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Crucial questions on gaps in NTER consultation paper go unanswered

Media Release
Rachel Siewert 5 Jun 2009

FaHCSIA today avoided answering important questions about the omission of key facts on racial discrimination from a Government discussion paper, say the Australian Greens.

"The discussion paper "Future Directions for the Northern Territory Emergency Response (NTER)" released by Minister Jenny Macklin last month is meant to form the basis of the Government's commitment to 'reset the relationship' with Aboriginal communities," said Senator Rachel Siewert today.

"However, it is also meant to form the basis of consultations necessary to reinstate the Racial Discrimination Act (RDA) in the NT - and it seems the Minister is struggling to reconcile the conflict between these commitments and her desire to push on with the NT Intervention in its current form."

"The Department today couldn't answer questions on whether discriminatory NTER laws require 'informed consent' to be considered 'special measures' under the Racial Discrimination Act. This means that laws such as blanket income quarantining and compulsory township leases must be seen as beneficial measures and supported by the communities to which they apply," she explained.

Senator Siewert was highly critical of the manner in which this information was left out of the description of 'special measures' issued by Minister Macklin.

"Given that the Minister's discussion paper is meant to form the basis of the community consultation necessary to continue the NTER and implement its minor reforms, it is disingenuous for the Minister to leave out this important information," reiterated Senator Siewert.

Senate Estimates today also revealed that the consultation process would not be independent, with the consultations being run by the Government around the questions set out by the Minister.

"Unless the Rudd Government can properly demonstrate a full and open community consultation process and informed consent for its discriminatory measures, reinstating the application of the Racial Discrimination Act may simply see it fighting yet another battle in the High Court."

"Communities must be told clearly up front that the RDA does not allow the property of Aboriginal people to be managed by others or their human rights to be waived without their consent." concluded Senator Siewert.

For more information or media enquiries please call Tim Norton on 0418 401 180

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