Thursday, 27 November 2008
Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs and Other Legislation Amendment (Emergency Response Consolidation) Bill 2008
The opposition will not be supporting the Greens amendments. I acknowledge the position of the Greens, who are representing a particular view in these communities that pretty much does not support the intervention. I acknowledge that, and that is their right. If I were not supporting the intervention, the first thing I would do is say, ‘Listen, we need to get rid of that suspension of the Racial Discrimination Act so we can immediately take the whole thing to court and throw it out.’ I acknowledge that that is their right and I acknowledge that that is what it is about.
When I first went to the communities, many people said to me: ‘This is just dreadful, Nigel. Under the Racial Discrimination Act people can just discriminate against me now. People have told me that you can beat me now and I can’t do anything about it because I’m not covered under Racial Discrimination Act.’ There is a whole range of that stuff. For whatever reasons that poisonous story got amongst them, that is very sad. But I think as I move amongst the communities that, since the communities are much better off in every measurable way, anything that would move towards removing aspects of the protection the intervention provides is something I will not support.
I have to commend the government for continuing to look for ways to take away the suspension of the Racial Discrimination Act. When Minister Brough was here, of course, they were declared ‘special measures’ and consideration was undertaken—as I am sure those advisers can recall. It was not something they just rushed into, saying, ‘We’ll just suspend that’. They considered things at the time. We would, of course, over time continue to look at ways to ensure that this was not something that hung over our heads—well, that may not be the case, but I am reasonably assuming that history will paint it that way. So we would certainly commend the fact that the government is continuing to look at approaches and that in time it will look at lifting the suspension. I commend the government on what is a very difficult task, but I certainly think that the lifting of it at this stage as per these amendments would simply be the death knell of the intervention, and that is something the opposition will not be supporting.