Update: "unjustified, racist and obscene:" see end for explanation
Update 2 I missed the 140 extra DEWR people to manage the CDEP changes, and a few others.. up to 725 thanks Bob!
The National Emergency Response is about job creation - 350 new Centrelink workers and 150 new FACSIA staff. Just 66 additional police. Fewer than one per targeted community. That eats up most of the $500 million. No money for the housing shortfall, sexual abuse counsellors, new classrooms.....
The Senate votes on Tuesday 14 August on whether to pass the NT National Emergency Legislation. If you want them to delay or modify it, write to your senators now. Individually, or GetUp has a campaign.
Heaps more material has appeared on the site of the Senate Inquiry into the Northern Territory National Emergency Response Bill 2007 & Related Bills
- 80 or so extra submissions since when I looked. I checked every 10th - all opposed.
- extra material tabled
- the transcript of Friday's hearing
- answers to questions asked by committee members
[Update: you can now download the Senate Inquiry report which includes the transcript. Further comments on the report at the end:]
Perhaps the most fascinating material are FACSIA's answers, e.g. Additional Information 6 Further Answers to Questions on Notice received from Department of Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaCSIA) on where the money's going:
Centrelink will have approximately 350 additional staff of whom 300 will be based in the Northern Territory. The Department will have 5 additional staff based in Canberra and Medicare Australia will have an additional 2 Northern Territory based staff.
Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs
There will be approximately 150 new staff positions with about 75% of these staff based in the Northern Territory. These positions include Government Business Managers, support to the Emergency Response Taskforce and Operations Centre personnel.
Health and Ageing
There will be approximately 42 new positions in the Department. 15 of these positions are expected to be in the Northern Territory.
A few other snippets
Department of Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaCSIA)
tabled a one-page document [.pdf], which says the permit system prevented public access to Aboriginal communities, and so people didn't know how bad the situation is. So how come there have been dozens of reports over the last 10 years saying how bad things are on Indigenous communities? How come the report writers were able to get permits? How come the journos didn't read the reports and investigate? How come the government took no notice of the reports?
On how to spend quarantined money
FACSIA say it is easiest to tie payments to a community store. So Aboriginal people will find it hard to leave their community because half their welfare payments will be tied to the local store.
On why rights are being set aside
Because it's an emergency. That's why people aren't allowed normal appeal procedures over welfare cuts. That's why they can't afford to let bureaucrats be sued for discriminatory acts under the Racial Discrimination Act. And that's why they have to allow the 'Henry VIIIth clauses' which allow the Minister to amend legislation without reference to Parliament - which upset the Law Council.
How will this help abused children?
The majority Government opinion, unsurprisingly, places much greater weight on the handful of submissions and speakers who support the bill. Glaringly, in their attempt to justify the permit system they failed to mention the submission by the Police Federation that removing permits will make it harder to police grog-runners. But even the majority Government members find the lack of public consultation and public information hard to take, and recommend something be done about that. They also recommend scrutiny - but nothing legislative... And of course they do want to help Woollies understand the pure alcohol thing.
The ALP make lots of good recommendations - but still support the bill.
The Democrats and the Greens have good dissenting reports. The Greens' report covers more ground. I conclude with some of their concerns on quarantining income:
The Government clearly determined that it was too difficult to target individuals in Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory and deal with their known mobility, and so have developed this extraordinary provision that places people onto income support if they spend a single night in a designated area. A person may have no problems managing their finances, may not spend any money on grog, and may look after their children in an exemplary fashion ... and yet simply because they live in a designated area they will be subject to having 50% of any income support or family tax benefit they receive being quarantined.
It is easy to imagine circumstances under which a person who lives somewhere else and goes to visit a family member in a designated area and be caught in this regime. A tourist on a pension might visit a designated community overnight and conceivably become to subject to income management.
The ability to receive an exemption is not sufficient. The Government has this around the wrong way. Individuals should not have to be exempted from this kind of regime, but rather the regime should only apply to individuals based on specific relevant criteria. Furthermore, the denial of appeal rights for those who spend a night in a designated area in the Northern Territory mean that these exemption provisions are fundamentally flawed.
The denial of appeal rights in circumstances of such arbitrariness is unjustified, racist and obscene.
Which, I now think, sums up the legislation as a whole.