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Tuesday, 14 February 2017
Page: 856


Senator LEYONHJELM (New South Wales) (18:38): Today we have heard another series of closing-the-gap speeches much the same as we have heard in previous years—but saying something over and over again does not make it true. A myth we hear regularly is that, in the Prime Minister's words, 'Greater empowerment of local communities will deliver the shared outcomes we all desire.' Government interventions are now more locally managed for Aborigines than for other Australians, and have been for decades, but the outcomes are worse. The more dysfunctional a community, the less qualified they are to shape government policy and direct taxpayer funds. Why should we assume that the victims of violence know how government could help stop the beatings, that sick people know how to run health services or that people without jobs know how they can be helped into jobs?

Another myth is that we need to pay deep respect to Aboriginal elders and community leaders. Many Aborigines have pointed out to me that these people are self-appointed, unelected and do not speak for them. They have no track record of improving the lot of Aboriginal people. They have an interest in maintaining existing power relationships and townships, even if this is keeping people in squalor and dependency.

Guilt is clouding judgement in this place. Guilt means that opponents of work-for-the-dole schemes, like Labor and the Greens, do nothing to oppose a work-for-the-dole scheme if it is for Aborigines. This scheme is called the Community Development Program, and it exempts Aborigines in dysfunctional remote communities from the usual conditions for receiving the dole provided they remain in these violent, backward communities that are barren of opportunities. Guilt is clouding judgement such that many find it impossible to apportion any blame for high Aboriginal incarceration rates on the Aboriginal offenders. And guilt is clouding judgement such that Aboriginal children in abusive or neglectful situations are being kept there for longer and more often than non-Aboriginal children in abusive or neglectful situations. This guilt is not helping anyone, so let's get over it.

Captain Arthur Phillip came. Terrible things were done to some Aborigines who are now dead. Terrible things were done to the ancestors of other Australians too, like Chinese Australians, Armenian Australians and Jewish Australians. It does not help to treat any of these Australians like children. Let's stop telling lopsided stories about ancient Aboriginal culture without mentioning anything barbaric. Let's not double down on a racist Constitution by setting Aborigines apart from the rest of the nation. Let's stop racist policies that deliver extra handouts if a self-appointed elder declares you to be Aboriginal. Let's expect all Australians to obey the law and face punishment if they do not. And let's impose tough welfare obligations on all Australians. To paraphrase some QUT students who were ejected from a computer lab because of the colour of their skin, you do not stop racism with racism.