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January 3, 2014
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January 10, 2014

Mundine concession ‘sets up defeat and surrender’

by Pamela Nathan

Mundine concession ‘sets up defeat and surrender’, by Patricia Karvelas, published in The Weekend Australian 4-5 January 2014, p.6.

Warren Mundine, head of Tony Abbott’s Indigenous Advisory Council, announces that funding for Aborigines was not exempt from funding cuts. Karvelas reports that Mundine stated “it would be unrealistic to expect indigenous affairs spending to be immune from cuts”.

Labor indigenous affairs spokesman Shayne Neumann said Mr Mundine’s comments provide a rationale for “defeat and surrender, while attempting to shift the blame from the government to the Treasury”. Notably, Neumann criticizes the advisory council’s impartiality and capacity to advocate, saying, “ This passive acceptance of these funding cuts calls into question the advisory council’s ability to provide forthright, fearless and frank advice”. Mr  Neumann refers to the recent funding cuts to the prior commitment of the Labor government to fund the legal aid services and sees the cuts as a dire step in closing the gap on indigenous justice and reducing the over-representation of indigenous people in the legal system.

Greens indigenous spokeswoman Rachel Siewert says it “was unfair and counterproductive for government cost-cutting to target vulnerable or disadvantaged Australians”. She notes Warren Mundine’s recent comments, which support an approach of pragmatism “results over theory” and the delivery of programs on outcomes. She claims this is an ironic approach as much of AITSI policies are ideological in nature, such as income management and school attendance. She asks Mundine to consider that income management if results-based should be cancelled and replaced by programs which are evidence-based. In a tweet responding to these comments Mundine said “send me the data and info on what other programs you’re proposing. Happy to support what works and always open to ideas”. This is encouraging and we may take him up on this invitation!

It does appear that Mundine indeed employs the ideology of equality to justify the possibility of budget cuts to funding for Aborigines, which is difficult to reconcile in the face of systemic and institutional inequality for Aboriginal people and which is a far cry from pragmatism.