Despair Down Under

Eleven miles by ferry from Perth is Western Australia's "premier tourist destination".

This is Rottnest Island, whose scabrous wild beauty and isolation evoked for me Robben Island in South Africa.Empires are never short of devil's islands; what makes Rottnest different, indeed what makes Australia different, is a silence and denial on an epic scale. "Five awesome reasons to visit!" the brochure says. These range from "family fun" to "historical Rottnest", which describes the island as "a guiding light, a defender of the peace". In eight pages of prescribed family fun, there is just one word of truth: prison. More than any colonial society, Australia consigns its dirtiest secrets, past and present, to a wilful ignorance or indifference. When I was at school in Sydney, standard texts often dismissed the most enduring human entity on earth: the indigenous first Australians. 

"It was quite useless to treat them fairly," wrote the historian Stephen Roberts, "since they were completely amoral and incapable of sincere and prolonged gratitude." His acclaimed colleague Russel Ward was succinct: "We are civilised today and they are not."That Australia has since changed is not disputed.  To measure this change, a visit to Western Australia is essential. The vast, richest state is home to the world's biggest "resources" boom: iron ore, gold, nickel, oil, petroleum, gas. Profits are in the multiple billions. When Labor prime minister Kevin Rudd tried to impose a modest tax, he was overthrown by his own party following a $22 million propaganda campaign by the mining companies, whose mates in the media uphold the world's first Murdocracy. "Assisted by Rio Tinto" reads the last line of an unctuous newspaper report on the benefits of the boom to black Australians. 

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This period, running from May 20 to 31 2024, is crucial for those who have not yet registered to vote. This announcement comes in response to a significant shortfall in registered voters following the recent registration period. As it stands, only 62% of the target number of voters registered, leaving a considerable gap.With Botswana's general elections scheduled for October, every eligible citizen needs to register and exercise their...

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