Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Australian Parliament Legislates to Attack Aboriginal Rights

The Australian Federal Parliament yesterday began its rush to legislate for a massive attack on the rights of Aboriginal Australians.

The first stage is the dismantling of land rights in the Northern Territory.

This is being done for the sake of giant multinational mining and pastoral interests under the guise of an emergency response to the Little Children Are Sacred report on sexual abuse of Aboriginal children in the NT.

It comes as the authors of the report, Pat Anderson and Rex Wild, QC, state that they feel “betrayed, disappointed, hurt and angry – pretty pissed off all at the same time” by the Federal Government’s hijacking and misuse of their report.

“When we turned on the television and saw the troops roll into the Northern Territory we were sort of devastated that this could happen,” Ms Anderson, a health administrator, said.

The authors say that every one of their 97 recommendations for tackling child sexual abuse in indigenous communities has been ignored by the Howard Government.

“There is not a single action that the Commonwealth has taken so far that has corresponded with a single recommendation,” Ms Anderson said. “There is no relationship between all these emergency powers and what is in our report.”

Mr Wild said he and Ms Anderson were able to get indigenous people to talk honestly about child sexual abuse because they arrived quietly in communities, displaying courtesy.

“We didn’t arrive in gunships, we didn’t arrive in tanks and trucks,” he said.

Anyone still hoping that the Labor Opposition might take a stand on principle in support of NT Aboriginal communities would have been sorely disappointed by their performance in Parliament yesterday.

Warren Snowden, whose electorate in the NT is 40% indigenous, did cite examples of the permit system being successfully used by Aboriginal people to remove a non-Aboriginal storeowner from a community where he had been swapping Viagra for art work, which he then sold at a huge profit.

Snowden reported that the man was forced out within 24 hours of being found out by the community, using its powers under the permit system. Now, that system will be abolished by the Government’s legislation.

Yet knowing that the permit system is the last line of defence in remote communities, knowing that the dismantling of the NT Land Rights Act is really what the so-called emergency response to child sexual abuse is all about, the ALP has supported the legislation.

That is because the Labor Party accepts capitalism and serves imperialism just like the Liberal (conservative) Party.

What is happening in Australia is being repeated, sometimes with approving reference to the Howard Government, by capitalist governments elsewhere.

Canada is a prime example, and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, will address the Australian Parliament when the APEC meeting is held in Australia shortly.

This attack on indigenous rights is an international phenomenon, and international action is required.

Supporters of indigenous rights have completed the drafting of the long awaited UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. It is to be considered by the UN in the next couple of weeks – the Australian Government is opposing it!

Please sign the online petition to support the Declaration - we need all the signatures we can get!

More than 17,000 individuals and organizations have already signed a global petition hosted by Amnesty International Canada in support of the Declaration.

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