Koori History Newspaper Archive

Macklin extends intervention

Australian - March 6, 2009
Author: Patricia Karvelas, Political correspondent

THE Rudd Government has moved to bolster the radical Northern Territory indigenous intervention by guaranteeing funding for law and order, alcohol and anti-pornography measures for three more years.

The Government also yesterday moved to end speculation that the Australian Crime Commission taskforce investigating child sex abuse in the communities was set to be disbanded by announcing it would be funded for at least another year.

Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin hit back at allegations the Rudd Government was unravelling the intervention, telling The Australian the intervention was safe under the Labor Government and would be supported without question. Ms Macklin's guarantee on the future of the intervention came after indigenous academic Marcia Langton accused the Rudd Government in an interview published in The Australian yesterday of putting ``a price tag on Aboriginal children's heads'' by failing to commit to funding the specialist ACC taskforce into child abuse.

Professor Langton also accused the Government of listening to Aboriginal lobbyists who denied the existence of child abuse in communities.

Her extraordinary attack came after days of damaging reports that the ACC taskforce would not have its funding renewed and the Government's response that the funding would depend on the budget process.

Ms Macklin yesterday changed her position by guaranteeing the ACC's funding. ``The ACC will be receiving $5.5million for 2009-10 to continue its taskforce to investigate the nature and extent of violence and child abuse in indigenous communities,'' she said.

She rejected accusations she was quietly pulling the intervention apart. ``I want to make it really clear that I am absolutely determined to protect women and children from abuse and violence, and you can see with this additional funding that's going to the Crime Commission but also with the significant and ongoing commitment to the Northern Territory emergency response, we understand how important it is.''

The Government told The Australian it would guarantee continuing funding for other law and order, alcohol and pornography measures to 2011-12.

The measures include continuing to fund 66 additional Australian Federal Police positions in the Territory, including at least six specialist officers in the child abuse taskforce.

It will also enable the construction of five permanent police stations and the continuing maintenance of 10 temporary police stations in remote communities.

Ms Macklin said there would be night patrol services in 81 communities, and an Aboriginal interpreter service and legal assistance service providers with ongoing funding for community safety to 2011-12. The Government will keep funding 22 safe houses in 16 remote communities and in Darwin and Alice Springs.

Ms Macklin said she supported forced quarantining of welfare payments in indigenous communities, and was looking at how it could be achieved without having to suspend the Racial Discrimination Act.

Professor Langton's comments in The Australian capped a growing debate on the future of the intervention sparked when former indigenous affairs minister Mal Brough accused the Government of quietly dismantling reforms he had begun when he launched the intervention in July 2007.

``This is pulling down the whole fabric of the intervention,'' hesaid.

Professor Langton has been concerned the Government was trying to appease both the anti-interventionist lobby and those, like herself, who argue for radical reforms to end dysfunction.

Ms Macklin rejected the suggestion the Government was listening to anti-interventionists. ``I just think the facts speak for themselves and demonstrate our very strong commitment right across the board,'' she said.

Ms Macklin provided The Australian with a report card on the intervention that revealed 15,352 people were being income-managed, and 26,085 BasicsCards had been issued.

She said there were 1597 government-funded jobs in night patrol, art, broadcasting, language and culture, rangers, childcare, education support and community care.