Posted in Uncategorized, tagged Aboriginal issues, Andrew Bartlett, media, Noel Pearson, NT intervention, Senate on Friday, 17 August, 2007|
Andrew Bartlett has noted that this morning will see the last of the debate about the new laws for the Northern Territory intervention. The legislation will then pass the Senate without any amendments, because why would the Government consider any of the points made by minority parties (including Labor) who don’t have the votes to make a difference?
Unfortunately, taking constructive criticism on board is not something this Government is willing to do. Mal Brough and the Government will get exactly the legislation they wanted, with exactly the overreaching and unfettered powers they wanted. What’s more, after the flurry of media coverage of this “national emergency” when it was declared, very little attention is being paid by the media now that the detail has arrived and is being debated.
This is a pattern that the Government has put to good use. They engineered a solid public relations event: a report was released, it was seized on to declare a national emergency, they were supported in their rush to the moral high ground by community leaders (or at least one – Noel Pearson) who believed in their good intentions, and they held fast against anyone who raised concern. Several weeks later, Parliament resumes, and many other issues and non-issues grab the spotlight. Now, it becomes clear to anyone who looks that the link between the report and the action is tenuous at best, the supporters of the spirit of the actions question the approach to implementing it, but the story seems to be over as far as most of the media is concerned.
Senator Bartlett has quoted some of the Government comments about the Little Children are Sacred report that have come up in the Senate debate. They show the disregard that the Government has for the recommendations of that review – instead, they have used the report purely as a tool to justify their motivation, but the policy approach is entirely their own and in many ways is inconsistent with the recommendations of the review. This had already been made obvious through the way in which the report’s authors were omitted from consideration as the legislation was introduced for debate.
After initially presenting fairly solid support for the Government’s approach, Noel Pearson wrote last weekend about his concerns, particularly about the extent to which the Government was taking control and power beyond what was necessary or appropriate:
The bill that is before federal parliament is inelegant and imperfect, but the thrust of its purpose is not sinister. It is necessarily urgent, but it needs to be decisively improved in some crucial respects.
It is absolutely imperative that the provisions relating to the holding of town leases and the subsequent disposition of leases not be within the sole and arbitrary power of the federal Government. Rather, this should be the province of an entity that is comprised of representatives of indigenous landowners.
Brough has emerged as the most active indigenous affairs minister in the history of this portfolio. Many indigenous people will vigorously contest any suggestion that he may yet end up making the most positive contribution to this most precarious of policy issues for the benefit of Australia’s most vulnerable people.
The difference between disaster and success will depend on whether Brough and Howard will engage with Yunupingu and the traditional leaders of the NT on a way forward. It will be a grave mistake for the federal Government to be as intransigent to amendments to its bill as those who have opposed the intervention entirely.
The Government has used a PR strategy for this policy initiative that has stifled and muffled all debate. They drew intense focus to an acute crisis, when in fact they are dealing with chronic problems. Once the spotlight moved away, they brought forth the detail and used their majority in both houses to push it through. The media helps to enable this strategy, because they seem to feel they covered the issues when the intervention was first announced. They need to revisit the issues, highlight the debate, and note the gaps that are widening between the perceived supporters and the Government on this issue.
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