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Wednesday, 24 February 2010
Page: 1676

Mr LINDSAY (11:34 AM) —You know, Mr Deputy Speaker, sometimes there is a feeling that members on both sides of the House have a common purpose, a common goal, a common aim. In relation to Indigenous Australia I think that feeling does exist in the House today. That is a good thing. There is some difference of opinion, as there always will be, on what to do and how to do it, but generally I think all of us want to do what we can to ensure a better lot in life for our first Australians. But then we get the points of difference.

Before I go on to that, I might say that late last year I went to Mornington Island, which is an Indigenous community in the Gulf of Carpentaria. I was talking to an old fellow on the island and I said, ‘What has been the most significant thing that has been done on the island in the last decade?’ He said, ‘That is easy. We banned alcohol.’ I said, ‘How has that improved things?’ He said: ‘Well, we now see women and children in the supermarket buying fruit and vegetables, proper food. The kids are going to school being fed properly. It is an absolutely wonderful outcome and we are all proud of it.’ The other side of the coin as it relates to the Social Security and Other Legislation Amendment (Welfare Reform and Reinstatement of Racial Discrimination Act) Bill 2009 is that the do-gooders would argue that it is racially discriminatory to ban alcohol. So the community and the parliament have to face this dilemma: does the Racial Discrimination Act apply to everybody, does it apply in part or does it not apply? Of course, the answer is that the world is not black and white; the world is shades of grey. For those Indigenous communities that have taken the step to ban alcohol it has been a wonderful outcome for them.

I am also privileged to have been to Warburton, which is a very remote Indigenous community. If you are at Uluru and you continue to drive west over the NT-WA border you come to Warburton. From memory, it is about 600 kilometres from Kalgoorlie, very isolated. It is another community that has banned alcohol. Do you know what they have done in that community? It is an inspiration to go there. Nobody wrecks the houses. The community is clean and tidy. The kids go to school, with one exception, which I will explain in a minute. The community has its own council. It runs itself. It runs all of the services in the community: water supply, electricity and so on. It even runs its own airline. It does it successfully and it does it in a financially responsible way. It has its own business. It produces some amazing glass art. You would not think in the middle of the desert in Western Australia you would find an Aboriginal community producing first-class glass art, but it does. It is a wonderful example of how you can get a successful Indigenous community. The downside, which I referred to earlier, is the cultural element in getting kids to school. When young Aboriginal men reach a certain age it is not culturally appropriate to be seen to be going to school, because they should be out with the older men doing Indigenous stuff on the land. That has to change. I know it will be hard in that community and other Indigenous communities, but it has to change.

Where I am coming from is that different communities should be subject to different rules in the interests of those communities. The bill looks at doing something about reinstating the Racial Discrimination Act. What it actually does is water down some really good initiatives of the former government in the Northern Territory. Fair people would recognise that those initiatives worked well. While the bill leaves open the opportunity to extend these provisions across the country in the future, in reality that is probably not going to happen, and it should. A community like Palm Island in my electorate, a community of about 4,000 Indigenous Australians—out of sight, out of mind, off the coast—would really benefit from the provisions in this bill today.

Mr Perrett —Well don’t vote against it.

Mr LINDSAY —Thank you, member for Moreton. If one sees good things happening in Indigenous communities it really is important to apply them universally across Australia. I call on the government to think very deeply about extending this immediately to all Indigenous communities in Australia. Sure, Western Australia, Queensland and the Northern Territory would be the biggest beneficiaries, having the largest Indigenous communities in the country. But there is no reason why it cannot be extended to Redfern in Sydney, for example. You could make a proper case for that. In my contribution to this debate I wanted to point out the benefits of having different policies for different communities but also the benefits of having nationwide policies. I ask the government to seriously consider immediately extending the operation of this to all Indigenous communities in Australia. I thank the House.