Bartlett's Blog

Andrew Bartlett has been active in politics for over 20 years, including as a Queensland Senator from 1997-2008. This blog started in 2004 and reflects his own views, independent of any political party or organisation.

NT legislation set to be bulldozed through Senate

The federal government’s legislation relating to the Northern Territory is finally starting to appear around the place. According to Minister Brough the entire package was only finalised at 1pm Sunday. It started providing copies of the legislation to people on the Monday. It will be introduced into the House of Representatives today (Tuesday) and the government’s intention is for it to be passed tonight.

I have also been informed that the government intends bringing the legislation on for debate in the Senate tomorrow, with the aim of having it voted on by Thursday. Efforts by myself and others to seek to ensure a Senate Committee can look at the new laws and give Aboriginal people and others from the Northern Territory the chance to have a say seem set to be squashed by the government.

Apart from the appropriation Bills, which are required to authorise the expenditure of extra money, there are three other Bills which come to a total of 365 pages.They cover a range of complex measures including the takeover of Aboriginal land, quarantining of welfare payments, a range of exemptions from the Racial Discrimination Act, removal of consideration of customary law and practices, widespread alcohol restrictions, controls over the use of computers, takeovers of the administration of Aboriginal councils and no doubt more I have yet to identify. There is an exemption to the alcohol restrictions for recreational fishers in their boats – trying to stop the rivers of grog, while still allowing grog on the river.

The government originally insisted that the whole intervention would cost “tens of millions” of dollars, and slagged off anybody who said that would be impossible. We are now told that it will cost over $500 million for the first year alone. It is good that reality seems to have finally struck in this area, but is unfortunate that anyone who raises queries or concerns are still being responded to with smears that we don’t care about the children. If the government is genuine in their statements that they are in this for “the long-haul” (and if Labor is genuine in providing their in principle support), then this $500 million will just be the start. Respected academic Jon Altman, who has been examining this area for years, estimates at least $4 billion will be needed.


58 Comments, Comment or Ping

  1. red crab

    looks as though you will have your work cut out for you in the next couple of days andrew.
    i wont comment because i feel that this is not good hopefully this govt will get what it diservies soon and then hopefully the next govt will have a better aproach to this problem.
    i can not see anything in this but some political agenda from howard .

  2. Is there any option to appeal to the Governor General or Queen to refuse to give ascent until due process has been properly followed?

  3. Aron

    Yes, the lack of process and transparency in this government since it got control of the Senate is shameful. You’d think spending half a billion to 4billion would be worth more than a few hours in parliamentary scrutiny, or lack thereof.

    No doubt government cronies will be chief among the benificiaries.

  4. The Feral Abacus

    JT I can’t remember the last time the Queen or the GG withheld assent. I don’t think its a reliable tactic, rather that its a last ditch attempt after all other moves have failed.

    As far as I can see, the govt hasn’t deviated from due process (in the technical sense); what we have seen are departures from convention in terms of providing reasonable time to review & debate legislation.

    The only right to appeal on that is through the ballot box.

  5. FA

    1975 is the precedent

    But I fear you are correct.
    The trouble with waiting for the election is the damage will allready be done. The ALP have not even campaigned against this stuff, the news today say they still give in principle support, even if their amendments are defeated. I can’t see them repealing this legislation or offering anything better, in the next few years at least, enough time for things to get beyond the point of no return.
    This massive budget, apart from being a gross waste of money itself, will empty the kitty in indigenous affairs. There will be no money for real programs.

    By the end of the week we will have returned to the early 1960’s in indigenous policy.

  6. It is difficult to find the words that adequately cover my feelings over this latest divisive and racist tactic of the Howard government. The only people who don’t want abusers taken before the coursts and children protected (all children) are the perpatrators. I resent as offensive, the mantra of Mal Brough and Howard, that questioning is akin to sanctioning abuse, or the ‘to reason is treason’ response.

    This government has had 11 years to address this issue, and other vital areas of concern such as, housing, education, health, substance abuse, employment and many emotional and medical repercussions of the stolen generations horror, and the removal by the Howard government of not only ATSIC, but any viable and empowering alternative. 13 reports, 3 of them by the Howard government, and now they CARE?

    The only answer to issues that involve human beings is the ‘jack boot approach’ by Howard and his too eager band of ‘assistants’. Asylum seekers, anti-terror laws, IR laws, welfare to work, Iraq and many more. I abhor these tactics, and I hate racism. It’s unjust, unreasonable, irrational, destructive, stupid and always wrong!Why get rid of the Anti-racial protections? What do they intend to do that’s racist? Or could be legally challenged as racist? I have a right to know – I live here!

    I want someone to please explain to me, why you need to remove indigenous peoples’sovereignity over their land(after big fights to get it)in order to protect children. I believe, that this is a despicable move, to tie this stealth into child protection. I see it as an option for more uranium mining, exploration etc, and open slather by mining companies to explore for other ‘valuable’ and saleable commodities. Not to mention a nuclear waste dump! This is despicable, and I will not be put off by Howard or Brough’s insults, that asking questions and expecting answers, automatically means, that I support child abuse. How disgusting is that?

  7. ken

    It would be interesting if some people attempted to apply their apparent regard for decnecy and non rascism (abuse) etc to themsleves in their own commetns on those they disapprove of. Notwithstadbning – Listening to Brough today in the second reading speech as oppoesed to the above sort of rhetoric it is hard not to see HIM as being either weirdly genurine and beleiving in what he is doing or whacky or both.

    Over time we all either as governmetns, organsiaiotn or individuals have alwasy had time to do things – some we do, some we dont get around to, its a fallacious argument that every single thing no matter what should have been done before – ideal but not practical, to say that nothing has been done is also silly and reflects a lack of knowlrdge of governmetn appropraitiosn and is insulting to people who try to do tehir best irrespectiev of who is in power. That things have been done that some disapprove of is not the same as nothing.

    However its also patently obvious that this is seen and has been been energised becasue of the electoral cycle, so one could say be thankful for elections.

    One thing i did hear in the Minsters second reading speech that the land that is to be approrpaited for a 5 yeara period is 0.1% of 1% of aboriginal land. Which seems rather a meagre effrot for a full blown land grabn!!

    Andrew is that correct or is the Minster lets say fudging, also could you keep a running tally, possiblwe as a side bar for us all to see of a) the number of children stolen and b) the number of mining leases granted as these seem to be the particualr government objectievs most favoured by some of your poseters.

  8. Ken,”to say that nothing has been done is also silly and reflects a lack of knowlrdge of governmetn appropraitiosn” It’s just a matter of priorities Ken. When I voted “yes” in the 1967 referendum I expected better than this. There can be few things more important than stopping sexual abuse of all children. There’s been 13 reports, 3 of them theirs. Clare Martin, Nt wrote to Howard last year,she’s still waiting a reply.
    I’ve seen the reports, the talk fests; I’ve listened to the many women and elders calling for action, I’ve watched the budgets and each year seen the callous disregard for aboriginal disadvantage. Who got rid of ATSIC and failed to replace it with people empowered to ask for action? What about the $36 billion last year in tax cuts over 4 years, $31billion in this budget over 4 years, both for those receiving $100,000per year. $400 million on a high security detention centre on Xmas Island, $2 billion in self advertising?Howard’s spent more than $600,000(stated cost so far for NT) on his travels, $13,000 for one day at the cricket. Hardly examples, of doing your best. Other countries have improved the life expectancy of indigenous peoples, we have not. The infant mortality rate in Cuba is better than ours. Rheumatic fever and its life long serious health problems were removed from the broader community 50 years ago-the solution was improved housing and sanitation. If it still occurred in as high numbers as in aboriginal kids, there’d be an uproar. The same applies to all health, education,housing and employment prospects and real training. My point about resuming aboriginal land is valid to the argument. Where else does it happen, and why? Give examples Ken!
    The fact is that coalition governments have been in power for 40 of the last 53 years. There’s money for wars and ASIO etc. The aboriginal population in the country is less than 500,000 people. They deserve better. This government deserves to be condemned, and I do. They’re a disgrace.

  9. Senator, I hope that when this bill is reviewed in the Senate on Friday you will ask for what the original Wild report did not, proof to the claim that there is a child abuse epidemic.

    This would seem to be necessary given that Mal Brough’s office has apprently said (The 7.30 Report) that the 500 medical checks already carried out have not resulted in a single police referral.

  10. paul walter

    Have had a savvy acquaintance suggest the avenue for legal appeals could lie in the international courts, involving race discrimination provisions ( not much hope with the current high court, packed with gutless stooges as it is ).
    Watched transfixed at the macabre “Cry Baby Johnny Ray” performance from Brough on Latteline tonight, as Jones nursed him through one of the most turgid Best Actress-nominated performances have EVER witnessed on that prostituted mess of what was once a fine current affairs show.
    He didn’t care how much it bored the audience and cost taxpayers, despite Howard saying with the brilliant economic money-managers in governemt, unlike those state clowns, it would only in the tens of $millions, not $billions, a matter of weeks ago.. Brough would go to sleep with a clear conscience, he maintained, releived at last that the little aboriginal children were safe thanks to the heroinic Sarah Bernhardting of Howard and himself.
    And those nasty Labor states would just have to ritheir teeth in frustration, at the thought that those little children now assuredly sleeping safely for the first time in history, until the wicked Rudd and co got in and overturned it all.
    By the end I was yearning even for Downer. Yes, Downer!
    Could even he not been more rational and tolerable against this overwrought melodrama presented on ABC as a sorry excuse for “current affairs” involving an individual linked a month ago by Michelle Grattan of the Age with rorting of Aboriginal funds; in effect stealing, like wheat from a blind fowl, from those selfsame “little children”?

  11. Graham Bell

    Andrew Bartlett:
    You and your fellow Senators - of all political persuasions – are our last hope to preserve both a vestige of democracy here and the unity of the Commonwealth Of Australia.

    If this obscenity goes through, a world-wide scramble to carve up the resource-rich carcass of Australia WILL follow, swiftly and inevitably.

    John Tracy [2] and The Feral Abacus [4]:
    the Governor-General, Major General Michael Jeffrey, is duty bound to REFUSE ASSENT to this
    500-page evil. To do so would require courage, firmness and vigour – which he may have had in full measure when he was a young man but does he have that now?

    I may seem naive but do I feel that Mal Brough himself, like most other Australians, is genuinely concerned about the wefare of our Aboriginal fellow citizens but, like some of the kind-hearted missionaries in a bygone era, his well-meaning actions will bring far worse tragedies down on Aborigines and non-Aborigines alike.

  12. red crab

    well we will soon find out if there are any coalition or oposition senators who are men of conviction and honor .or just howard govt rubber stamps.
    can thease new laws be used on anyone in this country if the govt wishes to interfear in any perseaved community problem anywhere.

  13. It must be so frustrating for you as a parliamentarian having to cope with this kind of ramming through of legislation.

    I am angry but somewhat satisfied today for getting this letter published in The Australian. The letter following mine is even better…

  14. philip travers

    Ian Causley local member for Page was on Lismore ABC this morning ,and basically said the abuse of women Aboriginals was very large in number and he was shocked.Leading to him allowing his office in Canberra to be used by Aitken of The Southern Cross University to lobby on behalf of the aboriginal matters of abuse of children young men women.Well I must admit Ian is a suorising person sometimes.But what was said by Aitkin ,she complained to the Police,and essentially nothing was taken up re,many who had a offended at least once.[it maybe better to see if this was recorded in some way].What I find difficult to accept,is the easy manner the Police were sort of blamed,when surely, and it wasnt mentioned some sort of medical evidence of physical abuse is necessary to proceed in any of these cases.It wasnt directly stated the link between this evidence related matter,and if there had been a Police failure.The University campus at Lismore was once notorious for a woman criminologist who made a headline or two..and the local ABC should clear up, this matter of their own connections with that woman,and, insure, that what was on the radio today was a report that had a fair intention.There are other professionals involved in abuse of children who may have failed their jobs under state procedures.It might be wise of Ian Causley to keep a watching brief.

  15. The Feral Abacus

    Graham Bell, GG Jeffrey may very well have a moral obligation to refuse assent if he decides that the legislation – in whatever form it emerges from Parliament – is excessively harsh or unjust. Against that obligation he would have to balance his obligation to not obstruct the intent of a democratically-elected government, ie to place his own decision-making above that of the representatives of the Australian community. So he would need to be extremely sure of his grounds, and he would want to be confident that the issue was sufficiently crucial to justify intervening in the democratic process. And I’m sure that he’d be mindful of the damaging effects of the events of 1975.

    So I wouldn’t count on vice-regal intervention. In any case, it would be no more than a temporary moral victory. If Howard is intent on pushing ahead with this course of action, he’d easily dismiss the GG, replace him with a party hack and get the assent. There’d be some political awkwardness to be brazened through, but Howard has many times demonstrated his ability to weather political storms. It’s not difficult to visualise Howard’s speech sadly announcing that he had no other option than to dismiss the GG for providing support to the most repugnant of criminals, paedophiles.

    I don’t think that we can count on the system coming up with the right result on this issue. Its up to the public at large to make sure that there will be hell to pay on election day should the govt persist with its plans. While I’m sure that the Libs/Nats have done their polling, and determined that this is a vote-winner in areas where they need to pick up seats, they’re not invulnerable to public criticism. Howard is particularly dependent on Sydney talkback radio. If someone like John Laws could be convinced to run a campaign that critically examine the issues, I reckon we’d see the govt rapidly modify its policy.

  16. Daniel and Monique – great letters! The fact that The Australian published them hopefully means, that their motive was out of concern for indigenous disadvantage not helping Howard out of his mess – of his own making.

    I started to watch (listened from a couple of rooms away) the Lateline interview with Mal Brough. The lead in to the story was enough for me, I ran to zap the TV off! Sickening! Tony Jones is getting worse, if that’s possible. I think I’ll just tape it in future, and not bother staying up. Truly! Talk about a ‘sweetheart’ deal or should I call it “brough-love”

    It’s great to know that people like Andrew and a few others in parliament, are people of decency, compassion, and a sense of justice and democracy. If the government is really fair dinkum, the exclusion of persuing justice for and with indigenous people, will only cause further resentment, anger and of course distress. I’d just like to apologize to aboriginal people for this double shame that we are witnessing now. After 11 years of nothingness, it’s a disgrace!

    By the way, if I hear any more about that word ‘ECONOMY’ I’ll burst. Would someone please take them(Howard,Costello etc) aside and quietly tell them that, THERE’S MORE TO A COUNTRY AND ITS CITIZENS THAN THE BLOODY ECONOMY! AAAAAAhhhhhhhrrrr!!!!
    Where can I hide until the day of the election?

  17. The G.G. could be an option if Her Majesty’s opposition were not snivelling weazels.

  18. I sure hope that the Australian government changes soon. The indigenous aboriginal people are not merely numbers, objects, statistical entities, etc. They are real people, and they must be given the respect that all people deserve. I’ve written about this somewhat in my Indigenous Issues Today blog. Glad to see that there are others who feel the same.

  19. Graham Bell

    Paul Walter:
    Legal action on race discrimination is only a very tiny part of the international storm that will burst on Australia.

    Australia. You know, that nation of incredibly rich and grossly immoral racists whose police are always murdering native people and whose soldiers in Iraq are killing unarmed Moslems every day for George Bush; whose Navy throws children overboard into the ocean.

    Monsterously untrue? Of course!

    However, it’s perceptions, not facts, that sway the opinions of ordinary people in other countries [most of whom would never have met an Australian themselves] and the political and corporate leaders of these countries are well aware of that.

    There has never been a war or a conquest or an act of piracy that did not have the veneer of a moral cause covering up all the usual excuses for taking action. What has just happened to Aborigines makes such a perfect cause.

    If Australia was resource-poor, nobody would give a damn what happened to a minority group here.

    However, Australia is rich in uranium, coal and gas, industrial metals, arable land and all sorts of other treasures; these make Australia very attractive to the greedy and the ambitious who thus have powerful incentives to appear to be deeply concerned about the well-being of Australian Aborigines …. for as long as is convenient [and once Aborigines had served their purpose they could be dumped – again].

    This 500 page licence to dominate Aborigines – which was passed by the House of Reps. – is rapidly turning into a licence for the rest of the world to interfere directly in Australian internal affairs …. for their own benefit and profit and to the detriment of all Australians of whatever race.

  20. paul walter

    Too right, Graham Bell. Would have used the term ‘globalisation’
    meself. It is the defining force for Australian society; post “golden age” and makes it harder and harder for us to keep up standards in a “community” sense.
    The model with emphasis on the national project and traditional Westminster democracy worked well for much of the twentieth century, but here as elsewhere capitalism found a way to break the shackles that had had it the servant of civilization rather than its master.
    Because, of course, of the wealth. Australians wonder how they could be be so clever, but much of it is big lottery size slice of luck beinghere of all places on the planet.
    It’s ideology is neoliberalism; involves abstract economic systematisation based on a self- referential loaded rationale as its fait accompli and justification.
    It seems to have problems questioning its own assumptions and collapses to the level of metanarrative that it accuses Marxism and Religion of being exemplary of.
    Watching the Senate last night, hardcore ideologues like Munchkin, Fiearravantiwells, Brandis Coonan and Abetz had me convinced it finally ends its journey as a form of soft-core falangism. Not much heart, at all.

  21. Graham Bell

    The Feral Abacus:
    Thanks for your thoughtful comment. There is no danger whatsoever, in the issue before us, of the Governor General placing

    “his own decision-making above that of the representatives of the Australian community”.

    None! He is a Major General who served in SAS; as such he is very well-trained indeed in knowing the difference between democracy and tyrrany. Doing his duty cannot be construed as “interfering”.

    His duty to his sovereign, to his own office, to the institution of Parliament, to the people of Australia is crystal clear. His duty is to prevent the blatant abuse of political power and the imperilling of the people for whom he has accepted responsibility. He has the duty to stand above any personal friendships, obligations or fears – and if this means he has no choice but “to bite the hand that feeds him” then so be it. The ghost of Sir John Kerr must not terrify him out of doing his duty. Nor must he be frightened of whatever the political garbage-sifters and blackmailers may fabricate against him if he doesn’t “behave himself” ….

    If he stands up for parliamentary democracy then the whole nation will stand behind him. If he still has the concern for his Aboriginal fellow citizens that he has shown before, he will send this obscene unjust bill back to the Parliament and suggest they take the time to debate proper bills that could become law …. just and impatial law.

    John Walter:
    Like it or not, Australia has to adjust to, and wherever possible, benefit from all the changes that the 21st Century brings – including globalization [which may yet last another decade or two]. However, that adjustment cannot be made by committing acts of stupidity that manifestly lead us all into ruin …. and the robbing and abusing Aborigines under the pretence of caring for their welfare and protecting their kiddies is such an act of stupidity.

  22. ken

    yes your right Graham – like it or not the boat is sailing and we cant just jump off or throw in the anchor – how the young people of tomorrw manage that is the future – not old fogies such as us looking back to the golden yore of the past.

  23. Jeffrey G

    The Government really stifled debate yesterday in the Senate and it is typical of how things have gone for the past 26 months.

    I heard a lot of your speech on radio Andrew and you sounded great. More than anyone, you have highlighted the urgency and pushed the need for indigenous issues to be at the forefront of the national agenda, yet Senator Abetz had the nerve to accuse you of delaying the process and risking the wellbeing of children. What a flea!

    The major parties don’t care about indigenous issues as much as they care about getting elected. You Democrat Senators fulfil an important role in the Senate.

  24. Brough’s solution to child abuse is to change the powers of the Australian Crime Commission to investigate child abuse and something called “Aboriginal violence”. To do this the amendments remove the requirement that the ACC investigates crimes which have a federal component or cross State boundaries. The ACC has the power to coerce witnesses (and these powers are further specified in the current amendments)on the presumption that it was set up to investigate organised crime and the like.
    I would like to know when child abuse became organised (OK Brough made a silly comment about chld abuse rings once on Lateline, but seriously) and how these powers are going to assist anyone in the NT to investigate cases of child abuse. I think not!

    Further we should all be very concerned about these amendments since they give the ACC to intervene in any criminal investiation that comes under State law.
    This is crystallnacht – oz style.

  25. Graham Bell


    Thanks for alerting us to what is happening with ACC, the implications of which look like going a long way beyond just bringing to justice several perverts who tampered with Aboriginal kiddies.

    Andrew Bartlett:

    “Nature abhors a vacuum” so it looks like you’ve become the DE FACTO Shadow Minister for Aboriginal Affairs [as well as for the Homeless, for Refugees and for Minority Justice]; pity you can’t get the Higher Duties Allowance for doing the job. :-)

    Any luck with persuading your fellow Senators to avert the impending tragedy while it is still possible to do so?

  26. The Feral Abacus

    Graham Bell – thanks for your response, & apologies for not getting back to you at LP.

    Although I find your confidence in GG Jeffrey’s abilities reassuring, there is more to consider here than whether he is well-equipped to exercise sound judgement. Its crucial that the GG is perceived as acting in the best interest of the country, and in a manner that is appropriate for the office. If he should elect to intervene in some way, it must be done in a way that does not establish a precedent that could have subsequent adverse consequences, and cannot be portrayed as being partisan – essentially an impossible task in the current climate.

    And there remains the difficulty that the GG is readily replaced by the Government.

    It seems to me to be terribly important that the GG is not turned into some sort of legislative umpire. The system has been set up in such a way that the GG is notionally invested with powers that are in reality never to be exercised. Messing around with that balance is likely to have nasty repercussions.

    We find ourselves in circumstances where the Australian public has elected a government that is becoming increasingly erratic. In my view we shouldn’t be appealing to a higher authority to intervene; rather it is up to the Australian public to fix the problem that it has created.

  27. In response to Piping Shrike’s query (#9), I’m afraid I only had 8 minutes to ask questions (and receive answers) of the government officials about all of the legislation and the wider implementation measures, so I didn’t get a chance to ask this one. I’ve put a written question in to the department though, so if I get any answer of substance, I will give details here.

  28. Graham Bell

    The Feral Abacus [on 26]:

    Governments that have an overall majority do indeed have the right to advance their programs through well-debated bills; that’s democracy in action …. and I wouldn’t have it otherwise …. but this is something completely different, something malevolent and dangerous.

    Whilst not being a legislative umpire, the Governor General does have powers that can be used but only in a grave emergency or in the circumstance of an outrageous malicious abuse of power. Rather like the fire extinguisher on the wall – it’s there ready to be used and yet hopefully never needed. Sadly, this blatant bullying of Aborigines together with this egregious assault on our parliamentary system is such a circumstance …. and that protective power of the Governor General should now be used..

    If the Senate cannot prevent the impending tragedy, then it will be up to the Governor General alone to do so by standing up to the prime minister and by asserting that both Houses must reflect on what they have committed and by asking they debate the whole thing properly.

    He is our last hope.

    The High Court, being as slow as the proverbial, may eventually have views on legality of these attacks on Aborigines and on democracy but it is irrelevant in preventing tragedy.

    Precedent? Look at how precedent is made. Precedent is a guide to wise and informed decision making; precedent should never be used as an excuse for inaction when firm action and leadership are called for.

  29. The Feral Abacus

    Thankyou, Graham Bell, for compelling me to think through these issues in detail. Under normal circumstance, our debate would be an arcane & theoretical argument. Regrettably, it now has currency & urgency.

    Our debate revolves around two sets of issues – those of the conventions of governance , & those of the ways that indigenous communities are dealt with by our governments.

    I suspect that we are in near-complete agreement about indigenous self-determination, & on the role that the public service would best play in the interactions between governments & indigenous communities. I also think we are in substantial agreement regarding the child abuse ‘emergency’ legislation in its current form.

    Where we differ is in determining the best response to the challenge posed by the legislation, given the conventions of our political system. My view is that while it is within the realm of the possible for the G-G to withhold assent – & I don’t object to it as such – its such a long-shot last-ditch measure that we should be seeking ways to change the Govt’s course before the legislation is passed through the Senate.

    If the legislation is passed, it could become law by two paths 1) the G-G gives assent, possibly for the sorts of reasons I outlined earlier, or 2) he withholds assent, is dismissed by the Govt & replaced by a more pliable figure who the provides assent. My guess is the first path is the most likely outcome. The second path is the worst of worlds – we get the same legislation, an inferior person in the G-G’s role, & further erosion of the standing of the G-G’s position. (ctd)

  30. The Feral Abacus

    …So I say our immediate priority should be active, vocal discussion of the pros & cons of the legislative package, & of the needs & desires of remote communities. We need to persuade the government to urgently reconsider its proposals. To do that, we also need to convince the broader public that many aspects of the government’s legislation are innately unfair, & that the proposed cure for child abuse is very likely to cause further severe, long-lasting adverse outcomes for the people who will be subjected to these laws.

    So let’s talk further about the deficiencies of the package, & let’s discuss whatever positive aspects it may possess. I’d also be very interested in hearing from remote communities or from individuals with close connections; how they perceive the ‘emergency’, whether they would like external assistance, how they would like any assistance to be structured, & what form of assistance (if any) they would like.

  31. What stunned me was the lack of the standard formulaic invitation to send in submissions on the “Information about the Inquiry” page, just a contact point if you wanted details about the hearing. Still, it’s good to know that despite the lack of an invitation, at least 70 people said “to hell with worrying about typos” and got submissions in.

    One person did make a touching point about the problem of the need for permits to enter: a worker who’d wanted to do something, couldn’t, and woke up to find one of the kids he’d been working with hanging. Maybe this is the one aspect of the legislation that has merit.

    I hope that all of those writing posts or comments on blogs last Thursday before 8pm were party to one of the 70 submissions. If not, get ready for the next time the government pulls a stunt like this and the ALP rolls over.

    I’ve got some notes on the various RSS feeds available to help, how to make submissions, submissions of different length sent in by myself and mates as samples, etc here if anyone is interested. It’s as simple as emailing “I urge that this bill is accepted/rejected” if that’s all you have time for.

    It’s worth noting that the Water Bill also had a window of less than a day to make a submission. Even Victoria who has a lot of interest in this bill got caught out and didn’t get in a submission.

  32. Graham Bell

    The Feral Abacus:
    Thanks for your thoughful comments. It’s sad that an equally dramatic operation could have brought swift, lasting and long-overdue improvements to the lives of our fellow Australians and brought world-wide renown to this government.

    Instead, the moment these bills are passed, the rest of the world will have the right – even the duty – to INTERVENE directly in Australian internal affairs, if necessary by force.

    Forget about help from our “great-and-powerful friends”; they’ll be hopping in for their chop too. Forget about appealing to the United Nations – they certainly won’t support a regime that has now so stupidly presented itself to the whole world as racist and oppressive.

    For the Governor General to send the bills back for proper debate, even with an election being talked about, is indeed

    ” ” such a long-shot last-ditch measure ” ”

    but for for him to ignore the national integrity and the national security implications would be unthinkable.

    In marked contrast to Sir John Kerr all those years ago, the present Governor General now has overwhelming reasons to ask the Prime Minister to resign his commission and to ask the Coalition parties to form a new government – election campaign or no election campaign.

    I’ve given up on the Senators – with notable exceptions such as the owner of this blog. It’s too late now. Still, it will be handy for the Senate to have its future workload so minutely planned:

    Borders Definition Act 2008.

    Internal Evacuee Resettlement Act 2008.

    Borders Redefinition Act 2008.

    Visiting Forces (Reparations Compliance) Act 2009.

    Borders Redefinition Act 2009.

    Occupying Forces (Reparations Enforcement) Act 2009. etc.

    I just hope and pray that I am wrong …. and that the inevitable will, miraculously, never happen.

  33. In the last couple of days I’ve found out more about the hideous legislation that has been passed in the House of Reps, and probably in the Senate by now. I’m disgusted and sickened by the obscene haste, and the lack of democracy in not allowing more interaction and imput from indigenous people, as stipulated in the report.

    I understand, that in 500-700 pages of legislation, the words “child” or “children” are not mentioned once. Not once! Moreover, there are exploration leases in action that include almost ALL OF THE NORTHERN TERRITORY! It’s becomming abundantly clear, that this so-called ‘emergency’ has little to do with protecting children, but more to do with Howard’s last effort to support the mining and nuclear industry. No wonder they wanted it rushed through parliament.

    Also, there are strict guidelines that must be followed to protect indigenous rights when the Racial Discrimination Act is repealed. Constant vigilance, reporting, and proof of the need, and positive outcomes? None of these avenues have been included in the 500 pages.It is a nonsense to assert, that human rights have to be stamped on to save kids from horrific abuse. These heinous crimes are illegal throughout the country, and the ‘normal’ legal processes should prevail, with particular services, personnel etc in place to reverse disadvantage like housing, health and education. It is a nonsense to penalize parents for children’s non attendance at school, when there’s no school. This affects about 2,000 children – where’s the money for transport or new schools or classrooms. Where are the teachers? Most of the money will be spent on public servants, police etc, when $450 million is needed NOW to just catch up with health needs. I’m angry, disgusted, saddened and horrified, but not surprised. I was not conned.Howard is not a born again non-racist! He did nothing for 11 years.His history goes back 20-30 years to his support for a White Australia Policy. Sickening!

  34. Authoritaran, racist and interventionist welfare law is not restricted to the Federal govt. or N.T.

    The dismissal of human rights and acountability is not new in Qld.

    Picket to demand justice for people with intellectual disabilities and their families. (Brisbane)

    There will be a picket next Wednesday, the 29 August 2007 at 9.00 am. outside the Brisbane Magistrate’s Court, 240 Roma St. Brisbane to demand reform of the Queensland Office of the Adult Guardian.

    The picket will be opened by a traditional Aboriginal dance from Baganan Kurityityin Theresa Creed.

    There will be an open forum during the picket chaired by Drew Hutton. All are welcome to speak.

    more info on Paradigm Oz

    excerpts from Paradigm Oz…..

    “At present Queensland’s Guardianship and Administration Act allows for no accountability or scrutiny from anyone. Even the Attorney General, the elected parliamentarian and member of the state executive whose department the Adult Guardian is a part of , is legislatively unable to demand information and reports from the Adult Guardian or initiate any official investigation of any sort.”

    “These laws, and the incompetence that flows from them are directly responsible for many people with intellectual disabilities being left to fall though the cracks in the system – often ending up in gaol.”

    “In our family’s case as with other Aboriginal families, they are also a significant contributing factor to the over-representation of Aboriginal people in gaols.”

  35. Senator, following Chalmers comments that 700 checks have been done and your written request (#27), do we yet have an idea how many resulted in police referrals?

  36. kartiya jim

    The Northern Territory Police Association is dead set against the Removal of the Permit System in their efforts to combat crime in these communities .The Federal Government ignores them .

    The “opening up” by the Howard Government of these simple Communities to gawking touists and undesirables , will enevitably lead to a dilution of Aboriginal Culture and a loss of unique language skills .

    This really is a return to the days of bad Colonial Policy .

    It’s the AO Neville “Breed them out” Policy in another form .

    Worse,it represents intentional “Cultural Genocide” by Stealth, and John Howard,Mal Brough and their bureaucrats should be condemned in the strongest terms in Parliament and to the World .

  37. CORAL

    I recently saw Mal Brough do the National Press Club address. I thought a lot of what he said seemed quite reasonable.


    It is untrue to say that the only people who don’t want to see perpetrators of child sexual abuse sent to jail are the perpetrators themselves.

    They are protected by their own relatives and friends, and plenty of others with yellow stripes running up their backs.

    The same is true of the white community.


    I consulted the teacher’s husband regarding most of her aboriginal students at Normanton going walkabout. There was no funeral to go to.

    Since then, the aboriginal parents have shown that they place little value on the education of their children.

    The teacher has identified a gifted aboriginal boy. When she spoke with his mother about his needs, she wasn’t interested, and continues to bring her son to school only when she feels like it, just like most of the other parents.

    My social worker friend told me the following. Even in the cities, a high number of aboriginal families have their children taken away, mainly due to drug and alcohol abuse.

    She said the government spends huge sums of money giving aboriginal people a university education so they can go back and assist their communities, but when they get there, they prove to be unreliable.

  38. Andrew,

    please note – I believe the above comment (37) is racial villification.

  39. Onlooker

    Coral, isn’t there a “Spiteful Bigots” blog somewhere that would welcome your opinions?

  40. CORAL

    Relating the experiences of teachers and social workers isn’t racial vilification – nor is it spiteful or bigoted.

    Real experiences are not racism. Claims of racism only stifle reasoned argument, which may be the main aim of some bloggers.

    The teacher and social worker have the best interests of children at heart and are doing their best to be of assistance.

    I think the “Spiteful Bigots” blog should be reserved for those who make false accusations against others who don’t agree with them.

    After discussing the matter a bit further with the social worker, we have come to the following possible conclusion.

    It is very difficult to move people whose living habits have barely left the Stone Age into the 21st century – in only a little over 200 years – when they live in remote locations.

    Having said that, in 1971, I went to college in Brisbane with a full-blooded aboriginal girl. Her father was Neville Wharton. He had some kind of important government job. Does anyone remember him?

    On Stateline recently, I saw some aboriginal mothers who wanted their homes declared “Dry Houses”.

    They said they were sick of people coming in from the bush during the rainy season, getting drunk and vandalising their community. These were decent women, trying to make better lives for their children, with education being a priority. More power to them!

  41. Coral, their “experiences” might not be racist, but the veiws you have ascribed to them are. Which also means that the Aboriginal you are referring to almost certainly “experience” plenty of racism.

    I can also say that, assuming you are describing their views accurately, and that your friend actually is a qualified social worker, then they should hand back their degree and choose a different profession, because they clearly have major competency flaws as a social worker.

    John: yes, its not the most greivous example, but it is none the less.

  42. togret


    What is your point in all this? That there are aboriginal people whose behaviour is not up to the standard the rest of us would like to live by?

    Uh huh. Yup.

    There are ‘white’ people whose behaviour is also not the best. I know of several of them whose behaviour following the baby bonus, or whatever it was called, last year consisted of spending the money on taxi rides to the big smoke, getting maggotted and coming back with some cold KFC ‘for the kids’, who’s been left in their homes unsupervised for 12 hours, some under school age.

    My conclusion is that there are problems with these neglectful parents that have nothing to do with their ethnic ancestry and everything to do with the conditions those individuals find themselves in today – that what is needed is support for the parents and families to work out how to give their kids the best chance in life … maybe they don’t see that future clearly, or maybe they see it more clearly than the judgemental teachers and social workers you claim to know.

    I’d say your friends need a bit of training in cross-cultural communication while they are doing a quick refresher in professional integrity – they should not be discussing their students/clients with you.

    I have had training in both professions – they seem to have breached their Code of Ethics, if they exist.

  43. togret

    I hear that non-Aboriginal task force members, and tourism authorities, are complaining about the ban on alcohol consumption in the National Park that encompasses Uluru, and some of hte other communities that have been successully dry for years.

    It is OK for us white fullas to have grog, just not for Aborigines. One law for one colour skin, another law for another colour, eh?

  44. Donna

    A lot of white kids are serial truants. It’s not a race-based issue by any means.

  45. trishaM

    To find out what’s happening insome commuities, one way is to look at the blogs of Linguists who work in the commutiies affected, and who an speak with the people there (some visiting “explainers” of the new programs coudn’t speak the language, apparently.)

    an example from

    At Ngukurr, there is a community swimming pool. It is clean, free and provides great fun for dozens of kids each day who go there after school and on saturdays to have a good time. the place is run and supervised by a team of local workers who are employed by the CDEP program. When the health dept came to look at the pool, there were no problems found – it was clean and well maintained. The benefits to the pool at Ngukurr are:

    -keeping kids amused and entertained thereby giving parents and grandparents who look after big families in overcrowded houses and little bit of respite
    -improving kids health – swimming in the chlorinated water keeps kids’ skin clean and thereby reducing the stress on the local clinic for treating scabies, skin sores etc. which can be common problems in communities
    -employment and training for local ppl on CDEP who work in the pool, many of whom now have their bronze medallion, a bit of training that comes in very handy.

    So why does Mal Brough get a good work sticker? Cuz he’s scrapping CDEP, which means there will be a lot fewer workers to run the pool (decreased employment). This may mean reduced opening hours. It may also mean that kids will have to pay to use the pool so that workers can be employed to work at the pool. This will reduce the number of kids using the pool, which will increase skin problems/health problems, thereby increasing the demand on the local clinic (greater health costs) and there is potential for greater boredom and less activities for kids who live in a community where there are already very few things to do for entertainment.

  46. CORAL

    Truancy in Brisbane, while it exists, does not come anywhere near the kind of problem this teacher describes.

    Alcoholism is a problem that needs addressing in all communities, whether black, white or brindle, along with many other issues. I’m not a proponent of taking away ALL of the alcohol from anyone. However, those aboriginal women I described have a right to say what is consumed in their homes and by whom. Some have at-risk teenage daughters.

    My father was a gambler. At one time, he was also an alcoholic. If a politician had come along and told Mum that he was putting a large chunk of my father’s salary into a supermarket credit, she would have got down on her knees and kissed his feet.

    I bet there are at least some aboriginal women thinking of doing the same.

    I agree that taking work away from aboriginal (or any) communities is a negative move. Work and social opportunities need to increase.

    The teacher and social worker are not judgemental people. They are looking for answers to the various problems that exist. To say they are not behaving like professionals is an insult.

    Facts are facts. Views based on facts are not racism. If so, statistics are racism also.

    When my son was in Year 7, he participated in the District Baseball Finals. His team’s match was umpired by an aboriginal teacher from a primary school in the north-western suburbs.

    This lady did such a magnificent job of managing the students that, when I got home, I wrote to the Principal of her school praising the high quality of her services.

    Is that racism also???

    I don’t see why people can’t take information at face value in order to find solutions, instead of vilifying those who don’t agree with them on certain issues, and trying to discredit everything they say.

    It seems to me that supporters of paedophilia, in particular, take every opportunity to deflect the debate in this direction.

  47. Donna


    Truancy is a major issue amongst marginalised communities, right here in Brisbane.

    I won’t bother responding to your pedophilia comments, which is obviously a deflection from the responses made to your original post.

    But what I will state is that you are not the voice of the social worker, nor the teacher.

  48. note – now we have defamation as well as racial villification.

  49. I do not suggest censoring the offending comments, they are very instructive. I simply draw Andrew and his readership’s attention to the nature of the comments.

    The racist and defamatory nature of the comments is, unfortunately, quite in line with federal govt. policy in the NT.

  50. Ken

    Only in QLD – bewdiful one day red neck the next. Old Joh is alive and well.

    Better be careful you guys I bet coral has a lawyer freind, or relo at hnad.

  51. Coral says,

    “I don’t see why people can’t take information at face value in order to find solutions, instead of vilifying those who don’t agree with them on certain issues, and trying to discredit everything they say”.

    Coral, it’s called living in a democracy. I don’t have to take what you say on “face value”or what Howard or Mal Brough say either! I like to watch programs like Message Stick and Living Black – creates understanding and acceptance. Books are great too! There’s heaps of factual information out there! Libraries!The internet! The more I learn the angrier I become about racism!

    Using terms such as “full blooded” to describe indigenous people is revolting; it makes human beings sound like race horses or a dogs, and ceased years ago, thankfully, but after the racist assertions re brain size etc. How disgusting? The official method is, that anyone who claims to be an aboriginal person, and/or is acknowledge by their peers as an aboriginal person has the right to assert thus. Like the rest of us, indigenous people come in all shapes and sizes, with a wide variety of ‘colour’ combinations. They also have a wide diversity of abilities, ideas and ideals, just like you and I. The horrors of racism, is to use blanket comments to attest to a group’s behaviours. It’s demoralizing, racist, hurtful and always always wrong! Even the Howard government asserts, that aboriginal people suffer the worst disadvantage in the country. Other countries such as the US, Canada and NZ have made progress in overturning this, we haven’t by comparison. Now, thanks to Howard we’re going backwards.
    Statistics don’t use emotional rhetoric, or give opinions. Go to the ABS website for confirmation.

    You’re not suggesting that anyone who disagrees with you is a supporter of paedophiles, or even their supporters surely? Read your last two paragraphs! I find the inference offensive!

  52. CORAL

    There are certainly supporters of paedophilia contributing to this debate. It is clear that such supporters must know who they are, since I didn’t name anyone. Truth is not defamation and facts are not racism.

    If Naomi wants to compare people with dogs or race horses, that’s her prerogative. It’s not an interest of mine.

    I said nothing about anyone’s brain size, Naomi. You have simply extrapolated in a negative direction. You could try reading for understanding, instead of attack. Ask questions if you don’t understand what others mean.

    I have made no blanket statements. My reference to the Stone Age was an attempt to understand the stage the aboriginal peoples were at when the white man first came here. It could not have been the Iron Age, the Nuclear Age or the Space Age, could it? Perhaps someone can tell us what it was.

    There’s clearly still a gap to be bridged – especially in remote communities.

    If you don’t want to believe what I tell you, fine. Just continue with your reactionary lack of understanding.

    Well yes, Ken, I do have a friend who is a lawyer working in the Family Court. She’s the person I previously mentioned who is forced to send her children to visit a paedophile or be struck off. Don’t you have any friends??

    Donna, I may not be the voice of the teacher or the social worker, but I am reiterating their experiences … THAT’S REAL EXPERIENCES … whether you like them or not.

    In Brisbane, I doubt if we have a 60% truancy rate on any day of the school year, except possibly in the last week of a school term or during a gastrointestinal outbreak or flu epidemic.

    Put yourself into that teacher’s shoes for a moment, and see how you would like it. She moved to a remote location leaving her husband behind her, in order to prepare those kids for school. She loves children. She’s even willing to do ponytails herself to get the kids into the classroom.

    You can’t teach children the foundation of literacy a

  53. CORAL

    She can’t teach children the foundations of literacy and numeracy if they are seldom at school.

    It also isn’t fair to the small number of children (no matter what their colour) who are reliably brought to school each day.

    It isn’t fair to the teacher or her employer either.

  54. togret

    Coral: what you say is quite difficult to understand sometimes – perhaps you should take your own advice about reading back. Take this for example: “There are certainly supporters of paedophilia contributing to this debate.”

    I’m sure you can’t possibly mean that anyone on this list who disagrees with the way the intervention in the NT has been set up is therefore a pedophile? Or maybe you mean anyone on this list who disagrees with you is a pedophile?

    I’d be careful about saying that sort of thing, although I’ve noticed that you do seem quite reckless with your statements.

    You would be foolish to continue to press the point about your teacher friend. If she does exist, she would be identifiable from what you have said. I find it quite strange that a teacher would be unwise enough to tell you about the private lives of her students, which is why I doubt her existence. That would be against her Code of Ethics. However, if she does exist, I suppose a young or naive teacher might tell you something confidentially, but I doubt you have told her you are broadcasting what she says to the nation.

  1. Larvatus Prodeo - Aug 7th, 2007
  2. Max Baumann - Aug 9th, 2007

Mini Posts

  • Rhetoric vs reality

    I’ve had a break from writing for a variety of reasons, but the reckless approach the new Queensland government is taking to their spending decisions – and the straightout nonsensicality of some of their claims – roused me enough to pen a piece for New Matilda. Time will tell whether the Newman government will start trying to ensure their statements have some connection with reality – I suggest the way they respond next year to the findings of the inquiry into child safety which they’ve established will be a significant test.

  • End of LP the end of a blogging era

    Back in October, I wrote here about the decline or re-defining of blogs, at least in the Australian political arena.  The relatively few posts I’ve done on this blog since then shows how much less useful I find it to do my own blog than I used to, and as I mentioned back then, a big reason why I don’t read many of the blogs I used to is because the valuable links to many interesting stories, ideas and pieces of information can be found more easily through Twitter or Facebook, sometimes with comment threads which are also at least as good.

    The recent announcement by the Larvatus Prodeo blog that they are ceasing to operate is quite a significant one. (more…)

  • A final comment on Labor’s leadership laments

    Fundamentally, I don’t greatly care about the outcome of Labor’s leadership travails. As my previous post indicates, the bigger issue is that the ALP is being fundamentally damaged by the toxicity of this brawl, and the fact that the brawl is happening in this way is a sign of some much greater problems within Labor. Whatever the immediate outcome, I think those problems are likely to continue.  The outcome of the leadership contest (including the size of what will surely be a Gillard victory) will shape how those problems play out, but they will still be there.

    Not surprisingly, I see this as presenting an opportunity for the Greens to build some support, but more importantly it presets extra responsibility and obligation for the Greens to be a stronger counter to what is a seriously reactionary Coalition.

    But seeing we’re all pundits now, and despite having little inside knowledge, my prediction is that there will be no ‘third candidate’ in tomorrow’s leadership ballot.  Julia Gillard will win comfortably. The instability will not disappear. It’s quite possible there will be another leadership ballot before the election but Kevin Rudd will not become leader then either. No matter how good Kevin Rudd looks in the polls, that polling lead would disappear very quickly if he was back in the PM’s job.

  • The Ups & Downs of Ups & Downs – interview with Greg Atkinson

    I’ve mentioned before my liking for the 80s Brisbane band Ups and Downs. I got a chance to interview their lead singer Greg Atkinson on 4ZzZ FM a few weeks ago. They’ve released a compilation CD of 20 of their best tunes and played a gig in Brisbane earlier this month to promote and celebrate it.

    It was a fairly long interview, but I found it very interesting to hear the views of someone who has been active in the independent sphere of the music industry for so long about what has changed and what is the same.

    You can listen to the interview at this link.

  • Speeches to refugee rally + SIEV-X exhibition

    A local activist helpfully recorded speeches given by myself and by Julian Burnside at a refugee rights rally held in Brisbane last Saturday.  You can listen to them here and here. The rally was held to mark the tenth anniversary of the sinking of the SIEV-X.  353 refugees drowned when that refugee boat sank on the way to Australia on 19 October 2001.  There is a beautiful exhibition at The Studio on the ground level at the State Library of Qld this week, commemorating that anniversary. It finishes this weekend – I strongly recommend you try to get along for a look if you have a chance. The Library also has a screening of the documentary Hope on Friday October 28 – this film tell the story of Amal Basry, one of the few survivors of that tragedy.