The Hon John Howard, Australian Prime Minister, has recently announced the effective annexation of the Northern Territory by the federal government due to a crisis of widespread child abuse amongst the indigenous population. In his own words:
The level of intervention here is quite dramatic and quite sweeping. We ought not to not mince words, we are in effect supplanting the Northern Territory Government in many of the areas of responsibility.Others have discussed the timing, motivation and political effect of this move (this is a very sudden and dramatic move on an issue that has been reported for decades), as well as the more important question of whether it will actually help to reduce abuse. These are complex questions on which I have hunches, but little expertise. However, one thing that grabbed my attention while listening to Mr Howard's defence of his actions was his appeal to the logic of the end justifying the means:
Interviewer: This appears to be a blow at any semblance of self-determination.Later he said:
John Howard: Well, some may see it that way, but is that more important than fixing the problem? I mean, see, this has been the problem with so many of the approaches in the past to indigenous affairs, that doctrines and notions have been given greater prominence than outcomes and solutions.
I don't think you can respect power structures in these communities when clearly those structures have failed to deliver the right outcomes, and you've got to, as in always, you've got to pay on results.Does the end ever justify the means?
All quotes can be found in this interview on ABC's Lateline.
UPDATE: Thanks to all those who have commented on this very complex issue. A number of the comments have helped clarify my original question. The issue is not so much about the ends justifying the means as the intention of certain (very worthy) ends being used to justify potentially ill-conceived, ineffective or even self-defeating means.
UPDATE #2: It is worth at least reading this summary report from the NT government inquiry. H/T CraigS.
UPDATE #3: My local federal MP, Tanya Plibersek, talks sense on the issue in today's (27th June) SMH. Again, H/T CraigS. She doesn't, however, touch on the issue of empowerment/ownership - bringing local communities on board, which also means listening to their concerns and being willing to negotiate.