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Les Malezer 4-2-10

Les Malezer's response to a member of FAHCSIA, regarding the reinstatement of the RDA - 4 Feb 2010.

Thank you for this information. Rest assured I will be taking every action possible, as I have already done, to ensure that the RDA is reinstated as soon as possible.

However the government does have a case to answer on this new law, and we should not be treated shabbily in our ability to discern what is in our interests and what is not. I therefore have a few questions which perhaps you might like to answer.

The first, and fundamental question, is what is your role in this political message? I want to work with you, the Minister's office and the Department as much as possible to get good outcomes but I need to know how things work. I understand you are the Department's liaison officer to the Minister's office. This accounts for your FAHCSIA email address.

As a departmental officer should you be making these political assessments and statements about political dealings and what is in the interests of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people? Do not regard this as a personal attack, it is a desire to understand the workings of government and the correct procedures and contacts for me to use in my liaison. I would think that the Minister's office is responsible for such political views. If you agree, who in the Minister's office is responsible, apart from the Minister herself? Is the Department taking a position which we need to know about?

(At this juncture I must confess on my part that I did, last Monday, advise the New Way Summit in Canberra that instead of calling for the dismissal of the Minister our people should call for our own representative to be appointed as Minister by the Parliament, in accordance with the powers under the Constitution. This is an aside, but a confession that I do have a political stance and have questioned the government's own highest official in the portfolio of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander affairs.)

On to the matter under question, you suggest the Opposition can prevent the legislation and we should give our attention to them if the RDA is to be reinstated. I wholeheartedly agree that the Opposition have a key hand in the outcome, and that we should direct our political lobbies towards them for a good result. I have already been doing that, to have the RDA reinstated but not to further roll-out income management and other impositions over unwilling people.

If the risk exists that the legislation will be voted down it is also because of the problems which exist in the proposed legislation, totally unrelated to the reinstatement of the RDA. You know, and I know, that the RDA can be immediately reinstated without the other 'baggage' regarding control and management of people and communities. The RDA is Australia's commitment to racial equality and non-discrimination, including procedures for any person to seek redress of racism. It is an obligation of Australia under international human rights law - an obligation which must be seen to be above domestic politics.

The fact that the ALP supported the suspension of the RDA in June 2007 cannot be put aside. If it was a political convenience, to allow ALP to win the 2007 elections, then that excuse passed long ago. The ALP should have reinstated the RDA upon forming government. If the Opposition had opposed and defeated a bill to reinstate the RDA, then our focus would have since been upon the opposition and not the government. However, the ALP has delayed until now to attempt legislation, almost as if racial discrimination is okay for a time and doesn't really affect black people's sensitivities - ALP-speak for 'I'm alright, Jack'.

The legislation introduced by the government is unfortunately not primarily intended to reinstate the RDA, it is intended to find another way to discriminate against the rights of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and to continue the hostile approach to our rights to self-determination. Now is not the time to debate this point but the government has made clear its intention to not change policy in the NT or elsewhere. In fact the government is making an attempt to extend non-democratic principles, paternal decision-making and impacts upon our peoples around the entire country.

If the Greens and / or the Opposition delay the legislation, the ALP should immediately move legislation to reinstate the RDA, as they should have done two years ago. If there are noble political arguments as to why this should not, or can not, be done, then let us hear them and let us consider the arguments for ourselves.

I will give much more attention to this over the coming days and would appreciate responses from the government to my comments herein. However please try and make it clear to me about how the government is to be properly engaged in this matter.




Reproduced with the kind permission of Les Malezer.