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Greens Leader says Indigenous plan is selective and racist; legislation will cover acquisition of NT Aboriginal townships.

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Friday 22 June 2007

Greens Leader says Indigenous plan is selective and racist; legislation will cover acquisition of NT Aboriginal townships


MARK COLVIN: Where's the detail? And why has it taken so long? 


Those are two of the questions that have started to dominate the debate about Aboriginal child abuse, as the Prime Minister's announcement of a takeover of the Northern Territory's powers in the matter has sunk in. 


The issue of child abuse has been widely documented in most states for a long time now. But from the shocking revelations of the Queensland report of 1999 to last year's equally confronting report in New South Wales, the story has had a tendency to attract promises more than comprehensive action. 


But now the Federal Government has moved, has it done the detail work, in providing the police, the doctors and others who'll be needed to carry out its plan? 


Shortly we'll look at the abuse crisis in key states and then we'll hear from the Cape York Aboriginal leader Noel Pearson, whose thinking has strongly influenced the Federal Government's action. But does he think they've gone too far? 


We begin with Alexandra Kirk in Canberra. 


ALEXANDRA KIRK: The Prime Minister maintains the Northern Territory was too slow to act against Aboriginal child sexual abuse so the Commonwealth's been forced to intervene. 


JOHN HOWARD: We've got to do something about it, and if it means intervening, if it means sweeping away decades of another attitude, well let's do it in the name of trying to achieve a proper outcome. 


And we've been too timid about intervening. We've been too reluctant to do so because we'll be accused of paternalism and all sorts of other things. Well frankly the care and protection of children is more important to me than a slavishly following some philosophy or doctrine. 


ALEXANDRA KIRK: There's no disagreement from the Opposition. Kevin Rudd says the federal takeover has bipartisan support. 


KEVIN RUDD: Protection of little children from abuse should be something beyond party politics. 


ALEXANDRA KIRK: The Queensland Premier Peter Beattie says he agrees with 90 per cent of what the Prime Minister's doing, but that the six-month ban on alcohol in Indigenous communities won't work. 


He's pledged to cooperate with the Commonwealth but questions the motives for Mr Howard's intervention. 


PETER BEATTIE: The Prime Minister is one of the best wedge politicians in the history of Australia. He's very effective at it. I'm mindful of the fact that we've got a Federal Election very shortly. 


My Government is totally commitment to dealing with the issue of alcohol abuse in communities. We were the first to had the guts to actually go into the communities and deal with this.  


We're not going to do silly gimmicks because there's a Federal Election like a total ban. Everyone says, "Yes that's great". But I just say to people who say it's great, what happens at the end of the six months? 


ALEXANDRA KIRK: Kevin Rudd doesn't agree with the Premier's "gimmick" label.  


KEVIN RUDD: I, at this stage, have no basis to doubt the… Mr Howard's intention on this, and I'd rather work through it with Mr Howard on a positive bipartisan basis. 


ALEXANDRA KIRK: The ACT's Chief Minister Jon Stanhope is Labor's most strident critic.  


JON STANHOPE: I think on any definition of racism, this is racist. Give me an example of any racist action anywhere in the world that has ever successfully led to change. 


You know, I regret that it's been so willingly accepted or accepted without question by federal colleagues. 


JON STANHOPE: The Greens call the Howard plan "selective, cynical and racist".  


Leader Bob Brown says he supports measures to save children from sex abuse but accuses the Federal Government of years of deliberate neglect.  


BOB BROWN: And I just want to quote, from Professor Bonnie Robertson's report on the state of affairs on Indigenous abuse and violence from 1999. Quote, "The people who could have made a difference have failed to intervene to stop innocent women and children from being bashed, raped, mutilated and murdered and exposed to forms of violence that have been allowed to escalate to a level that is now a national disgrace." 


ALEXANDRA KIRK: Fellow Greens Senator Rachel Siewert is sceptical too. 


RACHEL SIEWERT: To selectively target remote communities when the bulk of the abuse is occurring in major regional centres. He's coming in with his ideological agenda that he's been trying to push for some time and the seizure of land is one of them. That is not what is needed to deal with this issue. 


ALEXANDRA KIRK: The Government says it's acting quickly - extra police will arrive in communities within days, starting with Mutitjulu near Uluru early next week. The first managers for the prescribed communities will be appointed within a fortnight. 


Indigenous Affairs Minister Mal Brough's meeting Commonwealth officials at the weekend, to get the national emergency response rolling. 


The Government's also set to create special hotlines for those who want to offer their services, both professional and volunteers. 


It's also started working on drafting new laws to cover the Commonwealth's acquisition of some 60 townships, as well as quarantining welfare and family payments across the board to ensure that money provided by the Government for raising children is spent on them.  


MARK COLVIN: Alexandra Kirk.