According to the word count on my computer program, the Prime Minister’s speech at the Liberal Party’s campaign launch today contained four thousand four hundred and four words.
The only words that referred directly to Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander people were the following:
…. I want to be Prime Minister again so that we can achieve a lasting recognition in our constitution of the first Australians, the indigenous people of this country. The Northern Territory intervention has been a veritable watershed in the history of this country. It has brought an end to 20 to 30 years of failure in the area of indigenous policy, and it offers us the great thing that indigenous people need and that is the opportunity, whilst preserving their special place in the affections and the history of our nation, the opportunity to share its bounty by becoming part of the mainstream of the Australian community.
A repeat of the promise to recognise Indigenous people in our Constitution as the first Australians, and a misleading piece of self-congratulation about the Northern Territory intervention – hardly much of an indication of any intent to give priority to the gaping and long-standing inequalities between Indigenous and non-indigenous Australians. I wonder if Kevin Rudd will do any better on this front at his launch.
If we’ve just gone through “20-30 years of failure in the area of Indigenous policy”, I’d like to know how Mr Howard would describe the preceding 77 years going back to Federation (or the 113 years before that).
It is a curious and (presumably) unintended irony to offer to “preserve the special place in the affections and history of our nation” of Indigenous Australians whilst at the same time indicating that the only way they can share in our nation’s bounty is to become “part of the mainstream”.
Quite how the Northern Territory intervention actually provides the opportunity for Indigenous people to become part of the mainstream is also not actually explained. Given that it specifically singles out Aboriginal people for paternalistic control of their lives to a degree far greater than any other Australian, it seems to be the very opposite of what one would think mainstreaming would be.