The first, "Aboriginal surprise", is in the British magazine Prospect. I've not yet read the full article as it's only available (unless you can access it via a library's online database) if you pay, though The Australian published an extract in its Cut and Paste section:
Things have already begun to play out in intriguing ways in the deep deserts where the intervention task forces began their work in August. School attendance is up, communities are quieter, crime is down. Why, then, the hand-wringing and the outrage heard in the state capitals of southern Australia? Surely the mainstream population might be expected to welcome such an injection of resources into the deserts and the far north? That, though, would be to misunderstand the strange condition of the Australian intelligentsia and its intense engagement with indigenous causes.
Polls suggest that most Australians are mildly in favour of the intervention, to the extent that they care at all about Aboriginal matters, but the shrill hostility of the progressive classes drowns out this approval. In the rallies, television panels and opinion pages, it is not an intervention but an "invasion", a land grab, a rollback of Aboriginal rights, an episode that brings shame on the nation.
This mood of indignant moral fury on indigenous questions has become, over the past decade of conservative government, a key characteristic of a certain segment of Australian society one might call the "reconciliation class". Its moment of glory was a mass walk across the Sydney Harbour Bridge (in 2000), when a quarter of a million demonstrators gathered in support of indigenous reconciliation. This largely metropolitan tendency has been deeply hostile to the Howard government, regarding the presence of a conservative populist at the helm of the nation as an insult.
For three decades, the standard setting for the management of indigenous affairs has been the enlightened Left's welfarist prescription, a prescription now being shredded by the "emergency response". These ideological dimensions explain much of the fire in the anti-intervention rhetoric, as all eyes turn to the little communities of the Northern Territory.
The second piece "No time for dreaming" is in The Weekend Australian. Rothwell knows the Territory well: read his recent book Another Country if you don't believe me.
[ Indigenous Affairs Minister] Macklin has been receiving her departmental briefings this week, in private, and knows the inside story of the intervention and the trends and patterns across the remote Aboriginal domain. Despite strong signs that the federal taskforce's initial efforts are succeeding - school attendances in the centre are up as much as 30per cent, while gambling and domestic violence are down - the overall landscape remains sombre.
Vast sums have been poured into Aboriginal development during recent years, but they have been ineffectual. There is virtually no economic activity and most of the remote communities remain surreal fiefdoms presided over by outside administrators.
Opponents of the intervention denounce it as an invasion and call for it to be wound back. Supporters see it as the last opportunity to prevent social meltdown in a damaged world.
Rudd's strategy is becoming clear; it has been telegraphed by his ministerial picks and his administration's first position statements. It will be underlined by key appointments to the commanding heights of the bureaucracy in coming weeks. Its intellectual rigour and consistency will be sharply tested by the political challenges lying close ahead.
Macklin is the key choice. By opting for his established shadow minister, Rudd has also opted for Macklin's view of Aboriginal affairs, which has been substantially shaped by deep contacts with the pro-intervention Aboriginal leadership during the past six months. The new minister shares the key beliefs of the radical reform camp; she telegraphed them in uncompromising fashion in these pages last weekend . Her view is that the crisis in remote indigenous communities can be best addressed by pragmatic measures, such as restrictions on alcohol spending to control the plagues of addiction and family violence.
It is the view that lies behind the frankly coercive aspects of the intervention: the quarantining of incomes, increased policing, the requirement that communities send their children to school and the alcohol and pornography prohibitions.
The second key appointment was a negative one. By naming the territory's Warren Snowdon, a determined critic of the intervention, as Defence Science and Personnel Minister, Rudd binds this main mouthpiece of the antediluvian Left to cabinet solidarity and removes his voice from the debate.
There has been a drastic political realignment in Darwin, with the emergence of a new Chief Minister speaking the language of co-operation, Paul Henderson. Henderson knows his term in office will be judged by his ability to provide tangible improvements in the condition of remote NT communities and he has pledged himself to this goal.
One key to the indigenous policy direction of the Rudd-Macklin era lies in the new Government's choice of Aboriginal interlocutors. Galarrwuy Yunupingu, the monarch of northeast Arnhem Land, has Macklin's ear: his message to her is one of respect for traditions and contempt for the provision of passive welfare payments to Aborigines. Alongside Yunupingu stands the University of Melbourne's Marcia Langton, a long-time believer in drastic social control measures to combat alcoholism and family violence.
Yunupingu envisages a generational reconstruction project in the territory, rechristened as the "special measure" program and buttressed by the formation of a council of traditional leaders.
Langton accepts the broad thrust of the emergency response and views it as a defensive campaign undertaken on behalf of indigenous women.
In flat contradiction to this stand, a group of more recently established Aboriginal spokespeople, marshalled by figures such as Olga Havnen and Larissa Behrendt, want the intervention stopped at once and replaced by consultation with the targeted communities.
This split in indigenous ranks, a divide over first principles rather than mere tactics, seems more profound than past disputes. It spells the end of pan-Aboriginal campaigning and may well hasten the development of different strains of indigenous identity and political programs based on region, philosophy and economic circumstance. More immediately, it forces the Rudd Government to choose between stark alternatives: to back the realist tendency represented by Langton and Yunupingu or make concessions to the rejectionists, whose campaigns have broad support from Labor's progressive wing.
Hence Macklin's longing for an indigenous compromise and her desire for the anti-intervention campaigners to sit down with their opponents and broker a development program that may give the takeover in the NT, in its Rudd version, a softer face.
Hence, too, the temptation the new Labor team feels to modify key elements of the intervention, as it promised in the election campaign on the advice of NT Labor strategists. Rudd is thus committed to restoring aspects of the territory's community development employment programs, closed down by Brough early in the intervention.Not even CDEP's few proponents regard this strange make-work system, which pays remote community part-time employees slightly above welfare rates, as anything more than a stop-gap.
But the true grotesquerie of the environment CDEP engenders is little understood by outsiders. A typical CDEP program is run by a highly paid white adviser and provides basic work teams fulfilling municipal and public tasks, in effect subsidising the NT Government and local councils. Many art centres rely on CDEP to pay their indigenous staff low part-time wages and thus use the program as a kind of taxpayer subsidy to keep the price of artworks competitive. False economic signals fly everywhere and create a shadow realm that barely meets the outside financial system. CDEP, with its dependent workers, thus acts as a force to maintain poverty and deprive people of the chance to fulfil their capabilities.
The tragedy is that it is the best system so far devised and the best indigenous societies have been offered. Brough canned CDEP only when it became clear that its payments could not legally be quarantined, but this was the reform that most urgently signalled to Aboriginal communities that a new world was upon them.
Rudd and Macklin will be urged by the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations teams overseeing the Northern Territory project to keep alive the most ambitious aspect of the intervention's mid-term blueprint: the promise that all jobs on communities will be paid at standard rates, with features such as career development, education and superannuation.
The second change federal Labor endorsed in mid-campaign is the retention of the permit system controlling access to communities. No reporter committed to press freedom could support access permits, which are granted by land councils, and function to ensure favourable media portraits of communities and the powerbrokers who control them.
But the NT Labor Government, despite being stuffed full of former journalists, bizarrely opposed, and still opposes, Brough's extremely limited plan to lift the permit requirement for road access and public areas in large communities.
It is salutary to bear in mind how vital permits have been in maintaining the silence over sexual abuse and violence in remote communities. Permits also limit economic initiatives from outsiders and touristic activity. The system's defenders portray them as a force protecting culture, whereas strong cultures are those in robust contact with the world and seclusion produces inevitable decline.
In the remote communities today, a controlling elite seeks to limit and control access, so as to prevent the intolerable from being seen and felt and reported to the wider world. A masking version of reality is circulated and an oppressed class, in this case female, is maintained in fearful subjugation.
There are caricatural aspects to this summary of a complex social map, different in every tiny community, but the control system tends always to function in a similar way and to breed estrangement from the energies of the wider world. This is a straightforward moral issue for Rudd and, with his immense political capital, he can intervene in the policy debate to open up the bush while guaranteeing adequate policing and social services in communities.
Intervention, emergency, special measure: whatever the reforms in the NT are called in the Labor era, the process is set to continue. In truth, if it aims at raising remote societies to Western education and health levels, it is a project with at least a 50-year time frame. It has hardly even begun.
The commander of the emergency response, Dave Chalmers, gave an update this week on progress in the 73 target communities across the territory: 5000 health checks have been completed in 45 communities, 39 additional police have been stationed in the remote NT, 10 community stores have been licensed and 38 business managers are in place, overseeing the new order.
This is a pinprick on the surface; vast additional resources will be needed and fresh measures as yet undreamed of by policy architects if the Aboriginal societies of the centre and the north are to thrive and prosper and mesh on their own terms with the wider world.
As Labor leaders contemplate Brough's dream and seek to avoid it mutating into their own open-ended nightmare, they may want to consider far more ambitious levels of reconstruction than the conservative political order envisaged.
One key to unlocking remote Aboriginal disadvantage lies in a new description of the bush: the "failed state" model, advanced by former top NT bureaucrats Mike Dillon and Neil Westbury a year ago, explains the collapse of indigenous communities in terms of their systematic neglect and underfunding, but also in terms of the chaotic political and governance arrangements in place.
This is the far horizon of the intervention, which Rudd and Macklin will eventually have to face.Rothwell asks more questions than he answers, but it should be clear where his (and my) sympathies lie. He seems relieved that these issues are now more out in the open than they were, but any optimism he has will be tempered by the enormity of the tasks, many of which are yet to be defined, the long time frame and the huge financial investment (not handout) required.
I hope to post more about these matters, but not now. I will be interested to see how letter writers and commentators react to Rothwell's forthrightness: the worst thing that could happen is that few will care.