MP lashed for hate tactic

Age - 18th March 2003
Author: Julie Szego, Social Affairs Reporter

A leading Aboriginal academic has lashed out at federal Liberal MP Christopher Pyne for his recent criticisms of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission, accusing him of using hate to grab headlines.

Marcia Langton said in Sydney yesterday that governments "artificially manufactured" electoral opinion by manipulating the media.

"It is popular to think at the present time that Aboriginal Australians are held back by ATSIC, and Christopher Pyne's speech last week about purported and alleged corruption and victimhood in ATSIC encapsulates the prejudice and stereotyping that many opinion leaders are attracted to for its sensationalist effect," Professor Langton said.

"Hate can grab the headlines far more than thoughtful, considered assessments."

In a scathing speech to a Liberal Party forum last week, Mr Pyne accused ATSIC of worsening the plight of disadvantaged Aborigines by wasting its $1.1 billion federal budget on cultural programs and propaganda.

He urged the Howard Government to revoke ATSIC's responsibilities for delivering services and allow it to continue as a lobby group.

Professor Langton is involved in a comprehensive review of indigenous policy, initiated by ATSIC chairman Geoff Clark. The review will examine the failure to improve conditions for Aborigines since last decade's historic Mabo decision on land rights.

Speaking at a Philanthropy Australia conference, Professor Langton challenged governments and philanthropists to create "a substantial group of highly educated Aboriginal Australians in less than one generation".

Accelerated learning programs were required at all schooling levels and at the pre-university stage, but the community needed first to abandon paternalistic attitudes towards Aborigines and education.

"In Australia there is a view that Aboriginal people are not capable of the achievements that are held to be normal for other Australians, and that view is hardening," she said.

"There is a view in many universities' departments, with which I am familiar, that if Aboriginal people were allowed to enrol, the standards of universities will be reduced."

Professor Langton said her ideas for improving Aboriginal education were inspired by Israel's success in absorbing 85,000 Ethiopians.