President Abbott: or why prime ministers should not be immune from removal by their party


After the failure of the ‘spill’ motion on 9 February, Abbott said:

We think that when you elect a government, when you elect a prime minister, you deserve to keep that government and that prime minister until you have had a chance to change your mind.

Ignoring that the polls were indicating the people had already changed their mind, the statement continued Abbott’s approach in the lead-up to the spill motion (and since) that he was elected by the people, whereas John Howard had previously said the ‘leadership’ was a ‘gift of the party room’.

Who is right?

Abbott’s approach, as was Kevin Rudd’s, is that he was elected by the people as prime minister but under the Westminster system of parliamentary democracy, which we use, members of the House of Representatives (where governments are formed) are elected by the voters of single electorates. They are elected to represent those electorates. Under the Westminster system, we have a strong party system in place to provide stable government — it would be next to impossible to have stable government if every individual member acted as an independent in the interests of their own electorate. That means that when we elect an individual member for an electorate, we also know to which party he or she will add their vote in the parliament. The leader of each major party, whether Liberal, Labor or National, is elected by the members elected to the parliament for that party (although Labor now includes an element of membership participation in a contested vote). It is true that we know the leader of each party going into an election and therefore who will probably be prime minister if the party wins enough seats to form government, but there is no rule that says that must be so — it is an expectation that has been created.

It is also true that election campaigns now tend to focus around the leader of each party and, in that sense, there is an element of a presidential election about the campaigns. (Whether that is good or bad is a debate for another time.)

In essence, we now have a Westminster system operating for and in the parliament but something closer to a presidential system operating in the way election campaigns are conducted. It is little wonder that voters become confused.

Despite claiming he was elected by the people, like a president, Abbott tried to use the Westminster system to defend his position in the spill motion. He called on his ministers to support him under the Westminster convention of ‘cabinet solidarity’ but ‘cabinet solidarity’ is primarily about policy decisions: it says that, no matter how much argument goes on in a cabinet meeting, once a decision is agreed each minister is bound to support that decision publicly — it is not meant to be about internal party politics.

There are significant differences between a Westminster democracy and a presidential democracy, particularly as operates in the US — from which we seem to draw most of our election campaign techniques.

The first major difference is that the US president is not only head of the executive government but also head of state. Our prime minister is only head of the executive government. The Queen of Australia is our titular head of state but the role is fulfilled by the governor-general and under our system the head of state has next to no role in the daily activities of government but the US president does. Our governor-general still signs laws into effect but does so on the advice of the government of the day and, certainly by convention, has almost no power to over-ride that advice. The US President can veto legislation passed by the congress if he (no ‘her’ as yet) does not like it.

A second major difference is that the US president selects his cabinet from anywhere — they don’t have to be members of the congress, indeed rarely are. In our case, not only the head of the executive government but members of the cabinet are drawn from those elected to the parliament. There is no rule that this should be so but it is one of the conventions of the Westminster system. The fact that the Westminster system relies on convention, rather than being enforced by rules, was evident when Campbell Newman first became leader of his party in Queensland while still outside the parliament: we could not countenance, however, that he could become a member of the government while outside the parliament and a seat had to be found for him before the ensuing election.

The American system is very much the old system of a democratic monarchy. The monarch (president) selects his own ministers (secretaries of state) and they are required to appear before parliament (congress) to answer questions about, and be held accountable for, actions they may have taken or not taken, as the case may be. Basically all the Americans did when they achieved independence was replace the monarch in that system with an elected president. And a little like the Abbott and Rudd misapprehension in Australia that people vote directly for the prime minister, it is also a misapprehension in the US that people vote directly for the president. They are actually voting for members of an ‘electoral college’ at the state level, who then join all those elected by other states and select the president. Originally members of the electoral college were free to vote for whomever they liked but now most states nominate all their electoral college votes to the winner of the popular presidential vote in that state. The electoral college was introduced because the early founders of the US republic were wary of giving the people a direct say in the election of the president and because it was feared that someone sympathetic to the British could be elected and effectively ‘undo’ the revolution: the college was an intermediary that also gave the states a greater say in the election of the president. (Apparently there have been four occasions when the electoral college votes did not match the popular vote, including in 2000 when George W Bush was elected.)

Which approach is more democratic? (As an aside, I did once convince an American, using the preceding arguments, that their system was closer to a democratic monarchy.)

In our system all members of the government have been voted for: they have won an electorate somewhere in the country or a large enough proportion of the vote to be elected to the Senate. There are no outsiders. Ministers can be voted out of parliament just like any other member, as can prime ministers (Howard) and state premiers (Newman).

The closest our prime minister comes to a presidential power is the ability to select ministers, remove ministers and move ministers in what we commonly call a ‘reshuffle’. (Technically it is the governor-general who has that power but, because the governor-general must act on the advice of the government, it is effectively the prime minister.) While that has always been the Liberal way, Labor only adopted that approach when Rudd became prime minister. Before that the Labor caucus elected from its number those who would be ministers and a Labor prime minister could only allocate portfolios to those who were elected. (Labor returned to that approach in opposition when Bill Shorten was elected in 2013.) Ministers can be removed for many reasons: misbehaviour outside the parliament, not being a good minister, disloyalty (as perceived by the prime minister or the party), travel rorts, undeclared gifts, undeclared pecuniary interests, and so on, or simply the need to reward someone else with a ministry.

Abbott has already selected one ministry and conducted one reshuffle so he has exercised that power. If ministers can be removed in such a way, it logically seems to follow that prime ministers can also be removed within the parliamentary party system, not only by popular vote. Even the name ‘prime minister’ suggests that — the person is only the ‘first’ minister, or the ‘chief’ or ‘head’ minister, but still a minister. If people can only vote once every three years (in the normal course of events) who has the power to remove a prime minister in between? We know from 1975 that the governor-general is one such person but it requires extreme circumstances that cannot be resolved politically or by the courts.

There is an argument that democracy can be enhanced by the use of plebiscites and ‘recall’ votes, as in a number of US states. Such an approach certainly allows for democratic participation in consideration of major issues and legislation and provides a capacity to ‘recall’ a leader or representative who has lost the support of the majority of the population. Would such an approach work in Australia? I don’t think so.

Australians are notorious for viewing voting as an irksome duty, not something they willingly undertake to express their democratic rights. A majority tend to want to vote and then leave the government to ‘get on with it’ for the next three years and not bother them too much: as Howard once described it, we want to be left alone feeling ‘relaxed and comfortable’. But we do react when things are going on that we don’t like and that is expressed in the opinion polls, sometimes in public dissent and these days on social media.

Under the presidential system, when a policy proves unpopular, it is most likely that a secretary of state will be removed so that he or she is no longer a symbol of a disliked policy. The president, as head of state, must remain. Although it is also possible to remove a minister under our system, it has become the case that the prime minister now seems to represent all facets of the government and wears the blame for policy miscalculations. In Abbott’s and Rudd’s cases that blame is probably warranted because of the way they centralised power within their own offices. It can also apply more generally because our prime minister is head of the executive government and therefore bears some responsibility for all actions of the government (just as the CEO of a company does): our prime minister does not have the immunity of a head of state.

Popular expressions of discontent with policy can’t actually change the prime minister — only an election or a party-room vote can do that. Therefore public expressions of dissent between elections can only be meant to encourage the parties to change their policies or their leadership, or both.

Liberal party leaders have always had a lot of power, perhaps because the party was founded around an individual, Robert Menzies. That leads to many more ‘captain’s picks’ as we are now seeing with Abbott as leader. Labor leaders historically have had less power but Rudd changed that hoping to entrench his own position. Now a Labor party-room change of leader requires a petition signed by 75% of the caucus when in government, or 60% of the caucus when in opposition. It does not seem to apply if a leader steps down. If the new leadership is contested, then a vote takes place that includes Labor party members. It is not impossible to change a Labor leader between elections but it is more difficult under the new rules: it is likely to lead to greater use of the ‘tap on the shoulder’ to encourage a leader to resign rather than go through the petition process and also to factional agreements to nominate only one person for the leadership to avoid a vote.

One of the arguments that was put in favour of Rudd’s new rules was that it allows ‘hard’ decisions to be made without concern about the polls. In a democracy, however, governments should be in the business of convincing the people that hard decisions are justified. Hawke and Keating made major changes largely through consensus of key stakeholders and publicly arguing the need for change. Even Howard’s GST was spoken about for some time before it was introduced and did go through one election that the Liberals won despite the GST — so there was a mandate of a sort. If prime ministers are safe in their position, with no ability to remove them before the next election, then they may see no need to convince the people about the correctness of any policy approach — which seems to have been the attitude Abbott and Hockey took with the budget.

What is wrong with a party removing its leader if it is seen that the leader has lost the support of the people or that the policies being pursued are being rejected by the people?

I think that removing a party’s ability to remove its leader would lead us towards a presidential system that is undemocratic. Where is the democracy in a system that says the prime minister cannot be removed, except at an election, if the people are already speaking through the polls, through demonstrations and on social media? If a party cannot remove its leader in such circumstances, then it is not listening to the people — and that is not democratic.

Mr Abbott, like Mr Rudd before you, you are not a president, you are not a head of state, and your party room can remove you in the interest of democracy.

What do you think?

About Ken

This week Ken argues that the party-room removal of a prime minister is an expression of democracy, not an undemocratic procedure as Rudd and Abbott have claimed. Please express your own democratic rights and post a comment on whether Ken is right.

Next week we welcome the return of our resident gypsy, if a gypsy can be said to be resident. Jan presents a piece questioning why the mainstream media, after spending so long supporting Abbott, now seems surprised at his incompetence. The piece, of course, is entitled, 'Surprise, surprise ...'



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8/03/2015Ken What a lucid account of our system of Westminster government you have given us. You leave no doubt about which groups have the right to select or remove a prime minister. Clearly, it is not exclusively the electorate, which can exercise that prerogative only at an election, as we saw in the 2007 election where it effectively removed John Howard as Prime Minister, but only by not re-electing him as the member for Bennelong. Tony Abbott, and Kevin Rudd before him, tried to convince the electorate that it alone had the right to remove a PM. Their argument was politically motivated, not based on the conventions of the Westminster system. I can’t believe that they misunderstood the Westminster system. Their actions were designed to hoodwink the voters so that their position as PM would be more secure. In other words, they lied. We ought not to be surprised. Despite the indisputable facts and impeccable logic you advance, expect our present PM to hold to his position that only the voters can remove him should his leadership be challenged again.

Pappinbarra Fox

9/03/2015Anyone want to comment on our modified separation of powers doctrine we have adopted in Auatralia?

Ken

9/03/2015Pappinbarra Fox Well spotted. The US system, because it is closer to a democratic monarchy, does have separation of the executive, the legislature and the judiciary. The original idea comes from the 1700s when monarchs were the norm, so it was an important principle at that time. In parliamentary systems, the executive and the legislature are fused to a degree. Technically we have the Executive Council, comprising the G-G ,the PM and a few senior ministers, which operates in its own right but draws members from the legislature. While that may mean that we only have separation of the executive/legislature and the judiciary, it does mean that the executive government (other than the head of state) comprises elected members of parliament - not appointments by a monarch/president. I think the fusion of the executive and the legislature may have become necessary when the parliamentary system split the roles of head of state and effective head of the executive government. Just a few thoughts. Maybe there is scope for another piece on the workings of parliamentary democracy.

Ken

9/03/2015A PS and correction. Actually, I have had to look up details of the Executive Council and legally it comprises all current and former ministers, although only current ministers can actually attend meetings (but former ministers retain their 'membership' of the Executive Council - which is where the title 'The Honourable' comes from for ministers). The G-G is not a 'member' but presides and a quorum is only the G-G and two other members.

Pappinbarra Fox

9/03/2015That is interesting Ken, I typed the question on my mobile so no scope for a long dissuasion. I can a see a dichotomy between how the separation of powers operates in theory and how it is implemented in practice in Australia. For instance the Constitution has three separate chapters devoted to each of the separate arms of government. In practical terms the executive draws from the legislative arm and so they overlap. That is why it is important that the executive answers to parliament and is held truly responsible by parliament. Unfortunately with the current Speaker that responsibility is observed more in the breach than the observance.

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9/03/2015Folks I've just now posted on [i]TPS Extra: IGR 2015 - redolent with deception[/i], a comment on the Hockey/Abbott Intergenerational Report 2015. Don't be fooled! http://www.tpsextra.com.au/post/igr-2015-redolent-with-deception

Ken

9/03/2015Pappinbarra Fox It gets complicated. As you say the Constitution refers to the three parts of government. The executive government is still the monarch and his/her ministers. It just so happens that under our Westminster system, those ministers are also members of the legislature (instead of personal appointments of the monarch). The executive is still accountable to the parliament but (again as a result of the Westminster system) we have a strong party system which means accountability in the HoR is limited (irrespective of the Speaker). The main accountability is actually when the media reports questions of accountability that may have been raised in the HoR. (emphasise [u]when[/u]) I think Australians are aware of that which may be a reason why we have a history of not giving governments control of the Senate. Given what happened when Howard gained control of the Senate (Workchoices) it may be another generation before Australians again consider that a HoR government should also control the Senate.

Frank

9/03/2015It's pretty clear cut for the Coalition Party; the people have no say when it comes to choosing their leader. Howard, Turnbull, Bishop and Morrison are quite correct in affirming the leadership as the gift of the party room. Abbott and Hockey are quite wrong to pretend otherwise. The people are also not likely to throw out the baby(the party) with the bathwater (the leader) at an election unless party policy is horrendous: see Campbell Newman.Despite the changes in the Labor party the leadership is still heavily weighted in the caucus, not a bad idea since they know their colleagues far better than the rank and file and they have to work closely with the leader.Caucus also decides which candidates the Labor members will choose from.

Florence nee Fed up

9/03/2015Could one argue, do those who elects a leader of the party, that then becomes PM, have a duty to replace them, if they prove to be incompetent or bringing harm to the country.

Ken

10/03/2015Frank Than you for your comment. You are right, of course, that it should be obvious that the leadership comes from the party room. Abbott's claims otherwise (as were Rudd's) are simply efforts to cling on to power/the leadership. My argument is that even that process is democratic when it is responding to the people making clear that they no longer want a particular leader. Florence nee Fed up Yes, a good argument, that the party room not only can replace a PM but should when the PM is as incompetent as the current incumbent.

Florencde nee fed up

10/03/2015Each MP is accountable to the voters in the electorate that elected them. They are thereto act on behalf of these people. At all times, they act in their best interest. leaving an incompetent leader is place, is not doing so. There is no mention of PM or parties within the constitution.

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10/03/2015Folks The [i]Essential Report[/i] of the 1,797 who were polled is out today. It shows a 53/47 TPP in favour of Labor, the same as one and two weeks ago. Essential is not subject to the same violent swings as other polls, as the results are averaged over two weeks of polling. Tony Abbott has made a small gain in approval, from minus 33 in February to minus 25 today. Less than one in three voters approve of his performance, and that would be worse were it not for the strong approval of LNP voters, of whom three out of four approve of him. Bill Shorten's approval is minus 5, the same as in February. Shorten has the edge over Abbott in the Better PM stakes: 37/33, but not as big a lead as in February: 39/31. Despite his ersatz [i]mea culpas[/i], his sucking up to the electorate by abandoning nasty budget measures, and his new found bellicosity, Abbott's ratings have scarcely improved, most changes are within the margin of error of the poll. Asked about the level of tax paid by various groups, people on low income (47%), small businesses (41%) and people on average incomes (43%) were the groups those polled were most likely to think pay too much tax. More than half of those polled believe that ‘large international companies’ (73%), ‘large businesses’ (64%), ‘mining companies’ (67%), and ‘religious organisations’ (53%) do not pay enough tax. 60% felt it would not harm the economy if multinationals paid more tax, while only 13% thought it would. Half of those polled objected to sending troops to Iraq; about a third approved. A third felt so doing would make us less safe; only one eighth thought it would make us safer. http://essentialvision.com.au/category/essentialreport

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11/03/2015Folks Our PM is at it again! How many more indiscretions can his colleagues tolerate? In response to questions about the Western Australian government’s plan to close up to 150 of the state’s 274 remote Aboriginal communities after it received a federal funding cut, Tony Abbott, self-proclaimed advocate for indigenous people insisted: [i]“What we can’t do is endlessly subsidise lifestyle choices if those lifestyle choices are not conducive to the kind of full participation in Australian society that everyone should have.”[/i] Anyone with half their brain working would know that such a proclamation would stir controversy and angry rebuttals. Yet Abbott went ahead. Is it that this man has no political and emotional intelligence, or does his incessant desire to stir up a fight propel him into such situations, ones that are entirely avoidable if conflict is not one’s objective. And who is Abbott to insist that indigenous people ought to seek the [i]“…full participation in Australian society that everyone should have.”[/i] Why should this ancient race, one that extends back 40,000 years, be required to fully participate in [b]our[/b] society? Why does Abbott say such things? He got what he deserved, not just from the Opposition, as he would expect, but from people whom he trusts and admires. One, Warren Mundine, whom he appointed chief adviser on Indigenous Affairs, said it was ‘wrong’ to say that Aboriginal people living in remote communities had made a ‘lifestyle choice’. [i]“It is not about a lifestyle, it is not like retiring and moving for a sea change, it is about thousands of years connection, their religious beliefs and the essence of who they are.”[/i]. Cape York Indigenous Leader, Noel Pearson, whom Abbott lauds, said Abbott’s comments were [b]‘very disappointing and hopeless’[/b]. [i]“I just think it’s very disrespectful to cast fear into these communities through a kind of policy thought bubble rather than a considered position from the commonwealth government as to the future - the anxious future - of these remote communities. He has got no plan for the future of these communities in the event that they close down. And I’m just bitterly disappointed to hear this deranged debate go on in the substandard manner in which it’s being conducted.”[/i] So whom was Abbott trying to impress? Those who disparage aboriginal people? He certainly found one in shock jock Alan Jones, who immediately endorsed Abbott: [i]“Absolutely; good on you. Yeah, good on you. Game set and match on all of that.”[/i]. Even Abbott’s own Indigenous affairs minister, Senator Nigel Scullion, chided Western Australia for not using other funding sources to support its Aboriginal communities. [i]“Aboriginal people who live in the north-west and other parts of the state are deserved of your allocation, your allocation of the financial assistance grants, because we give it to West Australia to do that”[/i]. The Aboriginal Health Council of Western Australia chairperson, Michelle Nelson-Cox, said Abbott’s comments were ‘hugely disappointing’. “[i]The prime minister’s comments about Aboriginal communities place no value on the connection to country and culture that these communities provide, nor the important role they play in the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal people.”[/i] The only ones to support Abbott are his cabinet colleagues, who can scarcely do anything else. But they must be getting exasperated that they have been lumbered with such an incompetent, insensitive and pugilist leader. There’s more that you can read at: http://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2015/mar/11/warren-mundine-attacks-pms-lifestyle-choice-comment-hes-wrong?CMP=ema_632

Ken

11/03/2015I was also planning to comment on Abbott's latest blunder but, Ad, you have beaten me to it. As I wrote in my piece on Aboriginal affairs last year Abbott just doesn't get it. He thinks he understands because he visits a community once a year. But he only understands in European terms. He sees poor living conditions and poor education and lack of jobs and thinks that what he has to address to revolve the problems. He still doesn't think like a blackfella (or at least understand the blackfella way of thinking, a different world view) which is why he gets it so wrong. It's not that Aboriginal people don't want education for their children but we do have to talk with Aboriginal people and work out new ways of delivering it. And the same goes for a number of other areas. I could go on and on but perhaps another time.

Ken

11/03/2015Oops Try 'resolve' the problem, although 'revolve' the problem is probably what he actually does.

Patriciawa

11/03/2015Ken, at 6.21 pm today. Exactly. One letter, mis-spell or typo and there's misunderstanding. Yet there is a truth there. In more than just the verb. Initially I picked upon [b]'revolve'[/b] and [b]'resolve'[/b]. I thought you'd been thinking about his 'bullshit' around live cattle exports! Why is he so proud of his achievements there? Is there already a planned [b]'turn-around'[/b] on live cattle exports do you think? Yesterday he was twittering on about having [i]"Visited Mt Gambier Saleyards with @TonyPasin - live cattle exports have picked up massively under the Coalition Govt....." [/i] I understand more now why the Fenians, Christians and Catholics though they were, took to violence to achieve their longed for Irish Republic and independence from their English overlords. No doubt more than a few [b]'revolvers'[/b] were carried around 'Great Britain' secretly in the mid 19th century, primed and ready to use in their planned uprising. PS Ad Astra, Is anyone planning a post to celebrate the anniversary of the founding of the Irish Republican Brotherhood on 17th March, 1858? PPS I'm an Aussie now, though originally a Pom and Protestant by nature, if not belief these days.

Ken

12/03/2015Patriciawa Yes, I will be having a guinness or five next Tuesday (am just about to go out on a 'training run' for a couple of guinnesses). I have visited the Dublin GPO, the Mountjoy Bridge and Beggars Bush barracks in Dublin (scenes of fighting in 1916) and 'The Famine War House' at Ballingarry where the Irish tricolour was first used by the Young Irelanders in 1848. Yes, I was also a Protestant by upbringing but have supported the Irish revolutionary spirit. And don't forget the 1798 rising also involved protestants in Ulster like Henry Joy McCracken and Wolf Tone was also a protestant. Revolution knows no bounds!

Florencde nee fed up

12/03/2015Ken, I am more conflicted than you. My mother's ancestors are Catholic. My fathers are Protestants. Catholism seems to have won. Maybe that is why I have no religion today.

Ken

12/03/2015Another word on Abbott and Aboriginal people. When I was out today I ran into an Aboriginal woman I used to work with and she expressed surprise that some of the old traditional fellas hadn't yet put a spell on Abbott. I worked in Aboriginal affairs for 30 years and, even though I am a rational person, I learned not to dismiss such Aboriginal warnings. Abbott should beware!

Florence nee Fed up

12/03/2015Ken, maybe they have pointed the bone at him. Under MABO they are entitled to the land they are living on. Only because Native Title has not been extinguished by them moving off the land. Studies have shown, those in these small towns are healthier than those in bigger towns.

Ken

12/03/2015Florence nee Fed up You are right on both counts. It was we, as European society, who forced them off the land into communities where they had to deal with other 'tribes/clans' that traditionally they would have had little or no contact, and in some cases clans that they were required by traditional law to avoid in their daily activities. There are, as you say, plenty of reports that the health of those on 'outstations' is better than those living in towns or large settlements. As I said earlier, Abbott doesn't have a clue. He thinks the only answer is that they should be 'assimilated' but that is not a word he can use now, although it is the obvious outcome of almost everything he proposes.

Florence nee Fed up

12/03/2015What annoys me is that he believes he knows all about Aboriginals. He know3a bugger all. There is no one solutions, No black and white answer. I believe Whitlam came closest in understanding.

Casablanca

13/03/20151. Lifestyle choices of the rich and racist First Dog on the Moon When did we become a nation of dirty rotten lifestyle choosers? Here are some of the other lifestyle choices lazy and greedy Australians are making http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/mar/11/lifestyle-choices-of-the-rich-and-racist 2. Babakiueria (29m21s) 1986 An awesome satirical take on race relations in Australia from the 1980s https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oUMpPgMGCe8 3. Tony Abbott's Australia: From 'Nothing But Bush' to 'Brimming With Choices' Amy McQuire. 11 Mar 2015 If you 'choose' to live on the lands that hold your stories, and which sustained your ancestors for 60,000 years, then you're on your own. https://newmatilda.com/2015/03/11/tony-abbotts-australia-nothing-bush-brimming-choices 4. Barnett Plays 'Abuse Card' To Defend Closure Of Remote West Australian Communities Amy McQuire. 10 Mar 2015 The West Australian Premier was arguing 'money' was the reason for closing remote Aboriginal communities. Now he says it's 'abuse'. https://newmatilda.com/2015/03/10/barnett-plays-abuse-card-defend-closure-remote-west-australian-communities. 5. For the real story on Indigenous Australia, social beats old media Michelle Dunne Breen 12 March, 2015 The furore over Tony Abbott’s 'lifestyle choices' comments both sidelines and highlights the lack of real discussion on Indigenous policy in Australia. With support from its friends at the federal level, the Western Australian government has dusted off and rebadged the template for the Howard government’s 2007 intervention into Indigenous communities in the Northern Territory. This was an act that former minister Alexander Downer admitted was an attempt to get a jump in the polls. https://theconversation.com/for-the-real-story-on-indigenous-australia-social-beats-old-media-38698 6. Living on traditional land is not a lifestyle choice -… Michael Taylor. March 11, 2015 It is clear that Tony Abbott has no idea why Aboriginal people make the ‘lifestyle choice‘ to live in remote communities, or God forbid, their traditional lands. (Many though, are one and the same). He has been slammed from Indigenous and non-Indigenous community leaders for the tactless, insensitive and ignorant comment. http://theaimn.com/living-on-traditional-land-is-not-a-lifestyle-choice-it-is-an-obligation/ 7. Telling Indigenous people how to use their own land Marcus Priest 12 March 2015 The Prime Minister's recent comments highlight the fact that native title isn't the end of the road when it comes to Indigenous land rights. What good is having a claim recognised when politicians can still take away the ability to use and benefit from the land? http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-03-12/priest-native-title/6307896 8. Abbott should be Closing the Gap, not closing communities Natalie Cromb. 12 March 2015, 7:00am After promising to be a "Prime Minister for Aboriginal Affairs", Tony Abbott copped universal condemnation from Indigenous leaders of all political stripes over his claim that it's not the taxpayers' job to subsidise Indigenous Australians' "lifestyle choices". https://independentaustralia.net/politics/politics-display/abbott-should-be-closing-the-gap-not-closing-communities,7469 9. Warren Mundine attacks PM's 'lifestyle choice' comment: 'he's wrong' Calla Wahlquist and Daniel Hurst 11 March 2015 10.58 AEDT Tony Abbott’s chief adviser on Indigenous affairs among those condemning claim that living in a remote Aboriginal community is a lifestyle choice http://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2015/mar/11/warren-mundine-attacks-pms-lifestyle-choice-comment-hes-wrong?CMP=ema_632 10. Rundle: WA’s Aboriginal plan straight-up racism Guy Rundle | Nov 19, 2014 1:09PM Half of white rural Australia is a drain, but we overwhelmingly agree that we want it to persevere, because people live there, have made lives rich in tradition and memory there. The attack on Aboriginal Australia is about skin colour, plain and simple. http://www.crikey.com.au/2014/11/19/rundle-was-aboriginal-plan-straight-up-racism/?wpmp_tp=1

Ken

13/03/2015There is another side to all this talk about closing 'outstations' (as they used to be called). There was a push during the Howard years to do it, particularly in the NT where the commonwealth government has more say. But the current argument is about municipal and state services. When the Whitlam government took over Aboriginal affairs it began providing funding for almost all services to Aboriginal communities. Over the years, that was wound back with more and more being handed back to the states. What the commonwealth has been arguing for the past few years is that it should not be in the business of providing sewerage, electricity, waste disposal and similar services (even education and health services) because these are state matters. While that may well be just another way of trying to close the small communities, the problem arose because the commonwealth announced it would stop the funding that was supporting those state-type services with only two years notice. Apparently WA accepted that the type of services involved were state matters but said it needed five years notice to make adjustments. So as is so often the case, the issue is one of who should pay. But there is another underlying issue: we do pay for services to very small white communities in very remote areas but governments can't agree on who should pay for Aboriginal services - what does that tell us. And Casblanca, thank you for the Babakiueria link. It is quite a few years since I last saw it. By reversing the situation, it makes its point.

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13/03/2015Folks I have just now posted on [i]TPS Extra: Is Joe Hockey up to the job of federal Treasurer?[/i] http://www.tpsextra.com.au/post/is-joe-hockey-up-to-the-job-of-federal-treasurer

DoodlePoodle

13/03/2015Yesterday while I sat waiting for a Medical Procedure, for the want of something to do I read the SMH and because I had a lot of time I read it almost cover to cover. Andrew Bolt's article really sickened me. His comparisons are way off the mark. http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/opinion/germaine-greer-is-always-on-the-left-side/story-fni0ffxg-1227258922505
How many umbrellas are there if I start with two and take 2 away?