Democrats’ Indigenous Affairs spokesperson, Senator Andrew Bartlett, says it is essential that a Senate Committee properly examines the federal government’s proposed laws relating to the intervention in the Northern Territory’s Aboriginal communities.
"You cannot claim to want to help Aboriginal children, yet refuse to listen to any views about how best to do this that differ from your own," Senator Bartlett said.
"It should be ringing serious alarm bells that the authors of the Little Children Are Sacred report are now saying they feel ‘betrayed and disappointed’ and that ‘not a single action that the Commonwealth has taken so far corresponds with a single recommendation’ of the report.
"It is critical that this government intervention not fail Aboriginal children once again, and it would be a dereliction of duty for the Senate not to spend a few weeks consulting with the people in the Northern Territory who are most affected by the legislation and most familiar with the issues it seeks to address.
"A Senate Committee could easily spend the three week non-sitting period when APEC is being held to do some quick but vital information gathering from the Territory."
Senator Bartlett spent four days in Darwin and Alice Springs last week seeking the views of a wide range of groups and individuals.
"I believe that both Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in the Territory see the federal government’s intervention as a major opportunity to finally start dealing with the serious issues and disadvantages confronting Aboriginal children and families. But there is also serious anxiety and concern about the workability of some of the government’s plans.
"If we genuinely want to do what’s right for the children, it would be a dereliction of duty for the Senate not to listen to those concerns.
"The government has previously sought to smear people as putting the safety of children at risk if they raise concerns about any details of the government’s approach or asked for any consultation. I certainly won’t be cowed from saying what I believe because of juvenile taunts and smears."