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Q And A -

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Good evening, the Prime

Minister has appealed to other

world lead tors work together

on climate change and economic

reform, he was speaking to the reform, he was speaking to

UN General Assembly in New

York, but his appearance was

overshadowed by two of the

world's controversial world's controversial leaders,

Muammar Gaddafi tore up the UN Charter, and Mahmoud

Ahmedinejad sparked a walkout,

after renewing his attack on

Israel. Federal policitians are

set to get a pay rise, MPs

getting a 3% boost to their pay packets, the Government says

it's lower than the average pay

rise across the economy. The

Greens say they'll try to block

the increase. Researchers in

Thailand say they've made a

breakthrough in the fight

against HIV. Results from a

vaccine trial show it reduced

the risk of infection by almost

a third, that was less than

researchers weren hoping for,

but say it is an important step

towards combatting the spread towards combatting the

of the virus. The big clean-up

is continuing in Sydney and

Brisbane after yesterday's dust

storms. The NSW economy set to

lose millions from lost productivity. Another dust

storm is forecast for

Queensland on Saturday.

More news on Lateline at

10:30.

This Program is Captioned

Live. APPLAUSE

Good evening, and welcome to

Q&A coming to you live from

Adelaide and joining us tonight

five prominent south

Australians, our longest

serving Foreign Affairs

Minister, now a political

consultant and UN special envoy

on Cyprus, Alexander Downer.

Hold your applause.

Self-confessed - you can

applaud at the end -

self-confessed shop aholic and editor of Adelaide's 'Sunday

Mail', Megan Lloyd. The

one-time leader of the

Australian Democrats and

Australia's youngest ever

Senator, Natasha Stott Despoja. Distinguished anthropologist and commentator on Aboriginal

the Minister for Early politics Peter Sutton, and the

Education, Youth and Sport and

local Member for Adelaide, Kate

Ellis. Now, you can applaud.

Remember that Q&A is live from

9:30 Eastern Time, so join the

Twitter conversation, and send

your questions by SMS. Or go

to our website. And our very

first question tonight... well,

in fact as I said tonight,

we're broadcasting from

Adelaide with an audience of

more than 160 political savvy

and our first question comes

from Lindee Nearmy. Do you

agree that Kevin Rudd should

not call an early election on

emissions trading because the

public could view it as tricky

politics? I'm not a big fan of

early elections for a range of

reasons. I'm dedicated to the

idea of 4-year fixed terms for

a whole range of policy

reasons, giving business some certainty, but also because of

the cost, and I think it would

appear incredibly cynical for

the Prime Minister to call an

election on any particular

there could be some double topic. Because let's face it

dissolution triggers that

appear in the next couple of

months. But in particular on

the ETS, I'd rather they worked

with the Opposition parties and

got it right. Is it legitimate

threat over Malcolm Turnbull's for the Government to hold that

head when it comes to the ETS?

I mean, that's the gun. They

keep threatening to pull the trigger on the double

dissolution, and that sort of

pressure tends to get

results? Yeah, it does and I

think that's the problem with

our political system. That's

why I'm a fan of fixed terms,

because I think that sort of

political expediency, that

threat where you're spooking Oppositions into making policy

for the sake of it, ie protecting their political

skins as opposed to making

policy in the public interest.

But there are many other reasons as to why we should

have fixed terms, but to cure

public cynicism would be one

nice by-product, but I think it

would actually result in better

laws as well as less expensive

elections. Megan Lloyd? I think

the climate change issue, apart

from obviously this audience

who are all politically savvy

is one of those issues that I

think that a vernacular has

excludes a whole lot of been developed around it that

Australians from it. It's a

debate that has been had by

politicians and scientists and

that ordinary Australians are

actually excluded... if you go

to most I would say shopping

centres and down the streets

and ask people what an ETS is,

they have no idea, and I

think... Let's tell them - it's

an Emissions Trading

Scheme. But the Government owes

it to us as the broader

community to actually involve

us in the debate and let us in

on what they've got planned.

It's a global issue, but it

really affects us locally and I don't really think we get

it. Do I take from that, you

think an early election would

be a bad idea, look like tricky

politics as the questioner

asked? I totally agree. What

Mr Rudd in particular should do

is take the Parliament

seriously and by taking the

Parliament seriously, I mean

recognising that he doesn't

have a majority in both Houses

as Parliament, that's a

function of our democratic

system and show proper respect

to members of the Senate, as

well as members of the House of

Representatives who may not

agree with him and sit down

with those people and talk

through the differences and try to negotiate an Emissions

Trading Scheme, which is what

he wants, an Emissions Trading

Scheme that at least meets the

approval of half the

Parliament. Paul Keating is

dead right, not only would it

double-dissolution election, be tricky for Mr Rudd to call a

but I suspect it may turn out

to be quite unpredictable, as

well. You're absolutely right,

Peter Costello wrote a piece

about this in the 'Age' this

week and he said that an early double-dissolution election,

because it will actually be a

full Senate election, very

likely would lead to the Greens

holding the balance of power.

Well, I couldn't predict what would happen in a double-dissolution election. I

think it's a brave prediction.

I wouldn't know, but I suspect

what could happen is that the

public would focus very much

on, as Megan is saying, what is this Emissions Trading Scheme

really about? What is the sense

of this? What is the

Opposition's objection to, not

the whole scheme, but to

aspects of it? And, why are we

being forced to an election

early? Is this actually all

about political opportunism and

not doing something to improve the weather? Which is

apparently what it's supposed

to be all about. So, you know,

I think it's highly risky.

Paul Keating is dead right. Let's hear from Peter Sutton. Do you have any

thoughts on this? I do have

one. I think there's a lot of

people like me who don't feel

very confident about the

climate change issue, but at

least they know it's important,

but they also suspect... APPLAUSE

I think they also suspect

they're being not given a very

good deal by the political

process when the central issue

of population future is not in

the same discussion. It seems

to me that there's much more

unity of thought on climate

change, which is that there's something serious we might have

to do something about, or are

doing something about, but

there's a much more polarised

set of views on the future of

population. I'm going to stop

you there, I'm sure that's a

question we will come to during the course of the evening.

Keep your hands up, and I'll

come to you. Let's hear from

Kate Ellis first of all on this

tricky politics question. As

you can hear from our panel -

and I don't know if that's

reflected in the audience -

there is a sense that the early

election and holding the gun up

to the head of the Opposition

as Natasha said earlier, can be

problematic for a Government.

It looks bad. Well, I think the

first thing we need to say is

that the Government doesn't

want to go to an early election

and whilst it pains me to agree

with Alexander so early in the

program. I'm irresistible,

though! I can't believe you're

applauding that. What we do

want to do is work in a

meaningful way with the

Opposition. You say we should

take the Parliament seriously.

We say you should take climate

change seriously, and we want

to sit down. What that means

is that the Opposition needs to

tell us what amendments it

needs in order to support this

legislation, and I think in

that way we all win. We get

serious action on climate

change and we don't have an

early election, which nobody wants, and the Government

doesn't want it either. It's

not about tricky politics, it's

about actually needing to get

this through the Parliament so

we can have some real and

meaningful action on this very,

very serious issue. We've had a

couple of people with their

hands up. Our questioner,

we'll come back to you in a

moment, but two people over

here that I pointed out earlier

have their hands up. The young

lady in the pink. Can I ask

Natasha Stott Despoja, wouldn't

a double-dissolution election

force the governments to put

some action, put some action

into their words regarding climate change and the environment? That's a really good question, because I think

actually the threat of a double

dissolution does more to

engender action, be it in the

Coalition or indeed the minor

parties who I do believe would

be the beneficiaries if there

was such an election. But a double-dissolution election doesn't guarantee action on

anything, and I think what

we've had half a dozen

double-dissolution elections in

the history of government in

Australia. I think only one of

those, 1974 I think, resulted

in a joint sitting on the

specific piece of legislation.

So first of all, there's no

guarantee - although I'm sure

Prime Minister Rudd would give

one - that the legislation at

hand or at issue is the one

that actually goes to a joint

sitting. But is that the way -

the thick of it, the nub of it

is, do we really want politics

to function that way? I'm going

to interrupt you there, we have

another person with their hand

up, the gentleman with the

glasses. This one's mainly for

Alexander Downer and foling on

from Kate's point. Why is the

Liberal Party having so much

trouble creating a cohesive

Emissions Trading Scheme policy? Well, when the Liberal

Party was in Government we put

forward a particular plan for a

Emissions Trading Scheme. Mr

Rudd won the election in

November 2007 and has come up

with a completely different set

of proposals. Of course, it's

to have an Emissions Trading

Scheme, but with some different

characteristics, and the

Liberal Party's position... and

I think it's important this is

about the Parliament and the

functioning of the Parliament,

is that it would like to see

some amendments accepted by the

Government to the Emissions

Trading Scheme. Now the Labor

Party - this isn't a

dictatorship by the way, this

country - the Labor Party does

not have a complete majority in

the Parliament, and the Labor

Party should treat the

Parliament with respect and be

prepared to sit down seriously

and talk to the Liberal Party

and, of course, to the

cross-benches about the

reservations they might have

about the particular scheme and

try to negotiate changes. I

mean, we had to do that with

the GST by the way. If I could

bring you to the nub of what

the questioner was asking, I

think, is you talk about having

majority. What we don't know

yet is whether there'll be a

majority in the Coalition

partyroom in favour - This is

just Labor Party politics.

That's Coalition politics.

This is the line of the Labor

Party - I'm not a member of

Parliament anymore, but even

outside of the Parliament I've

managed to pick up this

particular line, and the line

is - It's what we call the

Wilson Tuckey line. Exactly,

they just want the Labor Party

served. Exactly my point. Wilson Tuckey's part of

the Labor Party. Wilson Tuckey

is one - and I'll say this -

quite eccentric member of the

Coalition, just as the Labor

Party has its own eccentric

members. Wilson Tuckey doesn't

have a majority in the

Coalition partyroom.

Inevitably, the Coalition

should have a discussion about

the sort of amendments that it

wants. Why wouldn't they? I

mean, what a bizarre proposition that apparently there would be no discussion

about it, they would just

automatically form one view. They need to have a discussion

about it, they need to work out

what amendments they want.

They need to sit down with the

Government, find out what the

Government's regulations are,

find out what the Government's

proposals are in detail and in

a mature way in a parliamentary

system try to work through a

compromise which is acceptable

to the Parliament. You know,

our Parliament should rise to a

higher level than just a series

of cheap political points.

That's what it should

do. There's a gentleman over

there in the front row who's

had his hand up for a while.

Yes? It seems that before Kevin

Rudd's prime ministership there

was three great reformers in

Howard, Keating and Hawke.

Recently, Kevin Rudd's been

accusing the Howard Government

of being lazy and

non-reformist, is this ETS

essentially a way of painting

himself into that picture of

being a great reforming Prime Minister? Let's go to one of the members of the Government

who's here, Kate Ellis. Well,

I guess is the first thing is

that the ETS is an absolutely

huge reform. In terms of the

changes and how

all-encompassing that is to our

economy and community, it is a

massive reform, but your

question is the reason why it

can be put forward so we can

carry on a fine legacy of being

reformist governments? The

answer is no. The reason it's

been put forward is because

there is the issue of climate

change, which Alexander says

people need time to sit down

and discuss. We've been

discussing for more than a

decade and this Government is

determined that it's time that

we put in place serious action

so that we can reduce the

amount of emissions which

Australia is producing. That

is the reason for it. The

reason for it is because we

need action at a domestic

level, and we need action so

that we can go to the

international community and

argue that there needs to be a

global response. That's the

reason for it. So

coincidentally, yes it does

carry on a tradition of major

reforms, but it's motivated by

the fact that we can't sit

around and not act on this

issue for any longer. A quick

response from some of our other

panelists. Natasha? I'm

waiting for the reformist

agenda to kick in and I think

we have to remember that the

ETS, long overdue. Some of us have been talking about...

well, our political parties,

since at least 1983. The idea

of the Coalition and the Labor

Party negotiating on this

particular scheme concerns me

greatly. Let's not forget that

these target s piss-weak

targets. I'm sorry, 5-25% by

2020. I mean, if this is the

piece of legislation that is

going to really assist us with tackling climate change, I'm

not so sure. Believe it or

not, even though I see the desperate need for the reform

to save our planet, I have some

sympathy for the position of

waiting until we see what the

rest of the world is going.

That's not because I support a

hapless beleaguered Opposition

on this issue, it's actually

because I want to see real

environmental change for the

better and I don't see why that

can't happen when we know what

some of the other big economies

and big polluters are

doing. Let's hear from Megan.

The questioner was essentially asking, I think, whether the

Government's grandstanding

here? Well, this is a

Government that supposedly

delivered a historic record or

achievement over the River

Murray for us not that long ago

and most of us here in South

Australia are still waiting to

really see the impact of that.

There was Kevin Rudd was in

Adelaide with our own Premier announcing this was historic,

and really, I don't think we've

seen that at all. So we can be

hopeful that there is going to

be serious reform and that we

will see something that will

tackle climate change, but I

still think that politics is

going to get way too much in

the way and it's almost like

you wish that the ETS could be

taken out of Parliament and

actually let sensible people

make this decision. Oh, no.

Like the media. That's going

to take us in another

direction. You're watching

Q&A, the live and interactive

forum where you get to ask the

question. The next question is

from within the audience, up

the back, it's from Daryl

McCann. Yesterday, Ralph Nader

suggested that Barack Obama is

weak, waffling, wavering and

ambiguous. Is he allowed to

say that, or is Jimmy Carter

wrong for claiming criticism of

the current administration is

racist? If Bush had thought

Austrian was a language, would

we have ever heard the end of

it? Let's go to Peter Sutton, obviously referring to the

comment that there is a racist

element in the vociferous

opposition to Obama's reform

plans? Whenever you build race

up in a community as a value of

some strength and some

importance, whether it's

positive or negative, you're

always courting the danger of someone else making it

negative, even if you didn't

want that. This is the double

bind we're all in when we're

liberal about multiculturalism

or anything similar to that and

it's a double bind for people

who find themselves locked

inside an identity they don't

particularly want to have

thrust upon them. Our

liberalism can give birth to

prisons and we've found that in

other parts of this country's

life, as well. So I think

there is a cost to pay for

emphasis on race. Pretty hard

to avoid it in a country like

the United States, with the first black President in

history? The United States is

incredibly unusual in the

ex-British colonies. In most

of them the integration rate

between Indigenous people and

others is high, and in the

United States it's quite high,

but in this case it's not an Indigenous descended

population, it's mainly African descendant and the outmarriage rate for those people is

actually tiny, so you do

actually have a kind of

subsociety almost, although

it's highly integrated in many

ways. Unlike Australia, where

the average outmarriage rate

for Aboriginal people is over

70% and in Sydney it's over

80%. In fact, for Sydney women

it's 83%. So this is a rapidly-integrating population in urban scenes, but not

elsewhere. I'm going to take

this over to Alexander Downer,

and let's pick up on what the

questioner said about Ralph

Nader's assessment that Obama

is weak, waffling and wavering.

It's damning from the American

left? Well, it's damning, but

it's not racist. Do you think

it's true? Thinking of the

question... well, I don't think

people in the United States and

Barack Obama is not one of them, should be making claims

that anyone who criticises the

President is somehow racist for

doing so. I think that's quite

an appalling level of

debate. Well, Obama is not

saying that, on the contrary.

No, he's not, but this goes

back to an American Senator who

called Obama a liar when

President Obama was addressing

the Congress and there was a

whole lot of controversy about

this Senator obviously, but an accusation that - might have

been a Congressman actually -

that he was racist. I wouldn't

say that I was somebody who was

naturally inclined to many of

the policies of President

Obama, but I'm not sure that we

can draw the conclusion at this

stage that he's as bad as Ralph

Nader says he is, that he's

waffly. He's a great - You'd

be against national health

insurance for example, would

you? Well, it's an American

question, isn't it? I wouldn't

presume to be - You're opposing his policies? I wouldn't

presume to be a great expert on

the American health system, but

I think the health system we

run in Australia is a system

that runs reasonably well. But

whether you could translate

that to the United States of

America is altogether a

question that you don't know the answer to and nor do

I. No-one does at this point.

Kate Ellis, what do you think?

Just go back to the question of

whether there's a racist element to the Opposition

that's emerging to President

Obama? I think that whenever

there is a genuinely racist

outburst then that has to be

dealt with incredibly

seriously, which is why it's

really damaging if just

anything that is critical of,

in this case President Obama,

is deemed racist. I don't

think that that is at all

helpful and, in fact, it

weakens the case when we do try

and stand up against genuinely

racist outbursts. But I will

say that I do think that in

politics, like in any form of

debate or public discussion,

there can sometimes be

occasions when people become

weak debaters and when - in

this case they might be having

a debate about health care

reform in the United States,

rather than having the argument

on the merits of that case,

then people can sometimes

revert to the personal. And I

think that there are incidents

where that has probably

occurred. I'm not talking

about the Congressman, but I

mean, there are elements where

we've seen in the far right

media in the United States,

where there have been some outrageous positions put forward and I think that some

of the activities of people who

are trying to genuinely engage

in a debate about health care

might not be up to debating

with the President and so they

can fall back onto racist

insults when they're losing an

argument, and I think that

happens. We've got a couple of

people in the audience with

their hands up. I'll quickly

hear from them. I get Tim presentation that President

Obama is going to be the best,

or one of the best presidents

the United States ever had.

His current way of dealing with

the world's problems,

particularly bringing the

Russians on side, sorting

things out in the world, I

think we'll see in time he's

going to probably be one of the

best, maybe not the best, but

one of the best, but more than anything, he doesn't

swear. I'll take that as a

comment. We've got one person

up the back there in the

striped jacket with his hand

up. I was thinking about

this... this is the President

of America, we're in Australia,

but we're talking about him, so

he's actually a world leader

not just an American leader and

I was interested in the panel's

opinion as his responsibility

as the leader of America and

how that contradicts his

responsibility as leader of a

world. Let's hear from Natasha

on that. Can I add this, is

Barack Obama finding it hard to

deal - having made so many

promises with reform - with the

political realities of being in

office and finding he doesn't

actually have the power to do

what he wants? Like any Democratic leader he's

answerable to the citizenry

through his Congress and

through the Senate. So he may

have some impediments in terms of getting the numbers all the

time, but what I like about the American congressional system

is it's not the same binding party system we have in

Australia. It's not as rigid,

there's not the same certainty

with outcomes. I feel

confident it's a system that

works. If only it was

compulsory voting. Could he end

up being the President for the

world, but not that he could do

a lot in America? It's

inevitable he has that dual

role and I think he's capable

of balancing both. I think his

actions in early office were

extraordinary, the stem cell

issue, the Guantanamo Bay, a

range of issues he acted on

with alacrity. With the race

issue, his election shows at

least among some cohorts in the

American voting arena that the

race debate has been won. Of

course racial discrimination is

there... but he's too clever to

allow it to become a

distraction. If you get to the

heart of the question, the

question is really about in

promoting America's interests

as the world leader, in a sense

the President of the United

States is, America's interests contradict the interests of the

rest of the world. In one respect I think there is cause

for some concern, albeit

limited concern, and that is

that President Obama and the

Democrats in the United States

are more inclined to trade economic protectionism,

something we in this country

should be wary of, because

that's not good for us and it's

not good for the rest of the

world if America starts to

become more inward-looking,

albeit in economic terms,

because I think they are the

only terms he is becoming a bit

more inward-looking. So in

that sense you have a risk of

the world leader putting

America's interests before the

interests of the rest of the

world and that's something we,

as observers of President

Obama, maybe many people in

Australia, and I think they are great supporters of President

Obama, but we should be wide-

Eyed to the risks of what he

might do in that area. I'm

wrapping up that subject.

You're watching Q&A live

tonight. We're in Adelaide.

Most weeks Q&A is broadcast

from Sydney. If you'd like to

be in our studio audience on a

Thursday night and join the

audience, register on our

website. The address is on the

screen. Our next question

tonight comes from Sam

Spurrett. Does the panel think

that Kevin Rudd has completed the comprehensive prostitution of Australia's diplomatic

service and does Kevin need to

learn the Australian

diplomatic service is not a

Liberal or Labor employment

agency? Let's start with Megan

Lloyd on that? I'm sure that

there's a history of former

politicians getting overseas

postings. No. No? I think I appointed five, possibly

more. I was just thinking,

Peter Reith to London, Peter

Reith... It was not a

diplomatic appointment. It was

a trade appointment. You're so

clever, he was appointed to the

European Bank for

reconstruction and development,

not a diplomatic

appointment. Amanda Vanstone,

some would argue you're acting

a prestige travel agent. I

knew I'd be under fire, Tony.

You asked Megan a question, why

don't you let her answer

it. The big difference

obviously is you gave no jobs

at all to anyone from the Labor

Party? Well, I would say that's

true, we didn't appoint anybody

from the Labor Party to diplomatic appointments and I

don't suppose the Keating or

Hawke Government appointed any

Liberals either to diplomatic

appointments. Why not? Because

normally you would work on the

basis going on a diplomatic

appointment that you were representing not just the

country, but you do actually

represent the Government and so

it was assumed that political

who were our political

opponents would not feel comfortable representing our

Government. Unlike Brendan

Nelson? That's a wonderful

point. It's one that you could

take up with him, but not with

me. Megan, sorry I interrupted

you. So, there's a record of

people, a proud history of

former MPs who get overseas

postings, so I think Kevin Rudd

is just following in a grand

tradition . It will continue

to happen, I'm sure it will

happen in the future. But I

guess in some ways they do actually bring some experience.

I mean, these are people who have travelled overseas as well

and are used to dealing with overseas countries and are

dealing with dignitaries at a

level that the rest of us

don't. So, you know, they

bring a bit of something to it,

I'm sure. Natasha? I'm all for

using the skills and expertise

of former politicians. You

pause? If it's in the national

interest. I think the bipartisan appointments of

Brendan Nelson and Kim Beazley

were clever, not just from a

political perspective, but I'm

proud to have those two men

representing us abroad.

There's always room for more

accountability and

transparency, appointments on

merit. Believe me, moved many

amendments in our time to try

to ensure that Government

appointments were based on

merit. But I don't know, I

thought perhaps the Prime

Minister missed out on the

trifector. Pick me, pick me.

You're right, I think the issue

of leapfrogging sort of diplomats, I think that sometimes sounds a little

churlish, but I do think if it's transparent and

accountable and they've got the

skills, then why not use your

former politicians? We had

another question on this topic,

it came from Peter Smith.

Where are you Peter, in the

middle there. I'd just like to

continue this theme. Kim Beazley said this week that it

was difficult for former

politicians to quit politics

cold turkey. Is that why they

indulge their political habit

by taking diplomatic posts or

becoming lobbyists, or

consultants, or writing weekly

newspaper columns? Shouldn't we

help them quit by imposing a

time gap between leaving

politics and taking up these

positions, or at least by not

reading their rather

self-serving newspaper

columns? Kate Ellis? I don't

think Brendan Nelson

wrote... What an impressive

question, you'd obviously make

a great statesman Alexander, is

he talking about your column or

mine? Kate Ellis? Well, I guess

this might not be a popular

thing to say to the public, because I recognise that there

is a view out there in the general community that people

don't want to see politicians

or former politicians get

anything more. I get that, you

don't want to see entitlements,

pay, don't want to see

appointments and so that might

be a mainstream issue. But I

have to say that whether or not

people choose to acknowledge

it, there are a number of

skills which people pick up in

their roles and it might be

that there are former

politicians, which I might not

agree with on a huge number of

issues, but I accept the fact

that they have served their

country and they've picked up

skills and they actually have

attributes which can benefit

our country by going out there

and representing them. Can I

interrupt you for a minute.

The most recent, I think the

most interesting appointment of this lot politically is Brendan

Nelson, and you talk about

representing positions and on

the day he's appointed he comes

out and tells his Liberal Party

essentially not to vote for the

Emissions Trading Scheme. You

put him in Europe before

Copenhagen, which is in Europe,

and what sort of message

- That's very good, Tony. What

sort of message does that

send? Well, I think it comes

back to the fact that Brendan

Nelson, for example, I'm sure

has had a number of positions

within the Liberal Party that

he might have disagreed with

over the years, which he's

backed his leader. Some of

those more recently he's sort

of alluded to, but he might not

agree with Malcolm Turnbull as

might as we might otherwise

think. But I think that is

part of the job, is to not go

out and represent your own

personal view. You are representing the country and you are representing the

elected government of the day's

views and I'm sure he's a

professional enough man to be

able to do that. OK, you're

watching Q&A, the unpredictable

program where you get to ask

the questions. If you'd like

to ask a question in person go

to our website and register to

join the audience. Our next

question comes from Robin

Cole. The Maori culture is

show cased when the Haka is

performed. In comparison,

despite an apology from Mr Rudd

the gaps between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians are ever-increasing. What

fundamental changes will we

need to see in order for these

gaps to be closed? Let's start

with Peter Sutton. I've

actually heard you say recently

your starting point for change

is not damaged adults but the

3-year-old child? Yes, you've

got to start somewhere, but I'd

like to just go quickly back to

the beginning of the question.

There is a lot of focus on a

gap that's defined as a gap

between two ethnic groups, a

health gap, life expectancy, education, opportunity to be

employed gap. And it's

repeatedly put in terms of

Aboriginal people versus

non-Aboriginal people. The

range within that category

Aboriginal, the range of

disadvantage versus middle-class life, for example,

is enormous. It runs the full

length of every possible

condition, and when we talk

about those people, the

population that's often

mentioned is about half a

million. That's not half a

million people as defined to be

Aboriginal under Australian law

- that would be a much smaller

number actually, or

significantly smaller. That

number is actually taken from

the census where Australian law

doesn't define the answer as to

who is an Aboriginal person?

It's self-defining. Let's

remember that that's a

complication here. But the key

thing is the disadvantages that

are caused to a child by having

sores that are untreated are

not ethnic disadvantages. It's

a failure to apply the

epidemiological preventers, the

basic medical preventative

measures needed in a settled

community of any kind anywhere

in the world. Doesn't matter

two you are. If those measures

are not put in place, those

children will tend to get infections, then early renal

failure and death at 45 from

kidney diseases and so on.

There's a range of diseases

that operate like that, from early childhood. Whether those

children are white or black

doesn't matter. It is statistically the case that

those problems are concentrated

in the Aboriginal end of the

spectrum, but it's actually a

behaviour issue, a medical

issue and a cultural issue, and

it's not about ethnicity.

Being Aboriginal doesn't make

you sick. Can I just put to you

something you said recently, as

well. You said "You need to

ask a bedrock question

regarding fundamental change.

Should we have racially

segregated communities

persisting in Australia with

taxpayers' funding?" What do

you mean by that, and do you

actually have an answer to that

question you asked? I wish I

had a simple answer, but it's a

question looming for a lot of

people, not just Aboriginal

people, but it's a national

question and it's a citizens'

question, not an experts'

question, and a residents'

question, because we have many

residents who are not citizens

but who have an interest in

these questions, particularly

if they come from a group

that's not part of the majority

culture. Where people seek to

live separately and have a different place in the group,

that may or may not be helpful

to them, but it's usually their

choice. What is going on is

the intervention which is the

concentration of people into

protective mission holding centres, which were centres of

control, education, medical

help, and also let's face it,

centres of protection against

some rather nasty people

outside at the time. Those

interventions which were highly

artificial interventions in the

life of highly nomadic people

have been maintained through

public subdescription with a

mixture, but almost entirely

through taxpayers' money. My

question is, is it the Government's business to

maintain racial segregated

residential communities, or is

that their business and should

not the Government that

supplies the infrastructure

funds and so on be considering

winding down that injection of

funds, particularly where

people have an option to

integrate more fully into the

wider community, which they could well do, for example, in

the south-east part of Cape York Peninsula in the Cairns

region. That's a radical

thought to be getting on with. Let's hear from Alexander Downer. Well, it is a radical

thought and it's an interesting

thought and it's a debate that

we need to have a) greater

extent in Australia. I've been

to a number of remote Aboriginal communities in this

country and I have to say - not

universally, but in most cases

- it's a pretty depressing

experience and you have to ask

yourself why that has happened.

I think we have an intellectual conflict, really. On the one

hand we want to do what we can

to help preserve traditional

Aboriginal culture. On the

other hand, we want the

benefits of modernism to spread

into Aboriginal culture and to

be taken up by Aboriginal

people and it's very hard to

reconcile those two things, and

if you isolate Aboriginal

people in Aboriginal

communities you don't give them

enough opportunities to get out

of those remote communities if

they want to, and I suspect we

don't give them enough

opportunities to get out of

those communities then they're

rather doomed. It's a tough

word to use, but they're rather

doomed to a disadvantaged life,

albeit they have a better

opportunity to live if you like

a traditionalist life rather

than a modernist life. And I

think they're the dilemmas we

have to gradually resolve as a country. Natasha? I don't think anyone doubts the complexity of

this debate, I just wonder if

this has ever genuinely been a

political priority for

successive governments. I

recall that comment from Graeme

Richardson when he said there

was no electoral penalty for not acting on Indigenous health

issues at that time. Obviously

it's a combination of - Would

you say there is one now? I

think in pure numerical terms,

maybe not. It was one of the

last things I was able to

attend before I left

Parliament, a lot of people

discount that as symbolism and

I don't think we should underestimate symbolism in our community, but I thought that

was the first sense of a

government heading in the right

direction for me in terms of

their commentary. As Peter

would be the first to point out

and his book makes compelling

reading, you've got to combine

that with practical action. So

I think it's very hard to look

at a Federal Parliament full of

non-Indigenous decisionmakers

and wonder how on earth can we

get this right if there's not

even that degree of representation and

empowerment. Megan, can I get a

sense of how you gauge your

readers' thoughts on this? Like

Natasha sort of said, there's

not a numerical marker when it

comes to Indigenous issues in

political terms, in electorate

terms, it's a horrible thing to

say, but there isn't, I guess,

in general media as well,

Indigenous issues aren't broadly discussed I think in

our Australian media like they

should be and we don't have

enough Aboriginal presence in

our mainstream media, and I

think that's... like in

Parliament there seems to be an absence, other than the

sporting field, in the sports

page of my papers, certainly.

But in the forward news pages,

no, and I think that the sort

of things Peter's been writing

about in his book is enough to

sort of let's really revisit

this as a debate about where

we're going, because it's 2009

and nothing seems to be getting

any better. You've devoted your

life to these issues. You've

written a very powerful book

which, I think, raises some

very radical issues, one of

which we've just heard. How

does it make you feel listening

to what you're hearing

here? It's, as I said before,

this is everybody's business

and it's important that people

don't just swallow what they're

told, no matter who it's from,

no matter how saintly or no

matter how much one admires the

origin person. It's very

important for citizens interested in these things to

do their own research. To get

out there, read books, discuss

things with other people. We

can't all go and spend 35 years

in the bush learning first-hand

about the subject. That's what

books are for. They help us

share things with each other,

but there's no substitute for

independent thought here.

Aboriginal affairs discourse

has been marred for 30 years by

large amounts of spin, large

amounts of whitewash, a fair

bit of fibbing here and there.

Most of it done, really, out of

goodwill, a lot of it

ultimately destructive. Kate

Ellis, let me get you to

reflect as a Government

representative on what you're

hearing. Go back if you like

to the fairly radical thought

that perhaps it's going to be

unsustainable into the future

to keep funding remote

communities. Now, that's the

thought that's been raised

here, what are your thoughts on

that? Look, I don't think that

you can take away people's

choice as to where they live

and how they choose to live

their lives, but I do think

that when you're talking about

a lack of opportunities in

those communities that that

needs to be addressed and in

order for that to happen , what

we need to do is recognise that

we can't go on doing things the

way that we've done them in the

past, and even when they've

been done in the past with the

best of intentions, we know

that when we're looking at all

of the indicators that it's not

good enough. So I think that

the apology was important, but

I think following on from that,

what our Government has made

clear is that we need to be

held accountable, or

governments which come after us

need to be held accountable,

which is why we actually have

to look at measures closing the

gap, measuring the educational

opportunities which are

available to Indigenous

children, measuring Indigenous

health outcomes and let's do

this on an annual basis. I

could say to you, we had a national partnership in

Indigenous early childhood

education which, I think, is

incredibly important and are

spending over $300 million in

that area, but rather than just

talking about dollars, let's

also start measuring the

results that is coming through

from that, and that's the

approach which we've outlined

and why we're saying we'll be

measured on an annual

basis. This gentleman in the

front row. Could somebody on

the panel please explain to me

as if I was a 6-year-old boy in

the Northern Territory my anus

is now bleeding, my legs are so

painful I can't decide whether

to pull them apart or together,

I have vomited up the semen

from a penis that's been forced down my throat. Explain to me

as a 6-year-old, why counting's

important, dark political objectives are important. Explain to me why I have to

wait and wait, and wait? 'Cause

we don't have the voices that

you do, so please explain that

to me as a 6-year-old boy? It's

the kids who come first, in my view. APPLAUSE

If the structural system

doesn't work for the children,

then it doesn't work. No

matter how much so-called

impowerment is given to

community politicians by

devolving certain amounts of

decision-making through having

extensive consultations and

getting up advisory committees

and all that sort of thing,

that is one of the major

services of internal social

breakdown in these communities,

because what it does is it

turns the toilet cleaning and

the rubbish collection into

pure politics over allocations,

over who gets the Toyota, over

who gets the trip to Sydney for

the meeting, and the prestige

and so on. This is traditional

cultural values and loyalty to

one's kin is basic to all that.

But it does mean that it needs

the wider political system's

own tendency to think about

things in terms of processes.

If we get the process right,

it'll be right. So we must

have more consultations, more

political, you know, devolution

of power and so on. That's not

about outcomes, that's about if

you like, the political

morality of process. The kid

who's raped, the woman who's

face is bashed for the 25th

time, the girl who commits

suicide because she's been pack

raped eight times - I'm talking

about hospital records here -

these are people who without

whose well-being, all of this

political stuff means nothing

at all. I agree totally with

what you said? Kate Ellis? I

would say to that 6-year-old

kid, of course you shouldn't

have to wait, and there isn't

anyone who would say we

shouldn't be doing everything

we can to be protecting those

children and to be ensuring the

sort of statistics we're seeing

at the moment continuing. To

the 6-year-old boy, that's why

I would say governments have

been doing things differently.

That's why we have been doing

things that are at times

controversial, but that's why

there are now extra police

officers out thrt communities.

It's why there are now

night-watch patrols. It's why

there are kids' health checks.

It's why we are going about

doing things and investing an

extra $1.2 billion in the

emergency response, is because

I don't want to hear those

stories of those children, or more so, I don't want those

stories to be occurring out

there. And nobody does, but

the really sad thing about all

of this is there is no silver

bullet. There is no one silver

bullet that I can put forward

and say "There will not be

another one of those horrific

cases out there". What we can

do is say we will do absolutely

everything in our power to one,

address these issues, but two,

make sure that these don't hide

away in the background. Make

sure that we don't carry on for

decades where governments

aren't held to account if these

sorts of things continue.

That's the pledge of

governments, and I guess

that's... that would be a

pretty hard conversation to

have with that 6-year-old

child, but it's the motivation

to keep working, to turn things

around. I just want to say,

listening to your question it

sort of meant a lot to me,

because that was the kind of -

of course not identical - but

proposition put to the Federal

Cabinet that I was part of in

2007, those shocking propositions. That was what

led to the intervention. That

was what led to the first time

a Government saying, " Oh my

God, we can't run rhetoric and

have a bit of funding" , which

seems to be what so much of

Government policy in this area

is about, we have to mobilise

people to do something straight

away. The intervention was

enormously controversial. I

know people in this room would

have thought very poorly of it,

but there was that thought of

policy - Peter's point, always

put the children first. We

could not sit by any longer.

We might have sat by for 100

years, but we couldn't sit by

any longer and do nothing about it. APPLAUSE

You're watching Q&A and

remember, you can send in your

questions via Web or video. Go

to our website, the address is

on the screen, to find out how

to do that. The next question

is from the audience, from

James McCann. A 16-year-old boy

has been banned for 20 years

from playing Rugby League after

assaulting another player. Two

other players have been banned

for five years. As Minister for Youth and Minister for

Sport, do you endorse the

banning of these young people

from Rugby League for the

reminder of their playing years. Image of this brawl

between teenagers at the end of

a Rugby League Grand Final in

Sydney have shocked the nation,

it's fair to say. Let's have a quick look at them.

Some of those young men being

egd on by their parents if you

believe the reporting. Is the

banning for 20 years of one of

those boys appropriate? I think

it is appropriate for sport to

have a zero tolerance approach

to that sort of horrific

violence and I understand that

police are now investigating

some of those, some of what we

just saw there as well and

there may be charges laid in

that area going forward. Have

been charges, I'm told in some

cases. The other thing is

important to say, if there are

parents cheering this on and

high fives when you get off the

field, that illustrates pretty

clearly this is an issue much

bigger than sport. Sometimes

people like to talk about this

as if sport is creating this

sort of violence. That's

pretty clearly not the case.

But I absolutely think that we

should have a really tough

stance on violence, whether

it's on or off the field, which

is the reason why as part of

our funding agreements with

Australian sports, they

actually have to sign up to a

document 'The Essence of Australian Sport' which is

about fair play, which is about

not having violent activities

and those sports have to sign

up as a condition of their

funding that they will have

strong provisions in place to

prevent it and stamp down on it

when they do that. As the Minister for Sport I absolutely support them doing

that. Natasha Stott Despoja? I totally endorse Kate's comments. Violence is

unacceptable in any arena, in

any form, but I see a bit of a

double standard. How is it the

adult players in some of our

professional leagues, be it the

Barry Halls or others of this

world that get away with full

on sucker punches and aren't

banned and they are role models

in a very different role and

capacity. Barry Hall got a

6-week suspension, not 20

years. In today's paper, he's

coming back. A child gets 20

years, the role model gets 6

weeks and is, in fact, as you

say about to get a new

contract? For those of us who

do like our AFL, it's very

concerning and I think it's a

double standard. Megan? Is

there an assumption that this

game was reflective of

something broader in that

immediate community? Is it the

canary in the mind sort of

aspect showing there is

something else happening in

that part of western Sydney? Or

is it kids just emulating what

they're actually seeing adults

do? I mean, Natasha's point,

we've seen, we see adult

sportsmen behave like this on

the field, those kids were

doing what they've seen before

- seen on television. I don't know the circumstances involved

here, I can see the video

footage and somebody gets

banned for 20 years, I think to

make a judgment about that

you'd have to know an enormous

amount about what that person

had actually done. It's kind

of pop politics just to sort of

make a judgment about it. It

sounds like a good idea, but do

we really know what is behind

it and what was behind the

violence? I agree mainly with

Natasha obviously, but I don't

on this point. Players do get

suspended in all significant

sports in Australia for acts of

violence and so they should. I

mean, if somebody punches

somebody in an AFL game - and

I've played a lot of sport

myself, and even in games I've

been in - you'd probably be a

bit surprised to hear that

people have wanted to the punch

me. And, of course, I wouldn't

punch back, because I'm, you

know, the sort of person who

just goes for the punches.

He's a lover, not a fighter,

that's lovely. It's

appropriate that players do get

suspended if they commit acts

of violence like that. You can

charge people with assault, so

why this particular game ended

up in the way it did you'd have

to know an awful lot about the

circumstances, and I think it's

very hard for any of us to make those kinds of

judgments. Peter, do you have a

thought on this? Just a brief,

evolutionary one. This yellow

vynyl table which I think was

pinched from Barry White's

bedouir makes me think about

reproduction, in the long

evolution of human beings over

the last million years, among

those striving to attain

recognised adulthood, among the

boys at least, physical

competition has been very, very

customary and well-entrenched

and the archaeological evidence

of combat