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Web Letter

"The incident exposed a desperate attempt by a candidate to exploit fear of Australia's nearly 400,000 Muslims. There is no evidence to suggest that Howard was personally involved in the scandal, but his leadership has been marked by a tendency to exploit, rather than control, the country's underlying unease about its relationship with non-Anglo-Saxons and its indigenous population. " With this paragraph there seems an implication that the indigenous population is Muslim, which is far from the truth. Indigenous populations have lived in Australia for at least 40,000 years and have well-established religious customs deeply connected to the land.

Howard's proposal for a referendum on recognising Aboriginal people in the preamble to the Constitution was a sham; only two months earlier he had refused to ratify the United Nations Charter for Indigenous Peoples Rights. Then sent the army and the police, into Aboriginal communities, denying Aboriginal communities all control of their land, under the guise of "caring for the children." Statements from Aboriginal Affairs Minister Mal Brough "that some children were not attending school" were reiterated as the reason for taking control of Aboriginal community lands. Despite 100,000 homeless children throughout Australia, with no such intervention upon the wider Australian community necessary, or taking place. This was a land grab, and nothing but.

Further evidence of Howard's transparency was allowing Environment Minister Malcolm Turnbull, two days after his referendum announcement, to announce the go-ahead for the expansion of Woodside's industrial facilities on the Burrup Peninsula, "a collection of a million rock carvings just off the North-West Shelf of Australia--some six times the age of the Pyramids," despite an alternative non-destructive site being available.

Howard categorically refused for his eleven-year term of office to come to terms with Aboriginal issues, despite making himself solely responsible for the office for a period. Prepared to fight in Iraq for democracy, he closed down the democratically elected council for indigenous communities and gave authority to a hand-picked group of six people to cover all indigenous community needs.

Hopefully the new Rudd government will put an end to the sytematic mistreatment of Aboriginal people, will recognize that Aboriginal land rights are of equal value to non-Aboriginal land ownership, that "children are missing school" throughout Australia, and not just in Aboriginal communities, and that just as I control who comes into my backyard, so too Aboriginal communities control who comes onto their land.

There is a breath of fresh air about Australia at the moment, since the change of government. Let's hope the wicked, inhumane stench of the past does not drift back across all our backyards.

Paul Ford

Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Dec 4 2007 - 7:51pm