Leading article Australia
28 January 2023
A hurried visit by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese to Alice Springs this week highlights everything that is wrong with his grandiose proposal to enshrine an indigenous Voice to parliament in the constitution.
The election of Mr Albanese’s Labor government in May preceded the expiry, two months later, of alcohol bans in 32 town camps, 12 remote communities and 215 homelands and outstations in the Northern Territory (NT). The bans had been in place for 15 years, coming into force during the NT Emergency Response in 2007, and continued under Stronger Futures legislation in 2012.
Federal Labor could have extended the bans but didn’t because it sees them as ‘racist’ even though they are strongly supported by many indigenous people and are based on geographical location not race.
Their removal unleashed a horrific and utterly predictable crime wave in Alice Springs. Some 200 children roam the streets at night fleeing domestic violence and engaging in juvenile crime. Last year, the NT police launched Operation Drina to target anti-social behaviour and arrested more than 200 people issuing more than 300 infringement notices but the violence has become worse. It has been highlighted by Darren Clarke who is campaigning for Action For Alice. His bakery has been broken into 41 times in the past three years.
A report released in 2019 showed that even with the bans in place the NT had the the highest rates of alcohol consumption per capita in Australia, with correspondingly high rates of alcohol-fuelled violence and crime. It estimated the total social cost of alcohol in 2015-16 at more than $1.3 billion with the cost of alcohol-related crime calculated to be $142 million. It found alcohol responsible for up to 11 per cent of cases of child abuse and neglect and 50 per cent of road crash deaths.
In response to the violence, new Country Liberal senator for the Northern Territory Jacinta Nampijinpa Price and the new member for the federal seat of Lingiari, Marion Scrymgour, both of whom represent the Alice Springs area, called for restrictions to be re-imposed. Ms Price called for the return of the bans and Ms Scrymgour called for restrictions on some days. Both were completely ignored by Mr Albanese who took his lead instead from the NT Labor government’s Chief Minister Natasha Fyles.This underlines everything that is wrong with Mr Albanese’s plan. Instead of listening to democratically elected local women with first-hand knowledge of the problems and constructive suggestions for the solution, Mr Albanese listened to a Labor leader from the left faction who also ignored the advice of local indigenous women. Mr Albanese has been more interested in talking about the Voice to parliament than protecting Aboriginal men, women and children from the scourge of crime and violence. Neither he nor Ms Fyles want ‘race-based’ solutions to alcohol abuse but are backing a race-based Voice to parliament.
Ms Price criticised the Prime Minister for being quick to provide resources to the Ukraine while turning a blind eye to the violence in the territory. And Ms Scrymgour belled the cat when she said this week that ‘the Voice couldn’t be further from people’s view’ in Alice Springs because they were ‘under siege’. They were asking why they should support the Voice if they can’t even get police to protect them while they are sleeping in their own homes?
As proof that it is impossible for an indigenous Voice to speak for all Aboriginal people, indigenous leader Noel Pearson, one of the creators of the Voice proposal, attacked both Ms Price and Greens senator Lidia Thorpe for opposing it. In return, Ms Thorpe attacked Mr Pearson, posting a photo of him with News Corp chairman Rupert Murdoch and former Liberal prime minister Tony Abbott and tweeted, ‘Noel has me holding hands with Jacinta Price lol. Who’s holding your hand, Uncle?’
Ms Thorpe has reiterated the call for Australian property owners to pay a weekly ‘rent’ tax to indigenous groups who claim to own the land. Such proposals have been around for more than 50 years. Ms Thorpe does not say whether she has paid any rent to traditional owners. It seems unlikely.
Elsewhere, Tennis Australia refused to celebrate Australia Day at the Australian Open but happily celebrates a Gay Pride day. If Gay Pride is so important to Tennis Australia, perhaps it could explain why it is happy to accept sponsorship from Emirates which is owned by the government of Dubai, when Article 177 of the Penal Code of Dubai imposes imprisonment for up to ten years for consensual sodomy. Sadly, it seems, from Darwin to Dubai, fashionable leftists are more interested in trumpeting their virtues than alleviating the suffering of marginalised people.
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