House debates

Thursday, 20 March 2008

Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs and Other Legislation Amendment (Emergency Response Consolidation) Bill 2008

Second Reading

12:36 pm

Photo of Barry HaaseBarry Haase (Kalgoorlie, Liberal Party, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Infrastructure, Roads and Transport) Share this | Hansard source

I have listened very carefully, in this debate on the Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs and Other Legislation Amendment (Emergency Response Consolidation) Bill 2008, to the comments of and the contribution by the member for Bonner. I am concerned, however, that the member for Bonner perhaps does not have the experience necessary to be authoritative in this regard. In my electorate, of course, 14 per cent of my constituents are Indigenous. I have in excess of 200 Indigenous communities in my electorate, which covers 91 per cent of Western Australia.

The evidence that was exposed in the report Little children are sacred brought to light, for all Australia to see, those issues that I have been far too well aware of in my last nine years in this place. I have spent a lifetime in association with Indigenous people and for the last nine years I have worked hard to change some of the circumstances under which they live. You can imagine how impressed I was, and how personally gratifying it was, when the Hon. Mal Brough, as minister in the last government, finally brought to the House legislation that was going to make a very substantial impact on the lives of those underprivileged Indigenous people. The intervention was going to create, for the first time, a set of circumstances where the predators in communities—often in positions of authority if not of overall leadership—were going to be curtailed in their activities at law. Bans were put in place in relation to alcohol. The system of needing permits to enter and scrutinise communities was lifted. And the question of pornography was addressed, albeit in an incomplete manner.

But the people of Australia must understand that since that intervention there has been a change of government. Prior to the change of government, the Australian Labor Party under the leadership of Kevin Rudd was only too pleased to cooperate with the government of the time in the introduction of the legislation. During the course of the last election that position was qualified to a degree. But we did not expect to have, after the election, a roll-back of the removal of the permit system. We did not expect to have a government that would go soft on the existence of pornography in these communities. We did not expect that we would find a new government that was going to effectively roll back the measures that had been deliberately put in place to save the next generation of Indigenous people in those communities.

So what are we to do? We are now confronted with legislation that flies in the face of the hard work I put in the last nine years, and of the very effective, albeit incomplete, legislation and measures introduced by the Hon. Mal Brough. What are we to do? We know the government has the numbers. We know that the government will push this legislation through. But what do we say to the mothers of the small children in these communities who looked to the government for the first time with a sense of hope? It was the first time they could look to the government of Australia and say, ‘Yes, this government of Australia really cares about us, our immediate safety and the future of our children.’ When this legislation is passed, those mothers, those children, will once again despair that they have nowhere to turn to, because members of the government like the member for Bonner seem to be immune to any sense of compassion for these people. I see these people suffering every time I go into any community that is purely Indigenous. I see it too often—


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