The Australian Government appears set to pass NT Intervention laws that will make the situation worse, rather than better. The laws are racist, selective, punitive and unfair, representing a new low point in Australia’s treatment of Aborigines. Rosa McKenna urges people who oppose the laws to contact their Senators, now.

Urgent need to tell Senators if you oppose

Legislation – the ‘Stronger Futures’ bills – which are about to pass the Senate will entrench some of the worst measures of the Northern Territory Intervention, and add to the unfairness of Australian law unless there is a public outcry.

If you don’t support the bills, you need to tell your Senators now.

These misnamed bills, as well as associated legislation which amends the Social Security Act, are likely to pass the Parliament with only the Greens voting against them. The original NTER (NT Emergency Response) legislation is due to end on 30 June, so the new laws are being rushed through to take their place.

A whole range of other issues – the Thomson case, stooged political events, the Mabo anniversary and the Queen’s jubilee – have taken the time for discussion that these awful laws should be receiving. These new, expanded laws have broad ramifications not just for Aborigines but for all Australians if the powers-that-be decide to impose the Social Security amendments on locations other than the NT. If they don’t, then the new laws smack of a racist approach, targeting Aborigines only. Many people consider the new laws racist: see comments by Frank VIncent, Alistair Nicholson, Jumbunna House of Learning, Eva Cox and others. 

Clearly not all people affected by the ‘special measures’ are consenting to them. Many reject the legislation outright, and others believe that it needs wholesale changes. NT community elders have publicly stated that they will not support the extended legislation. "We will not support the extension of the intervention legislation. We didn’t ask for it. It was imposed on us," they are quoted as saying.  

Transcripts from a Senate inquiry highlight that many people who should have been informed were not aware of the bills, and many of those who did find out about the bills were unable to understand them, as Senator Nigel Scullion commented.

At a time when both major parties are calling for less ‘entitlement’ and more responsibility, the legislation undermines the demands by Aboriginal people to regain control over their communities. This imminent legislation will permit excessive levels of control by Canberra bureaucrats over the lives of Australians for a further 10 years.

The legislation will continue to limit the powers of judges. Under the new laws, judges cannot take account of cultural factors for Aborigines…but can do so for all other people appearing before them. Judges in the NT, from the Chief Justice down, have criticised such restraints on their ability to hold fair trials and deliver equitable sentences.

As well, the new laws introduce measures affecting land tenure that are of concern to many people.

Overall, the proposed laws contravene Australia’s international obligations and are being rushed through parliament before any scrutiny in relation to human rights obligations by the new Human Rights Committee of the parliament. The Australian Human Rights Commission and Amnesty, in its  annual report and recent statement to UN, have detailed criticisms of the laws, as have earlier comments by Civil Liberties Australia

At http://www.concernedaustralians.com.au/ you can see statements by NT Elders and other eminent Australians who want the Senate to reject the bills, and the government to withdraw them.  

The matter is urgent, with the bills going before the Senate in the 18 – 21 June sitting period.

If you feel strongly about these bills, you need to act now: contact Senators from your state/territory and let them know what you think. Their contact details are here: http://www.aph.gov.au/Senators_and_Members/Senators

– Rosa McKenna, CLA member, Spotswood Vic

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