Bartlett's Blog

Andrew Bartlett has been active in politics for over 20 years, including as a Queensland Senator from 1997-2008. This blog started in 2004 and reflects his own views, independent of any political party or organisation.

Interview with Peter J Black: Racial vilifaction vs freedom of speech

A recent controversy over a blatantly racist page on Facebook - and Facebook's delay in taking the page down - raised the issue of how best to address cases of blatant racial vilification. Similar issues were raised with the trial of Andrew Bolt for columns he wrote which were found to breach the Racial Discrimination Act. I recently spoke about these issues with law lecturer Peter J Black, who ...


Anita Heiss – positive messages in the face of negative attacks

A few weeks ago I interviewed author Anita Heiss about her new book Am I Black Enough For You?  The book is partly a personal memoir and partly explores the issue of Aboriginal identity.  You can listen to the interview at this link. Anita Heiss was one of a number of people who took columnist Andrew Bolt to court for making a range of false claims which in effect ...

Stolen Wages stay stolen – WA’s turn

It's hard to know what to say on this issue that hasn't already been said, but the blithely blatant injustice is still hard to stomach - I can only imagine the fury many Aboriginal must feel about this. Almost five years ago I wrote here about the report of the Senate Committee Inquiry I helped establish in 2006  into wages and other entitlements stolen from Aboriginal people. I also ...

Quandmooka Native Title claim recognised … at last

In my very First Speech to the Senate back in 1997, I praised the Native Title negotiations then taking place between the Quandamooka people, the Traditional Owners of Stradbroke Island, and what was then the Redland Shire Council.  I mentioned it as a positive example of what Native Title could deliver for our entire community, as those negotiations seemed to be progressing well at the time.  I never ...

Improving our country’s Constitution

The moves to recognise Australia's First Peoples in our nation's Constitution are starting to gather pace.  The federal government has pledged to hold a referendum on this by the time of the next election - that is, within 2 years - which is not a lot of time to build community awareness and understanding of the issues. The Panel established to engage and seek community views has set up ...

Wild Rivers

Contention over Queensland's  Wild Rivers legislation has been bubbling along for quite a while now. Unfortunately, as with many issues which become polarised, each "side" is focused on defending their position, which has meant that some important underlying issues are not getting the attention they deserve. I've just had a piece on this topic published at The Drum on the ABC's website.  It's fairly long, so they published it ...

New book on Palm Island’s history

The latest inquest into the death of Mulrunji Doomadgee in police custody on Palm Island – now well over five years ago - has concluded.  Once again Mulrunji’s family and the wider community will wait for findings to be published – just as they still await the publication of the report by the Crime and Misconduct Commission (CMC) in the flaws in the Police investigation into the death.  The ...

Palm Island Inquest Resumes (again)

It is well over five years since Mulrunji Doomagee died in police custody on Palm Island, his ribs broken and his liver nearly sliced in two.  Previous coronial inquests and trials have wound a tortuous path, with various assertions about the cause of death ranging from the consequences of a “complicated fall” to suggestions Mulrunji’s injuries were inflicted by a more direct methods. Despite past coroner’s investigations, a trial, ...

Acknowledging local successes at improving Indigenous health

One of the benefits for me of not being in Parliament has been the chance to get more directly involved in community based organisations.  One of those I have got more involved in over the past year or so is the Queensland branch of Australians for Native Title and Reconciliation (usually known as ANTaR). ANTaR started in the 1990s and has maintained a continuing role in promoting better community ...

Report on the Pacific & climate change forum

Last night I attended the public forum I wrote about here, featuring Pacific Island peoples speaknig about the impacts of climate change on their homelands, health and cultures. It was very well attended and the speakers were engaging and enlightening. I've published a piece about it over at Crikey at this link. If for some reaon you want to see my efforts at live-Tweeting the forum, ...

The debate on changing Australia Day

The calls by Australian of the Year Mick Dodson, supported by many others, for a debate on whether to shift Australia Day away from 26th January, has produced some predictable howls of outrage and abuse. But it is not only Indigenous Australians who feel that 26th January is not the best day to celebrate our unity as a nation, as Ron Barassi’s views make clear. Many of the millions of ...

Stolen generations struggle continues

Last week I attended the launch in Melbourne of a report released by the organisation Stolen Generations Victoria.  The report is called Unfinished Business, which is the same name given to a report from a Senate Committee I initiated into the Stolen Wages issue.  This is a reminder that all these injustices are interlinked.  To me, all these reports and the evidence and experiences they draw on are a ...

What COAG meant for Indigenous Australians

The headlines after COAG focused on health and education and the overall size of the money handed out (with the usual uncertainty about how much was ‘new’ money and how much had already been promised or committed).  Jon Altman from ANU has written a good rundown on the various COAG agreements which relate to Indigenous Australians (or at least those in discrete remote communities, who seem to have ...

Stolen Wages shame continues

I’ve written about the Aboriginal Stolen Wages issue here many times.  There is a very good article by Marg Wenham in The Courier-Mail outlining this disgraceful situation – it’s worth a read.  More here too.  Sadly, the injustice continues.

Palm Island death – 4 years on

November 19 marks four years since the notorious wrongful arrest and death in police custody of Mulrunji Doomadgee on Palm Island. Many Aboriginal men have been arrested, charged, exiled from their homes and jailed in the four years since.  Meanwhile, investigations into allegations regarding actions and investigations by police have yet to be completed and no disciplinary action of any sort against police has occurred. As this article from the ...

It might be legal but it isn’t just

Palm Island man Lex Wotton has been handed a seven year jail sentence (less one year for time previously served) as a result of being found guilty by a jury of rioting with destruction. Although I’ve spoken with people who were present on the day which led t the charges, I wasn’t there, so I won’t give a view on who did what. If you want to see a ...

Various versions of justice in Queensland

On Wednesday I attended a rally outside the Brisbane District Court, held to show support for Palm Island man, Lex Wotton, whose trial had been going for two weeks. The jury started deliberating on the Thursday. When I saw news that they were still going on the Friday afternoon, I decided to go to the court to bear witness with Lex and his family and supporters as they ...

Review of NT Intervention

There are lots of coverage and comment about the report by the independent group reviewing the Northern Territory intervention.  This is one of the more important amongst the many reviews set in train by the federal government. I hope the government is able to ignore the politics and focus on the substance of the report. As I said many times in the various pieces I have written about the ...

Will Indigenous communities see any of the infrastructure spending boost?

Everyone knows that billions of dollars are needed to address the third world conditions many Indigenous Australians live in, including horrendously overcrowded housing, poor road access and other infrastructure problems.  But I haven’t seen any mention so far of spending money to address these problems in the flurry of bidding that has started following the federal government’s announcement they are looking at spending $20 billion on infrastructure to ...

Stolen wages campaigner passes on

Last week I attended a funeral in Townsville for Yvonne Butler, who was one of the state’s most dedicated campaigners on the Stolen Wages issue.  I have written a number of times on this blog about the issue and the  poor record of the Queensland state government. Whilst the response from government has been far short of what still needs to be done, much of the credit for ...


Mini Posts

  • Rhetoric vs reality

    I’ve had a break from writing for a variety of reasons, but the reckless approach the new Queensland government is taking to their spending decisions – and the straightout nonsensicality of some of their claims – roused me enough to pen a piece for New Matilda. Time will tell whether the Newman government will start trying to ensure their statements have some connection with reality – I suggest the way they respond next year to the findings of the inquiry into child safety which they’ve established will be a significant test.

  • End of LP the end of a blogging era

    Back in October, I wrote here about the decline or re-defining of blogs, at least in the Australian political arena.  The relatively few posts I’ve done on this blog since then shows how much less useful I find it to do my own blog than I used to, and as I mentioned back then, a big reason why I don’t read many of the blogs I used to is because the valuable links to many interesting stories, ideas and pieces of information can be found more easily through Twitter or Facebook, sometimes with comment threads which are also at least as good. The recent announcement by the Larvatus Prodeo blog that they are ceasing to operate is quite a significant one.

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  • A final comment on Labor's leadership laments

    Fundamentally, I don’t greatly care about the outcome of Labor’s leadership travails. As my previous post indicates, the bigger issue is that the ALP is being fundamentally damaged by the toxicity of this brawl, and the fact that the brawl is happening in this way is a sign of some much greater problems within Labor. Whatever the immediate outcome, I think those problems are likely to continue.  The outcome of the leadership contest (including the size of what will surely be a Gillard victory) will shape how those problems play out, but they will still be there. Not surprisingly, I see this as presenting an opportunity for the Greens to build some support, but more importantly it presets extra responsibility and obligation for the Greens to be a stronger counter to what is a seriously reactionary Coalition. But seeing we’re all pundits now, and despite having little inside knowledge, my prediction is that there will be no ‘third candidate’ in tomorrow’s leadership ballot.  Julia Gillard will win comfortably. The instability will not disappear. It’s quite possible there will be another leadership ballot before the election but Kevin Rudd will not become leader then either. No matter how good Kevin Rudd looks in the polls, that polling lead would disappear very quickly if he was back in the PM’s job.

  • A long time between hits

    In amongst all the politics and policy stuff, I try to make time to do some things that are completely disconnected from that*.  One thing I’ve found myself doing recently is doing a bit of practicing with a band, which has led to me doing a live performance for the first time in a long time.  Readers of this blog with a very long memory for minor matters may recall that I played keyboards in a couple of mini-performances with a band as part of promoting the Rock Against Howard compilation CD prior to the 2004 election.  However, drumming is what I’m better at – although I’m still a long way short of being able to say I’m good at it – which is what I am doing in the band I’m currently doing stuff with.  They’re doing their first full live Brisbane show tonight – which I think will be the first time since 1988 I’ve played drums in a live show.  It’s all nice and low-key, and for peoples’ enjoyment rather with an eye to making money out of it, so will make a nice change. *Actually, I don’t think anything is completely disconnected from politics. By coincidence, today also happens to be National SLAM Day – Save Live Australian Music.  As their website shows,

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  • The Ups & Downs of Ups & Downs - interview with Greg Atkinson

    I’ve mentioned before my liking for the 80s Brisbane band Ups and Downs. I got a chance to interview their lead singer Greg Atkinson on 4ZzZ FM a few weeks ago. They’ve released a compilation CD of 20 of their best tunes and played a gig in Brisbane earlier this month to promote and celebrate it. It was a fairly long interview, but I found it very interesting to hear the views of someone who has been active in the independent sphere of the music industry for so long about what has changed and what is the same. You can listen to the interview at this link.

  • Speeches to refugee rally + SIEV-X exhibition

    A local activist helpfully recorded speeches given by myself and by Julian Burnside at a refugee rights rally held in Brisbane last Saturday.  You can listen to them here and here. The rally was held to mark the tenth anniversary of the sinking of the SIEV-X.  353 refugees drowned when that refugee boat sank on the way to Australia on 19 October 2001.  There is a beautiful exhibition at The Studio on the ground level at the State Library of Qld this week, commemorating that anniversary. It finishes this weekend – I strongly recommend you try to get along for a look if you have a chance. The Library also has a screening of the documentary Hope on Friday October 28 – this film tell the story of Amal Basry, one of the few survivors of that tragedy.

  • Stuff from my 4ZZZ shift this week

    Every Monday morning I do a shift on radio 4ZzZ FM102.1 – Brisbane’s longest serving community radio station (36 years old this year). And almost every week I talk with social media expert and lawyer Peter Black about some current political and other issues. You can listen to our talk this week by clicking on this link (it goes for over 30 minutes and has the occasional sweary word, so probably best just for dedicated fans). You can see the songlist I played this week – as usual featuring a sizable number of local artists – at this link, which in most cases also contains further links to other videos, information or photos of the artists.