Friday, 10 July 2020

Joint sovereignty: is the tide coming in?

There is a tide in the affairs of men…
Julius Caesar Act 4, scene 3

The New York Times reports on the recent US Supreme Court decision in McGirt v Oklahoma relating to Treaty rights in Oklahoma (link here) which appears to confirm the ongoing operation of native American sovereignty over Native Americans residing in much of eastern Oklahoma. I recommend readers look at the report in full.

The Times report summarised the core of the case as follows:

The court’s decision means that Indigenous people who commit crimes on the eastern Oklahoma reservation, which includes much of Tulsa, cannot be prosecuted by state or local law enforcement, and must instead face justice in tribal or federal courts.

The rationale for the majority decision boils down to a decision that Congress should be required to uphold promises made. The NY Times reports states, inter alia,

Justice Neil M. Gorsuch, a Westerner who has sided with tribes in previous cases and joined the court’s more liberal members to form the majority, said that Congress had granted the Creek a reservation, and that the United States needed to abide by its promises.
“Today we are asked whether the land these treaties promised remains an Indian reservation for purposes of federal criminal law,” Justice Gorsuch wrote in the majority opinion. “Because Congress has not said otherwise, we hold the government to its word.”

The case raises the obvious question for Australian readers: what does this mean for Indigenous rights in Australia?

The short answer is ‘very little’. In Australia, we do not have formal treaties, and nor did past Governments make formal and legally enforceable promises.

There are however in my view at least two broad implications for Australian policymakers to seriously consider.

First, the decision does however create yet another north American precedent of the legal system (in this case the highest court in the USA) acknowledging the legitimacy of recognising Indigenous sovereignty albeit constrained by the terms of the original Congressional commitments. 
Australian policymakers appear set on a course of resisting any substantive reform notwithstanding the huge accumulation of evidence that Indigenous citizens are the subject of structurally exclusionary policies.

Second, the decision appears to acknowledge and recognise the reality and indeed desirability of joint sovereignty in Oklahoma and by virtue of this perhaps more widely in the future. Neil Westbury and I explored the concept of joint sovereignty as a potential way forward in the Australian context in our 2019 Policy Insights Paper Overcoming Indigenous Exclusion (available online here).

Monday, 6 July 2020

Indigenous representation in the APS: more talk

I praise God for you sir: your reasons …have been sharp and sententious, pleasant without scurrility, witty without affection, audacious without impudency, learned without opinion, and strange without heresy.
                     Love’s Labour Lost, Act 5, Scene 1.

The Australian Public Service Commission last week released the Commonwealth Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Workforce Strategy 2020-2024 (link here). The core objectives of the Strategy are laid out in the text below (graphics removed):

Overall Commonwealth workforce representation targets
The Commonwealth aspires to achieve a stretch target of 3 per cent Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employee representation for the Senior Executive Service by 2024, the final year of the Strategy.
To achieve the desired outcome, the Commonwealth should aim to invest in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representation at the APS 4 to APS 6 levels (or equivalent) to 5 per cent by the end of 2022, this will help build the pipeline; and representation of 5 per cent at the Executive Levels 1 and 2 by the end of 2024.
Initially this will be achieved through targeted recruitment with a longer term focus on developing employees within the public sector to enable promotion into the more senior roles.
Commonwealth stretch targets
Portfolio workforce representation targets
To support the Commonwealth in building the talent pipeline, each portfolio should aim to achieve a stretch target of 3 per cent Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representation  at each classification level in their workforce by 2024, the final year of the Strategy.

The Mandarin reported on the release of the Strategy (link here) and quoted the Public Service Commissioner, Peter Woolcott as saying the plan would set the direction for all employers across the Commonwealth, and would ‘accelerate improvements in closing the gap in social and economic outcomes between Indigenous Australians and non-Indigenous Australians’ by building on the achievements of the previous Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employment strategy. Unfortunately, the new strategy provides no contextual data to assist in identifying and fleshing out the ‘achievements’ of the previous strategy.

About 15 months ago, I commented on the desultory progress in reflecting the demographic composition of First Nations within the APS, particularly at SES levels. My post, titled Indigenous Employment in the APS: a policy recommendation can be found here. I argued there that what was required was a Prime Ministerial commitment to doubling the Indigenous representation in the SES within four years. Such a commitment would send the required message to Departmental Secretaries who are the key decisionmakers on SES appointments.

The present strategy adopts a rather different approach, although it appears similar to the untrained eye. It has the backing of the Public Service Commissioner and the Minister for Indigenous Australians, but relies on something termed ‘stretch targets’. A target is not a commitment, and a stretch target is a target that we acknowledge up front will be extremely difficult to attain.

Of course, targets without resources and /or incentives are unlikely to be met. I see little in the way of extra resources for the APS to prioritise these targets over the multiple other challenges they face, nor do I see persuasive incentives in place pushing agencies to take the decisive action that will be required to meet these targets. Further, while the notion of a pipeline from EL1 and EL2 levels into the SES makes intuitive sense, the reality is that there is not enough time in a four year strategy for this to have anything more than a marginal impact on SES levels of representation.

My conclusion is that this new strategy is more about rhetoric more than reality. For comparison, look to New Zealand where agency heads have been given legislative requirements to support Maori leadership within the public service (see my earlier post on New Zealand public sector reform here).

It is also worth reminding ourselves that less than a year ago, the Government published the Thodey Review and its response. It landed with a resounding silence. My assessment of the implications of the Thodey Review for Indigenous Australians can be found here…it is salient that Thodey said very little specific regarding Indigenous representation within the SES, and the Government walked away from anything which appeared to challenge the status quo. As a result there is no cross reference in the recently released workforce strategy. More significantly, the underlying message to agencies and their leadership was that Indigenous issues are not the priority. In that sense, the current Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Workforce Strategy can be seen as entirely aligned with the status quo: all talk but little action.

Wednesday, 10 June 2020

Indigenous Incarceration Update: uncomfortable politics

Uncomfortable time, why camest thou now?
Romeo & Juliet Act 4, scene 5

Indigenous incarceration has been in the news for the last week or so, driven by the upswell in concern internationally of the treatment of African Americans by that nation’s police forces. There have been numerous articles in the media (link here to just one of many) , and the media pressure has led the Federal Minister for Indigenous Australians to issue a statement (link here).

The Minister’s statement is replete with platitudes and rhetoric, and lacks any commitment to new action apart from the suggestion that the refreshed Closing the Gap targets developed in partnership with First Nations interests would include an as yet unspecified target. I recommend readers examine it closely for themselves.

In particular, what is missing is any direct reference to the reform agenda provided by the Australian Law Reform Commission’s 2016 Inquiry into the Incarceration Rates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People, initiated at the request of the current Government, and undertaken by Judge Matthew Myers, the first Indigenous judge appointed to the Federal Court.

My April 2020 post (link here) on the lack of implementation commitment and action by the present Government on this issue is a stark reminder of what is at stake. As I stated in that post (do read the full post):

What is crystal clear is that two years on, the Australian government as well as the states and territories who are primarily responsible for our criminal justice systems have done absolutely nothing.

In his approach to this issue, the Minister for Indigenous Australians (I use his title advisedly) is trying to walk astride a barbed wire fence, one leg on the side of Indigenous Australians, the other leg on the side of a Government determined to manage the issue rather than address its substantive and underlying causes. He must be feeling rather uncomfortable.

Bolivia update

Avid readers of this Blog will have seen my December 2019 post on Latin America and in particular the 2019 coup in Bolivia against Indigenous President Evo Morales (link here).

I thought therefore that readers might be interested in this recent update by Glen Greenwald of The Intercept (link here) which points to the increasing evidence that the OAS election review which contributed to Morales exile, and thus the related media coverage in major media outlets, was flawed at best.

Rereading my earlier post, it struck me that the concluding section focussed on the parallels between structural developments in Latin America and the structural underpinnings of Australian Indigenous policy retain their salience and are worth reflecting upon.

Friday, 22 May 2020

Operation Rebound: policy prestidigitation in action

So quick bright things come to confusion
Midsummer Nights Dream, Act 1, scene 1.

The Northern Territory Government today (22 May 2020) released a Green Paper on its economic plan to ‘rebound’ from the economic and health impacts of the Covid19 pandemic (link here) and announced the membership of its Territory Economic Reconstruction Commission (link here).

The key elements of the plan include a set of  policy objectives, summarised most succinctly in the Chief Minister’s Foreword to the Green Paper:

Our third priority is to rebound the Territory economy so there is more growth and more jobs for all Territorians. This is about the future, but this work starts right now. This includes prioritising investment in job-creating projects, upskilling workers, working with industry to grow private enterprise, and securing future private investment.

This is what Operation Rebound is all about: doing whatever it takes to recover, rebuild and rebound so the Territory economy is stronger in the future.

Put simply, we are here to help.

And that means:

• Making it easier for businesses to recover, grow and create more jobs.
• Getting new investment into the Territory as quickly as possible.
• Kick-starting plans for economic diversification, building on our comparative advantages and exploiting our strategic location.
• Improving the Territory’s investment readiness and competitiveness, and strengthening key trading relationships.
• Identifying opportunities to work with the Australian Government on recovery efforts.

The Green Paper is full of high-blown rhetoric and marketing spin:

‘ Jobs First. Recover. Rebuild. Rebound.’ … ‘$40 billion by 2030 – the path to reconstruction’…‘Operation Rebound sets out our immediate response based on what we know or expect now, but we continue to be agile and respond as necessary as new challenges and opportunities arise.’

It lists 27 ‘immediate rebound initiatives’ none of which involve additional government investment. I recommend readers look carefully at the complete list. A small number of these address Indigenous policy issues directly, and I include them below to give a flavour of the overall level of (in)action:

(xv) supporting Traditional Owners and Land Councils to progress the development of projects in their communities and on their land…

(xviii) building economic opportunities in the delivery of human services to achieve better outcomes in Aboriginal communities…

Others are pure rhetoric:

(i) change the way government does business to build on the agility demonstrated through the COVID-19 response…

(iii) consolidating Darwin as a National Resilience Centre to support emergency response and resilience activities both in Australia and the region

The Government describes its strategy as follows:

Positioning the Territory to rebound strongly from the current crisis requires a comprehensive strategy addressing five focus areas:
1. securing investment to create long term jobs;
2. sustaining our population and the liveability of the Territory;
3. supporting Territory businesses to keep existing jobs and create new jobs;
4. driving industry growth and resilience in our supply chains;
5. mobilising the full resources of government.

In short, the Government has outlined a detailed plan, without allocating any resources to implement it. There is no indication that even one extra dollar has been allocated.

Instead, the Government has set up a Territory Economic Reconstruction Commission, with terms of reference (link here) to advise and report (but not make decisions) to the Government with a further body, Team Territory to provide specialist advice to the Reconstruction Commission.

Team Territory will comprise two of the three members of Team NT, an existing business development body comprised of Clare Martin (a former Chief Minister), Dick Guit (a former businessman) and Paul Tyrrell a former CEO of the Chief Minister’s Department.

The terms of reference for Team Territory (link here) mention the existence of a further entity, Team Rebound, described as follows:

Team Rebound will comprise a small number of high performing public servants who will provide project management and secretariat support to the Reconstruction Commission and Team Territory. Team Rebound will report directly to the Chief Minister, and be overseen by the Jobs Standing Committee of CEO’s, chaired by the CEO of the Department of Trade, Business and Innovation.

So to reverse the chain of command, the Chief Minister oversights the Jobs Standing Committee of Departmental CEOs, which in turn oversights Team Rebound which supports Team Territory and the Reconstruction Commission, and Team Territory provides specialist advice on feasibility of proposals to the Reconstruction Commission which advises the Chief Minister and the Government.

To my mind, this convoluted structure will likely achieve little; its major purpose appears to be to give the appearance of policy commitment and action while waiting for private investment to return to the NT economy. The technical term for this type of circular administrative architecture is ‘policy prestidigitation’.

Admittedly, the NT economy is small, and its future is tied to forces largely beyond the control of the NT Government, and the Government is carrying high levels of longstanding debt.  Nevertheless, the Territory is also home to a large cohort of extremely disadvantaged Indigenous citizens, who are in desperate need of tangible investments in public infrastructure and services.

The pandemic has led to massive market failure in a very short time. All the economic advice is that the ‘rebound’ will extend over a much longer period, and the Territory is coming off a particularly low base. It will be a huge mistake to rely on markets to rebound of their own accord. The solution to massive market failure is public intervention in the form of fiscal stimulus.

With global interest rates low, the NT Government could do worse than borrowing $10 billion and asking its Treasury public servants to devise a medium term investment strategy focussed on improving services and infrastructure designed to strengthen the economic opportunities for the poorest half of the NT population. This might be linked to a public request to the Commonwealth to fund (as part of its own medium term stimulus) the interest payments on this debt for the next decade.

Instead of political flim flam, Australia is desperately in need of visionary leadership from its governments. Governments have succeeded in managing the immediate impact of the pandemic by taking unprecedented action and following the advice of the medical profession. The next phase demands similar levels of vision and political courage. Unfortunately, all I see here is a slide back to spin and marketing. Australia will suffer, and the Territory will suffer proportionately more from this lack of political and economic leadership. And it goes without saying that Indigenous Territorians will bear the brunt of this ineptitude.

Wednesday, 20 May 2020

Indigenous economic and social development in northern Australia in a post-pandemic world

In 2007, Neil Westbury and I wrote a chapter in our book Beyond Humbug arguing that Indigenous economic and social development in the north would be a net contributor to Australia’s defence and national security.

I was therefore interested to read a short and persuasive report from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (link here) focussed on the deficiencies in Australia’s fuel security and its potentially adverse national security implications[1].

In particular, it struck me that core elements in the report’s argument could be transposed to the Indigenous policy domain as further evidence that the Government has dropped the ball on effective policy in support of Indigenous economic and social development in northern Australia. I have previously posted critically on this issue (link here and here).

Set out below are admittedly selective extracts from the ASPI report that in my view apply with equal or greater force to the Indigenous policy domain:

The government’s Our north, our future: White Paper on developing northern Australia identified the need for greater public–private partnership in the development of Australia’s north. It established two major northern funding programs: the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility (NAIF; $5 billion) and the Northern Territory Investment Fund ($200 million), but neither has delivered much. It’s clear that nation building in the north needs considerably more thought and commitment than it has received until recently (page 7)….

…Northern development has been a wicked problem for governments since federation. In periods of strategic uncertainty, it has taken on significant value. However, the north’s remoteness from Australia’s population centres has meant that economic investment is a costly endeavour with little benefit at the polling booth. To the casual observer, such analysis might appear glib, but a long-term investment in northern development is a fleeting policy focus. Over the past 50 years, consecutive governments have relied upon market forces and demanded a return on investment to drive nation building in Australia.

Australia’s declining strategic certainty and its Covid-19 lessons on national resilience indicate a need for a change. Or, more accurately, perhaps policymakers will need to do more to ensure that our national interests and strategy aren’t subordinated to commercial profits or economic models that we now see have major gaps and flaws. …

…The Our north, our future: White Paper on developing northern Australia identified the need for greater public–private partnership in the development of Australia’s north. The White Paper established two major northern funding programs: the NAIF and the NT Infrastructure Development Fund. Unfortunately, the NAIF is under parliamentary review for lack of capital allocation and the NT Infrastructure Development Fund has been closed down due to a lack of capital allocation. The debt-based model of both failed to contribute to a sovereign investment model.

… Covid-19 has already shown that market forces don’t always promote adequate national resilience in multiple areas, from broadband bandwidth to the capacity to produce essential medical supplies. … The Covid-19 pandemic has made it increasingly clear that Australia’s current model for nation-building infrastructure investment is far too narrowly focused. The notion that such investments should be funded mainly by those who directly benefit from them rather than also considering who benefits from the increased capacity and resilience more broadly is reducing the country’s resilience. (page 24)…

… The debt-based NAIF and user-pays nation-building efforts are unlikely to result in anything more than passing peaks of economic activity. Unfortunately, those arrangements aren’t supporting the kinds of massive nation-building efforts needed in Australia’s north, where the Australian Government should be considering ambitious investments. Private–public partnerships focused on providing national and regional energy resilience should be given priority (page 25)….

... The government’s policy position that ‘the most appropriate and sustainable structural solution to the maintenance deficit in public infrastructure is a transition to a user-pays model’ isn’t helping to build a safe and secure northern Australia.

Covid-19 has provided the Australian Government with an enormous opportunity to review and reset its nation building policies. Case studies such as the one presented in this report highlight the complexity of the challenge, but they also illustrate how post-covid-19 nation-building and economic stimulus packages could be used to build our national resilience (page 27) [emphasis added].

There is not much to disagree with in these extracts from an Indigenous policy perspective. Perhaps my only caveat would be to suggest that in the Indigenous policy domain, housing provision should be the policy priority. The reasons are intuitively obvious; reduced overcrowding will deliver multiple ongoing benefits: it will improve children’s educational outcomes, reduce domestic violence, reduce the risk of disease transmission, provide opportunities for local employment in construction, repairs and maintenance, and assist the recruitment of locally engaged teachers, nurses and police.

Moreover, going forward, key policy themes for governments in relation to remote communities should be risk and resilience: building community resilience, and reducing the risk of the current and importantly future pandemics. These objectives require increased and sustained new investment. If not now, when?

The key constraints to implementing the policy prescription outlined by the ASPI report authors, but transposed to an Indigenous context, are twofold: a lack of vision by governments – unlike the authors of this report, governments appear unable to recognise that the stimulus will be ongoing (see this article by Adam Triggs – link here) and needs to be channelled into nation and community building, and a lack of an appropriate institutional framework for converting the stimulus that will likely be ongoing for the next five years (see the short article I wrote recently advocating a post-pandemic reconstruction agency for the Indigenous policy domain – link here) to building Indigenous resilience and economic and social opportunity.

[1] Coyne J., McCormack, T., & Crichton-Standish, H. (2020). Running on empty: a case study of fuel security for civil and military air operations at Darwin airport, Australian Strategic Policy Institute, Canberra. There is much else of interest in the report that I haven’t been able to comment upon.

Tuesday, 28 April 2020

Indigenous incarceration reform

Fortune, that arrant whore,
Ne’er turns the key to the poor
King Lear, Act 2, scene 2.

Hannah McGlade, an academic and member of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (link here) has recently argued (link here) that the risks of COVID 19 in prisons requires the early release of at risk Indigenous prisoners:

With the over-representation of our people in prison, our lives are on the line.
We are calling for immediate early release, particularly of people who are on remand, women who are victims of family violence and sentenced for lesser offences like fines and public order offences, young people and those most at risk of transmitting Covid-19, like elderly and people with health conditions.

McGlade cites similar calls from the Chair of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services (NATSILS), Cheryl Axelby: see NATSILS media release on the COVID-19 crisis (link here). These statements, by focussing attention on Indigenous incarceration, bring into view the deeper and more longstanding issue of Indigenous over-representation in our prisons. McGlade raises the issue in her article, but she is far from alone.

The issue of Indigenous incarceration is of course politically sensitive and complex. It is prone to political manipulation, and self-righteous appeals to law and order, and the propensity of voters to want simplistic solutions to complex problems. There are crimes that require imprisonment, and there is a case for a prison system aimed at deterrence and rehabilitation. The issue with Indigenous incarceration in Australia, however, is that it appears to operate in a structurally discriminatory manner, contrary to the near ubiquitous notion that justice is dispensed without fear or favour.

On Sunday, the Canberra Times ran a full page article (link here) headlined ‘A national disgrace, nobody cares’. The sub-headline in the print edition was ‘Indigenous incarceration is on the rise and government are failing to act on recommendations’. The author, Philip Lee was for five years from 2005 to 2010 Chairperson of the Sentence Administration Board of the ACT (link here). The gist of Lee’s article are two-fold: first, that the statistics on Indigenous incarceration are disproportionate to the representation of Indigenous people in the community; and second, that the recommendations of the 2017 Australian Law Reform Commission Report Pathways to Justice – Incarceration rates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (ATSI) Peoples (link here) by Federal Circuit Court Judge Matthew Myers, commissioned by the Federal Government three years ago, and delivered to the Government over two years ago, have not been implemented.

Lee cites extensive statistics from the ALRC and other sources; here is just one key paragraph:

The ALRC Report noted that ATSI men are 14.7 times more likely to be imprisoned than non-indigenous men and that ATSI women are 21.2 times more likely to be imprisoned than non-indigenous women. The report also noted that although ATSI adults make up around 2 per cent of the national population they constitute 27 per cent of the national prison population. 

Lee concludes his article with the following assessment:

The Commonwealth government stands condemned for failing to implement the recommendations of an ALRC report on the rate of Indigenous incarceration which it commissioned almost three years ago.

The tabling of the ALRC report in March 2018 somehow evaded my attention, so there was no blog post to record the event. However, I did put up a post in July 2017 on the issue of a Closing the Gap target (link here). I recommend it to readers. One of its key paragraphs stated:

The reality is that where policy challenges are characterised by complex causality, it is most often the case that no single initiative or intervention will of itself be decisive in driving positive change. Moreover, policymakers act within contexts and environments which are constrained: by policy capability, by politics, by resources, and so on. The real world policy challenge is to design a set of incentive structures which encourage policymakers across jurisdictions, and at all levels within jurisdictions, to work on a sustained basis toward the desired outcome.

This blog post was followed in August 2017 by a detailed post (link here) commenting on a Discussion Paper issued by the ALRC. Again, do read it in full. But perhaps the key paragraph for present purposes is reproduced below:

But there is a sense here that the Federal Government may have adopted a strategy of commissioning this inquiry as a substitute for focussed action. Indeed, it is clear from the detailed terms of reference that the policy experts in the Attorney General’s Department already have a pretty good idea of the key drivers of Indigenous incarceration. By commissioning this inquiry, the Government has bought space and time. When the report is finally delivered, it will likely point to the need for joint action by states and territories, and the very complexity of the issues raised will mean that the Commonwealth will be under minimal pressure to drive a coordinated and sustained law reform policy agenda through COAG.

The final ALRC report comprises around 500 pages of detailed analysis, and makes 35 recommendations. It has the benefit of the ALRC’s comprehensive and methodical approach to legal analysis, and draws on the combined expertise of an expert and talented advisory panel of criminological experts. I have not had the opportunity to read it in detail, much less to closely analyse its contents. The data and statistical analysis in Chapter 3 is extremely compelling, and points to deep-seated structural inequities in the administration of justice for First Nations people. I am not able to summarise the level of detail presented in this chapter, but it amounts to a staggering indictment of our treatment of First Nations peoples.

I have made no assessment of the relative importance and significance of the ALRC report’s recommendations, which encompass justice reinvestment, bail, sentencing and aboriginality, community based sentences, mandatory sentences, prison programs and parole, access to justice, Indigenous women, fines and dirvers licences, alcohol, police accountability, child protection and adult incarceration, and criminal justice targets and Aboriginal justice agreements. The Executive summary asserts (pages 35–36) that:

Implementation of the recommendations in this Report will reduce the disproportionate rate of incarceration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and improve community safety…. Reduced incarceration and greater support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in contact with the criminal justice system will, in turn, improve health, social and economic outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

What is not clear from the report is how Governments should priorities the various recommendations. Nor is there any sustained argument (notwithstanding some commentary within the report) that socio-economic disadvantage is itself a driver of high levels of Indigenous incarceration. Nevertheless, it is clear that the ALRC has delivered a comprehensive and cogent report that deserves serious consideration by the Government that commissioned it.

The elephant in the room then is this: why hasn’t the Australian Government responded in any way to the report and recommendations of the ALRC?  Or to put it even more starkly, why wont governments do anything about the over-representation of Indigenous people in our prison systems?

The ALRC website (link here) indicates that the review’s implementation status is ‘partial’ on the basis that the WA Government has announced that it would introduce a custody notification service, a partial implementation of recommendation 14-3. What is crystal clear is that two years on, the Australian government as well as the states and territories who are primarily responsible for out criminal justice systems have done absolutely nothing.

The potential answers to these questions can be framed in multiple ways. Lack of political will, bureaucratic incapacity, ideology, powerlessness, fractured responsibility, constrained resources, etc etc….The question deserves sustained and detailed attention, and the answers too will be shaped by the viewpoints, ideology, background and political perspectives of the person asking. I cannot in a short blog post do the question, let alone the potential answers, justice. Suffice to say that my own view is that Indigenous incarceration rates in Australia are the product of deep-seated structural exclusion. The arguments for the existence of an exclusionary structures are set out in a 2019 paper I co-authored with Neil Westbury (link here).

Instead, I will make just a few tangential comments.

First, put yourself in the shoes of an Indigenous person looking at this process over the past three years. What should they make of it? What does it say about the commitment for reform generally? Should they place any trust in the nation’s governments that there is any substantive commitment to addressing unfair and discriminatory outcomes in social policy?

Second, what does this outcome say about our democratic system? How is it that these issues do not appear to have been raised in a sustained manner in Parliament?

Third, what does it say about the widespread view amongst Australians that we live in a nation where everyone gets a fair go?

We certainly live in a lucky country. Unfortunately, it appears that ones luck depends in large measure on whether you are Indigenous or not.