Thought I had demonstrated initiative when last year I added a discussion of the Northern Territory government to my lecture on Indigenous Self-Determination in Australian Identities: Indigenous & Multicultural. Considered it more politically interesting than ATSIC which preoccupied the Unit materials perhaps because it fits the general academic preoccupation with the Howard government. Since then we have seen the government’s terminal crisis likely to climax tomorrow with the likely vote of former Indigenous Affairs minister Alison Anderson against the government, on the same day on which I deliver the lecture. Anderson is interviewed in Sarah Maddison’s interesting Black Politics. Anderson says that she is:
first and foremost an Indigenous Australian..[who works to ]…represent my people in this Parliament…[Indigenous law has]..never changed over centuries after centuries…My law helps me translate in today’s terms the importance of understanding Aboriginal poverty, the fact that Aboriginal people are still suffering. So it’s the really key factor still in my life…It’s about, not necessarily changing the way Parliament operates, but it’s about understanding that there’s a different law also and there’s a group of people who operate under a really, really different governance system.
Could we compare the relation between indigenous voters and Territory Labor to that between New Zealand Labour and Maori? There the traditional alliance between Labour and Maori seems to have broken down altogether. The Maori Party won 5 out of 7 Maori electorates at the last election and supports the Nationals in government, although their decision to do so was in part a response to the fact that a National government was largely inevitable. The National-Maori alliance seems to be under pressure and the Maori Party votes most often with Labour on legislation: 69% vs. 38% with National. If Anderson aligns herself with the Country Liberal Party she may follow in the unhappy footsteps of the Maori Party. Perhaps the Territory crisis points to the difficulty that an indigenous minority faces in pursuing self-determination. What parallels could be drawn with African-American politics? How can I explain all this in one PowerPoint slide tomorrow?