Organisations Call for Legislation to be Delayed

09 August 2007

Leaders from a number of civil society organisations meeting in Canberra today expressed their severe dismay about the legislation related to the takeover of Indigenous communities in the Northern Territory and are calling for a delay in the legislation's passage so that it can be properly assessed by the Australian community and Parliament.

It is a total abuse of the trust of the Australian people that one of the most significant pieces of legislation in Australia's history is being rushed through without opportunity for consultation with those who will be most affected, and without any time for public debate and proper scrutiny.

The above organisations understand that this Bill may have serious implications for the Racial Discrimination Act, the Land Rights Act and even the Trade Practices Act. In a healthy democracy, such legislation would be drafted and redrafted, assessed and debated over many, many months. Long-term plans would be developed and Australians would have an opportunity to express their views at every step along the way.

These organisations stand with Australia's Indigenous leaders, especially those from the Northern Territory, in calling for a delay to the passage of this legislation. We are calling on all parties to uphold proper democratic processes and allow public debate. All Senators and Members of Parliament who believe in an Australia that is fair for all its people must act swiftly and with courage. There are many ways we can save children from abuse, but there is only one way that the Government can gain access to Indigenous land. Let us be sure that these two aims are not confused.

Everyone wants to see Australian children safe and protected but there is terrible potential for this legislation to further dispossess and disempower Indigenous Australians. It may well be saving children now only to condemn them to a future without their land, and without control over their own lives and the lives of their communities. The Bill must not be passed this week.