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Tuesday, 14 October 2008
Page: 27

Senator SIEWERT (3:30 PM) —I move:

That the Senate take note of the answer given by the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship (Senator Evans) to a question without notice asked by Senator Siewert today relating to a police raid in Alice Springs, Northern Territory.

I was very disappointed that the minister did not have a briefing on this incident. This is another of a series of incidents, as I understand, that have occurred around the town camps. From what I know to date, there was a toy gun seen on the dashboard of a car in Alice Springs. I am reporting this from the media. The toy gun was reportedly seen by the fire brigade. Sometime later, the Kunoth town camp was raided. I do not know how many police were involved or where those police came from—whether they were Australian Federal Police or whether the tactical response group was involved. But the point here is that this seems to be an over-the-top reaction to a toy gun. That toy gun was not brandished in public. It was not used threateningly. It was simply on the dashboard. Moreover, it was seen by people that supposedly should know better. By the way, I should declare that I have a stack of water pistols in my backyard, as have my nephews. I am just wondering when we can expect a police raid. Of course, we will not get one because we do not live in an Alice Springs town camp.

I have been told further today, by another resident of a town camp, that last week, I think it was, another town camp was visited and a lady playing cards ended up being tasered. My concern here is the over-the-top response by the police going into town camps as part of the law and order reforms, so-called, under the NT intervention, which seems to make it okay for this sort of over-the-top response to occur. As I understand it, the people in the houses that were raided happened to be watching The 7.30 Report, which was about—guess what—the impacts of the NT intervention. How much more ironic can you get?

This obviously leads on to the issues around the NT intervention and the report that was released yesterday by the review of the intervention. It came as no surprise to me that it specifically calls for the Racial Discrimination Act to be reinstated and the exemption removed. Maybe this will help to lessen these over-the-top raids on the town camps. As I think I have pointed out, these are not the only two such raids that I have heard about. The report also talks about income quarantining and stopping the compulsory nature of that income quarantining. It also talks about just-terms compensation for the leases that have been compulsorily acquired. Of course, there never was any link proved—by either the previous government or the government now—between taking people’s land away and child abuse.

One of the key issues of the report that comes out for me is the need for consultation, the need to rebuild the partnerships between the Aboriginal community and the government. These partnerships have been severely eroded by the NT intervention. Raiding old ladies’ homes looking for toy guns is a classic example of where the relationship has been broken down. It has not been improved; it has been broken down. The government needs to have a very serious look at the report that came out yesterday.

I have been on record time and time again supporting the government’s involvement in addressing Aboriginal disadvantage. That is not the issue here. The issue is how the government—both the previous government and this government—have gone about the intervention. Over-the-top responses, income quarantining, taking people’s land away and exemption from the rules of the Racial Discrimination Act were never going to solve this problem. They have set the process back significantly. I urge the government to take on board this report and to alter the intervention so that it actually starts delivering real outcomes on the ground.

To help the government, I already have amendments before this place to get rid of the exemption from the Racial Discrimination Act. I urge the government to consider those amendments so that we can actually seriously start addressing Aboriginal disadvantage in this country. This has been 12 months worth of experimentation that has failed.

Question agreed to.