Robin Margo, John Pilger and Auberon Waugh

The distinguished Robin Margo, President of the NSW JBD, blasted Pilger when he was given the Sydney Peace Prize.

Robin Margo, President of the New South Wales Jewish Board of Deputies said: “It is a disgrace. Anyone wanting to know my opinion of the award should Google Auberon Waugh’s verb “to pilger”.

What disputes between Pilger and Waugh? What might be Pilger’s take on this controversy?

One example:

Among large sections of the Australian people common slurs against Aborigines now meet with revulsion. This was demonstrated following an extraordinary article in the Sydney Morning Herald by the English gossip writer Auberon Waugh, who described Aborigines as ‘warring, nomadic packs’ with a ‘non-existent’ wisdom and an art that ‘must be judged the merest piffle by any civilised standards.’ So outraged was the response that the letters editor of the Sydney Morning Herald appealed to readers to stop writing. ‘We don’t have to lsiten to every mealy-mouthed racist who deigns to visit from the “mother country”,’ wrote one reader. [John Pilger (1989)  A Secret Country. London, Jonathan Cape. p 62]

There is much else in the book. But let’s just consider a bit about it. Firstly, he was writing about the stolen generations in 1989, long before certain prominent liberals discovered this, and before the official Bringing Them Home Report.  (pp 52-6) And of course, Aboriginal deaths in custody: the book was published whilst the official investigation was still taking place. Pilger, of course, was scandalised by the facts before the official results of the investigation came out. He also wrote “As Australian governments of the 1980s have claimed the moral right to censure South Africa, the rate of imprisonment of blacks in Australia has risen to at least as high a level as in South Africa and the rate of deaths in custody is thirteen times higher than in South Africa.”

This was written 20 years ago. So much has changed, right?  Black deaths in custody is one thing, but our rate of imprisoning blacks has changed: for the worse. As Chris Graham noted (and he is an outstanding journalist and fine commentator, and his paper cannot be recommended highly enough)

The jailing rate of black males in South Africa at the end of the Apartheid era (1993) was 851 per 100,000 population. In Australia today, we jail black males at a national rate of 4,364 per 100,000.

That’s over five times higher.

Why does this happen? Because the whole system is completely racist. According to a study by criminologists reported on in the Australian

In at least two states, Western Australia and South Australia, young Aborigines are more likely to be convicted in children’s courts than non-indigenous juveniles for the same type of offences, the report shows. No other states provided data on conviction rates.

In Western Australia, the one state that issued statistics on sentencing, young Aborigines are more than twice as likely as non-indigenous juveniles to be given a jail term after being found guilty.

The AIC study, “Juveniles’ contact with the criminal justice system in Australia”, finds that in NSW, Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia and the Northern Territory, police are more likely to arrest and refer to court young Aborigines, compared with non-indigenous youths. Information from Victoria and Tasmania was not available.

“(In NSW in 2007-08), 48 per cent of indigenous juveniles were transferred to court, compared to 21 per cent of non-indigenous juveniles,” the report says.

“And 32 per cent of non-indigenous juveniles receive warnings compared with 18 per cent of indigenous juveniles.

“(In Queensland in 2006-07), indigenous juveniles were more likely to be processed by way of arrest (39 per cent) than any other method, while non-indigenous juveniles were more likely to be dealt with via a caution (49 per cent) than any other method of processing.”

In Western Australia, where half of all juveniles arrested are Aboriginal, 71 per cent of the cautions issued in 2005 were to non-indigenous youths, 29 per cent to Aboriginal juveniles.

In South Australia in 2005 (the most recent data available), 55 per cent of juveniles of “Aboriginal appearance” were transferred to youth court compared with 41 per cent of those of “non-Aboriginal appearance”, while in the Northern Territory last year 23 per cent of non-indigenous youths received a caution compared with 16 per cent of Aborigines.

…. (etc)

If convicted, jail was a more likely outcome for Aboriginal youths. “A considerably higher proportion of distinct indigenous juveniles (22 per cent) were sentenced to custodial penalties than non-indigenous juveniles (9 per cent) during 2005,” the AIC found. “Conversely, a considerably higher proportion of distinct non-indigenous juveniles (35 per cent) received a fine than distinct indigenous juveniles.”

This is Australia.

Pilger exposes these sorts of shocking things, which continue today, and has done so for decades. Margo, on the other hand, is more impressed by the dude who is a little less concerned by the plight of these “nomadic, warring packs”.  Of course, so far as I know, Waugh never sneered that these weren’t innocent victims, and that there was a process of mutual destruction: some people can only stoop so low.

One Response to “Robin Margo, John Pilger and Auberon Waugh”
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  1. […] record. Margo certainly does. Here he can be seen implying that Mike Carlton is anti-Semitic. Here I discuss where he called the Peace Prize awarded to Pilger a disgrace. He quoted Auberon […]

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