Friday, June 22, 2007

Banning grog & porn to cut child abuse

Levels of child abuse in Australian aboriginal communities are completely over the top - there is systematic abuse of young kids in many communities. Young girls and boys are routinely taken as sexual partners. Often the abuse is preceded by alcohol consumption and by the viewing of pornography. The Prime Minister’s move to ban alcohol and pornography in aboriginal communities is a dramatic move designed to deal with an extreme situation. Another part of the policy package, quarantining welfare payments from being entirely spent on booze, is a move that will cut alcohol and therefore child abuse as well as promoting health. Howard's statement is here.

This policy packages provide a partial prohibition scheme on alcohol that is designed to eliminate its availability on aboriginal land – some of these lands are 'dry' already. The policy is a worthwhile move even if some aboriginals do leave their lands to drink. Most won’t because aboriginals as a whole have high levels of alcohol abstinence – it is the few drinkers who consume at vast levels who are doing the extreme damage that is occurring. Quarantining welfare payments is close to being a rationing scheme –it effectively prescribes the consumption bundle chosen by a welfare recepient. This is draconian but will only be a coercive measure for those currently abusing their government welfare check. The check isn't that large and most should be spent on food and essentials anyway.

Economists generally don't like either prohibitions or rationing schemes but there are exceptional emergency circumstances here that drive the need for a policy shock. Moreover as John Howard acknowledged last night - past policies have failed.

The Guardian has a useful review including the predictable reactions from those who would put anti-discrimination above the problems being faced. There is a potent quote:

Alcohol kills an Aborigine every 38 hours and accounts for a quarter of deaths in the Northern Territory.
I am pleased to see that Kevin Rudd states he will support the PM’s move. Even the Northern Territory Government seems to welcome the move. This issue should be above politics and the move should be given a chance. No points scoring should be attempted from any side. It is an extremely difficult policy to make workable. As a community we need to try to make it work and to improve the policy so it does.

Kim at the lavatory blog sees the issue purely as a political move. She would. She has previously declared that women who had their genitals cut out might have prejudiced views on Islam. People who say they dislike seeing young children raped are presumably also acting in a biased self-interested way that has nothing to do with stopping the abuse - they just seek a 'wedge' issue that will increase their electoral appeal. I find Kim’s attitude more hideous than usual. Mark Bahnisch supports her – he searches for grounds to attack the policy and refuses to confront the real problem. For them both it is just another opportunity to attack John Howard. Its an indictment of LP's sick approach to politics.

The Little Children are Sacred report had this to say:

‘Alcohol remains the gravest and fastest growing threat to the safety of Aboriginal children. There is a strong association between alcohol abuse, violence and the sexual abuse of children. Alcohol is destroying communities. The Inquiry recommended urgent action be taken to reduce alcohol consumption in Aboriginal communities’.
The report also specifically mentioned the role of pornography. The claims John Howard is making are not fiction. So Howard is just concerned with politics Kim, Mark? He isn't but you both are.

Words cannot express my anger towards these leftist phonies. Do either of them have children? Can either of them not see any social issue - not matter how painful - other than in their nasty, partisan political terms?

The comments by Ken Parish are less prejudiced but still over the top. For sections of the 'left' the welfare of sexually-abused aboriginal kids can be sacrificed if there is the chance for a political attack on John Howard. The comments of Tim Dunlop I agree with almost entirelythe impact of the policies should be carefully thought through and we should try for a bipartisan approach.

23 comments:

conrad said...

I agree with Kim -- it seems like an ultra authoritarian solution doomed to fail. I also think it shows the us vs. them mentality of Australians, and that "them" constitutes one homogenous mass.

I might also point out here that I doubt it would be too hard to find other communities in Australia that have similar levels of problems (just find the lowest SES neighborhoods in Sydney and Melbourne -- there are also cultural groups, some of which you mention on this Blog from time to time that fit the category), yet people would be up in arms if any similar suggestion was made for them (especially low SES whites).

Francis Xavier Holden said...

harry - my advice is: take a deep breathe, stop watching or reading news, open a margaret river merlot, sit down, look around at your family and other australians, relax.

Have a bit of a think and then write about a complex issue like Aboriginal health and wellbeing using some of your objective knowledge and bloody good research about alcohol.

You can do better than this.

hc said...

Actually Conrad did Kim say that. I thought she saw the whole thing in terms of a wedge political move - it was that which inspired my disgust.

Oh don't worry fxh, more will be forthcoming. What''s your specific beef?

Anonymous said...

Fuzzflash sez...


Harry, here's how the Rodent's little mate would sort it.

From Wonkette:

"dept. of blacks should know their place
George W. Bush Would Like the Negroes To Clean Up
Congress joined the Bush Administration for a nice little barbecue on the South Lawn last night. The theme was Mardi Gras, so everybody could enjoy memories of New Orleans being destroyed by the Bush Administration and then pretty much left in that same condition years later.
Famous NOLA chef Paul Prudhomme catered the picnic and New Orleans jazz band Kermit Ruffins and the Barbeque Swingers played Dixieland.
And then Bush told the black musicians to clean up after the politicians.
THE PRESIDENT: Kermit Ruffins and the Barbeque Swingers, right out of New Orleans, Louisiana. (Applause.)
MR. RUFFINS: Thank you. Thanks for having us. We’re glad to be here.
THE PRESIDENT: Proud you’re here. Thanks for coming. You all enjoy yourself. Make sure you pick up all the trash after it’s over."

Sounds like straight up Texas plain talkin' tah me. Like Lyndon said: "You want to win the neahgrowwe vote you give 'em loose shoes, tight p*ssy, and a warm place to sh*t.

Plus ca change.

hc said...

fuzzflash, Was that intended to be amusing? Just not in the mood if it was. It is was intended to suggest the policy announcement by John Howard was racist you are out of line.

Howard's policy has been endorsed by the Leader of the Opposition and by the NT Government. It was also endorsed by all the major newspapers in Australia. All racist?

chrisl said...

I agree with your thoughts regarding the lavortary people Harry. From the heading of the post and then the comments, all they seemed concerned about was the impact on the electorate. Zero concern for the children.
Have you ever seen so many armchair experts in your life?
Read the comments and ask yourself"does this person care about the children?"

Anonymous said...

Yes the cesspit people are really a disgusting bunch of wankers.

conrad said...

You're right HC, I am getting Blogs confused -- but I agree its a political ploy also given that I find it hard to see its real value, and given that its not exactly a new problem. I guess time will tell.

Anonymous said...

Fuzzflash sez...

"It is was intended to suggest the policy announcement by John Howard was racist you are out of line."

Well, Harry, until Mr.Howard institutes compulsory medical checks for all Australian children under 16 with penetrative examinations; and dealing with "drop kick dads"(piss artists, compulsive gamblers, molesters etc) uniformly, across this great southern land, then yes, The Rodent is behaving in a racist and paternalistic manner.

Meanwhile, I'll check the op-eds in "all the major newspapers in Australia" and get back. Sure, there is a major problem with abuse of indigenous children, Harry, it's the timing and manner of the Balanda Bwana from Bennelong's "blitzkrig" that smacks of racism. LBJ's comment was used to demonstrate overberaring paternalism and prejudice. LBJ's comment is redolent of Howard's attitude.
There is nothing humourous about LBJs words, especially if one is pigmentally challenged.

conrad said...

Here are my specific problems:
1) Its policy on the fly for a long-term problem, hence its open to political criticism vs. policy criticism
2) Banning pornography is pointless if you have an internet connection
3) Banning alcohol may cause more problems than it solves.
3.1) Alcohol may be subsituted for more toxic drugs. Thus even if banning alcohol reduces overall use, substitution which we know happens in these communities may cause more damage to less people. What's the trade-off here?
3.2) People with drug problems may simply move and become some-one elses problem. However, they will be harder to target because of htis.
4) Invasive checks for children are an out right invasion of privacy.
5) Treating these communities as though they were little kids is hardly encouraging them to take responsibility for themselves
6) It isn't clear what you are going to do with people that break welfare rules, import alcohol etc.
6.1) Do you simply stick them in jail and increase the already alarming number of blacks in jail? What about people that are simply doing self-harm? Do they deserve to go to jail? What about children with these parents -- do you take them away?
7) It isn't clear how you would enforce the laws without massive police presence.
8) It isn't targetting some of the most important underlying problems (like employment)

Sir Henry said...

"This policy packages provide a partial prohibition scheme on alcohol that is designed to eliminate its availability on aboriginal land"

I agree with you H, that alcohol is destroying Aboriginal people, not just on aboriginal land but in urban enclaves and of course in places like Alice and in and around Darwin.

This is in itself is not news.

I have posted a longer rant on this at Club Troppo, but let me say that one of the major problems is that liquor licencing laws in the NT have been suborned and corrupted by special interests who simultaneously have strong political connections.

The NT is replete with takeaway grog shops, which can be any grocery or servo. Such grog shops take aboriginal pension/allowance/family cheques and hold them against an account purchases of tobacco, foodstuffs and of course grog. This is a never-ending transaction, with many families in debt and beholden to the enrepreneurs.

The NT Liquor Commission acts on behalf of those businessmen selling grog and has made alcohol trading very easy. This was the case under previous NT Liberal/Country party administrations and is continuing under Claire Martin's ALP "government".

Selling of alcohol on backroads and remote places is very profitable - the NT has Australia's highest takeaway alcohol sales per head of population and by a huge margin - and the businessmen concerned have clear political connections to the NT government and probably the federal government as well, although I can't be certain about the latter.

I am of the view Harry, having been to the Territory on a number of occasions as a working journalist, and having lived there, that the PM's foray into this is not serious unless the issue of selling grog at takeaway outlets is tackled seriously by applying the "responsible service of alcohol" (RSA) strictures that operate in NSW and Victoria. As a licensee of my local rugby league club, I had to undergo a course in RSA and under its commandments selling alcohol to people already inebriated is strictly forbidden.

One of the things that the federal government can do easily and without grandstanding is to break the nexus between the takeaway grog shops and banking of welfare/social security cheques by making them absolutely non negotiable.

Throwing your weight about on aboriginal lands and reserves only will sfa, or very little and Howard's foray into this area after 11 years of inaction smacks a little bit to me of a political stunt. However, putting political prejudices aside, I think there is a glimmer of hope that the stunt may actually do some good.

Anyone who is genuinely concerned about this terrible waste, I urge you to go
http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/journals/AboriginalLB/1991/39.html
and read this document. It was written in 1991 and is as pertinent as ever.

rabee said...

Actually Anon, it wasn't LBJ who made that comment:

Link

Anonymous said...

Fuzzflash sez...

Yes,Rabee, Time magazine and google back you, but I wouldn't wager that the Senator from Texas didn't utter the slur during his tenure on the Hill. Lines like that would have travelled the Good Ol' Boy network like black gold up a gusher.

lucy tartan said...

Harry, I can't say what I think about the substantive yet - I'm no fan of the current federal government but I'm pleased they've made a commitment to doing something about the situation o; beyond that I just want to think about it, and read the report - but I do agree very strongly that using it as an occasion to try to score political points is wrong.

I think attacking what other bloggers are saying is also politicising the issue, albeit in a secondary fashion.

I

hc said...

Lucy, I think my comments on other bloggers is fair. To see every policy - no matter how critical the issue - as one of scoring political points, seems to be a disease of Australia's political left. The disease is so prevalent that it is reducing the prospects for coming up with a better Australia.

As index of the reasonableness of my claim consider Kevin Rudd's support for the policy and his refusal to accept the claim by others that this is just wedge politics.

Mark said...

Sorry, Harry, you claim to be above point scoring but you refer to the "lavatory blog"?

Mark said...

And in general, Harry, your assumption of the moral high ground on this is offensive.

You may have recently discovered this problem via the declaration of a "national emergency", but Kim was writing about it and calling for action in May 2006:

http://www.theage.com.au/news/national/black-aid-plan-could-do-harm/2007/06/23/1182019436617.html

You've also been doing some very selective reading. You've totally overlooked the support I, and many other commenters at LP, have given to the implementation of the Wild/Anderson report, which does not advocate militaristic solutions but cooperative ones.

To pose the question in terms of a moral dichotomy, as Howard has done, and as you do, is just not good enough. Since when can major policy initiatives escape scrutiny and debate in a democracy?

Mark said...

My apologies. That was the wrong link.

The post in question is here.

Sir Henry said...

Actually, with Rudd supportive, the wedge is blunted somewhat.

This has led to two appraisals of Rudd from Teh Left: (1) gutless (2) clever politics.

Criticism of Howard on the basis that the child abuse in remote aboriginal communities is an election stunt - his rabbit out of hat, or as has been called "Tampa 2007", is fair, except that even if it IS that, it is still a Good Thing in Itself if it works; which Tampa wasn't, it appealed to xenophobia and racism and made many people suffer for the sole purpose of getting Howard re-elected.

In its strictly political effects - and discussion of it is quite legitimate - it remains to be seen if this is indeed Tampa 2007.

Geoff Walsh has written a very good analysis of the Tampa debacle at
http://www.api-network.com/main/index.php?apply=scholars&webpage=default&flexedit=&flex_password=&menu_label=&menuID=homely&menubox=&scholar=249

and it is worth reading in toto for its extraordinary parallels with today. Here is some of what Walsh had to say:

"May's 42% positive rating jumped to a record 60% in September. Howard was transformed in the electorate's eyes from a tired, out of touch mediocrity to a man of principle, defending the national interest and representative of public opinion. He went from being a liability to an asset. For Beazley, Tampa had the opposite effect. After lending the Government initial support for its handling of the issue, Beazley was damaged when the Government played its wedge politics card in the form of the Border Protection Bill. Confused by the shift in Labor's position, voters saw this as political opportunism and back-flipping on Beazley's part."

hc said...

Mark,

I have also written on aboriginal health problems related to smoking and booze in many posts on this and other blogs.

Sir Henry's last point says it all - even if you do have your low priors about Howards's motives - what a way of judging people - these motives are irrelevant to whether or not the policies are useful or not.

Both you and Kim see this issue as 'wedge' politics. You refuse to consider the implications of the policies. This is what sickens me - despite your protestations of concern your reaction to the Howard plan is not to see if will reduce child abuse but whether it will be used to reduce Rudd's election prospects but forcing a wedge into politics.

Its a low level approach to politics. When I point this out you say my response is 'shrill'. Your priorities are up the spout and your conception of politics is one that, fortunately, most will reject.

Mark said...

I'm sorry, Harry, to say that we refuse to recognise the implications of the policy is just wrong. Please have a look at what's been written at LP subsequently, much of which has gone to assessment of the initiatives. I don't accept that alternative policy proposals and criticism of those that have been made constitutes anything other than an appropriate response to an issue which is very serious.

Anonymous said...

What is the mechanism that proves a link between pornography (sexual acts between adults, not, I repeat, not child pornography) and child abuse?
If the aboriginals are viewing pornography and drinking, consistently followed by abusing children, then perhaps it is a behavior in these communities. Why would such a behavior exist?
I don't want to seem rude, but I'll say it plainly: the frustrations and desire which well up in the body when viewing erotic/pornographic images increase the body's sex drive. But there is more than one path of relief. Physical exertion will relieve the sex drive, as will masturbation. If there is no consenting partner available, what on earth causes an adult to force a child into intercourse (besides a mental tendency towards it anyway)?

Is pornography seen as a direct cause in general, or specifically in these communities, or is there some intermediate mechanism/action at work.

I am speaking as a secular who can not simply accept the causal link based on a moral condemnation of both pornography and child abuse. Particularly as I find child abuse repugnant while I find pornography (utterly excluding child pornography), compelling, intellectually interesting, useful and pleasurable.
I also have great respect for and interest in religions and agree that contemporary atheism is smug and ahistorical (though it doesn't have to be).

hc said...

Anon, I think pornography can encourage the view that sexual partners are pure objects of gratification. It leaves out the preliminaries.

Viewing children as sex objects denies reality. They are just children.

I think alcohol and porography together can help to distort views of reality.