Eye To Eye - ‘Racism in Australia'

Published: Wed 18 Jul 2007 02:27 PM
John Howard is not just a racist bastard. He's hell bent on assimilating aboriginal Australians and stealing their mineral rich land too, says the Legal Director of the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre, Michael Mansell.
Mansell made a trip across the Tasman to appear on Saturday's Eye to Eye with Willie Jackson to debate whether or not Hone Harawira's description of the Australian Prime Minister John Howard being a 'racist bastard' was true.
"There's a $120billion at stake. The mining companies in Australia this financial year pulled a $120billion out and they say in today's national papers that in the next five years that will grow to $200billion. And who's sitting on the minerals? Aborigines in the Northern Territory," said Mansell.
"Well, judge John Howard on his record. When he first came in to power in 1996 his major promise to the electorate was that he would wipe out native title with bucket loads of extinguishment and he did it …last year he changed the northern territory land rights act which for thirty years had provided a basis for land ownership for aboriginal people in the northern territory. But he did not wind back the property rights of any white person anywhere in the country. He did it for blacks. He didn’t sack any elected group for whites he only sacked blacks. And this year he's sending in the army and the troops and the police only to blacks not to whites. Of course he's a racist bastard" said Mansell.
But Kirsten Storry of the Australian Centre for Independent Studies, who also crossed the ditch to be a guest on Eye to Eye said the term 'racist' is used too easily as a means of silencing debate. Howard's intervention, she says, is long overdue.
"We've had thirty years of silence on child abuse and it is a real problem that needs to be talked about. Silence didn't help the Kahui twins here in NZ. Child abuse is a real problem. Child neglect in addition is a real problem in remote communities ... what we want to do is solve the problem of child abuse and neglect. It's time to take action," said Storry.
Providing a Maori perspective on both sides of the argument, were Co-Leader of the Maori Party and former Race Relations Conciliator Dr Pita Sharples and former Politician turned broadcasting personality John Tamihere. Sharples said the Australian government needed to work closer with Aboriginal communities to resolve their issues like the New Zealand government is doing to deal with the gang issue in South Auckland.
"His (John Howard’s) policies are racist there's no doubt about that it's over the top, it's heavy handed. It's right in the wake of that report to do something about sexual abuse in that territory. But there are some very, very good Aboriginal health centres that should be strengthened and bought in to play. So far, successive governments have not done anything to endear aboriginal communities to them.
Michael Mansell declared that Aboriginal communities had been unfairly targeted and that sexual abuse was just as rife in white Australian communities as it was in theirs.
"The report said there is sex abuse in Aboriginal communities but the report said there is no more sexual abuse in the Northern Territory Aboriginal communities than there are in the cities of white Australia and John Howard said 'I don't want to read that bit of it, I only want to read the bit where it says blacks are doing it.
Howard says I'm coming to help you. Six families took to the bush in fear of the doctors coming in and forcing eight and nine year old aboriginal children to subject themselves to a medical examination of their anal areas and their vaginas even though there was not a bit of evidence of sexual abuse. It was a political move," Mansell said.
Tamihere said Hone Harawira should pull his nose out of Australia and stick to matters closer to home.
"He's not the member for Northern Territory he's member for Taitokerau. I want to focus on what our issues and what our problems are. We practise escapism ... it's not just about money and land grabs. Who gives a toss whether your people become some of the richest Aussies in the world if they're going to hell in a basket case? There is no use talking about money and land grabs if you have got a whole community that's degrading and going to hell," said Tamihere.
Kirsten Storry says the long term solution for all is education.
"What we have to talk about is education and one of the things we haven't been talking about in this intervention is the linking of school attendance with welfare payments that is going to have a massive effect in remote communities. At the moment a lot of kids attend very irregularly lower than 50%, have very low achievement rates in literacy and numeracy and drop out of the system entirely by their early teens. I don't see that this about land rights and if it is I don't think there needs to be a trade off between land rights and human rights but if there were I would choose human rights all the time," Storry said.
Mansell said when John Howard cut the aboriginal affairs health budget back by $400million in the year he was elected meant Aborigines have struggled to ensure they have their own professionally trained people to deal with their health and social issues.
"I've been saying for thirty years that we need help. We need the right sort of help and this is not it. This is going to make things worse. Give us half the country back and leave us alone. We want the education the white kids get but we want our kids to continue speaking our language. Not a 'John Howard says, you've got to give up your language'. We want our culture to continue to provide the foundation to go forward. Then we can expand out and be as good as any white person in Australia".
Tune in to Eye to Eye with Willie Jackson, TV1, Saturday 0930am for another entertaining half hour of current affairs from a Maori perspective.
This week’s episode ‘Racism in Australia' can be viewed on our website at Please feel free to email your comments and feedback to Willie and his production team.

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