Nova Peris and the bankruptcy of Labor
Posted by John, January 28th, 2013 - under Aboriginal Embassy, Aboriginal deaths in custody, Aborigines, Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders, Genocide, Idle no more, Invasion day, Nova Peris, Racism.
The Prime Minister has anointed Gary Foley, Michael Mansell, Robbie Thorpe, Barbara Shaw, Nova Peris for Labor’s top senate position in the Northern Territory in the Federal election some time later this year.
This is their only winnable position in the Senate there. With just 2 seats up for grabs every 3 years, it is virtually one seat guaranteed for the Country Liberal Party (CLP) and one for the ALP. Labor’s 2 party preferred vote would have to drop below 33 1/3% for Labor to lose it.
Who is Nova Peris? According to Koori Mail:
Nova Peris is a Muran woman from Kakadu and Arnhem Land and was a ‘treaty ambassador’ for the former Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC).
Peris won Olympic gold as part of the Australian Hockey team in 1996 and Commonwealth Games gold as part of a relay team a few years later.
With more than a decade, a day as an ALP member, and a lifetime, a week of fighting for Aboriginal people, Peris brings important attributes to the job. She is an Aboriginal woman who won’t rock Gillard’s boat.
She supports the racist Northern Territory intervention. Well presumably she does because there is no record of her having said much at all about the issue; and she sure as hell would not have been parachuted into the position if she, like her principled bothers and sisters Foley, Shaw and many many others, opposed the intervention.
Peris has made one comment on the Intervention. According to Michelle Grattan in The Age:
Asked whether she supported the federal intervention in the NT, Ms Peris said that ”something needed to be done” but the way it was done was wrong. The government now had its ”stronger futures” legislation, in which she hoped to play a big part.
Stronger Futures is the Commonwealth Labor Government’s rebadging of the Intervention. They are the same thing. For Peris it looks like a case of four legs good, two legs better.
Peris has benefited from the Intervention. She has done publicity work for a health program that didn’t in the end work (no fault of hers) and received $1 million over a couple of years.
Why Peris? Even within the context of bourgeois parliamentary games, there were a range of other candidates like Marion Scrymgour who could have been imposed on the party or won Senate preselection in their own right.
Scrymgour is a former Deputy Chief Minister in the Territory, Aboriginal and a long term ALP member. This latter almost certainly disqualified her, and the fact is she probably wouldn’t have beaten Crossin in any Party contest for the Senate seats this time around. But in 3 years time when Crossin was going to retire? Maybe.
Gillard couldn’t parachute Scrymgour in because the former Deputy Chief Minister opposes the Northern Territory intervention, describing it as vicious new McCarthyism. When she was a Labor Minister in the Territory she accused the party of lying to Aboriginal people and in protest went to sit on the cross benches for a while before returning to the party.
Scrymgour indicated she would nominate for the top Senate position 2 weeks ago and it is possible Gillard imposed Peris as the top Labor Senate candidate on the Northern Territory Labor Party to prevent Scrymgour becoming the candidate this time around or in 3 years’ time.
By forcing Peris on the ALP in the Northern Territory Julia Gillard has trampled the very limited democracy and choices the members in the Labor Party have. She has imposed an Auntie Tom on the membership and the community, including especially Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander society in the Northern Territory and more generally across Australia.
This is indicative of a wider problem of lack of democracy in the party and a membership dying on the vine.
Of course it is an indictment of Labor that it has never in the 112 years since Federation preselected an Aboriginal person for a winnable seat in the Federal Parliament. Not once.
Parachuting in Nova Peris doesn’t address that systemic fault in Labor; it reinforces it. It reinforces the bankrupt nature of pre-selection in the party, even with rank and file participation; it exposes the bankrupt nature of the leadership and the party that allows the PM and the National Executive to impose their will on the membership; it highlights the bankrupt nature of the Left of the party that has gone along with this decision.
I will shed few tears for Trish Crossin. She is one of those hard working non-entities who have in fact been part of the problem of Labor in the Territory, never challenging the Intervention in any concerted way.
She is also the parliamentary head of Emily’s List, a group of middle class women looking for a safe sinecure in Parliament without challenging the systemic nature of women’s oppression that is capitalism, but rather reinforcing it through their parliament first and at all costs view of the world and their (in)action. So the ultimate symbol of all that is Emily’s List, Prime Minister Julia Gillard, has knifed its head.
In the Territory elections last year Labor lost in the regional and remote areas. Aboriginal voters deserted the party. On a two party preferred basis the swing to the Country Liberal Party was 5.4%. In pastoral and remote areas the swing was over 15%.
Of Labor’s 8 seats in the 25 member Parliament, 6 are from Darwin and just 2 from remote regions.
Why did Aboriginal voters desert Labor? A major part was opposition to the Intervention and condemnation of Labor’s failure to make life any better for Aborigines and others outside the cities. (It didn’t do much for city dwellers either.)
Labor ’rationalised’ local councils – from 63 to 8. People outside Darwin felt they had lost power as a consequence of this super-sizing.. But the real vote changer was the Intervention. As AAP reported in the AFR:
The intervention in Aboriginal communities, started by John Howard and re-named Stronger Futures after the ALP took it over, has been deeply unpopular in many indigenous communities.
Some Aboriginal leaders have said the laws unfairly branded particular communities as harbouring drunks and paedophiles and unable to manage their own affairs.
If Labor were serious about addressing the loss of Aboriginal votes they would abandon the Intervention and admit it was a racist attempt to control indigenous lives. Of course, having successfully imposed non-solutions such as income management on Aboriginal people, the Labor Government has extended the program to control unemployed whites in some major cities.
Parachuting in celebrity candidates does not address the systemic racism and genocide against the original inhabitants. If Peter Garrett is any guide the host takes over the parasite.
Gillard’s action also assumes that Aboriginal voters can’t think for themselves and will be bedazzled by a Peris candidature because she is Aboriginal. Of course the idea that Aboriginal voters might look to Labor’s abysmal record on Aboriginal Affairs and Peris’s defence of it in deciding who to vote for is just too far blown for the Gillards of the world to contemplate.
In that rarefied world of Labor politics, Aboriginal people don’t think for themselves. They will evidently be sucked in by appearance rather than substance. This racist paternalism is part of the problem for Labor.
A treaty, recognising prior ownership and sovereignty, paying the rent to the indigenous owners of the land and allowing Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders to run their own affairs is a set of systemic solutions to the systemic problems of dispossession and disempowerment, systemic solutions to the past and ongoing genocide against the indigenous peoples of this country.
That program would require an attack on capital in Australia and its interests. Labor won’t do that. Far better from the point of view of Gillard as the captain of the second level of capital to pick Nova Peris to open the batting in the battle for the Senate than actually take on capital to address the real issues. Nova Peris will be a willing accomplice to Gillard’s anti-Aboriginal agenda.
The Invasion Day protests, the burgeoning Idle No More indigenous peoples’ movement in Canada which is spreading across the globe, the campaigns against the Intervention and deaths in custody, all offer an alternative approach to winning better lives for Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders. They are movements from below, not machinations from above. That way lies the future, not one bum on one seat for a Gillard puppet in the Senate.
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