ALP announces new black shadow... its sixth in two years

Victorian Senator Kim Carr has been appointed the new federal Opposition spokesman on Indigenous Affairs and Reconciliation following yet another reshuffle of the ALP shadow ministry.

Opposition leader Mark Latham announced the appointment yesterday after a tense two weeks of factional negotiations.

The appointment means that Senator Carr becomes the sixth ALP spokesperson on Indigenous Affairs in less than two years.

Carr has a tough act to follow - he replaces Tasmanian Senator Kerry O'Brien, widely regarded as the most solid opposition spokesman on Indigenous Affairs since Darryl Melham in 2000.

Carr is the leader of the Victorian left faction and previously served as shadow Minister for Industry. He was also one of the main contenders for the position of leader of the Senate and is undoubtedly an influential member of the Labor Party.

ALP sources told NIT that Carr was known within the party for his attention to detail and recently released a research and development proposal that received strong praise from within ALP ranks.

He will split his time between his Indigenous portfolio, Public Administration and Open Government and The Arts.

But not everyone has sung Carr's praises - one ALP source said Carr's parliamentary nickname was Kim Il Carr (after North Korean leader Kim Il Sung) because he's regarded as an 'old commie'.

They also say Carr, who has a 'booming voice' is prone to loud outbursts in parliament and is one of more the regular interjectors during parliamentary debate.

Carr also received a lukewarm reception from at least one Aboriginal leader.

ATSIC Commissioner Rick Griffiths told NIT that he and many of his colleagues had hoped O'Brien would retain the portfolio.

'I think it's a backward step,' Griffiths said.

'Kerry O'Brien] has been the most effective [shadow minister] and he and his staff, particularly his adviser (Mathew Jose) have a wonderful work ethic.

[O'Brien's] been quite clearly prepared to consult with Aboriginal people and he should have retained the portfolio.

'I don't think [Carr] will be anywhere near as effective.'

Meanwhile, one of the ALP's best performers at the recent election, Warren Snowdon from the seat of Lingiari, has been rewarded with the position of Parliamentary Secretary for Northern Australia and Indigenous Affairs.

Snowdon, who draws much of his support base from Aboriginal voters and received the vital endorsement of ATSIC Commissioner Alison Anderson in the lead-up to the election, said he would take the fight for Aboriginal rights to Canberra.

'...Northern Australia will never prosper while the government continues to deny its responsibility to address the Indigenous poverty crisis,' Mr Snowden said.

'I will make sure that the government hears the voice of these people at a time when their formal representation has been wrongly ended.'

2 years, 6 shadows

The federal Opposition is either trying to immortalise itself in the Guinness Book of Records or it just has a problem with continuity when it comes to Indigenous Affairs.

Since December 2002, the ALP has had no less than six different shadows on Indigenous Affairs, three times as many as the Coalition.

23 Nov 2001 - 5 Dec 2002: Dr Carmen Lawrence

6 Dec 2002 - 18 Feb 2003: Chris Evans

18 Feb 2003 - 2 July 2003: Julia Gillard

2 July 2003 - 8 Dec 2003: Bob McMullan

8 Dec 2003 - Oct 25, 2004: Kerry O'Brien

Oct 25, 2004 - present: Kim Carr

It was a Labor identity who, several years ago famously described the Indigenous Affairs portfolio as the 'toilet cleaner on the Titanic'. That serves in stark contrast to the attitude of the NSW Liberal Opposition - their Aboriginal Affairs spokesperson, Brad Hazzard, has served in the position for more than nine years.