No link between permit system & child abuse

The previous federal government used the spectre of child sexual abuse as justification to scrap the permit system contained in the Land Rights Act, which required people wishing to visit Aboriginal freehold land in the Northern Territory to first obtain permission. It was cheered on its efforts by its ideological fellow-travellers, who were happy to smear anyone who did not support the move as protecting paedophiles and other child abusers.

At a Senate Committee hearing in Darwin examining proposals to reinstate the permit system (although also giving the federal Minister blanket power to waive permits whenever they feel like it), there was unequivocal evidence provided by people opposed to the permit system, supportive of the permit system and agnostic on the permit system, all of who said there was no link between the permit system and child abuse.

Indeed Paul Toohey, a journalist from The Australian who appeared before the Committee and voiced dislike of the permit system that was so vehement it makes Mal Brough’s views on the issue sound moderate, none the less went so far as to say that using the excuse of child abuse to justify these moves was a beat up.

I lean towards having a permit system, mainly because the majority of Aboriginal people affected seem to prefer to have this power, although I think the benefits of it tend to be overstated (not unlike many of the arguments made against it). But it is frustrating to see so much energy and focus being put onto an issue which has little if anything to do with child abuse.

Hopefully at least the pros and cons of the permit system – and maybe other details of the Intervention – can start being debated without people being slandered as protecting paedophiles just because they don’t uncritically support retaining every single aspect of the Howard government’s version of the NT Intervention.

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13 Comments

  1. Brough is a zealot and dangerous to boot. Rudd and Macklin will do well to ignore his bleatings.

  2. Then there is Abbott,Sydney’s version of Brough in the SMH.I await to see the versions from the other States and Territories!?But strange that the Church cannot do this for some of its struggling members,by combining incomes ,from whatever sources to decrease costs and increase buying powers.Instead,the problems of coping Northern Territoreans and Queenslanders,have to be imposed on others including city residents disturbed by more than what Abbott can praise himself with.In fact,organised members of Churches are overworked as volunteers sometimes to their own detriment,and need maybe assistance in low cost alternative therapies,and,even a game of golf getting there and back and fees etc.But ,Abbott is one-dimensional,he is like looking at a push-bike from behind all seat and handle-bars,and not much else.

  3. All zealots are dangerous even those who think there the good guys. Of course such is the natrue of philosophy – your good guy is anotehr persons zealot.

  4. Pommygranate:

    My general feeling about the permit system is that a lot of the arguments made both for and against the permit system are overstated.

    However, as most (although certainly not all) of the Aboriginal people from the Territory that I’ve spoken with or heard from in recent years strongly support retaining the system, I don’t think it is something which should be taken away from them without good reason.

    There is plenty of assertion but little solid evidence that the system is abused or misused, or that it has directly prevented necessary legal or public scrutinty, service delivery or economic development.

    It has been able to be used in some circumstances as a tool to allow the management of or removal of outsiders who are disruptive – (although this is only one tool and I don’t think this in itself would be a sufficiently good reason to justify the system).

    It also provides some people and communities with a greater feeling of control over their lives and land.

    There is a lot of diversity in the conditions and functionality amongst the Territory communities that are covered by the permit system. I’ve seen no evidence that similarly remote communities that are not covered by the permit system do better economically or socially than those that are.

    Although I do feel it might sometimes play a part in reinfrocing a not always helpful mentality of disconnection, I don’t think that is sufficient reason to remove it, particularly given the counter-arguments outlined above.

    In the absence of any solid evidence that it causes direct harm, I lean towards supporting the wishes of what seems to be the majority view of the relevant Aboriginal communities involved. It is after all their land, and it is freehold land, not leasehold, residual native title or crown land.

  5. Pommygranate, it is their land. We don’t let anyone onto our properties without being met with walls, doors, electronic devices and spy cameras these days.

  6. Marilyn: Whatever happened to reconciliation and unification?

    Correct me if I misunderstand things, but abolition of the permit system would not give me the right to jump a fence and enter one’s house would it?

    Likewise whilst we’re all free to drive from Brisbane to Perth, we can’t just break into dwellings on the way (not in my circles anyway).

    So please, what exactly was your point?

    Ken: Surely there’s nothing wrong with a bit of zeal for a good cause is there?

    Wouldn’t be hard to spot a zealot on either side of parliament.

  7. GZG, Aboriginal law views property (particularly land) in a completely different way to Western law. It’s not so much about jumping fences on to private property but walking through their communal land uninvited.

  8. Please let your IQ.s drop more eloquently here.It is true,from all accounts that I have heard and read that Aboriginals do perceive of their land differently,but,for goodness sake,they are talking obviously about what determines the matters of land as much as the being in ,and of land.Which apart from the determination of fences and other signs of ownership,is a whole series of feelings,why people buy into property,and state unequivocally ,that they love the place.If you cannot tell the commonality,it is unlikely you will even notice why there is a difference.On top of that is hunting and ceremonial matters that require walking across areas,even using roads now.If you buy into land, that was previously that which they,[aboriginal] claim is their own,it isnt the shock sometimes of the claim,it is the undermining by, in some manner..of a facility of law,rather than not accepting that knowledge as reality.Law is an artifice,whereas,even those who accept the need for Aboriginal Land Rights etc. have got shocked when it applies directly to theirs.This may not be racism,it maybe something else,whilst the facility of law,redetermines the process of Right At Law to own.Australian whites etc. have hunted their dogs cats and children across their small hectares,they have even gone out shooting rabbits..taken up sometimes by Aboriginals. I see Land Rights and all that development,not as a look back in history and ,allow others to reinvigorate what was rightfully theirs anyway,but a way to make the artifice of law,essentialise more that is reality… about land and humans,even if ceremonial matters also become important.By permission sought from native owners ceremonial lands could be used for similar purposes amongst the rest of us.If their is a total ban on an activity somewhere,it maybe,because understanding & not engaging with ceremony and ritual,has stopped the other pursuit.Today permit,could come via Internet communication,and small computer driven camera.Modern concern!

  9. GZG:

    I think Ken meant overzealous people. Yes, they can be dangerous. Such people don’t only THINK they’re the good guys, they “KNOW” that they are.

    You make an excellent point about “reconciliation and unification”. I don’t think many aboriginal leaders want unification.

    In the NT, they seem to have a very strong interest in natural gas.

    A young woman I knew saved up for a long time to visit Uluru (Ayer’s Rock). When she got there, the tour group had very great difficulty accessing the rock due to a permit system standing in the way.

    When she returned to Brisbane, she was quite grumpy.

  10. Andrew

    thanks for taking the time to reply.

    i agree with you that arguments on both sides are over-stated. however, i feel that they must harm the community they seek to protect in the long run. every community should be free to access for all.

    why exempt certain sections of society?

  11. Pommygranate

    it is mostly a way of dealing with the reality of the land ownership situation. Aboriginal freehold title in the Territory is the strongest form of land ownership which Aboriginal people have anywhere, (at least in a legal sense). It is a unique sort of situation, in the sense that most of the townships are on freehold land, whereas city and town areas in almost all other places are not – although some mining communities are similar in that they are completely on land owned (or leased) by the company and access to it is only by permission.

    The permit system is a way of trying to regulate this. Given the extreme remoteness and inaccesssibility of at least some of the areas, it isn’t too bad an idea to have some notion about who is travelling through the areas anyway, although I’m not suggesting the permit system is mainly a public safety measure.

    It is meant to be used as a way of overseeing and regulating, not blocking access. Like many of these sorts of bureaucratic systems, they are often only enforced when something crops up to make it relevant, and from the evidence I’ve seen permits are rarely refused – and certainly not without reason.

    However, I accept that the mere fact of having to apply and the technical possibility of having unreliable access could in some cases be an impediment to investment – but I really think that even if this might have some validity in some areas, it is mostly at the margins. It is hard to see how economic development would follow in these places simply if the permit system was scrapped.

  12. I’m pleased someone has observed how language is used to justify government policies. The language of ‘harm’, ‘child protection’, ‘public purse’ I believe are commonly used to justify ‘function creep’. Function creep is a metaphor of how government department/agencies justify their services and programs. Mal Brough who demonized anyone opposing the permit system, did so simultaneously, for anyone opposing the then Coalition attempt to introduce a Health and Social Services Access Card. So…. watch the language and observe how ‘function creep’ expands policies/programs.

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