The Oz Attacks Tom Calma


The Australian weighed in yesterday with another one of its staggeringly pompous editorials on Indigenous affairs.

The editorial team at the "national quality broadsheet" published a vindictive, personal attack on HREOC Social Justice Commissioner Tom Calma.

"Many, if not most, of the 90,000 Aborigines subsisting on remote communities … have probably never heard of Mr Calma" offered the Oz. Would the paper care to substantiate this allegation, or is wild speculation sufficient? Perhaps they could then explain, if true, why it is important?

By line three, we learn the details of Calma’s salary package. While $240 grand a year doubtless keeps the wolves from the door, it is not excessive and pales in comparison to the remuneration packages that some fairly undistinguished corporate cowboys are getting their snouts into these days.

But we had to wait for paragraph two before the Oz served up its beef. It seems that Calma had the temerity to appear on Ten’s Meet the Press on Sunday morning and call for compensation for members of the Stolen Generations. This position merely puts him in accord with recommendations 3 and 4 of the Bringing Them Home report.

However, Calma’s transgressions were to become a lot more serious – nay "worrying" – as he went on to commit heresy by expressing reservations about the NT Intervention.

The Federal Government has suspended its cornerstone human rights legislation – the Racial Discrimination Act – for most Indigenous Territorians. In Alice Springs the mechanics of the Government’s draconian and unilateral welfare quarantining regime are looking decidedly wobbly. The intervention is at best a problematic parcel.

Yet Calma’s qualms appear to have caused the Oz editorial team to succumb to a collective and quite unseemly episode of frothing at the mouth. The Commissioner, you see, is "Enjoying an upper middle class lifestyle on a salary package … ten times that of the average Indigenous Australian." Perhaps the Oz has an issue with Indigenous Australians winning well paid jobs?

After a brief outbreak of misty-eyed yearning for yesterday’s man, former Indigenous Affairs Minister Mal Brough, and the "invaluable advice" that he is touting, it was back to Commissioner-kicking: Tom Calma has apparently "shown he lacks a basic grasp of what social justice means for those who are abused, hungry and dying 17 years too early."

Should the Oz editorial team decide at some point to forsake invective for information, they could do worse than peruse the pages of Calma’s thoughtful and rigorously compiled Native Title and Social Justice reports.

These are a little harder to read than racy fly-in fly-out exposes on the horrors of remote Australia. But the effort is rewarded.

Launched in 2004, New Matilda is one of Australia's oldest online independent publications. It's focus is on investigative journalism and analysis, with occasional smart arsery thrown in for reasons of sanity. New Matilda is owned and edited by Walkley Award and Human Rights Award winning journalist Chris Graham.