The Guardian March 8, 2000

Racism alive and well

Three recent events show again what we all know, that the Aboriginal 
people of Australia continue to be discriminated against, that racism is 
alive and well and that property interests are a driving force in the 
determination of the Federal Government to keep the Aboriginal people down 
and out. The Prime Minister's decision to welsch on his election promise to 
finalise a process of reconciliation should come as no surprise.

The Prime Minister does not have any good intentions and never has had. His 
words are always to be understood as an exercise in opportunist politics 
aimed to find the way to look after the interests of conservative Australia 
and the class interests of big business.

The Government and the Prime Minister personally are implacably opposed to 
recognition of the due rights of the indigenous people of Australia. There 
has yet to come from these politicians recognition of the fact that the 
establishment of white settlement was an invasion and that the occupation 
of the land was theft. This is neither recognised nor compensated.

Conservatives have consistently opposed and fought against the granting of 
any form of land rights.

Howard stubbornly refuses to say "sorry" on behalf of the Australian nation 
for the crimes committed by those responsible for the "stolen generation".

His refusal to say "sorry" has got nothing to do with his claim that the 
current generation cannot be blamed for the crimes of the past.

The same goes for his Government's refusal to override the mandatory 
sentencing laws of WA and the Northern Territory. His excuse is that he 
will not override the laws of a State Government. What it really means is 
that he will not implement the international conventions ratified by the 
Australian Government which define the rights of children and basic human 
rights. This stand is being taken while the Government lectures other 
countries on the question of human rights.

Another blow to the Aboriginal people is contained in the decision of the 
Federal Court to override a lower court decision which granted land rights 
to the Miriuwung-Gajerrong people in the far north of WA. And why did the 
Federal Court throw out the original ruling? It is significant that it 
disallowed the claim for that part which included the Argyle Diamond Mine, 
the Ord River scheme, a number of pastoral leases and the township of 
Kununurra  all land occupied and exploited by mining, pastoral and other 
property interests. In this decision we see that property rights override 
every other consideration and that the much-heralded Native Title 
legislation does not take the justified claim for land rights very far.

The mandatory sentencing laws of WA and the NT are clearly racist in their 
operation and that is exactly what was intended. These two States have 
large Aboriginal populations who suffer high levels of unemployment and 
deprivation. Poverty and unemployment inevitably bring petty crime but 
there is no recognition of these factors in mandatory sentencing. These 
laws also take away from judges any flexibility they have had to take into 
account circumstances.

The State Governments responsible for this legislation want to divert 
attention from the underlying social issues and shift the blame for crime 
to the individual concerned. They have no intention of taking any action to 
fix the social problems, to provide employment, to improve the health 
situation and provide housing, water, etc.

To put it at its harshest, the policy of genocide has not yet been 
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