Another golden chance to grill Gillard on Stronger Futures slips by


Prime Minister Julia Gillard… a screen shot from her appearance on oursay.org.au.

PRIME MInister Julia Gillard ventured onto the world wide web over the weekend for an innovative online ‘face the people’ session.

In cooperation with Fairfax Media, oursay.org.au hosted ‘Hangout with the Prime Minister’, a one hour grilling of the PM on a live web forum, with users able to vote on the most popular questions.

The guarantee was that the top three would be put direct to Gillard.

The issues, in winning order were: gay marriage, indexation of defence force superannuation, and the appropriateness of the national school chaplaincy program. All very worthwhile stuff.

But never let it be said that Gillard won’t go the extra mile. She stuck around for a further 14 questions, with the fifth and sixth most popular questions (both on carbon pricing) also getting a run.

The latter was a question promoted by Andrew Bolt: “By how much, measured in thousandths of degrees Celsius, will the Earth’s temperature be reduced through carbon tax?”

Which is a bit like those mounting an argument in support of uranium mining asking, “Exactly how many people, measured in units of one, will be killed by a nuclear bomb if it’s detonated over New York on April 1, 2013 at 9.56 am.”

My point being, it’s a very stupid question because the answer is, “We don’t know… but it would be a sh*tload”. And the answer to Bolt’s question being, “Given the seriousness of climate change, does it really matter?”

Question 8 (a worthy one about suicide rates) got up as well, as did questions 13, 52 and 88, along with eight unlisted questions.

The one, most notably, which didn’t get up, was the question that finished fourth:

It read: “Dear Prime Minister, the Stronger Futures legislation was recently passed in the Senate, subjecting Aboriginal people in the NT to 10 more years of Interventionist policy. This is despite overwhelming opposition expressed from Aboriginal leaders, national organisations, the general public and even condemnation from the United Nations. How can we call ourselves a country of the ‘fair go’ if the Government is now refusing to allow a human rights test of the legislation by the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights, as called for by the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples?”

An excellent question. So why didn’t it get up? And why, instead was Andrew Bolt’s latest nuttery given an airing?

Last time I checked, he had a voice, albeit shrill. Aboriginal people, by contrast, do not.

I acknowledge Fairfax’s attempts to include a broad cross range of sexes, views and cultural backgrounds in the forum. But seeing as how we’re asking questions, I think the one Fairfax, indeed all news outlets, should answer is this: When is the Australian media going to realize that its collective indifference to Aboriginal suffering is a big part of the reason why Aboriginal people live so poor, and die so young?

* Chris Graham is an Australian journalist specialising in Aboriginal Affairs. He has twice won the Human Rights Award for his reporting, and is a Walkley Award and a Walkley High Commendation winner. He lives in Glebe, Sydney.

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