30 July 2020





SUBJECTS: Black Lives Matter movement; Closing the Gap and Indigenous disadvantage.
ALAN JONES, HOST: Well, let’s go to our panel of female Federal politicians. Tanya Plibersek can’t be with us tonight – she has courteously indicated to me that she has a prior commitment, and so does Terri Butler. But we welcome Michelle Rowland, who is the Federal Labor Member for the seat of Greenway, as in Francis Greenway the great Australian architect, in Sydney’s North-West. She’s been that Member since 2010, she’s the Shadow Minister for Communications, she has an Honours Degree from the University of Sydney, a Bachelor of Arts, but a Master’s Degree in Law, also from the University of Sydney. Before entering Parliament, she was a senior lawyer at Gilbert and Tobin, she was the Deputy Mayor of Blacktown City Council for a couple of years. So, Michelle, welcome to the panel.
But we’ll just go to Amanda Stoker first, we all know about Amanda, we love her. Very bright, Queensland Senator. Amanda, I’m mystified that when these people want to march in the streets and deface and destroy monuments, they’re angry and seem to hate their country and those who lead it. But they don’t tell the truth and Warren Mundine has said today all of that and he argues that Indigenous issues are not really told as they should be. Amanda, why are leaders silent on all of this?
SENATOR AMANDA STOKER, SENATOR FOR QUEENSLAND: Well, look I think that that is the desired effect of those who seek to wedge our society into pieces that can’t talk to one another by using this toxic cancel culture and identity politics. Australians are fair-minded, common sense people and the dishonesty that is at the top of the Black Lives Matter leadership is that it wants to try and split Australians into groups and blame one group for the hardship of another. The fact is all Australians want to see Indigenous Australians’ life prospects improve, we’re all on the same page about that. We’ve never spent more money as a country trying to make that happen – it’s around $20 billion a year now, and…
JONES: But Amanda, if I can interrupt you there, sorry. You see, this stuff is taught in schools and universities and we fund schools and universities. I’ve never heard with all these protests the Prime Minister or someone else say “now listen all you young Australians, you’re not being told the truth”. Why don’t we hear that from our leaders?
STOKER: Well, I think the Prime Minister does something really good and that is that at every turn and every opportunity he calls for Australians to come together, to work together, to band together. And he never indulges this kind of nonsense. I really like the way that the Prime Minister really stands up for the complexity but also the reality of our history. He stood clearly against those who sought to put a black arm band around Australia Day or those who seek to tear down statues of Captain Cook. I think he’s been really very good in providing leadership that brings Australians together.
JONES: Yeah, well, I’d like a bit more action when they’re marching in the streets to be told, for the nation to be told “well hang on, they’ve got the message wrong”. Michelle, welcome to the program. Can I just ask you, I mean, you’re a highly educated lady, what hope do we have when the Deputy Chief Health Officer in Victoria, a medical doctor, attacked the 250th anniversary of Captain Cook, in her words, “landing at Botany Bay” and she talked about it being a sudden arrival of an invader from another land, decimating populations, creating terror”. He played no part in European settlement. What hope have we got?
MICHELLE ROWLAND MP, SHADOW MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS: Well, she wouldn’t be the only one who got the facts wrong on history here. In fact, some of our Parliamentary colleagues got that wrong too, Alan, so that in itself is disappointing. But, I must say, someone who as you say has been in local government, nothing – well, few things – annoy me more than the defacing of property because it is wasted taxpayers’ and ratepayers’ money. In these hard times, we shouldn’t just dismiss that sort of graffiti as a victimless crime. It is very annoying, it goes into the millions of dollars in my local council area, for example. But, the ultimate thing, Alan that by doing these acts, you’re actually not obtaining the outputs that you want.
JONES: That’s correct.
ROWLAND: In fact, we saw this announcement of targets, which has bipartisan support, having First Nations leaders involved in this, having these new sets of standards by which we are going to measure progress, and that is what we should be looking at, and…
JONES: But, nonetheless. Michelle, I agree with you. But, if I can just make a point there though because there was a Royal Commission into Black Deaths in Custody and it found that the leading cause of black deaths was not police violence, but natural causes, and that Aboriginal Australians were far more likely to die at the hands of other Aboriginal Australians than at the hands of white people. Now that story is not being told, is it Michelle?
ROWLAND: Well, as you say rightly, the truth needs to be told and that is the reason why that Royal Commission was set up in the first place to have that transparency and to get to the truth because the fact is Alan that in the late 1980s, we didn’t have the reporting frameworks or accountability mechanisms to actually establish the facts and work off how we were going to improve society. One of the findings of the Royal Commission was the reason why there are so many deaths in custody is that Aboriginal Australians were being arrested and gaoled at disproportionately higher rates. That’s a fact. And it’s unfortunate that my understanding that that situation is by and large still the situation today which is why we need change.
JONES: But the trouble is, if I can come to you Amanda, the trouble is the violence towards Aboriginal women in central Australia is appalling. I mean, in 2018, in the Northern Territory alone, 85% of Aboriginal victims of crime knew the offender, half were victimised by partners, Aboriginal women made up 80% of those victims. Why isn’t that story being told and those problems being addressed, Amanda?
STOKER: I think part of the reason that problem’s not being addressed is that it does not fit the narrative of those people who seek to divide Australians into groups that they can have at war with one another, in the metaphorical sense. In the circumstance where a woman in central Australia is 95 times more likely than a white woman to end up in hospital at the hands of domestic violence, we have a problem that we need to get real about. Now, I’m really encouraged to see Michelle saying common-sense things about the harm that comes from tearing down statues. It’s great to hear, but the reality is that what I hear from my Labor counterparts in the Senate is serious indulgence in the nonsense that is identity politics. The idea that we should divide Australians into groups into genetic attributes we can’t control and blame one another for things… it’s an absurdity. What we need is to get away from treating some issues as taboo and encouraging harsh moral judgements on one another and we need to understand that we need to be able to agree to disagree. We’ve got to the able to have hard conversations because that is how we solve the problems that face us as a country.
JONES: Well, I am encouraged Michelle. I don’t think you and I have ever spoken and I’m sorry, but we’ve almost run out of time but I want to put a question to you here though because the leading cause of deaths again from that Royal Commission between 2014-18 for Aboriginal children as suicide and there’s no evidence to suggest that racism was the cause of suicide, but there is evidence that child abuse and neglect and sexual assault has led children to want to take their own lives. Those are the issues aren’t they Michelle that we should be addressing?
ROWLAND: I think that what we need to understand here is that what we’re talking about is intergenerational disadvantage in many forms. Once you have that intergenerational trauma and disadvantage, you need a circuit breaker in there. Now, I represent Alan, and many people might not know, but Blacktown where I am tonight is actually the place with the highest urban Indigenous population in New South Wales and probably one of the highest in Australia. I’ve come from a background where I have grown up with people who are Indigenous and I have seen myself, having gone to school with a number of Indigenous people, it has been, for example, teachers, it has been people who have taken an interest in young people who would otherwise be caught in this cycle. But, quite frankly Alan, we should not be leaving this to chance, and…
JONES: No, we should not be. We should not be and Michelle, one of the great things I have to say that has helped a lot of Indigenous Australians, I’m biased here of course, is sport, which has given them a release, given them an identity, given them a sense of self-esteem and that’s what we’ve got to continue to do. Michelle, very refreshing to talk to you and thank you for being with us tonight and Amanda, we’ll see you next week, many thanks as well.