A socialist experiment with aboriginals

Socialism has been tried a few times before. The Soviet Union & Eastern Europe gave it a go. So did China, Vietnam, Nth Korea, Cambodia and Laos. Many African, Middle-Eastern, South Asian and South American countries have pursued some sort of socialist agenda. Unfortunately for all of these people, these experiments have all failed — and resulted in poverty and the unnecessary deaths of hundreds of millions of people. Opps!

Some would say that we should abandon socialism. But other people insist that we need to give it another go and just try a little harder. In that spirit, I suggest that we try out socialism in Australia. After all, we’re blessed with an army of leftists with good intentions. Surely that is enough!

However we wouldn’t want to try it out on all Australians. Instead we could just try it in a few isolated “homelands” populated by about 90,000 aboriginals. We should set up these communities as having “communal ownership” which is managed by councils. Private land & house ownership must be banned. Private business must also be discouraged so that “community” owned businesses are able to flourish. We will obviousy need to have quite a few bureaucrats to manage the land and businesses. Literacy & attendance is optional.

The additional advantage of this experiment is that we can separate aboriginal culture from western culture so that it is protected. Sorcery and customary law (including punishment by spears and arranged marriages with 12 year olds) can therefore be maintained. Non-aboriginal Australians should not enforce their ideas — like literacy, numeracy, employment, women’s rights, English etc — on these aboriginal socialist communities. Visits by foreigners should be restricted.

Thankfully, there is already strong support for such an approach. Australian politicians have supported a socialist model for aboriginal homelands for decades, and they are supported by the government-funded “Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research” and the government-funded non-government-organisation (sic) “Oxfam” — who argue that capitalism can’t work for aboriginals. 

Supporters of the socialist model also influence the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, the Law Council of Australia, the Ausralian Law Reform Commission, the State Law Reform Commissions, the Aboriginal legal aid services and many in the Australian bureaucracy. These people care so passionately about making aboriginal socialism work that they accuse the anti-socialists (like Helen Hughes & her book “Lands of Shame”) of racism to shut down the debate.

With such strong support, and the billions of dollars donated by “capitalist Australia”, surely we can make socialism work! What do you say lefties?

Of course, if our experiment in socialism leads to welfare dependence, poverty, bad education, illiteracy, overcrowded & broken houses, violence, rape, child abuse, sickness, drug abuse and low life expectancy… then we can always just blame the capitalists. And then we can try the socialist experiment again with a new group.


Note: This proposal sounds silly, and it is. Unfortunately, it describes the current situation. Much to our shame, Australia has been pursuing a socialist experiment with aboriginal homelands for decades. Not suprisingly, the experiment has been a terrible failure, and the homeland aboriginals are suffering. Socialists should be sick with shame. But they aren’t. Instead, anybody who questions the socialist orthodoxy are branded racist and socialists congratulate themselves for being “progressive”.

Aboriginal homelands are in desperate need of reform to move closer to the Australian system of social democracy… and those who continue to support aboriginal socialism clearly don’t care about aboriginal welfare.

38 thoughts on “A socialist experiment with aboriginals

  1. Such Aboriginal policy is an ugly blight on Australian society and a tragic human disaster. The homelands policy should be abandoned buy if we must keep them then lets make them tax free regions.

  2. They tried socialism like that in the US too, with the Indians (sorry, Native Americans).

    However, because their reservations were on federal land and had a degree of independence, some of them implemented socialism in the form of casinos. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Native_American_gambling_enterprises
    It’s a bit like China’s version of socialism.

    I expect a casino on the aboriginal homeland outside Alice Springs or Katherine might give socialism a bit of help there too.

  3. Turning Alice Springs into some sort of Las Vegas wouldn’t work. You’d really need a city somewhere within 5 hours driving distance of Sydney or Melbourne, perhaps Canberra, so that you could attract weekenders. Vegas has LA, it simply wouldn’t be as successful without it’s close proximity.

    There need be no Aboriginal policy at all. They are Australians, and the principle of equality demands that there be one law for all. The Australian constitution is a racist document with regards to Section 51(xxvi).

  4. Good post. I was trained as a driller by an aboriginal guy and he was bloody good, and have met many others who were competent and trusted in this and other areas. They can do it, but in all cases they are guys who went out and got a job and got trained.

    They did not hang around any of our misguided paternalistic social experiments hoping for a miracle like one actually achieving what it was intended to.

  5. Pingback: Aboriginal socialism must end « Chapter 5

  6. It is yet another tragic example of the failure of socialism to deliver a decent standard of living.

    But where to from here for Australia’s aboriginals?

    Is Noel Pearson the saviour?

  7. Dear Pommygranate,

    Well, Noel Pearson got my vote for Australian of the Year – in the faint hope that there would be no repetition of the Tim Flannery Experience and that Mr Pearson’s common sense and commitment would be recognised. Topic for another day, but having seen the state-by-state results, I am not hopeful.

    However, in regard to the the remote indigeneous communities founded on some rustic view of the untainted nobility of pre-industrial humanity by Nugget Coombes….

    Pretty sure that all the loudest voices are proclaiming that it is not a failure of the philosphy and policy itself. Pretty sure that the Permanently Outraged are proclaiming that it is a failure to catapult sufficient quantities of money at the problem – still.

    And every abused and dead female or child isn’t a failure of the policy – it is the fault of the ‘racist’ mainstream for not throwing more money at the problem. And would there ever be ‘sufficient’ money tipped into the remote settlements to quiet the Permanently Outraged – doubt that too ?

    Brace yourself for more sacrifices to come on the alter of the Coombes Dream.

  8. Kevo — I agree that the socialists will always avoid taking responsibility for their failed experiments. However, they can hardly claim lack of funds.

    I would hazard to guess that the aboriginal socialist experiment has been the best funded socialist experiment in history… with billions of “captialist australia” money being donated every year.

    For non-homeland aboriginals trying to intergrate into mainstream society, racism certainly has been a problem.

    But there is no anti-aboriginal racism in the homelands. And despite active racism for aboriginals in capitalis Australia, they are still doing better than aborigines in their socialist homelands.

  9. I also admire Noel Pearson. I was interested to see a recent comment from him about the intervention into the aboriginal communities of the NT. He says that he has received objections from two main camps. Firstly from the Left who believe he must not touch the welfare policies in place. Second from libertarians opposed to further State involvement. I can’t find the exact quote but to paraphrase, he dismissed the concerns of the former as ‘misguided’ and was ‘sympathetic’ to the concerns of the latter.

    Whilst we all agree that socialism kills and free markets raise living standards, it is not clear the best way to transition from one to the other. Russia shows the danger of trying to do too much too quickly. China has been transitioning for nearly 30 years and still has much to do. But maybe this is the more prudent method.

    This i why i am in favour of short term intervention.

  10. The important point is allowing private property rights and private business. The Chinese did this very quickly. What they are doing slowly is selling government assets.

    I think banning alcohol & pornography may help in some cases, but it is addressing the symptoms instead of the disease. It also continues the policy of exceptionalism (treating homelands differently to capitalist-Australia) when i think the better solution is to move towards more equal treatment.

  11. Russia shows the danger of trying to do too much too quickly. China has been transitioning for nearly 30 years and still has much to do.

    Neither Russia nor China are relevant here. Their problems relate to the entire country being rapidly converted to capitalism. The aboriginal socialist enclaves would be simply joining the rest of society.

    The only part of federal intervention I support is the bit aimed at locking up the kiddie fuckers. Everything else is paternalistic claptrap.

    The issue is similar in principle to health policy. It’s quite obvious what the end result should be. The only uncertainty is how and how fast the transition should occur.

  12. Alcohol and porn prohibition as a short term measure may have some positive effect. Long term it creates black market job opportunities and further undermines respect for the law.

  13. Good post John.

    Re: Russia, I think state control generally is still very popular in Russia. I have a cousin that has worked in Russia for a few years now and from what he says it sounds to me like Russia has several cultural and ideological problems. eg/ They are highly racist towards anyone that doesn’t have blond hair and blue eyes, they hate America intensely, have an embedded class system, and they are still very authority dependent. eg/ They love Putin’s sexist remarks, photos with his shirt off, and their police carry machine guns and have more powers than in western countries.
    I think culture and ideology contribute highly to their reluctance to more fully embrace capitalism and to more fully irradicate government corruption but I also think these flawed ideas once addressed can be changed very quickly. eg/ I don’t think you gradually become less racist, I think you’re either racist or you’re not. There’s a jump in thinking, not a gradual linear transition.

    Personally, I think relatively quick transitions can work, if the society is ready. But how can you expect this in Russia or China when no country in the world fully embraces capitalism. We are all mixed economies with highly stirngent regulatory systems, and we all violate the right to life, liberty and property.

    I don’t mind Aboriginals living in Kakadu national park as long as they don’t get government paid welfare, schooling and medical treatment.
    But we give everyone in Australia the opportunity for welfare, “free” schooling and “free” medical treatment.
    All forms of intervention, left wing or right wing will lead to less than optimal results and are in a wider context actually quite similar.

  14. I heard many alcoholics up and left to non-prohibition towns leaving their kids behind.
    I don’t know if that’s positive or not. But I can see it’s not a solution to alcoholism.

    Booze smuggling has already started and I thought it has been going on for years. eg/ Packing wine casks into the gaps in car bodies.

  15. Just like visitors to the Soviet packing their suitcases full of illegal Levi jeans and making a killing on the blackmarket, I’ve heard of fishing trips being financed through selling alcohol to remote dry communities in Northern Queensland.

    Prohibition is not a short term solution, it is not a solution at all. Prosecuting criminals without regard for race is the only just, honest, fair and equatable intervention the state need bother with.

  16. I sometimes wonder how geography affects political economy. I have always thought that Russia is innately socialist because of the harsh environment. In a land as harsh as theirs, people feel they need to stick together. ‘Rugged’ Individuals probably died off.
    This might also explain why Scandinavians are more centralist in their thinking. Hot lands sap your strength so you don’t think. The places best suited for freedom would be between these extremes.
    As for Aborigines, my long-term goal is to have a Swiss-style canton arrangement, with local governments having the most powers, for ALL Australians. If we could all claim an Aboriginal connection, perhaps we could send the Feds broke with all our requests for compensation!

  17. Ignorance is no excuse. If you are going to denigrate others then I suggest you spend some time in aboriginal communities with active homelands such as Maningrida. Your satire is sad and sick. It feeds the worst kind of racist tendencies in Australia. We need more debate but not empty labels that do not relate to the real issues aboriginal people face in remote Australia.

  18. I was waiting for the socialists to defend themselves… and as usual the only defence they have is to throw around the racist tag. Predictable aren’t they?

    Kevin — the preference of capitalism to socialism is not racist. Indeed, socialism isn’t a race.

    Socialism is a political system that deprivees people of private property rights. It is a system that has been tried many times around the world and has consistently lead to poverty and low life expectancy. Unfortunately, the same system is leading to the same results in aboriginal homelands.

    If you actually care about aboriginal homelands then you would abandon your fetish with socialism immediately, and instead embrace the only system that has ever helped people to escape poverty — capitalism.

  19. Kevin,

    What feeds racism in Australia is the special treatment metted out to minorities by the government, not a small group of pro-capitalism, pro-small government libertarians advocating equal laws and treatment for all Australians regardless of race, creed, gender or any other identifiable difference between human beings.

    Pointing out racialist laws that enabled the defunct ATSIC and its successors to channel billions of taxpayer funds into failed socialist experiment for a minority group of Australians is not racist.

  20. The point I’m trying to raise here is not about equal treatment. Even if we’re going to treat aboriginals differently to non-aboriginals… we shouldn’t be burdening them with socialism.

  21. Fair enough John, but in the absence of socialism are you advocating mercantilism? Subsistence? Or are you advocating capitalism, which at its core has a requirement of equal treatment before the law. Discriminatory government actions based on race are not in alignment with a capitalist agenda. One goes hand in hand with the other.

  22. People in NSW can have different laws to people in Queensland and Australia can still be a capitalist nation. Homelands could have different laws to the ACT and still they could all be operating under capitalist systems. It is possible (and I would argue preferable) to have both capitalism and to practice subsidiarity.

  23. Terje,

    The laws in Queensland should apply to all Queenslanders, not some laws applying to blue-skinned Bananabenders, and other laws applying to green-skinned ones. A Queenslander who crosses the border in NSW is subject to NSW laws just as every other Cockroach is. The Commonwealth can under the constitution legislate based on race. Section 51 (xxvi) allows the Commonwealth to discriminate on the basis of race. This is wrong and should be repealed. Then any socialist experiment specifically targetted at Aboriginals would be unconstitutional.

  24. Terje, John,

    I really thought you guys would support equality before the law for all Australians. Do you actually support discriminatory exceptionalism with regards to legislation targetted towards Aboriginal Australians? Racialist laws are OK, so long as they aren’t socialist in nature?

  25. There need be no Aboriginal policy at all. They are Australians, and the principle of equality demands that there be one law for all.

    I tend to agree with this, with the caveat that I support decentralised government.

    Talking about “one law for all Australians” starts to sound a bit centralist for my likings. A truly liberal society divulges law to the most localised level so each community determines its own punishments.

    I think aboriginal communities should have the right to cede from Australia if they choose to. I think any local group should have the right to cede, actually. But it is more poignant when talking about a group of people, who, not as individuals, but as a race had a society, legal system and political structure imposed on them by invaders.

    I totally oppose the socialism and handouts given to aboriginals on the basis of race. But I do think nationality and identity goes beyond the country you are born in. Aboriginals that identify as aboriginal first and Australian second should be given the right live under aboriginal rather than Australian law (but this means they receive none of the benefits of Australian law/ government either).

  26. I think aboriginal communities should have the right to cede from Australia if they choose to. I think any local group should have the right to cede, actually.

    Interesting idea Shem. So Muslims should have the right to establish a society under Sharia law? What about Jews who might want to carve out a patch as a colony of Israel? Or even if Terje and I ignore past wars between Norway and Sweden and seek a Scandinavian homeland in the inner west of Sydney?

    The claim of being different is historical, not current. An open and tolerant society based on liberal non-coercive principles can accommodate aborigines who want to be different as well as those who don’t. Same goes for former Mormons, Muslims, Jews and Scandinavians.

  27. Shem

    But I do think nationality and identity goes beyond the country you are born in

    Yes, it does. But if you choose to live in a particular country, then you should abide by its laws.

    Different communities living under different laws is a vision of hell.


    What are the ‘real issues aboriginals face’?

  28. Brendan — I think you’re getting upset about a 100th order issue.

    There are two issues here… One is whether we should experiment on 90,000 aboriginals with socialism — leading to poverty and death. The other issue is whether we let aboriginals have an extra $10 in welfare.

    I think the first issue is of HUGE importance. If there was a reform package that included ending socialism but offering some extra racist welfare, I’d take it in a heart-beat. Socialism isn’t funny. It’s not cute. There is no greater thing we can do in any situation then end socialism.

    Of course, I’d prefer total equality. But in order of priorities, ending socialism is 100 times more important than ending Abstudy.

  29. I agree with Shem’s sentiments. However, if we had a proper federalist system then nobody would need to cede from Australia.

    In answer to DavidL — yes (kinda), I think Muslims should be able to get together on their own private property, set up the rules over that property and then pursue their own lifestyle. The same applies for Jews and even Scandonavians.

    We already have a system similar to this for aged people (retirement homes) and hippies (communes). Israel has the Kibbutz and in American they have the Armish. I like diversity.

    I would like to see federal control decentralised to the States. Preferably it could then be decentralised to the local level. And better still would be that power is decentralised to the people… who could get together in voluntary society which ever way they see fit.

  30. So Muslims should have the right to establish a society under Sharia law? What about Jews who might want to carve out a patch as a colony of Israel? Or even if Terje and I ignore past wars between Norway and Sweden and seek a Scandinavian homeland in the inner west of Sydney?

    No offense, but Jews have Israel, Muslims have quite a few countries in the Middle East and Scandanavians already have their socialist paradises living under Scandanavian law.

    Aboriginal peoples have no land on which they have the option of practicing their own traditional law. Nothing about the landmass of Australia says that it has to be one continuous mass. Aboriginal independence would mean it would no longer be part of Australia, it would no longer be part of our community, our legal, political or economic structure.

    “Different communities living under different laws is a vision of hell.” You mean like Canada and America? Or Thailand and Cambodia? Or Germany and Switzerland? There’s plenty of countries sharing land borders- I’m talking TOTAL independence with their own geographic area, own laws, own society, own culture, own economy. It’s a simple solution, but the mining companies may not like it. Hopefully we’d have both free trade and free immigration between both nations.

    I’m not talking about allowing low-income ghettos in Sydney to live their own laws on child molestation, though. I think offering full independence is a more libertarian option.

    Of course, a more effective solution would be a proper federal system (including the Northern Territory being given immediate statehood) and more power being divulged to local levels. Why is the idea of local laws so scary to most libertarians? We already have local laws for dog walking, skateboarding and graffiti- it’s not that much of a step to decentralise more control to the local level.

  31. Brendan,

    I wasn’t advocating anything, merely explaining that Australia could have different laws in different regions (or even different laws for different people) and still provide for full participation within an essentially capitalist system. Personally I think the racist elements of the constitution should be abolished exactly as you propose. However I also think that the aged pension is discriminatory because it is based on age not need. Lots of old people are capable of working.


  32. Shem,

    I think most libertarians are okay with localised laws. Centralised power is principally what they oppose. I’m all for devolving most law making powers and most government related activities to local government. Of course libertarians will still routinely oppose local laws that are stupid and some may even support the use of central government to dispense with such stupid local laws. In the USA for instance locally imposed rent controls in many cities were ended by the use of state laws that prohibited such local rent controls. Personally I think it was a good outcome for the people in the cities involved but obviously it was not consistent with the idea of regional autonomy in such matters. I have argued previously that the minimum wage in Australia should be decided at the local level. However I still oppose the minimum wage and if central government prohibited minimum wage laws entirely I’d be hard pressed to object. The main power that I am quite consitently in favour of devolving to the regions is the power to tax and spend. In terms of federal systems I quite like the fact that the EU concedes no powers of direct taxation to the central EU pseudo government. All powers of taxation in the EU remain with the regions (nation states). It is a pity that other federal systems such as Australia and the USA did not follow this path.

    As for the right to secede I think that an ideal constitution (ie one we will never have) would provide some mechanism by which a subset of the national population that is resident within some geographically continuous region might elect to secede. However it would not be specifically included in the constitution to serve one specific racial or ethnic group. If Queensland or Tasmania or Northern New South Wales wants to secede from Australia I think there should be a mechanism for it. However given the opportunity to rewrite the constitution it would not be high up on my list of reforms. And within a federal constitution I’d generally be happy enough to limit the ability to secede to actual entire states and to provide some separate mechanism by which the people of a state could decide to split into two separate states.


  33. Shem’s ideas sound like my own ideas of a canton-like arrangement, as practiced by Switzerland. We should start from the local ground up, leaving the central powers with least actual power. Perhaps our motto should be ‘Life, Liberty and Laissez-Faire!’

  34. I blame PETA, and the Animal Liberationists! Since we can no longer experiment on animals, we’re forced to experiment on humans.
    A Russian joke in the Communist era had a peasant stopping Brezhnev in a Moscow street to ask him a question. “Is Communism a Science or a Philosophy?” Brezhnev replied, “It’s a philosophy.” “I thought so- if it was a science, they’d have tried it on animals first!”

  35. In the NT much of this land is owned by various Land Trusts.

    Commonwealth and NT government provide public money to various organisations to construct buildings, eg housing, withOUT requiring leases for the land.

    Can you get a loan from them so as to build a house on land you do not hold a lease or title to ?

    Land Trusts refuse issue leases for land with houses or units constructed as issuing leases provides tenants with legal rights and responsibilities.

    Do not give people enforceable legal rights and responsibilities, they may use them !

    A “Traditional Owner” has no right for their family or friends to live with them, or visit them, in their home whilst they live upon their “Traditional Homelands”.

  36. One thing that many people don’t realise about Aboriginal society is that socialism set in much earlier with Aborigines than with mainstream society.

    From the early to mid nineteenth century, when the Aborigines were herded off their lands, the common pattern was for them to settle around religious missions. Between the 1880s and 1920s these were taken over by the governments’ Aboriginal Protection Boards, which basically had the right to control every aspect of life, such as coming and going, work, wages, housing, you name it.

    By contrast, the history of the welfare state with the rest of society largely starts with the old age pension in about the 1920s and the dole in the 1930s. It wasn’t until Whitlam in the 1970s that the single mothers pension came in. It was never the case with mainstream society that living off the government was the norm for the majority, but with Aboriginal society we are looking at a society that has been under pretty much in a state of full wardship under government tutelage – socialism – for over a hundred and fifty years.

    Looking at Aboriginal society, does that have some explaining power?

  37. Patrols in the Northern Territory and Nearby Patrols in Central Australia (Western Desert)


    (1) National Archives of Australia CRS F1/0 Item 1960/320

    (a)Report on Patrol Lake Mackay Area June / July 1957

    (2) National Archives of Australia CRS F1/0 Item 1962/1843

    (a) Report on Fieldwork west of Papunya June-July 1962

    (b) Desert Pintubi contacted 1962/1963

    (c) Report on Patrol west of Papunya August 1963 by Jeremy Long

    (d) Report on Patrol west of Papunya April 1964 by Jeremy Long

    Movement back to Kintore Ranges really started Christmas 1979


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