1 December 2004

Turnbull vs Ridgeway

by Matt Rubinstein at 8:52 am

Well, that’s a bit misleading—of course there’s no actual stoush between the new Member for “Blue-Ribbon” Wentworth (and dedicated blogger) and the outgoing Senator for Sydney. But Alan Ramsey has cleverly juxtaposed their fortunes in their respective chambers on Monday. Turnbull’s maiden speech, about waves, ducks, and Lucy, was reported like Princess Di winning Australian Idol. Ridgeway’s attempts to raise some interest in the Aboriginal death in custody and subsequent riot on Palm Island, as an example of the continuing problems between Aborigines and the police, got nowhere. Ramsey says:

In the riot that followed last week’s autopsy report, Palm Island’s 14 police, “fearing for their lives”, fled as rioters torched the police barracks, the jail and the local courthouse. “Special emergency response” police in balaclavas and with “stun” guns flew to Palm Island last Friday and “restored order”. Eighteen Palm Island men appeared in court in Townsville two days ago on various charges, including arson, assault and “going armed to cause fear”.

That day, in Canberra, Malcolm Turnbull made his maiden parliamentary speech and Aden Ridgeway asked his Senate question, while in Brisbane the State Coroner’s office announced a second “independent” autopsy on Doomadgee’s body. You read nothing of this yesterday, though listeners to London’s BBC world service were told of the “17 men and a 14-year-old boy who appeared in court in Australia’s Queensland state, charged in connection with a violent protest on Friday following the death of an Aboriginal man in police custody”.

Today, in the Senate, Ridgeway will give notice seeking an urgency debate on the issue. He might get somewhere if his name was Turnbull.

But surely this is backwards. If Aden Ridgeway’s urgency debate wanted to confirm just how terrific things are in Sydney’s green hills and golden beaches—then he might get somewhere. Sure, Sydney loves Malcolm Turnbull, as long as he’s stuffing teddybears and pandering to dog-owners. But if his maiden speech had touched on the continuing shame of race relations in this country, he might soon find himself exactly where Ridgeway will be next July.

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