Magazine article The Spectator

The Aboriginal Truth

Magazine article The Spectator

The Aboriginal Truth

Article excerpt

NATIONS hate having to confront their ugly underbelly. So all those Englishmen who shrank from the sight of our football supporters laying waste to Marseilles will sympathise with Australia. The success of Pauline Hanson's One Nation party in the Queensland state elections has forced the Aussies to ask themselves whether they are a racist people.

Mrs Hanson is opposed to further Asian immigration, and wants to reverse legislation giving Aborigines special rights. She has been disowned by the ruling Liberal party, but not, apparently, by the voters in her home state. Politicians in Canberra have two explanations for this, depending on their political tack. Right-wingers will tell you that she is not a racist, and that her supporters are making a misguided economic protest. Left-wingers will claim that she is a racist, but represents a small minority of uneducated and ill-informed rural rednecks. Both are wrong.

This former fish-and-chip shop owner's message is indeed racist, but it cannot be dismissed as a protest from the political fringe. Outside the metropolitan centres that cling to the seaboard of the world's largest island, a spreading virus of race hatred threatens to engulf Australia. This moral and cultural catastrophe is the direct result of the failure of the policies that have guided the country for a generation.

Labour politicians were determined to weaken their connections with the old Empire, and forge new links with the rising East, which meant encouraging Asian immigration. This same group wanted to make amends for the past treatment of the original inhabitants. They had a point. Some early settlers in Queensland hunted the natives like animals, and the 'Abos' were treated worse than cattle until well after the second world war. Many half-- caste children were forcibly removed from their parents and sent to orphanages. But the compensation - massive positive discrimination and an unprecedented wave of subsidy - has proved far more damaging than the original discrimination.

Over the last two years, I have visited Australia four times - my wife is writing a book on an Antipodean ancestor - and driven from coast to coast, across country, through the hot, red centre. Once outside the urban areas, the consequences of government do-gooding are easy to see. You can tell when the red dust track that you are following is approaching an Aboriginal encampment, because a thick carpet of empty beer cans disfigures both verges. Cars are regularly abandoned in the middle of the road by their drunken drivers, simply because they have run out of petrol. We came across an Aboriginal family whose car was stuck in a sand dune. They were waiting under a gum tree for someone else to sort out the problem. They continued to sit there, drinking our water, while we attempted, for over an hour, to pull their car out. They watched while we became covered in sweat and oil, and when their car was finally free they went on their way without a word of thanks.

These original Australians are no longer, if indeed they ever were, naive primitives struggling to come to terms with modern civilisation, handicapped by colonial oppression yet possessed of a special affinity with the land. That is a polite, politically correct myth. Most of central Australia's Aboriginal communities are in a cycle of apparently unstoppable decline.

The government hands them cash, cars, clothing, and land confiscated from white farmers. They are not obliged to work, so they do not. Instead, the money is spent on lottery cards and alcohol. …

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