Indigenous Australians And Gazans Both Need Jobs

The people of Gaza face a very different challenge to Australia’s First People, but the solution may be similar - industries

Date: 22-10-2023 22:00

Indigenous Australians And Gazans Both Need Jobs

If the companies that campaigned for the Voice to Parliament want to do something useful for Indigenous people they should move some of their operations to where they live.

Twenty seven major companies joined the Yes campaign, and in many cases gave some money. There were also countless not-for-profits on the supporters list along with 1100 company directors, which pretty much covers Corporate Australia.

It was great that they defied the Murdoch attacks and backed the Voice, but now that the vote has been lost it’s time to put their money where their voice is.

The only sustainable and dignified solution for Indigenous disadvantage is employment, and it’s neither realistic nor reasonable to expect people who have lived in the outback for thousands of years to go to the city to get a job, or to go back to the employment they had before colonisation and their land was stolen by pastoralists.

As Noel Pearson once wrote: “If we are to survive as a people we have to get passive welfare out of Aboriginal governance … we have to get rid of the passive welfare mentality that has taken over our people.”

He added: “People lost their place in the pastoral industry and were forced into the increasingly welfare-based economy of the settlements.”

The only other significant industry in the outback apart from cattle is mining, but mines are now worked by robots and there simply aren’t enough jobs in the mines to make a difference.

Distance is no longer a barrier

With the internet and satellites, it’s now possible for companies to locate digital activities anywhere, including in the desert, like Pine Gap.

All of the big four banks supported the Yes campaign in the Voice referendum; they should each set up call centres in the Northern Territory or Cape York, or perhaps collaborate on a joint one. Likewise Qantas, Telstra and NIB.

Coles and Woolworths could perhaps locate data centres in the outback, Country Road could get some sewing done, Atlassian some coding, Simon & Schuster some editing.

It wouldn’t be easy, but unless there is some kind of viable industry in the outback, there can’t be the dignity of work and the end of the passive welfare.

If the executives and directors who spent shareholders’ money promoting the Yes campaign, or just added their name to the list of corporate supporters, were interested in doing something about Indigenous disadvantage and closing the gap, they would at least try to establish some industry where it would do some good.

And if the government wanted to move forward in a practical way after the debacle of the referendum, it could provide the companies with a financial incentive to do it.

The people of Gaza face a very different challenge to Australia’s First Peoples, but the solution may be similar – industries.

There are two million people living there and ruled by 25,000 members of Hamas, or 1.25 per cent of the population. (For comparison, the Chinese Communist Party membership is 7 per cent of China’s population while the membership of the Labor Party is 0.25 per cent of the population of Australia).

Hamas won the 2006 election with 74 of the 132 Legislative Council seats on a platform of clean government and cleaning up the rampant corruption of the Palestinian Authority, which was then under the unpopular control of Fatah following the death of Yasser Arafat.

Hamas’ theocratic dictatorship

That was the last election, and having kicked out the Palestinian Authority from Gaza, Hamas runs that strip of land as a theocratic dictatorship and terrorist hideout, cut off from the world, a bit like North Korea, except more religious and nastier.

Would Hamas win another election if it held one? Absolutely not: 72 percent of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza believe that Hamas is corrupt, and the brutal atrocities of two weeks ago would have reduced its approval rating even more.

An enraged Israel now wants to obliterate Hamas, preferably by killing all of its 25,000 members/soldiers.

Leaving aside whether that can be done, what happens then? Gaza will need not only to be rebuilt, presumably with American money, it will need industries so that unemployment doesn’t stay at 50 per cent, as it was two weeks ago when their world changed.

If Israeli companies were smart they would establish operations in an independent (not occupied) Gaza to employ Palestinians and help ensure that the place remained peaceful.

The government of Israel would also have to play its part by ensuring Gaza was allowed to be part of a two-state solution.

Apart from call centres and data centres for Israeli tech businesses, Gazans might run a tourism industry if they could get funding for a few resorts along the coastline. There’s also a big offshore gas field, called Gaza Marine, which Chevron was developing before Israel shut it down a day after the Hamas attacks two weeks ago.

Agriculture is out of the question, of course – there are too many people squeezed into not enough land and the fertility rate is 3.3 births per woman, much more than replacement rate, so Gazans will always have to import their food.

Israel needs to understand that this is a political battle as much as, if not more than, a military one, and after destroying Hamas, if that’s possible, it needs to win over the people of Gaza to be truly safe. As with Indigenous Australians, that will require practical as well as moral support, specifically education, to build the skills needed to support modern industries and jobs.

Indigenous Australians are not in anything like the same situation as Palestinians in Gaza, although the poverty and disadvantage would be similar in some parts of this country.

But the solution to that disadvantage is surely the same – sustainable employment.

Alan Kohler writes twice a week for The New Daily. He is finance presenter on ABC News and founder of Eureka Report

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