The Score-Card

The PM outlined a range of actions that had to be implemented in response to our “national emergency”. The full press conference is here, and it’s something I’ll be returning to frequently.

Let’s look at each of them and see how they are faring 8 days post-launch.

1. “Firstly in relation to alcohol the intention is to introduce widespread alcohol restrictions on Northern Territory Aboriginal land for six months. We’ll ban the sale, the possession, the transportation, the consumption and (introduce the) broader monitoring of take away sales across the Northern Territory.”

So far, nothing. Part of the problem is that the vast majority of Aboriginal communities in the NT already ban the sale and consumption of alcohol. Others have community ‘clubs’, that have strict constraints on opening hours and usually prohibit the sale of ‘takeaways’. So what are they proposing? The problem seems to be that they don’t actually know themselves. It just sounded like a good idea at the time.

Score: 0

2.” We will provide the resources and we’ll be appealing directly to the Australian Medical Association to assist. We will bear the cost of medical examinations of all indigenous children in the Northern Territory under the age of 16 and we’ll provide the resources to deal with any follow up medical treatment that will be needed”

As anyone how knows anything about the issues knew, this one was DOA (dead on announcement).

It was left to Tony Abbot to perform the public execution,

“They’re not going to be compulsory in the sense that a random breath test is compulsory”

Or, in other words, they are not going to be compulsory in the sense that they are compulsory.

Score: 0

3. ” We’re going to introduce a series of welfare reforms designed to stem the flow of cash going towards alcohol abuse and to ensure that the funds meant to be used for children’s welfare are actually used for that purpose. The principal approach here will be to quarantine as from now through Centrelink, to be supported by legislation, 50 per cent of welfare payments to parents of children in the affected areas”

This will require legislation, which is simple enough, and likely to be carried out. The efficacy of such measures in isolation, however, is highly dubious.

Score: 1

4. “We’re going to enforce school attendance by linking income support and family assistance payments to school attendance for all people living on Aboriginal land. We’ll be ensuring that meals are provided for children at school with parents paying for the meals”

The latter already happens at many remote schools. A practical problematic outcome might be that a child not attending school will not get the school meal, and as well, the parents will lose their family assistance payment, meaning their will also be less food at home for that child. A punative approach that is most likely to negatively impact on the child it is meant to help. Doable, if unwise, but let’s assume it will happen.

Score: 1

5. “The Commonwealth Government will take control of townships through five year leases to ensure that property and public housing can be improved and if that involves the payment of compensation on just terms as required by the Commonwealth Constitution then that compensation will be readily paid.”

A longstanding ideological goal, but entirely within the Commonwealths powers to implement. Will require amendments to the NT Aboriginal Land Rights act, which can be passed given the Governments’ control of the Senate.

Score: 1

6. “We will scrap the permit system for common areas and road corridors on Aboriginal lands.”

Another longstanding ideological goal. Certain elements of the conservation political sphere have long loathed the permit system. Totally irrelevant, therefore at the top of the agenda.

Score: 1

7. “We’re going to ban the possession of x-rated pornography in the proscribed areas and we’re going to check all publicly funded computers for evidence of the storage of pornography.”

Sounds great, again is doable, at least from the symbolic standpoint, but in practice probably of little consequence, unless house-to-house searches are to be conducted for these items of contraband.

Score: 1

8. “Law and order will be a central focus of the measures I’ve announced. There will be an immediate increase in policing levels, they’re manifestly inadequate. The existing laws even with their shortcomings are not being adequately enforced”

The Chairman appointed by the Govt doesn’t seem overly optimistic of the actual results of these moves, but it’s being done anyway.

“There’s very grave doubt by myself that you’ll get a lot of prosecutions up because that’s normal and that’s what I’ve found in Western Australia,” she said.

Score: 1

9. “And there are two other very important actions. Next Thursday there’ll be a meeting of the intergovernmental committee on the Australian Crime Commission to formally, and at that meeting, I’m sorry, our Minister will ask the ministerial council to formally refer this issue to the Australian Crime Commission to allow the crime commission to locate and identify perpetrators of sexual abuse of indigenous children in other areas of Australia”

Given the statement by Sue Gordan above, the ACC will have little to do.

Score: 1

So that’s a score of 7/9, on the very generous criteria that actions not yet implemented, but likely to be, are counted, and that those that will, but shouldn’t be, are also included.

Remove the generous criteria and it’s 2/7, which is a pretty fair grade for this piece of knee-jerk reactionism.

The real measure of the sheer incompetence of the response at this point, is that the report that led to these measures has 97 very clear and significant recommendations, most of which have been ignored so far, and many of which suggest an approach that is the direct opposite of the Commonwealths’ Emergency Taskforce .


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