If someone supports John Howard, then surely he is a racist, right-wing redneck who is completely biased and should be absolutely rejected. Or so argues much of the liberal/left and the mainstream media. So what do you do when a self-confessed Howard-hater and Labour Party supporter, who also happens to be Aboriginal, comes out strongly defending the Prime Minister?
The lefties and the media would probably just ignore such a person, or say no such creature exists. Certainly the Melbourne Age or the Sydney Morning Herald would stay miles away from such a person. But at least the Melbourne Herald Sun was willing to give such a person a go. Thus yesterday (June 29, 2007) this opinion piece appeared, entitled: “I hate Howard, but he’s right”.
Warren Mundine, an indigenous leader and former president of the Australian Labor Party, began his piece this way: “I am a staunch and loyal Labor Party member, a former national president of the Labor Party and a proud and strong Aboriginal man. Yes, I hate Prime Minister John Howard and want to see him voted out at the next federal election and a Kevin Rudd-led Federal Labor Government formed in 2007. Bewdy!”
The perfect start for an article in the Age or the SMH. But it takes a sharp turn to common sense thereafter: “Now that I got that off my chest I want to focus on the real issues of the Little Children are Sacred report of the Northern Territory, the Gordon report of Western Australia, the Breaking the Silence report of New South Wales, the Bonnie Robinson report of Queensland and many other reports over the years. With apologies to former US President Bill Clinton, it’s the children and the women stupid! The Little Children Are Sacred report is a tough read. I had to stop and have several cups of tea to get through it. And that’s from a fella who has witnessed much violence, and read many reports.”
It seems the Prime Minister was right to be alarmed and to demand action. “The Little Children Are Sacred report makes it quite clear that ‘child sexual abuse is serious, widespread and often unreported’ and ‘that Aboriginal child sexual abuse in the Northern Territory be designated as an issue of urgent national significance.’ The report also makes it quite clear this is nothing new. It has been going on for years and ‘the Aboriginal people are not the only victims and not the only perpetrators of sexual abuse’.”
Yet amazingly some lefties and some Aboriginal people have been shooting the messenger, and slamming Howard for his attempts to clean up the mess. “These words [about abuse] have echoed through all the reports. Aboriginal people have been crying out for action on this front for many years. They have been calling on bi-partisan support and action across the political spectrum. Finally, we have a Federal Government with the principled support of the Federal Opposition giving the issue the ‘designated, urgent national significance’ it deserves. Quite frankly I’m flabbergasted by the response of some sectors of the Aboriginal and wider Australian community.”
He continues: “And then there are the statements that it’s a political stunt to get re-elected, that Howard’s not to be trusted, that it’s a Trojan horse to steal Aboriginal land, mate. Aboriginal women and children have been and continue to be abused both sexually and violently in numbers that are grossly unacceptable. If ever there was a number that’s been acceptable. Of course, there is not.”
Mundine rightly argues that we need to go beyond partisan politics here and get serious about this tragic issue. “An opportunity has arisen for the first time in the history of this nation for us, that is all Australians, be they Aboriginal or non-Aboriginal, to make a real breakthrough in this area of abuse. It has been a festering sore on our nation for over 200 years. This is above our own personal bias, hatreds, politics, ideology and any other wheelbarrow pushing. Do I have concerns? Yes, I do, but I’m prepared to work with the Federal Government to make the hard yards we have to make to break the abuse of our children and women.”
He concludes: “It’s no surprise the vast majority of Aborigines in juvenile detention centres and male and female prisons have been sexually abused as children. If we could stop this sexual abuse, then this can and will have a positive effect on this incarceration rate and the problems of law and order in the communities and the wider Australian community. These correlations go across to mental health, education, health generally and so many other areas of Aboriginal disadvantage. So, let’s stop nitpicking and get behind the push to end sexual and violent abuse of children and women.”
Hear, hear. Mundine, along with a handful of other Aboriginal leaders, have been willing to stop the point scoring and get real about the very entrenched problems vexing Aboriginal communities. The Prime Minister has acted decisively, and deserves our support. While his plan may not be a panacea, he is not competing with any other panaceas either. Suffering children and women need our help, not leftwing whinging and more media bias.