Double-dealing

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‘Hygiene pact in deal for blacks,’ the Age told us last week. ‘Aborigines told to wash for petrol,’ said the Courier Mail. Since then most responses to the government’s ‘mutual obligation’ agreement with the Mulan community in the East Kimberley in Western Australia have been choruses of loud approval or muted pussy-footing. Not so from Aboriginal leaders Noel Pearson and Pat Dodson. Again the government doesn’t get it. Their interpretation of ‘mutual obligation’, Pearson’s breakthrough approach to ending passive welfare, is a travesty and an insult.

Coming from a government which likes to parade its practical reconciliation, no nonsense approach to indigenous issues, it is hardly surprising that a federally-funded petrol bowser is to be the pay-off for a community blighted with the worst incidence of trachoma in the country. Minister Vanstone is confident that tourism will follow the bowser as night follows day, then perhaps a little store will spring up and money will gush forth and there will be joy in the land.

Meanwhile Foreign Minister Alexander Downer has been polishing his international profile on nuclear non-proliferation policy and seems to be, despite his protestations to the contrary, the Bush administration’s preferred candidate to head the International Atomic Energy Agency, the very man they need to get tough with Iran. This story broke at the same time as the UN’s High Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change delivered its report, A More Secure World: Our Shared Responsibility. Former Foreign Minister in the Labor Government, Gareth Evans, is a High Level Panel member.

This issue ranges widely and we’ve had a rich array of contributions to choose from. Moira Rayner finds the Mulan mutual obligation agreement has nothing at all to do with ‘practical reconciliation or mutuality either’. Graham Freudenberg reflects on the long tradition of liberalism and radicalism in this country. Richard Tanter sees the PM’s performance at ASEAN as arrogant and a lost opportunity. Howard Nathan finds reason for optimism in the Palestinian election for a Prime Minister and in the new flexibility of Israel’s Sharon signaling possible disengagement from Gaza. We have an extract from Rai Gaita’s forthcoming Quarterly Essay on truth and morality in politics. Susie Carleton writes about her first hand experiences of a Sala Antiseptico in Cuba and a hospital in the Bronx. There’s Adrian Monck and Mike Hanley on bringing the rule of law to Port Moresby, Daniel Fitgerald analyses the casualisation of the Australian workforce. Thornton McCamish describes playing Santa to a bunch of kids from the Vietnamese community. And former CIA analyst Ray McGovern gives a chilling account of the recent conference on ‘Al Qaeda 2.0: Transnational Terrorism After 9/11’ and the co-option of mainstream media.

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