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Thursday, 13 September 2007
Page: 183

Senator BARTLETT (7:03 PM) —I repeat for the benefit of the Senate and the government that the Unfinished business: Indigenous stolen wages report was tabled in December of last year. It contained six unanimous recommendations backed by Labor, Liberal, Democrat and Green senators. The federal government has yet to respond. That is unsatisfactory. The Senate backed up its report with a resolution passed in this chamber in June calling on Minister Brough to respond to the recommendations—not even to adopt them but just to respond to them—by the first sitting week in August. He has yet to respond to that resolution of the Senate. He is yet to even give an explanation as to why he has not responded to the committee’s recommendations. That is completely unsatisfactory.

For people who want to know the detail of the gross injustice of the wages misappropriated and stolen from Indigenous peoples throughout many decades of the last century through many parts of Australia, I commend this report to them. I would also commend, through the ANTaR website,, the report that was released a week or so ago by Dr Ros Kidd, which is called Hard labour, stolen wages. That also details, in stark and very distressing case studies, examples and documentary evidence, the extent of this gross injustice, reinforcing the absolute necessity and urgency for this injustice to be remedied.

The onus predominantly, I might say, is on state governments to act. In passing on my congratulations to her, I would particularly urge the new Queensland Premier, Anna Bligh, to make redressing this key area of unfinished business a priority of her new administration. The report is called Unfinished business: Indigenous stolen wages. One of the recommendations in it goes specifically to the serious failure of the Queensland government to respond adequately to this reality. But the federal government also has a role. Its failure to speak out about this, let alone to respond to this report so far, is completely unsatisfactory. I seek leave to continue my remarks later.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.