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Tuesday, 14 August 2007
Page: 42

Senator KIRK (3:58 PM) —In my speech on the Northern Territory National Emergency Response Bill 2007 and related bills last night, I was talking about the assurance that the government has given to Labor and to the Senate that these measures that are being introduced amount to special measures and therefore are consistent with the requirements of the Racial Discrimination Act. I said last night that the absence of consultation with Indigenous communities by the government certainly casts some doubt on whether these measures would be regarded as special measures pursuant to the Racial Discrimination Act. In the time that I have remaining today, I want to make mention of the fact that it is also of concern that the legislation does not require decision makers to exercise their discretion consistently with the purported beneficial purpose. This is another thing which indicates that these matters may not in fact be special measures.

In view of these concerns, it is essential that there now be extensive consultation with Indigenous communities. Even at this late stage, it is essential that the government explains these measures and the object of the legislation. As the President of HREOC, Mr John von Doussa, said in his evidence to the Senate hearing on Friday, it is not too late to consult with Indigenous communities in order to ensure that the administration of the legislation is designed and implemented in a way that advances the aims of the legislation and meets the aspirations of Indigenous communities. In this context, consultation is better late than never. Finally, it is essential that there be effective monitoring and review of the implementation of these measures. Labor supports the two recommendations made by the Senate inquiry, recommendations No. 1 and No. 3, that ensure that there will be review. (Time expired)