Senate debates

Thursday, 16 August 2007

Social Security and Other Legislation Amendment (Welfare Payment Reform) Bill 2007; Northern Territory National Emergency Response Bill 2007; Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs and Other Legislation Amendment (Northern Territory National Emergency Response and Other Measures) Bill 2007; Appropriation (Northern Territory National Emergency Response) Bill (No. 1) 2007-2008; Appropriation (Northern Territory National Emergency Response) Bill (No. 2) 2007-2008

In Committee

10:41 pm

Photo of Bob BrownBob Brown (Tasmania, Australian Greens) Share this | Hansard source

I would like to do that. The discrimination involved in this is absolutely disgraceful and it is an intended discrimination—it is overt and in-your-face racism. It will have not just the effect of flagging to Indigenous people that they are treated as inferior to the non-Indigenous population by this government, and by everybody who votes to support these clauses, but it will have untoward and perhaps unintended effects, although I do not think that the government has taken any time to look at what the effects will be. I draw the government’s attention, for example, to an article which appeared on page 15 in the Australian of last Friday, entitled ‘Bar humbug’, which states:

On one visit to Docker River in the far southwest corner of the NT, federal Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs Minister Mal Brough noticed the aged-care facility had bars on the windows. When he asked why there were bars on a facility for the elderly, a carer said it was not to keep the residents in but to keep the relatives out.

The humbug system is deeply ingrained in Aboriginal communities and there are concerns the federal Government’s changes to indigenous welfare payments may increase the family humbug—

as it is called—

particularly against the elderly whose pensions remain the same.

Grandmother Mildred Inkamala from Hermannsburg, one hour’s drive west of Alice Springs, says older women in her community live in fear of when the federal Government’s welfare quarantines come into effect.

And that is because they will then become the focus of attention of those deprived of payments who need to sustain themselves. I do not know what the government is going to do about that. But, whatever the case, this discrimination to take away the rights of Indigenous people—rights which belong to the rest of the community—is just not acceptable, not under Australian law and not under international law, as the Law Council of Australia has pointed out to the government, the opposition and anybody else who had an interest in this matter. The Greens cannot support the overt discrimination and racism which is involved in this; hence the amendments.

Question put:

That clauses 4 to 7 stand as printed.

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