International Papers

The Pied Piper of Darwin 

An Australian court ruling put the “stolen generation” of Aboriginal children at the top of the country’s news agenda this weekend. As many as 100,000 children of Aboriginal mothers and European fathers were taken from their parents between 1910 and 1970; most were placed in children’s homes and forbidden to see their families in an attempt to assimilate them into white society. On Friday, a judge in the Northern Territory ruled against Lorna Cubillo and Peter Gunner, who sought financial compensation for the psychological trauma, emotional distress, and cultural isolation caused by being removed from their families. The judge found that both had been victimized in the homes—Cubillo was viciously beaten and “starved of affection,” and Gunner was sexually assaulted—but he said there was insufficient evidence to prove the authorities had acted against their best interests. According to Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post, “He said the law had allowed mixed-blood Aboriginal children to be taken into care even if it was against the wishes of their families.”

Most editorials focused on the gap between justice and the legalities of the case. An op-ed in the Age of Melbourne said, “[T]he gulf that separates what justice requires and what the law has delivered is nightmarishly wide indeed.” Following the ruling, there were calls for members of the stolen generation to be compensated by a reparations tribunal, similar to programs established in New Zealand, Canada, and South Africa. The government ruled out a tribunal, leading the Daily Telegraph of New South Wales to begin its news report on the topic, “The taxpayer will continue to pay for expensive court battles over stolen Aboriginal children rather than set up a fund to compensate them.” Australian Opposition Leader Kim Beazley supported reparations, so that claimants could avoid “the trauma and legal expense of the legal processes where the money ends up in the pockets of the lawyers and not those who have been traumatized.” An editorial in the Age agreed that the “deeper lesson” in the ruling “is that the law is an imperfect and unreliable instrument for redressing [Australia’s] long history of injustice [against indigenous Australians].” It concluded:

More than ever, the great questions of an apology, and of possible reparations, have been shown to be primarily matters to be decided by the nation’s political leaders and by all of us, the people whom they represent.

Aides to Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian said his first overseas trip since taking office in March is “vital to counter Beijing’s attempts to woo away the island’s allies, particularly those in impoverished Africa,” according to the South China Morning Post. The Hong Kong iMail said, “[M]ost nations have cut their links [to Taiwan] over recent years because they know they are likely to get a favourable business reaction from the mainland if they do so.” Chen will visit six countries in Latin America and West Africa that are among the 29 nations still giving diplomatic recognition to Taiwan rather than to mainland China. Most stories focused on Chen’s decision to respect the wishes of U.S. authorities by declining to meet with House members during his layover in Los Angeles Sunday and his rejection of the “checkbook diplomacy” reportedly used by the previous Kuomintang (KMT) administration to keep allies sweet. Last week, the Nicaraguan foreign minister demanded that Chen honor a KMT pledge of $100 million in aid, which led the Taiwanese government to declare that no new aid commitments would be made during the trip. Under the headline, “It’s stupid to buy diplomatic ties,” an editorial in the Taipei Times declared, somewhat unrealistically:

Under escalating threats from China, Chen’s trip is actually a response to a provocation of war. … A number of countries have … exploited cross-strait competition, inviting bids from both sides and treating the two sides as “big spenders.” This buying of diplomatic ties and the auctioning that has now become a feature are simply foolish. If only the two sides could agree to a cease-fire, and apply these resources to domestic development, just imagine the kind of benefits their people would enjoy.

McDomination: Russia’s St. Petersburg Times declared “McTyranny More Scary Than Putin” in an editorial Friday. Reporting that, after two years of conflict, McDonald’s agreed to recognize a union at the company’s Moscow food-processing plant—only the second time the company has allowed workers to unionize (a group in New Zealand was the first)—the paper worried that “the public seems to have lost its right to ask questions about business practices that may be harmful to public health or the environment.” It concluded:

For all the talk of Vladimir Putin as a possible threat to freedom, it is still far safer for this newspaper to criticize Putin than a company like McDonald’s. So who is the real threat to freedom in the 21st century—the Kremlin or the multinational corporation?