Issue #1558 1 August 2012
Intervention opponents say the fight will go on
Opponents of the federal government’s intervention in Northern Territory Aboriginal communities narrowly missed out being able to ask Prime Minister Julia Gillard about why the new Stronger Futures legislation had not been subjected to human rights scrutiny.
The Stand For Freedom campaign was hoping its question would be one of three to be answered by Ms Gillard during an international, live web broadcast the Saturday before last, organised by Deakin University, Google+, Fairfax and OurSay.
Campaign director Damien Curtis said the group was “grossly disappointed” that the question would not be asked, despite polling 8,944 votes and coming in at fourth from a list of potential questions.
The group had wanted to ask: “How can we call ourselves a country of the ‘fair go’ if the government is now refusing to allow a human rights test of the legislation by the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights, as called for by the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples?”
Despite the setback, Mr Curtis said the fight against the legislation would continue.
Meanwhile, the Australian Greens have announced they will move to disallow place-based income management trials when Parliament resumes in August.
Senator Rachael Siewert said the government was persisting with its ambition to expand income management across the country. “The Stronger Futures package of legislation that passed through the Senate a fortnight ago expanded the punitive approach of income quarantining to vulnerable individuals to five new sites,” she said.
They are Bankstown in New South Wales, Shepparton in Victoria, Playford in South Australia and Logan and Rockhampton in Queensland.
“In order to enact these place-based trials, the government has tabled regulations which I will move to disallow when Parliament resumes in August,” Senator Siewert said. “Given the overwhelming community opposition and mounting evidence that this approach only further disempowers already vulnerable people, I will be asking the Senate to seriously consider this motion and to finally put an end to this punitive welfare practice.”
In another development, the NSW ALP State Conference last month resolved to call on the government to halt compulsory income management in Bankstown and other places.
The conference called for a revision of the Stronger Futures legislation and repeal of current provisions in the Social Security Act that facilitate income management.
The conference also called for the redirection of all funds earmarked for administering compulsory income management into programs that would provide real and much-needed support for people who were vulnerable or struggling, including increased funding for social services and job creation.
As well, the conference called for the right to immediately exit compulsory income management to be granted to all people in the NT, WA and Queensland who were already in the system.
Stop the Intervention spokesman Paddy Gibson said Aboriginal people wanted to see the laws scrapped entirely.
“Many Aboriginal people have suffered under this policy, stripped of control and dignity, for five long years since the NT Intervention,” he said.
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