17.1 C
Sunday, June 4, 2023
HomeAustraliaAlbanese Must Not Make the Voice the Sole Focus of Indigenous Affairs:...

Albanese Must Not Make the Voice the Sole Focus of Indigenous Affairs: A Perspective from The Hill.


There are currently two major issues in Indigenous affairs: the voice and the issues in Indigenous communities in the Northern Territory, especially but not only in Alice Springs.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s attention is laser-focused on the vote, trying to get a yes vote. Opposition leader Peter Dutton focuses on the NT situation for a mix of motives as he campaigns against the Voice.

The issues are intertwined, not least because the government argues that the Voice would help solve problems in the field. But they are also separated and should be treated as such in the short term.

Newly appointed Shadow Minister for Indigenous Affairs Jacinta Nampijinpa Price.
Michael Errey/AAP

Dutton’s appointment on Tuesday of NT Native Senator Jacinta Nampijinpa Price, as tough a Voice opponent as you can get, is likely to help the opposition leader’s no campaign. (That’s not to say the no party will prevail — it’s much too early for predictions.)

Price, who will attract a lot of media outlets, will make some voters second-guess who may think that if this prominent Aboriginal figure sees no merit in The Voice, they might have to vote against it. On the other hand, Price is inexperienced and thus a risk if she lets her emotions get the better of her when provoked. And it will be contradicted by many indigenous proponents of the yes cause.

As things stand, of the two leaders, Dutton and the Prime Minister, it is Dutton who is losing more skin in the referendum battle.

The most recent attacks on him, by Labor and other critics, center on his latest allegations, following his trip to Alice Springs last week, of widespread child sexual abuse of Indigenous children – allegations that critics see as a ruse in the fight for the Voice.

That said, the government’s desire to downplay the NT’s series of dire problems is both wrong in principle and perhaps ultimately tactically mistaken.

Albanians and other Labor figures have invoked a common line: if Dutton knows of child sexual abuse cases, he should report them to the police.

This really doesn’t go overboard. It is clear that Dutton was not forensically working on specific cases (how could a visiting politician do that?), but on general information (accurate or not) gathered during his last visit to Alice Springs. He has said his information was “anecdotal” and that he had spoken to police and social workers.

Read more: Your questions answered in the Voice to Parliament

Dutton says he has previously passed information directly to Albanians, something the prime minister denies.

On November 30, Dutton explored the issue in a question to Albanians in parliament. He referred to a recent meeting with the Prime Minister “to discuss the unprecedented and tragic levels of child sexual abuse in Alice Springs and elsewhere in the Northern Territory.” He asked Albanians to support a royal commission investigating “sexual abuse of Indigenous Australians”.

But when Albanian was asked this week on the ABC’s 7:30 whether Dutton had provided him with any information “about abused children, children being returned to their abusers,” he said “No. Not that I know of. That’s the first I’m hearing of it.”

Albanese went on to say he had no idea what Dutton’s recent claims were based on. “I don’t know what the basis of it is. But he certainly didn’t raise a specific issue about a claim, about an individual circumstance with me. If he did, I would tell him to report it to the police.”

This appears to be a deliberate circumvention of the problem.

Albania’s own backbencher, Labor senator Marion Scrymgour, former NT deputy prime minister, highlighted two issues this week: child protection and juvenile delinquency.

While highly critical of Dutton for “irresponsible publicity-seeking claims” that cast everyone under suspicion, she said child neglect caused “really high-risk problems.”

“If a child is neglected, it is more at risk of sexual abuse. So we need to unpack all that and see what happens to those kids who fall into that category of neglect, because those numbers are increasing and not just in Alice Springs, but across the Northern Territory,” she shared. Sky.

This is certainly what Albanians and his government should recognize.

The voice is important. But there are serious problems here and now, and the government is negligent, or worse, if it doesn’t face and face that reality. The situation is clearly beyond the NT (Labour) government.

The magnitude of the problems must be assessed (and that would, by the way, show whether Dutton is exaggerating). Then a strategy must be determined.

Read more: People in the Kimberley have been asking for basic needs like water and houses for decades. Will The Voice make their calls more convincing?

Dutton wants a royal commission; Price has suggested that the Commonwealth take over responsibility for child protection. More modestly, Scrymgour has pushed for a Family Responsibility Commission, along the lines of the Queensland bodyled by a judicial figure, and with indigenous leaders on it, to manage dysfunctional family situations, including 100% of their welfare income.

There is resistance to all these ideas, including from some indigenous figures. The debate still has a long way to go.

But it’s already clear that the Voice issue has brought Indigenous affairs research into areas that governments are uncomfortable with. And that’s a good thing.

The author of what'snew2day.com is dedicated to keeping you up-to-date on the latest news and information.

Latest stories