NIC claims false, leaked cabinet document reveals|
by Chris Graham
November 8: Claims by the federal government that the newly-appointed National
Indigenous Council (NIC) is not a replacement for ATSIC are false, according
to a leaked confidential federal cabinet document obtained by NIT.
NIC was announced on Saturday by Indigenous Affairs Minister, Amanda Vanstone.
It is a 14 member government appointed board, whereas ATSIC was a democratically
elected representative body.
Saturday's statement, issued on behalf of Senator Vanstone, reads:
"The Minister stressed the NIC is not a replacement for ATSIC and not intended to be a representative body.
of the NIC were not selected on the basis that they represent any specific
region, organisation or agency. They will be presenting their views as individuals,
based on their areas of expertise.
While the NIC will play a crucial
role in providing advice to the Government, it will not be the sole source
of advice about Indigenous matters."
But a federal cabinet-in-confidence
document on the abolition of ATSIC, dated April 7, 2004 tells a very different
story. On three occasions it refers to the NIC as the Indigenous body to replace ATSIC.
"This paper 'proposes' abolishing ATSIC and replacing it with an appointed
National Indigenous Council to advise government on indigenous policy.
it is proposed that the ATSIC Board be abolished and replaced with a National Indigenous Council.
It is recommended that Cabinet consider agreeing to legislation being introduced
as soon as possible in the Budget sittings to abolish the Aboriginal and
Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC) Board and replace it with a non-statutory
and government appointed National Indigenous Council to provide policy advice
The same cabinet-in-confidence document also misleads
Prime Minister John Howard's cabinet as to the true nature of Indigenous
support for the NIC, claiming Cape York leader Noel Pearson had supported
a government-appointed model.
Mr Pearson strongly opposed the idea,
calling it a "kitchen cabinet" and arguing for an elected chair of any replacement
Senator Vanstone's office declined to comment on the latest
revelations, referring NIT to a response Senator Vanstone issued last week,
in relation to the Pearson story: "The government doesn't respond to the
contents of confidential material leaked by someone with a personal axe to