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racist laws « Previous | |Next »
February 10, 2009

The starting point for any attempt to close the gap between indigenous and white Australia is that any intervention to address the poverty, sexual abuse and other problems that afflict Aboriginal people and their children in the Northern Territory cannot be remedied by laws and programs that are themselves racially discriminatory. Australia accepted this principle when it signed the Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.

The problem, as George Williams points out in The Australian, is that the Howard government's intervention laws were passed in August 2007 to exclude the Racial Discrimination Act. The reason was clear. Parts of the intervention are racially discriminatory. For example, it quarantines 50 per cent of welfare income to be used for food and other essentials only for people living in Aboriginal communities. There is no exception even for people who can demonstrate they are responsible spenders of their income.

So these Australian citizens don't have rights.

The Rudd Government has acknowledged the racism in the legislation, as it It has said it will revise aspects of the intervention such as income quarantining and will restore the Racial Discrimination Act. But it has been slow to act, with no sign yet of the laws needed to bring these changes about.

The Rudd Government has failed to report little if anything on actual outcomes on closing the gap between white and black Australians. The Close the Gap campaign is based on the idea that it would take a generation to bring about serious changes in the outcomes, and that a decade of investment would be needed to simply achieve equality of opportunities before the outcomes really started to shift.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 6:02 AM | | Comments (6)
Comments

Comments

Rudd's mob have been disappointing on many levels, none more so than with this.

An especially repulsive aspect of their approach is the way Macklin has carried on Captain Brough's practice of justifying decisions by 'what the indigenous people are telling me' and ignoring properly undertaken research findings. As if a few stage-managed conversations during a one day visit should over-ride weeks or months of careful data collection and analysis.

One is forced to the conclusion that the government believes the NT invasion was wildly popular and they're not about to undo it.

I agree Ken.

Ken+fred,
I agree that the most disappointing aspect of the Rudd government is that it has still not delivered on the rest of its promises, particularly in relation to the NT intervention. This includes a reinstatement of the Racial Discrimination Act (RDA) within the NT intervention legislation, which was an ALP election promise; the end to income management in the Northern Territory; failing to deliver a report to the first sitting day of parliament on the progress the government is making in 'closing the gap' on Indigenous disadvantage.

The Rudd government have since said that the RDA will not be reinstated until later this year. Minister for Indigenous Affairs Jenny Macklin maintains that compulsory income management will remain in the Northern Territory, despite the Rudd government's own intervention review recommending it be a voluntary scheme.

It is disingenuous to screech "racism" about these issues, unless you acknowledge that the Aboriginal Land Rights Act, Native Title Act, Abstudy, and so on are also racist.

The first phase of the intervention is not overtly racist but it isn't achieving real improvements on the ground. Improvements on the ground doesn't come from the Northern Territory intervention laws having the effect of forcing Aboriginal Australians into segregated queues in Centrelink and in some supermarkets and shops in the NT.

A recent report by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare suggests that it isn't pedophilia but child neglect that is endemic in indigenous communities. Anyone who works in welfare knows that the responses to the two problems are quite different. You can't teach a mother or father to parent at the point of a gun, or even with high-handed chequebook diplomacy.