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Crikey Policy Comparison Pt 4: Indigenous affairs

Compiled by Thomas Hunter:


The government's 500 page bill on the Indigenous intervention raced through the lower house of federal parliament yesterday, and is expected to stop to catch its breath -- albeit fleetingly -- in a senate committee on Friday before becoming law. So how do the two major parties differ on the issue?

Short answer -- they don't. "What he said" is a neat summation of the Labor party's policy on Indigenous affairs. Apart from a few meek parliamentary criticisms, the alternative government is in lockstep with the actual government, as the following comparison illustrates.

Coalition

24 March 2005. The Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander Committee (ATSIC) is formally abolished by the government. ATSIC was established in 1990 to involve the Indigenous community in government processes. The Ministerial Taskforce (MTF) on Indigenous Affairs replaced ATSIC.

21 June 2007. Minister for Indigenous Affairs Mal Brough announces an intervention in the Northern Territory as part of Australian Government’s response to the Little Children are Sacred report which named s-xual abuse as the number one problem across Indigenous communities. The Federal Government announces "emergency measures" will be enacted, including:

  • A six-month ban on alcohol in indigenous communities across the NT,
  • Freezing 50 per cent of welfare payments through Centrelink to parents of children in Indigenous communities to prevent funds being directed towards substance abuse,
  • Increased policing levels across Indigenous communities,
  • Abolishing the permit system for common areas on Aboriginal land and taking control of Aboriginal land through five year leases, with compensation if required; and
  • Introducing compulsory health checks for Aboriginal children.

23 July 2007. Minister for Employment Joe Hockey and Mal Brough announce developments in the Community Development Employment Projects programme. "Under the changes, it is expected that some 2000 people will be assisted off CDEP into real work. Others will be given better opportunities for training and participation by being transitioned onto income support, with the normal participation requirements including access to Job Network services, Structured Training and Employment Projects (STEP) or Work for the Dole," said Mr Brough.

7 August 2007. The Coalition government introduces into Parliament its 500 page bill on authorizing the Northern Territory intervention. With its Senate majority, the government expects the bills to be law by week’s end.

ALP

16 March 2005. Federal labor votes in support of the government's abolition of ATSIC.

21 June 2007. Federal Opposition leader Kevin Rudd pledged his support for John Howard and his emergency response plan in NT: “I will do whatever I can to work with him to address this response, this response to the crisis of child abuse in Australian Indigenous communities.”

19 July 2007. Kevin Rudd announces a new plan to close the 17-year-discrepancy in life expectancy between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians by providing funding for Indigenous women during pregnancy and children throughout infancy and childhood. The plan is said to cost $261.4 million over four years and comprises of three parts:

  • Child and Maternal Health services, including assistance to Indigenous mothers and their babies including home visits, establishing a fund to expand existing accommodation for Indigenous mothers and greater access to health services,
  • Early Development and parenting support which involves greater funding and access to parent-child services such as support to improve parenting skills; and
  • Literacy and numeracy initiatives, which under a Rudd Labor Government would involve intensive literacy and numeracy programs in addition to the introduction of Individual Learning Plans students as a way of targeting areas of improvement.

7 August 2007. The Parliamentary Labor Party waves the government’s emergency intervention legislation through, with Shadow Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin saying her party “strongly supported” the intervention, but disagreed with the scrapping of the permit system. “Protect children by retaining and strengthening the NT land permit system to allow media and government agents such as doctors to enter indigenous communities without permits," she said.

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