Tuesday, 12 May 2009

setting it up to fail...

like many bloggers today, i share a sense of "what the ...!" on hearing news of christine rankin being appointed as a families commissioner. julie has a nice list of reasons why she just isn't appropriate for the job (as well as a nice list of things are totally irrelevant), and peter dunne has some as well.

i certainly can't add to those, but only emphasise the one that stands out for me: how difficult she made life for those in need, those at the bottom who needed support from an organisation that was set up to support them. information was deliberately withheld from people desperately needing help, the whole process was humiliating. and it's not like the numbers of beneficiaries couldn't have been reduced through education and employment policy, because the incoming labour government did exactly that, and very successfully.

in addition, her intolerance and her tendency to blame people for their misfortunes while ignoring societal/structural factors are really not going to be helpful in her new role. neither is her disdain for research - the implication being that she doesn't want facts or information to help her make better decisions.

the main concern is that the appointment of ms rankin and mr pilbrow is going to cause some major divisions between the seven commissioners. and if ever there was proof of that, it's in this press release from chief families commissioner jan pryor, "welcoming" the two new appointees:

The Commission is also aware of Ms Rankin’s commitment to the prevention of child abuse and shares her concern about this issue.

It was this shared concern that led the Board to its unanimous decision to support the new child discipline law....

The law is working well and is achieving what was intended - parents who are charged with assaulting a child can no longer defend themselves in court by claiming they were using reasonable force to discipline the child.

The Commission’s reasons for supporting the law have not changed.

We based our position on research which shows very clearly that positive parenting strategies (such as rewarding good behaviour and distracting young children and ignoring minor unwanted behaviour) are far more effective and safer than physical punishment. Research also shows that most child abuse cases begin as physical punishment. There are risks that smacking can escalate to abuse - and the harder a child is hit, the more damaging it is for their future wellbeing. Hitting children also models violence as a way of resolving conflict.

One of the objectives of law reform was to make the law congruent with positive non-violent parenting messages and the law now clearly states that there is no legal justification for the use of force to correct a child’s behaviour.

This is a direct message to parents encouraging them to use strategies for managing their child’s behaviour that do not include smacking or hitting.

this appears to be a direct dig at both appointees, but particularly at ms rankin who actively and publicly campaigned against the changes to s59 of the crimes act. not a good sign. it seems that the government is keen on this organisation failing, so they'll have an excuse to scrap it. it's not like they ever valued it, given their opposition to its formation and countless questions in the house implying it's a total waste of time.

a waste of time having an idependent body advocate for family friendly policies? says a lot about the values of this government.


Ben said...

I think it is essential to have someone on the Commission who has some grasp of reality and isn't living in a middle class ivory tower.

The fundamental view of many seems to be a marxist one that inequality is due to oppressive environments. It is important to have someone who is less likely to be coming from this standard sociology viewpoint.

stargazer said...

pretty insulting to the other commissioners, ben. you sound like all the bush campaigners in 2000 and mccain supporters of 2008 who deride "book-learning" in order to belittle the accomplishments of their opponents. as if being ignorant is a good thing, and getting an education and doing research to understand the world is a bad thing. i'm sorry but "ivory tower" is just a nonsense phrase to excuse ignorance.

does it not occur to you ben that these people might have children and wider families too? that they can have both life experience and academic experience? but no, you're happy to ignore their life experience but not rankin's. can't see why.

as for oppressive environments, are you saying that had nia glassie lived, the abuse she suffered would have had no impact on her whatsoever? i'm sorry but everyone is a product of their environment, and had you been born in a certain region of afghanistan and gone through a war with the soviets, a civil war and a bombardment by the west, i'd suggest that you wouldn't have exactly the same view of the world that you do now. i'd suggest that those experiences would affect the way you think, what you believe, and how well able you are to function as an individual. changing the environment and culture can have a huge impact on the behaviour and choices of an individual, and i'm sure you know that pretty well.