Write on: Letters to the editor
Julia Gillard sure wants to take the neoliberal stick to public education and parents.
Firstly, impoverished parents who find it difficult to send their children to school every day will become even more impoverished by having their pensions suspended.
Secondly, she wants to privatise public schools by stealth through school rankings that transform parents into consumers of school education. Those schools that are not perceived as performing well will be shunned by parents and have their funding cut, becoming disadvantaged even further, while the favoured schools will become richer.
The resulting downward spiral in the depleted schools will lead to school closures, desertion of suburbs, segregation, increased truancy and poorer school education completion rates. This sounds more like educational feudalism than an education revolution.
If Australia is to regain any of its former reputation for evenhandedness and morality in foreign affairs it must withdraw from the vicious undeclared war in Afghanistan.
It is appalling to hear that a missile attack was launched across the border into Pakistan in an attempt to kill a "suspected" Taliban leader. Suspected? Whatever happened to "innocent until proven guilty"?
Our country should not be associated with such actions.
Phil Shannon makes some shrewd points in his review of Susanna de Vries' and my own biography of Daisy Bates (GLW #761). Notably, I share his scepticism about de Vries' claim that Bates suffered from premature vascular dementia, which provides an all-too-facile explanation for her "cranky" or retrograde views. That she suffered from severe short-term memory loss during her last years in Adelaide is clear but even this does not necessarily amount to dementia. Indeed, at least one overseas visitor at that time attested to the fact that even though she could not recall the name of her host, her mind was still sharp.
Another unsupported assertion made by de Vries is that Bates was responsible for the removal of Aboriginal girls to government institutions and missions in order to ensure their protection. As far as I know, there is no evidence for this.
However, it is true that Bates saw it as her personal mission to protect Aboriginal women and girls along the Trans-Continental Railway from being traded by their own menfolk to white fettlers and other workers along the line. She petitioned the Commonwealth and South Australian government for years to prevent this but her pleas fell on deaf ears. Nor did she believe in the more confrontational methods adopted by Mrs M.M. Bennett, Constance Cooke and other feminist activists of the inter-war period who have subsequently been celebrated by Fiona Paisley and other feminist historians to Bates' detriment.
Where Shannon himself is seriously misleading is in his suggestion that Bates justified her wild claims in her newspaper articles of the extent of Aboriginal cannibalism "with the twisted logic that her income from these enabled her to buy food for the Aborigines". As far as I can see from my knowledge of her published and unpublished writings, there was never any doubt in her mind about these claims; indeed, it seems more likely that she was truly obsessed with the subject at the cost of her otherwise shrewd judgement. That the proceeds of the articles were used to buy food and medicine for what she called "my natives" is just one of the many ironies that mark her extraordinary life.
Professor Bob Reece
Murdoch University, WA (Abridged.)