not to say the document is completely without salvation. There is much to be admired amongst the waffle.
For example, the paper says that “Labor values the symbolic importance of a national apology”. It's to be hoped that they value it sufficiently to make the offer of apology immediately upon winning government. If this is the case, then why not just say so?
The statement that “Labor fully supports Native Title as a property right under Australian law” is also very valuable and should be drawn immediately to the attention of more than one state premier.
It's 12 months since Senator Chris Evans announced “The End of Ideology in Indigenous Affairs” in a speech at Perth's Curtin University. When Evans gave the “big A” to the “big I”, he was having his second go as Labor's Indigenous Affairs shadow within four years, after Julia Gillard, Bob McMullan, Kerry O'Brien and Kim Carr had all gone whizzing past. Jenny Macklin is in the chair now, and it seems that ideology might be back in business.
Don't worry Virginia, there's no mention of the dreaded “democratic socialisation of the means of production and distribution” here. But there are a handful of oblique objectives which commit a Rudd government to “enable the full exercise of Indigenous Australians rights and responsibilities on an individual and collective level” and “advance reconciliation and social justice”.
If it quacks like an ideology, and walks like an ideology people might start getting suspicious.
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