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... doom other people to repeat it. In this case, the other people are Aborigines.

Govt hails passage of NT indigenous laws, August 17, 2007 - 12:39PM, The Age

"A historic day for Aboriginal people", according to the Government. Indeed, and this is what Bob Brown wants us to remember it for:

Senator BOB BROWN (Tasmania—Leader of the Australian Greens) (7.50 pm) Hansard 16/8/07
... We know from experience right around the world —from the Gaelic experience to the experience of people in the Americas — that the loss of language brings great anguish and depression, which visits people for centuries afterwards. Yet this government seems to have put that aside in the move — which must be very clear about here — to say to Indigenous people, ‘Take up the predominant culture or else.’ [...]. I want that on the record, so that no-one reading about this moment in history 10, 50, 100 or 500 years from now can say, ‘If only they had known what they were doing to Indigenous culture in Australia.’ We all know. The government has made its choice. It has the bulldozer; it has the numbers, and we do not. But let nobody in this place say that it did not know what this would do to Indigenous culture, custom, law, language, pride and wellbeing into the future of this nation.

Minor in the scheme of things, but in the more specific area of this blog, some senators had good questions about the Government's view of Indigenous languages during the debate.

These included:

• The Federal Government's withdrawal of funding for Indigenous language programs in the budget (Christine Milne, Hansard 13/8/07).

• Whether there was any intent for the new secondary boarding schools to include Indigenous language and culture (there's no mention of it in the legislation and appropriation). (Bob Brown, Hansard 14/8/07). It is of course critical to the survival of Indigenous languages and culture.
Answer Not my department.

• How people would be given formal warnings about their child's poor school attendance leading to docking their social security benefits (Ursula Stephens and Bob Brown, Hansard 16/8/07). Senator Scullion said it would be in writing and in a 'personal interview situation'. He elaborated:

Senator SCULLION (Northern Territory—Minister for Community Services) (11.59 pm)— On the second question first, I understand that is the reason that Centrelink provide a personal interview situation for that. They ensure that they are able to provide it in a language that is understood.

Senator Bob Brown—Their first language?

Senator SCULLION—That is not always the language of choice. It is the language that the individual uses. I am not trying to get around it but I am not sure about the term ‘first language’. But it is the language that person is most familiar with this—yes, that is clearly the intent, Senator.

Intent is not enough. Without a regulation requiring an interpreter, no harassed Centrelink staff is going to bother with intent and an interpreter; they'll just speak extra extra loudly in English.

Other reactions today:Banduk Marika, Andrew Bartlett, Not a hedgehog, Matjjin-nehen, The Knee-jerk response taskforce,


We desperately need more Senators (and MPs) like Brown, Bartlett, Siewart, et al.

Labor have shown that they're willing to lie down even when the government flatly refuses to consider their amendments. Not that it would have made a difference, since the Coalition will always have the support of Family First's Senator Fielding, and therefore, a Senate majority, but Labor should have at least demonstrated their dissatisfaction with the laws without their amendments. I suppose they're doing the sound political thing by avoiding the wedge, but then it's a major flaw of parliament that voting against a bill for its inadequacies equates to opposing the principle of the legislation.

Various Labor people made good speeches pointing out the problems with the bills - e.g. Bob McMullan and Daryl Melham. And Senators Crossin, Evans and Stephens did some fine work in the Senate hammering home the problems, and in particular the failure to consult with Indigenous people, and to make the most of the bipartisan support that Labor was offering.

Senator CHRIS EVANS (Western Australia— Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) (4.11 pm) Hansard 16/8/07 ......
We are committed to assisting the government in its endeavours to respond to the very serious issues in these communities—although every time Mal Brough speaks I am more inclined to vote against it, but that is a personal issue. I find his lack of good grace and his lack of any commitment to build support amongst either parliamentarians or Indigenous people abhorrent and I think his behaviour is very unfortunate. Labor are committed to supporting the bill. We recognise that these are special measures, but we see no reason why the government cannot ensure that we honour and invoke the Racial Discrimination Act rather than seek to exclude this legislation from the provisions of the act. ....
I deeply regret that Labor did not have a counter-plan ready to go (although their focus on getting more teachers and police rather than Soc.Sec officers is FAR preferable). It is a great pity that they either didn't go on the attack earlier about the failure of the Government 'whole-of-government' approach - ie the failure of COAG trials and the results of cutting funding to Indigenous communities over the last 10 years, - or else if they did, that the media didn't take it up. If the Government's 10 years of neglect had been on the table, along with a counter-plan, then Brough wouldn't have been so well-placed to cast the intervention as a can-do response to a 'crisis' that had nothing to do with the Federal Government.

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