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August 9, 2007

The 500 pages of legislation for the Howard Government's controversial plan to intervene in the Northern Territory to deal with a national emergency of child abuse in indigenous communities was introduced into Parliament this week. An editorial in the National Indigenous Times by Chris Graham comments on this plan. Graham says that:

There is no point "intervening" if the method isn't going to work. It wastes money and time, resources that Indigenous people don't exactly have in droves. There is also little point in having a bunch of white politicians in Canberra producing decisions that will affect the next generation of Aboriginal people without Aboriginal consultation.

Rightly so. However, Howard and Indigenous Affairs Minister Mal Brough have no time for those who argue that deliberation and consultation is essential if the intervention is to succeed. The legislation passed through the House of Representatives like a dose of salts. Brough says that he wants the Senate to do the same, as it all needs to be tidied up by the end of the week. Any Senate inquiry into the legislation was unnecessary.

So much for the Senate as a House of Review. Mal Brough is not a man for for checks and balances. He's an army kind of man who thinks in military terms.

There needs to be a review as a lot of the Northern Territory legislation is about resolving the constitutional and legal questions of the takeover, in particular the Commonwealth's takeover of township leases and its attempt to prohibit the trade in alcohol and pornography to indigenous communities. As some of these proposed measures are contrary to the provision of the Racial Discrimination Act, the legislation has clauses exempting it from compliance with that Act.

A good reason for a review of the legislation by the Senate don't you think?

The three bills,which allow the government to compulsorily acquire Aboriginal land in the Territory for five years in addition to compulsory control of how individual welfare payments are spent, appear to be draconian, and to go beyond paternalism and assimilation. For instance, under the Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs and Other Legislation Amendment (Northern Territory National Emergency Response and Other Measures) Bill 2007 all Aboriginal people in the NT communities who receive welfare will have half their welfare benefits controlled, regardless of their past spending habits. Non-aboriginal welfare recipients around the nation will only be subject to the financial control orders if they 'trigger' a series of criteria, such as not enrolling their child in school or having reports of child neglect filed against them by government agencies.

Moreover, whilst white welfare recipients inside the Territory, and all welfare recipients outside it, will be able to challenge the financial control orders through the normal administrative appeals processes (such as the Social Security Appeals Tribunal and the Administrative Appeals Tribunal) the proposed legislation seeks to prevent Aboriginal people from seeking a review of the controls.

So you can see why the legislation has clauses exempting it from compliance with the Racial Discrimination Act. It's racist legislation---racially discriminatory.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 7:54 AM | | Comments (7)
Comments

Comments

Gary,
The AFR reports that the Howard Government is pushing through a lot of bills without due process.

There are bills on the Murray-Darling Basin, a bill to expand police search and seizure powers, laws pertaining to the proposed citizenship test, as well as the Indigenous bills.

There is little time to read the legislation, debate on the bills is gagged and there is little by way of review.It's normal practice now.

Nan,
It's normal practice and bad governance. This corruption brings Parliament into disrepute, and highlights the extent of executive governance.

Gary,
The Howard government is arguably the first Commonwealth government since 1967 to use section 51 (xxvi) of the Constitution to discriminate against, rather than for, Aboriginal people.

Andrew Bartlett reckons the rush is on to get everything through before the election is called. People who don't plan to run this time are apparently saying their farewells.

Great. Let's just legislate racism before the final hurrah.

This writer has come to the conclusion that it is all Crosby Textor marketing gimmickry; all Crazy John.. It's a huge "noise" of outrageous gimmickry, from the provocative use of bureaucrats posing as den-mothers, to pulling innocent people off the streets and throwing them into jail, to flagrance in violation of acceptable governance and embrace of palpably voodoo economics, in order to retreive centre stage for Howard on terms that paint Rudd as nebulous rather than innocent.
The once friendly media limelight has become line-of-fire for the Tories; a veritable killing-ground for them. Someone somehow figured out how to reverse the flow and they want it back to the old terms, but desperately 'cos its starting to hurt!
They dish out political "head-high" profligately, like people with no arms, but do not at all much like a dose of it when it's directed back at themselves.

Lyn,
here is Bob Brown on the legislative process in relation to the Northern Territory indigenous bills and the sneak and peak police bills:

The Government has turned it back on the indigenous people of Australia over the last 10 years. Now we have 600 pages of legislation brought here and the Government says, 'We will suspend standing orders to ram it through the Senate'. This is government by the executive and Parliament is being sidelined. This legislation goes to the core of what this nation is, how we relate to the first Australians …And what is the Opposition going to do about it? Nothing. Not a thing. It is an opposition in name only. This process is wrong. This process is corrupting this Parliament. This is Prime Minister Howard corrupting proper democratic process, which means we must be informed. When you are dealing with people whose lives, future, and culture are at stake, then you must be informed

He ends by saying that this truncated processdefrauds democracy as the role of the Senate as a house of review is being ripped away.

Gary,

And so it has been since the Howard government got its senate majority. It's obviously bad for democracy and bad for those on the receiving end of nasty legislation. But how can the situation be changed?

Assuming that most people don't understand, or care too much about, the legislative process, there won't be a public uprising over it anytime soon.

Two things:
How to restore the process, and how to undo various bits of legislation that have been passed?

I'm no expert on this, but I imagine it will be up to the inclinations of a future government.