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.