Is Anyone Listening Anymore

The recent visit by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, laid it on the line when she said that the Northern Territory Intervention needed a rethink. That it was fundamentally wrong and that the intervention had caused deep hurt and pain to Aborigines.

Of the people she met , “One person told me that he didn’t have money left to buy ice-cream for his children,” she said. “The whole voluntariness of spending your own income has been removed from them. They feel they are being targeted.”

The concern is whether there anyone listening to what the commissioner had to say. The media have trotted out the usual people and agencies for comment on what she had said. We have heard it all before. It is obvious that interest has dropped off; no one is listening, and no one cares. The footy season is nigh. The news media are just going through the motions and are becoming increasingly frustrated from the orchestrated responses from pollies.

The good old Greens keep punching away; on both of the issues, the Territory Intervention, and refugees.  Good on them for that, but my sensors tell me that people are a little bit sick of seeing Sarah Hanson Young on their screens.

The talk back mob struggled as well, as their audience load the Winnebago’s up and follow each other around the country tail to tail in their own form of “caterpillar dreaming”.  Their interest is to avoid paying camping fees. They are running out of things to say and are getting as old and tired as some of the presenters.

Fairfax has seen the light and is selling their flagship talk back radio stations and The Australian is hoping for another tweet from Larrisa to get its ratings up, or another Town Camp story with pictures.

Even good old “auntie” with it boring repetitive news 24 and their whole ensemble of tax payer funded digital frequencies, and web portal have struggled to grab the attention of the average punter. Even though the ABC has given new meaning to the word podcasting, they have not laid a glove or had an impact.

This of course is timely for government. No one has really reacted about the refugees since the Malaysian solution was announced, except the libs carping on about about caning. No caning on Naru they say, “touche”.  The steam has been taken out of the debate and the average punter can sleep peaceably in their beds at night, because the politicians and government bureaucrats  will have done the dirty deeds for them on refugees and the intervention, on their behalf.

The message here is that it is not the Ice Cream that’s the issue,  it is the disempowerment and shame of not being able to provide for the family unit. The very thing Australia built its reputation on as a fair and equitable civil society. However “the Aboriginal family unit”, has been raped and pillaged by the last Liberal government, now its Labour turning the screws even harder and maintaining the intervention with all of its failings. “That’s why, that poor bugger can’t buy his kids an ice cream”.

I spoke to an “old Unc” about this and other comments that had been made by the commissioner when I saw him down the street. I remember when I was a kid on the station, he said, we never had ice cream, and actually we never had much at all.

My dad worked like a donkey on the station for “ little bit flour and little bit tea”.  He wanted a better life for us so we moved down to town before the war. There were a lot of people on the move. We camped out near the mangroves, actually it was in the mangroves, the mosquitoes and sand flies drove us mad but we got used them. I remember mum took us to town and bought us ice cream; she would have a pot of tea and a ham sandwich. It was great they used to scoop the ice cream out of big long cans.

There were only 2 colours. We used to get the white one because we did not like the black one (chocolate).  Looking back the shop owner always wanted to give us the black one. Wonder why?, he asked. I don’t know I said, maybe deep down he thought that black kids liked chocolate  ice cream.

We both laughed, it’s good to laugh at things like that. I remember a time the great depression, they call it. My father would come home from looking for work. Sometimes he would get a job for the day down at the waterfront loading raw sugar.

He would come home, the molasses from the brown sugar would be dripping down his back, he would wear a piece of hessian bag with a hole cut in and slip it over his head to soak up the molasses, all the wharfies used them. It never stopped the molasses from dripping all over his back.

He would slump into an old canvass chair, like the ones in the old picture theatres and have a homemade mango wine; he could not afford anything else.

One day he came home there was no work and he said “kids I won’t be able to buy you and ice-cream this week”. Maybe if they pick me for work next week it will be ok. There are a lot of men looking for work down there. I don’t like my chances, there are a lot of big TI fellas down there looking for work and they pick them first he said, because they are big and strong.

There were a lot of kids whose parents could not afford ice cream, it wasn’t the end of the world.  They had other things on their minds, and there was no human rights commissioner to bring the situation to the world. I left him there playing his ukelale out front of the market, people walking buy throwing a few coins into his hat.

The reporting of the Intervention by a section of the media has been tendentious from the very beginning, supporting the governments and a few selected Aboriginal people’s views. It was always destined to fail. The people on the ground told us that.

This latest report from the UN Commissioner does us no good. It is difficult now because the Howard/Brough plan polarised the country on blackfellas and refugees. We are dealing with a pernicious and hostile press who have dug a hole for themselves in supporting the view of Howards lifted One Nation policies. The current government are locked in now,  fearing that any change will diminish their chances of re-election.

What has happened to us a nation, we don’t deserve this. The Human Rights Commissioner Ms Pillay has hit a nerve, practically calling the country racist. Our current media oligarchy is undecided on how to challenge her, some preferring to ignore her, happy to see the back of her.

That countryman out in Alice who can’t afford an ice cream for his kids is an unfortunate sign of the times for a lot of ordinary Australians.  The country is becomeing  poorer,  jobs are going off shore,  “Julia, Julia, Julia” what else can go wrong.

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