Charting the epic failure of NT corrections policy

I have previously expressed the view that the current Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory is unlikely to discover any startling facts not already well known to anyone who bothers looking. Nor is it likely to produce any recommendations not already made (though largely not implemented) by previous inquiries e.g. reports by former CLP politician and lawyer Jodeen Carney (commissioned by the former Henderson ALP government), Michael Vita and former Children’s Commissioner Howard Bath.

Nevertheless, despite its huge cost (more than $50 million) there is a powerful argument that the Royal Commission is needed if nothing else to put a strong enough public spotlight on youth justice to ensure that the politicians can’t simply sweep it all under the carpet and keep ignoring it. The twin dangers of fiscal pressures (especially in the light of recent revelations about major loss of federal GST funding) and pandering to populist sentiment (which is very easy to whip up in favour of punitive “tough on crime” “law and order” approaches) mean that little is likely to change in a long term sense in the absence of strong countervailing pressure to adopt more rational, effective, evidence-based policies in future.

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Cabotage, sabotage and boosting northern Australian trade

As I have previously argued here, quite a bit of the Northern Territory News’ coverage of federal cuts to the Territory’s share of GST funding is tabloid silliness, creating fake cartoon villains out of politicians like Malcolm Turnbull, Scott Morrison and local Senator Nigel Scullion.

Presumably it’s because that sort of nonsense boosts newspaper sales. I can’t really blame them all that much. It’s a tough world out there for mainstream newspapers, competing for eyeballs and advertisers in the age of Google, Facebook and advertising revenue based on “page impressions”.  Clickbait and extreme silliness seem to be an effective way of surviving in the Brave New Media World, so it’s pointless fulminating against tactics they’re forced to adopt for their own survival. I’m not overly fussed by having to wade through croc and UFO stories and bulls**t characterisations of politicians as “bastards”, “robbers” or “Nigel No-Friends”.  More experienced MPs and their advisers accept it as one of the unavoidable facts of political life. You don’t survive long in politics if you can’t learn to cope with suffering an almost complete loss of personal privacy and being treated unfairly by the media.

However, one of the more positive aspects of the NT News’ populist coverage of the GST cuts issue has been a call for Territorians to come forward with ideas for helping the politicians cope with the situation and keep the Territory growing and prospering despite our GST misfortune. I have lots of ideas of that sort, some of them possibly impractical dreams, but some maybe not.  Here’s the first of my dreams and schemes (there will be more).

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Lies, damn lies and cherry-picking statistics

Poor old Jeff Collins. The neophyte Labor MLA for the inner Darwin seat of Fong Lim has just discovered that you never get between a tabloid newspaper and a circulation-boosting law and order scare story. Mr Collins had the temerity to suggest in the Legislative Assembly the other day that tabloid stories about an out-of-control crime wave in Darwin might be just a trifle simplistic and exaggerated. Outrageous! the News thundered: “Perhaps he should look at the latest shocking statistics – Darwin commercial break-ins up 90%; Darwin house break-ins up 20%.” (They are referring to the latest NT PFES crime statistics summaries for the year to end January 2017).

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The hidden karma of Aboriginal affairs policy …

An article by Amos Aikman in The Weekend Australian is especially noteworthy from a Territory governance perspective:

A policy designed to reward indigenous business owners with easier access to government contracts is instead exposing taxpayers to fraud and corruption, including serious misconduct by public officials, whistleblowers warn.

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Railing About Politics

Following the successful NT Governance Summit, CDU School of Law is joining with Darwin Press Club to present fairly frequent (possibly monthly) events on Tuesday evenings with prominent speakers or small panels discussing current public governance or political issues in an entertaining but thoughtful, analytical way. We’re calling it “Railing About Politics!” because it will happen at the Railway Club, Parap (where food and liquid refreshments are of course available).

As with the Summit, we’re planning on streaming the events on Facebook Live so anyone anywhere can participate online. We’re aiming mostly to focus on issues that are not only relevant to Territorians but much more widely. Email ken.parish@cdu.edu.au to be put on a mailing list to receive notifications of “Railing …” events.

In search of fairness and equal opportunity

The Northern Territory has higher levels of inequality between rich and poor than most other parts of Australia. People living in remote Aboriginal communities are among the poorest in Australia, whereas the incomes of people in Darwin and Alice Springs are among the highest in the nation.

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Statehood, the Constitution and public opinion

No new State has been admitted or established since Federation in 1901, despite periodic bouts of seeming enthusiasm for NT statehood on the part of some politicians. For most people, it is an issue that produces almost universal guffaws whenever anyone mentions it, not only in the rest of Australia but among Territorians.  ‘Down south’ the reaction is seemingly fuelled by a perception that the Territory is a sinkhole for taxpayers’ money inhabited by Aborigines, crocodiles, and a handful of eccentric redneck Caucasians behaving strangely in the tropical heat.

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The importance of community activism

Author: Vikki McLeod

My political activism was forged as a student at University of Queensland under the shadow of the Bjelke-Petersen Government and the “Police State”.

The police raids on our student houses were common, and they were for no other reason than we were educated and that made us trouble.

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