Archive for June, 2008


Craig Emerson, Market Democrats and the IK economy

Craig Emerson delivered a speech to the Sydney Institute outlining a broad platform to further reform the Australian welfare state.  The speech presented a mainstream construct of an emerging yet well-founded philosophy: that social democracy is relevant where it can influence markets for the public good.  Emerson refers to supporters of this line of thought as Market Democrats.  

I’m a supporter of this broad philosophy.  My concern is the lack of debate in relation to the role of markets in indigenous policy.  My concern is the paucity of debate concerning the relationships between indigenous peoples, markets and social policy. 

Emerson claims that:

Governments must not imprison the disadvantaged by subjugating them to the state, robbing them of self-esteem and condemning them to a life of dependency; governments must liberate them by providing opportunity for all in a truly fair society. Let us not make the disadvantaged the experiments of social engineers yearning for a different social order but lacking the stomach to practise it in their own lives. It is this social experimentation of romanticising traditional life in the harsh outback that has caused Australia’s most vulnerable – indigenous people – to be trapped in misery.

Emerson is correct in asserting that the contemporary welfare state has ‘subjugated’ indigenous peoples to State dependance, but I am not convinced that it is the ‘romanticisation’ of ‘traditional life’ that has allowed welfare dependance to flourish.  In the post-Whitlam period indigenous people were entitled to welfare provision on the basis of equal rights and equal entitlements.  This formed part of an international process aimed at removing discrimination.  When the welfare state was reformed, and where mainstream welfare structures integrated notions of reciprocity and mutual obligation, indigenous-specific programs were excluded from such reforms.  I am not convinced that this exclusion was not confined to reasons of the ‘romanticisation’ of ‘traditional life’ argument.  For example, many conservative political forces sceptical of the ‘romanticisation’ argument supported excluding such programs as a way to stem Aboriginal migration to regional centres.   

Where Emerson is correct, and where other advocates lack focus, is the connection between the State, markets and social policy.  The benefit of adopting the Market Democrat notion to indigenous policy is to look at how to harmonise the relationship between markets and the pluralism of indigenous identity.  I refer to this as the Indigenous Knowledge economy.

More over the fold. 

Continue reading ‘Craig Emerson, Market Democrats and the IK economy’


An educational fund negotiated from land rights

Federal Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin has proposed a new way of conducting land rights negotiations:

If the landowners [north-west of the Territory] are prepared to establish an educational trust fund, which benefits children across the region and allocate at least 90 per cent of the projected benefits into the fund, the Australian Government will match them dollar for dollar up to a maximum of $10 million.

I posted a comment about this policy in November last year, located here.

During its first year of governance if the new Federal government can demonstrate a policy paradigm shift in this direction then it will be an important achievement. 

The potential benefits include: 

  • It can reduce the need for dependance of governments.  Funds and trusts have the capacity to generate new wealth where the interest gained is put towards opportunity (as opposed to regular deducations from the taxation pool);
  • by reducing dependence of governments the policy can influence political capital.  Reducing dependence of government expenditure helps diffuse a sense of division that results from over-stretching affirmative action and positive discrimination programs.  The proposed fund is a result of land rights negotiations.  Australians are generally comfortable with the fact that indigenous peoples have distinct rights to land but there is division as to the application of government-sponsored policies that divide on the basis of race.  This policy helps placate that division.  Electors also want to see more positive outcomes resulting from land rights negotiations.

This policy binds the nominal left’s ideals of positive value of identity, the emphasis of education and the nominal right’s ideals of economic responsibility and contemporary notions of equality.


Generation Y and Alice Springs

The other day I met with a local journalist interested in featuring a story on the Generation Y (those born 1980-1995). 

Our meeting prompted discussion about the nature of politics and future generations.  When we looked at issues that the Gen Y are interested in we came up with familiar themes: cheaper flights interstate to encourage the high social mobility (that the Gen Y share across the western world); more recreational opportunities; more accommodation options and all the other issues that other generations are interested in (community safety, community pride, et cetera.). 

A strong feature of our present generation is the strength of our economy.  The current generation is fortunate to live in these circumstances and there are many work opportunities available.  We haven’t experienced a recession as other generations before us have. 

We talked about how the difference between generations is largely the result of changes in technology.  I’ve met senior people who came to Alice Springs when they were young and had no electricity, fridges, televisions, et cetera.  Younger generations are now exchanging money over the internet and spend increasing amounts of time engaging social networking sites.  Mobile phones and computers are common place.  The contrast is significant.

More over the fold.

Continue reading ‘Generation Y and Alice Springs’


Significant drop in murders in Alice

ABC News reports a significant drop in the murder rate in Alice Springs.  The previous rate was attributed to the extent and nature of alcohol and substance misuse.  The reduction is said to be the result of the Intervention and alcohol restrictions.  The significance of the drop will no doubt be presented in the form of an evidence-based analysis of such policies.  Attributing such a drop to the detail of such policies – and pinpointing which actual policies attributed to the drop – is a pursuit more complex than defined methods.  In the meantime we can be safe in the knowledge that a change has occured.   


The term ‘urban Aboriginal’

ABC News reports comments by the dean of Indigenous Research and Education at CDU, Prof MaryAnn Bin-Sallik, that descriptions like ‘urban indigenous, traditional indigenous and persons of Aboriginal descent’ are insulting in the extreme. 

ABC reports:

[that Professor Bin-Sallik] says the term ‘urban indigenous’ is racist because it being based on the colour of people’s skin.  She says even Aboriginal people have started identifying with the ‘toxic labels’.  She wants all levels of Australian governments to stop using racist language, and instead describe indigenous Australians as Aborigines or Torres Strait Islanders.

I disagree on three grounds (over the fold).

Continue reading ‘The term ‘urban Aboriginal’’

June 2008
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