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Paedophile rings operating in remote communit -

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Broadcast: 16/05/2006

Paedophile rings operating in remote communities: Brough

Reporter: Tony Jones

TONY JONES, PRESENTER: Well, it's been a confronting 24 hours for the Indigenous community. Nanette
Rogers's comments on this program last night seem to have opened the floodgates. Today, we've been
getting reports from different parts of the country. From Western Australia, there are new claims
of Aboriginal babies and children being raped and molested. And later today, we've learned about an
horrific attack on an 18-year-old woman from the Ernabella-Pukatja community in South Australia in
the past few days. We've been told she had petrol thrown on her stomach and was set alight. She has
deep burns to 20 per cent of her body and is now in the burns unit of the Royal Adelaide Hospital.
Joining me now to talk about what can be done to stem the endemic tide of violence and substance
abuse is the Federal Minister for Aboriginal and Indigenous Affairs, Mal Brough. Thanks for being


TONY JONES: It's much more widespread than central Australia by what you were saying today?

MAL BROUGH: Yes, it is. Yes, it is.

TONY JONES: How widespread?

MAL BROUGH: Wherever there are Indigenous communities, the predominant personnel in remote
communities - and we are talking the top end of Queensland, the Territory and Western Australia
predominantly and also into South Australia - these sorts of circumstances do occur.

TONY JONES: We've heard, as you know, from the spokesperson from the Indigenous Family Support
Group in Mount Isa, for example, that the claims made by Nannette Rogers are extraordinarily
similar to the sort of things that are going on there, including the rape of children and babies.

MAL BROUGH: And people have been hiding behind what I would call a thin veneer of cultural
behaviour or a cultural significance and that is why it occurs and it is nothing but lies. What
Betty had to say from Alice Springs - and I met with Betty two weeks ago - puts this into stark
reality; that these are crimes against children that don't occur in any other culture and they
don't occur in this culture. They are simply criminals that need to be dealt with in that fashion.
I, quite frankly, think it's wonderful that this has been highlighted to the rest of the Australian
public so people can have their sensitivities shocked to the core and as a nation, not just as
politicians, but as a nation, we demand that these things change.

TONY JONES: But when it comes to the rape of very small children and babies, there is no Aboriginal
culture, no issue that can be hidden behind.

MAL BROUGH: None at all, but people still do.

TONY JONES: So what's the point? In what way? What are the examples of that?

MAL BROUGH: I can give an example of last night. I think some people tried to use some of the
things that the Chief Prosecutor had to say and misconstrued them to say it is a punitive nature
within Indigenous population and therefore you don't actually dob in other people. That is true
about things which are culturally sensitive. It has nothing to do whatsoever with the rape of
children and so, therefore, we should strip that away and what every Indigenous community that I've
visited, whether it be in New South Wales, whether it be in Queensland, Western Australia or the
Northern Territory, they are asking me one simple thing: treat us like the white fella. Ensure that
the rule of law applies equally to us as it does to the white community. If someone commits a crime
like this, they will be dealt with. They simply say that isn't occurring.

TONY JONES: But why not? Why hasn't that happened? We've been hearing all through today from people
who are saying, "Oh, yes, this is terrible, but we've known about this for many, many years".

MAL BROUGH: Well, a number of things. First of all, in the community of Port Keats, otherwise known
as Wadi, where there was 150 people rioting when I was there, or just a couple of hours before I
was there the other day. I had both black and white residents say to me, "Personally, don't expect
us to go and see one of these people in the dock and give evidence against them because to do so
will be putting our own lives at risk". This is what I spoke about today when I said about
standover tactics. If they don't have the faith that the law and order is going to be retained and
maintained in the communities they live in, when they go back to those communities, they fear
retribution for themselves and their families and serious retribution.

TONY JONES: What caused that rioting?

MAL BROUGH: The rioting started in this particular instance with a boy being hit over the head with
a piece of wood and it escalated from there to 150 people rampaging through towns, throwing spears.
One man was speared. If it had happened in any other part of this nation, it would have been
worldwide news. But because it happened in Port Keats, it didn't get reported to any great degree
at all and I think that's a sad indictment of us as a community.

TONY JONES: Is it fair to say that with all of these things, if they were to happen in Sydney or
Brisbane or Melbourne in suburban white communities that it would be the number-one national
priority of the government?

MAL BROUGH: It would be and it should be and yet there are four police in Ports Keats. The only
reason more police came in there on that occasion, I believe, is because I, as the Federal
Indigenous Affairs Minister, was visiting and so therefore the response team was sent in and some
20 to 30 people were taken out the next day. But my understanding is that that has happened on
several occasions. In fact in March, there was over $350,000 worth of damage done by a similar
riot. People rampaging through the town - and we are talking here a suburb, let's not misconstrue
what it is - breaking toilets, breaking glass, breaking mirrors, destroying homes - $350,000 worth
of damage. If that had happened in a suburb of Sydney, it certainly would have been front-page
news. Yet, there are only four police in that community and you wonder why people are living in

TONY JONES: Four police in that community and you claim that the NT requires police in out-stations
and remote communities right across the Territory.

MAL BROUGH: No, I'm not saying that. I think it is unrealistic to believe you are going to have a
policeman and I heard the Chief Minister trying to respond to what I had said today by saying it is
simply impossible to have a policeman in every homeland of 50 people, and I agree. But where you
have four police in a town of 2,500 people, where there are these riots occurring, and there's no
cause and effect or if you go to an island community on the eastern side, then there are 2,500
people, there is not one policeman. There's no other community in Australia where there's no police
and when they are there, they are saying, "Please treat us like the white community. When a crime
is committed, have it dealt with", and they don't accept that that is occurring.

TONY JONES: You blame the Northern Territory Government for this? You are suggesting they are
mismanaging their funds that come from the Federal Government; is that right?

MAL BROUGH: Most of it does, absolutely. So your next question is why don't I do something about


MAL BROUGH: In Alice Springs the first meeting I had with the Chief Minister, she implored me to
work with the Territory Government in Alice Springs. I undertook to do that on behalf of the Howard
Government at that meeting. We didn't need any delay to do so. I was up there two weeks ago with
what the Federal Government was prepared to do. We are not responsible for what we call the town
camps. They are, for all intents and purposes, suburbs. But we put money on the table to put in
together interventions, so that we could have safe areas, alcohol-free areas; that we could
actually deal with some of these housing issues and the alcohol problems. What I need now - and
I'll be back in Alice Springs tomorrow night - is to actually - we stand ready with the money and
the resources to put the physical infrastructure there. We need the Territory Government, we need
the traditional owners to ensure that the land is available for us to do that.

TONY JONES: The constitutional lawyer, Professor Greg Craven, has told us tonight that the
Commonwealth has the power to directly intervene to make laws in the Territory. You could do it
yourself. You could take control. Have you considered that?

MAL BROUGH: Look, I watched that with interest just now. I don't pretend to be a constitutional
lawyer. What I would say to you is that I would first and foremost want to work with the elected
government of the Territory. If that fails to produce what I think are the only workable solutions,
which is good governance and law and order, then we shouldn't close our minds to any alternative
that is possible to the Federal Government.

TONY JONES: Including, obviously, from what you are saying, anything.

MAL BROUGH: Anything.

TONY JONES: So the Commonwealth could take control of the Northern Territory and deal with the
Aboriginal issues in the NT itself, take that power away from -

MAL BROUGH: Tony, I'm talking on face value what I saw 10 minutes ago by a constitutional lawyer. I
am not a constitutional lawyer. All I would simply say to you is that the Australian public should
demand of the Howard Government that if the Territory Government doesn't deal with these issues
with us in a cooperative fashion, then we should not at any stage rule out every alternative.

TONY JONES: You already have responsibility for rolling out unsniffable petrol. The Federal
Government is responsible for that.

MAL BROUGH: That's right.

TONY JONES: When is it going the happen across the entire Territory? We know there is extra money
in the budget. When will that be spent? When will we see a situation when there's only one petrol
station in Alice Springs with Opal fuel?

MAL BROUGH: I don't think that's the fundamental issue. Wherever you draw the boundaries, as one of
the people on the program mentioned earlier, when you get leaders - and that's what they are -
so-called leaders in these communities that bring it in, children don't drive out and bring in
unsniffable or sniffable petrol. You have Opal there and they still get hold of it. Until you get
out the root cause and it comes back to the fundamental issue I keep speaking about, and that's law
and order and maintaining it. Everybody in those communities knows who runs the paedophile rings.
They know who brings in the petrol and they know who sells the ganja. They need to be taken out of
the community and dealt with, not by tribal law, but by the judicial system that operates
throughout Australia. We're all equal in this country and we should all be treated the same way.

TONY JONES: I'm sorry, you just said something which astonished me. You said paedophile rings that
operate in these communities. What evidence is there of that?

MAL BROUGH: There is considerable evidence of that. If you only have to look at your own reports
over the last two days, these are not isolated incidents. Some of them are, but there are examples
of people who've been operating at a very senior level within Indigenous communities that have such
power over those communities and use children at their own whim and they've been dealt with in some
cases. In other cases they are still free and you need to get the evidence. When you finally nail
someone to be able to have an individual stand up and actually stand in the dock and say, "This
person is guilty," they refuse to do so, you're back to where you started.

TONY JONES: If this is right why aren't the Federal Government involved? Clearly, you don't trust
the Territory Government and their police force.

MAL BROUGH: I'm working as best as I possibly can with the Territory Government, as I've just said
to you. We shouldn't and won't restrict ourselves to anything that will address these issues. I've
been in this portfolio for less than three months and I believe it's best to try and work with
other levels of Government, all states and territories, but we are talking about the welfare of the
next generation. They've got no chance if their parents are rolling drunk, up to their ears in
ganja and not in any way looking at the welfare of their children. I won't stand by and simply say
that law and order is just the responsibility of the states and territories. If we have the power
and they refuse to move we should consider those issues. I'm not in a position tonight to tell you
(a) I have the power and (b) I am part of a Government that would take such positions.

TONY JONES: One final question, because I'll come back to this issue of paedophile rings. It
appears to me that's the first time any senior politician has said any such thing. Is that the

MAL BROUGH: I don't know. What I would say to you is what you reported last night, I've been saying
directly to the media in the last few weeks and asked them to report it and people haven't. I think
the fact that Lateline has, has done a justice to the Australian community because if we don't peel
the scab away, we're not going to get to the root cause and I'm determined to get to the root cause
or at least do my very best to get there.

TONY JONES: Mal Brough, we'll have to leave you there. We thank you very much for coming in to talk
to us.

MAL BROUGH: Thanks, Tony.

(c) 2006 ABC