IDO not think that welfarism minister Jenny Macklin has yet had the acclaim she deserves for a great Labor achievement announced this week - that government spending on indigenous Australians has reached, in average, about $250,000 per Aboriginal family a year. Macklin's own solid contribution has been to increase this sum by about 10 per cent, or $25,000 a family, since Julia Gillard took Labor into minority government.
This, in the right hands, would be more than enough to put every Aboriginal child in a top GPS private school - indeed boarding schools for the remote-living ones, plus full private health insurance, flash cars, rentals or mortgages in the better suburbs and, probably, pheasant under glass for dinner every other day. Even if a proportion squandered a bit on grog and drugs, as some politicians do, there would probably be enough left over to ensure that no one was undernourished.
All that stands between now and this ideal state of affairs is the passage of most of this money directly to Aborigines, instead of the present system, which sees the transition ''mediated'' by white public servants at a cost, per Aboriginal family, of an average of about $220,000 a year. Under Macklin, the Aboriginal family averages only about $30,000, and, for many, even the spending of that is carefully and paternalistically ''managed'' by Auntie Jenny.
There are, on average, nearly two non-Aboriginal public servants ministering to the ''needs'' of Aboriginal people for every Aboriginal family. That may be as many as 100,000 people, once one counts or fractions in health workers, teachers, policemen, social workers and the risk managers, bookkeepers, equal opportunity officers, army public relations people, human resource managers and co-ordinators-general required to keep their shows on the road.
In some regions, such as the Northern Territory, and the more rural parts of NSW, Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia, white folk living off the dollar generated by Aboriginal need is what passes as industry.
These selfless people cannot do it in a vacuum, of course. They require Toyotas, computers, housing, water, sewerage, hardship allowances, guarantees of personal safety and so on - all indeed before any such things are delivered to the subjects of their attentions. Who could begrudge them? That spending activity - again going almost invariably to non-Aborigines - creates, as in Canberra, a ''private sector'' of accountants, dentists, union organisers, Labor members of parliament and so on, to service them. A wonderful system, the more so for the moral certainty of its current administrators, that they know best, that their measures are saving one half of each family from the other half, that they are, somehow, in a process of ''weaning'' these overdependent people from their addiction to welfare and sitting down, and that they are also Closing The Gap on Aboriginal disadvantage. Each debatable.
One could call the Macklin system ''royalties'' - unearned income of the type Gina Rinehart gets - and cut out the middlemen, and women. They could instead be sent to mining communities, where there are social problems and a shortage of labour. Cheques could flow direct to Mount Druitt (about half of the indigenous population live in cities), Dubbo (another quarter or so in large towns and regional cities) and Docker River, where new spending capacity might encourage the entry of some services provided on economic rather than welfare grounds. Then the benighted recipients could make videos - as Gina Rinehart has - telling lazy Australians the world doesn't owe them a living, to get real jobs and stop whingeing.