Australian Politics 2018-07-11 15:46:00

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Pink-skinned "Indigenous" historian Bruce Pascoe says we’ve got our story all wrong

I suspect that he is making a muckle out of a mickle -- taking isolated incidents and generalizing widely from them. One would have to read his sources to go beyond that thought but it seems surprising that no-one else has seen such reports in the sources. Keith Windschuttle knows the sources very well so his evaluation must be awaited

A RADICALLY different version of Australia’s history to what we are taught at school has been put forward by a historian — who believes it changes the entire concept of Australia as a country and who we really are.

We are taught Australia’s first people were simplistic hunter-gatherers who foraged for plants and randomly hunted kangaroos.

We are taught when Europeans landed, the indigenous people who first roamed the land were a disparate group of nomadic tribes, who never built permanent homes to shelter themselves.

But many of the early journals of the white settlers who first landed here — seeing a land completely untouched by other cultures for hundreds of thousands of years — saw something very different to what conventional history textbooks tell us.

Indigenous historian Bruce Pascoe has spent years looking through these incredible accounts and found the first white settlers documented how Aboriginal people built homes, villages, parks, dams and wells, selected seeds for harvesting, ploughed fields, irrigated crops and preserved food in vessels.

He says Aboriginal people were the first culture on earth to bake, evidenced by unearthed grindstones from 30,000 years ago, meaning Aussies beat the ancient Egyptians by more than 15,000 years.

In an interview with news.com.au after an groundbreaking speech at Tedx Sydney, the acclaimed author says Australia has deliberately avoided the subject for hundred of years. And, he believes the effect has been catastrophic.

“It has been purposefully left out of our history,” he said. “The misconception that Aboriginals were hunter-gatherers has been institutionalised and we are all suffering from that institutionalisation today — not just Aboriginal people but the whole country.”

He says much of this complex civilisation had been wiped out by 1860, as the land was torn up by Europeans, buildings burned down and their occupants killed by warfare, murder and disease.

When this ancient infrastructure was destroyed, Mr Pascoe believes it became convenient for settlers to perpetuate the myth that the nation’s first people were incapable of organising a coherent and sophisticated society. He believes this, in their minds, legitimised their reason for being there.

“The country can’t afford to recognise the expertise and economic subtly of Aboriginal people because it talks about ownership of the land and it undermines the whole eligibility of the people to the land,” he said. “That’s why Australians have avoided it, not out of some vagueness or failure, but just total avoidance.”

In his award-winning book, Dark Emu, which has inspired a new contemporary dance production at the Sydney Opera House, Mr Pascoe details fascinating journals of the early European explorers.

They describe densely-populated Aboriginal villages up and down the country, some with sophisticated buildings made of large logs and clay plastering.

They also describe how indigenous people produced grain surplus to requirement, stored it and used complex systems to preserve soil, water, wildlife and fish as well as native seeds, nuts, fruits and vegetables.

Mr Pascoe says the settlers’ journals show Australia was a far more fertile land when they first landed than it is today and the vast area of the country we now consider an inhospitable desert was, in fact, meticulously and successfully managed by Aboriginal societies for thousands of years.

But when Europeans landed, they brought foreign livestock which broke up the soil with their hoofs leading to soil erosion. Settlers also brought foreign crops and intensive farming techniques, later resorting to chemical fertilisation which Mr Pascoe argues has drained the land of its former fertility.

“Recognising Aboriginal farming is fundamental to our understanding of country,” Mr Pascoe said. “If we are going to survive climate change we need to have a better understanding of the country because we have already run out of water.

“So, we have to learn to conserve water, we have to learn to conserve soil and we can learn from the Aboriginal past about how the people who lived here for hundreds of thousands of years used both and still maintained an agricultural economy.”

He argues the ancient farming techniques were more sympathetic to the land because they used Aussie plants — such as native millet, kangaroo grass and murnong — and animals like kangaroos and emus.

“They knew how to conserve water and soil and the proof of this was when the Europeans arrived and they described how the grass was higher than the saddles on their horses,” he said. “The country was more fertile then than it is now. When you talk to farmers now, they tell you their grandfathers had it better than they do.

“Farmers are ready to admit that what we are doing isn’t working and it isn’t sustainable. So they are keen to try growing native Australian plants.”

Mr Pascoe has even teamed up with a number other indigenous Australians living along the NSW South Coast and in east Gippsland in Victoria to trial native Aussie crops.

“We’re fooling ourselves if we think we can replace the old fertility with chemicals,” he added.

Mr Pascoe said he had grown up with stories of massacres, separation of families and institutional racism, but he had not heard about the wonders of Aboriginal agriculture until late on in his life.

He said it “fell into its path” as he searched for the story of his own family history when he met elders of his own Aboriginal family.

“When I spoke to them, I was taken to task because of my own misunderstanding of history and the stuff I had learned at school,” he said.

“Once I realised that my reading of history was appalling, I then had to refurbish my own brain and once I did that and started reading a few explorers’ journals, I began to realise that an unbelievably different story to be told about the country and I couldn’t believe how stupid I had been.”

Mr Pascoe said there was a bit of backlash against his ideas from certain historians when he first started writing about his theories in 2013, but since then, he said the majority of people he has spoken to, especially young people, have been enthusiastic about his arguments.

Now he wants Australians to look at the settlers’ journals and decide which version of history they believe.

“Teachers are just teaching what they learnt in school, so we need to expand resources so they and the children can access the journals,” he said. “Then, they can make their own mind up about what our history was really like.”

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Must not ask people their religion

Australians have voiced their concerns about one of the most controversial questions on the 2016 Census - with calls for it to be banned from the next survey.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics took feedback from the public earlier this year, with the largest complaint being centred on the 'religion' section of the survey.

Consistent feedback gathered by the ABS said the question was leading and assumes that the participant actually has a religion.

The question itself, which was the only optional question in the entire survey, asked: 'What is the person's religion?'

ABS House in the Australian Capital Territory compiled feedback to make changes to the 2021 Census

In the 2016 Census, 30 per cent of people marked that they have no religion.

But National Secular Lobby ambassador and former senator Chris Schacht said he thinks a change in the wording would produce a more accurate result.

'There's only one reason Australia's 'No Religion' score is half that of other Western nations. We're not more religious; the Census question is simply wrong,'Mr Schacht told news.com.au.

'Evidence shows that many people just tick the religion they were taught as a child, even though those early beliefs have long since lapsed.'

Other Western countries recorded much higher rates of non-belief, with 52 per cent for New Zealand and 54 per cent for England.

The ABS' website says: 'Suggestions made and investigated for 2016 included using two-part filter questions, changes or additions to wording, and placing the 'no religion' response as first in the list of options.'

An example of a two-part filter question would be: 'Does the person practice a religion? If no proceed to the next question, if yes mark an option below.'

For 2016, the ABS moved ‘no religion’ to be the first response category in the question, which was the approach already taken in a number of other countries

This isn't the first time that the ABS has taken feedback on board regarding the religion question.

The 2016 Census saw the option 'no religion' move to the top of the choices.

The Census is taken every five years, with the next being in 2021.

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Albanese admits Coalition 'stopped the boats' and opposes detention time limit

Albo would be a lot more reasonable ALP leader than the robotic Bill Shorten

Anthony Albanese has conceded that the Coalition’s policies “have stopped the boats”, and rejected calls to put a time limit on offshore detention, in an appearance on Sky News on Tuesday evening.

The senior frontbencher suggested during the interview that Labor could make refugee policy more humanitarian in several respects but ruled out allowing refugees who came by boat to settle in Australia.

The interview – addressing one of the Labor right’s key concerns about putting a leftwing MP in charge of the party – is likely to be seen as a further signal he is prepared to lead the party after a speech in late June laying out his manifesto, including the need for bipartisanship and closer cooperation with business.

Albanese denied the speech was intended as such as signal but pressure on Bill Shorten’s leadership has intensified after a misstep on Labor’s policy on company tax and with byelections looming on 28 July in the opposition-held marginal seats of Longman and Braddon.

Early in the interview the journalist and host Sharri Markson suggested Albanese could be Labor leader after those byelections, an assumption he did not correct – although he denied plotting to replace Shorten in answer to a later question.

Asked to address concerns about his position on border protection, Albanese said that “circumstances had changed” from 2015 when he opposed boat turnbacks.

“The government’s policies have stopped the boats,” he said. “They’re not coming, so the circumstances of rejecting boat arrivals has been achieved.”

Albanese said that the previous Labor government was wrong to believe that Australia’s border policies were not a “pull factor” for asylum seekers, which is why it changed tack when Kevin Rudd regained the leadership and reinstated offshore detention.

Albanese said Labor in government would be “tough on people smugglers” without being “weak on humanity”.

Asked about human services spokeswoman Linda Burney’s call for a time limit on offshore detention, Albanese said he did not support a timeframe but he believed Australia could end “long-term indefinite detention” that has led to refugees taking their own lives and mental anguish.

He suggested making the program more humanitarian by increasing the refugee intake, working with the UNHCR, achieving faster third-party resettlement of refugees and offering permanent rather than temporary protection visas.

“The range of changes I’ve pointed out are there – but no change in terms of people who arrive by boat, they wouldn’t be settled in Australia,” he said.

Asked if he was planning a leadership coup in the event Shorten faltered at the byelections, Albanese replied: “Not at all.

“But we also aren’t focused on ourselves – what we’ve done since 2013, I think very effectively, is be a coherent opposition with each player doing their role in the team – led by Bill Shorten, Chris Bowen and the economic team, including myself as the [shadow] infrastructure minister.”

Albanese said he accepted the Labor party’s decision in 2013 – when votes in the Labor caucus overwhelmed Albanese’s lead with members to award the leadership to Shorten – and since then he had done his job to the best of his capacity “for the Labor cause”.

“You can only have one captain and that captain is Bill Shorten, I accepted that,” he said. “And I think what we need to do is work together as a team. I have a good relationship with Bill, I have a good relationship will all my colleagues.”

Albanese said there was a “good atmosphere” and “good vibe” in Labor compared with infighting in the Coalition between Malcolm Turnbull and Tony Abbott over energy policy

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Taste of the future: Australia’s southern states at 50% renewables

How to lie with statistics again. Tasmania has had big hydro resources from a time before Greenies were thought of. So including them inflates the renewable share.  South Australia also has a big windmill base -- but that is only good if you like all their blackouts -- of up to 2 weeks long

Here’s a taste of the future: Last week, over the three southern states of Tasmania, Victoria and South Australia, the share of renewable energy was above 50 per cent for most of the time.

Prices were low, observes Hugh Saddler, the leading energy analyst from The Australia Institute, who provided these graphs. And in South Australia, where there was a very high share of wind energy, only four gas units operated on days such as Thursday and Friday.

Note that wind, from Monday on, accounted for a minimum 60 per cent of supply, and on occasions more than 100 per cent. Gas went up and down as needed – but note how little was needed from Wednesday through Friday.

The balance was maintained by the inter-connector, with exports as the wind blew hardest, and some imports when it pulled back slightly and offered a cheaper option than gas.

And here’s what the prices showed us. By and large, prices stayed around $50/MWh and below, apart from the occasional spike. And there were some negative pricing events, not including the midday negative pricing that was recorded in Queensland as a result of its solar production late last month.

Sadly, such low prices don’t last. As we saw on Monday, when the wind and solar back off, and the fossil fuel generators can create an artificial network constraint, they then have the market power to bid prices to the market cap in order to extract maximum value from the market. 

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'I believe Islam killed my daughter': A grieving mother tells how her daughter cut off all contact with family and friends to marry an older Muslim man who left her on a bathroom floor for FIVE DAYS to die

Siobhann Brown had not heard from her eldest daughter since she called five years earlier saying she was converting to Islam to get married and have her first child. Then two Victoria Police detectives arrived at her door.

Ashlee Brown, 25, had been found dead on her bathroom floor with more than 100 blunt and sharp force injuries covering most of her body.

The mother of three children under five had been bound, gagged and had her long strawberry blonde hair cut off. 

Ashlee's husband Mohamed Naddaf, 37, told police he had found his wife in that state in their garage about five days earlier but chose to 'care' for her in the bathroom rather than call Triple 0.

Ms Brown had to run out of her house in disbelief when she heard how her daughter died. She is now faced with Naddaf pleading guilty to manslaughter, without ever going to trial.

'Ashlee was a fun-loving girl,' Ms Brown told Daily Mail Australia. 'She was giving. She was loving. She loved the sun, the beach. She loved singing, dancing, having fun.'

Ashlee had been raised in country Victoria as a 'typical Aussie girl' and gradually grew restless as she hit her late teenage years.

She took increasingly regular trips to Melbourne, once returning to introduce her family to Mohamed Rannaf when she was was about 18. 'She introduced him as "Macca",' Ms Brown said. 'It was very brief.

'He seemed like a nice, very polite, young man. It pains me to say that. I didn't see him again after that.'

There was no communication for some time before a phone call came 'out of the blue' that would herald the end of all contact between Ms Brown and her daughter.

When Ashlee was about 20 she rang to say she was pregnant and wanted her mother's blessing to convert to Islam and marry Mohamed.

'She said to me, "Mum, I need your blessing to become Muslim". She said "I'm three months' pregnant and I'm engaged to Mohamed. I would really like to marry him, mum, and settle down and have a baby".

'I said to her, "Darling, I don’t know anything about the Muslim religion. As long as you know what you're doing. 'I said, "Do you have to wear one of those burqas or hijabs? I didn't know what they were called.

'She said, "No mum, only when I go into the mosque because it's disrespectful for a woman to show her face before God".

'I said to Ashlee, "As long as you're making a fully informed decision and it's what you really want".'

Ashlee said that it was.

'There was a pause after that,' Ms Brown said. 'She said. "Thank you, mum". And then her voice seemed to change and she said, "It's Islam". That didn't mean anything to me at the time.

'We said goodbye to each other and we hung up and I didn't hear from Ashlee again.'

Ms Brown said she was convinced the lack of subsequent contact with Ashlee was solely down to her religious conversion and Rannaf controlling his wife. 'I believe Islam killed my daughter,' the 46-year-old said.

'If I could have taken that phone call back I would have not have given her my blessing. I would have said "No, sorry love".

Police initially charged Naddaf with assault and false imprisonment, after paramedics found her dead in the couple's home at Craigieburn, in Melbourne's north, on November 6, 2016.

They later accused Naddaf of killing his wife, but then prosecutors agreed to let him plead guilty to manslaughter. 

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