I awoke this morning to the unusual sound of rain, something I hadn’t expected up this way until later in the year. If I were more of a literary person, I’d draw a Shakespearean connection between the inauspicious ‘worsening’ of the weather and the Senate’s rubber-stamping of the NT intervention legislation earlier today. But I’m not enough of a Shakespeare buff, and I like rain.
The bill passed, 56 votes to 6, through the apparently useless House of Review with only the Democrats and the Greens opposing it. The Labor party supported the bill in its entirety, despite the government rejecting each and every one of their amendments. One such amendment sensibly supported an annual review of the unfolding of the intervention, something that the government evidently disagrees with, for some obscure reason.
Some very important questions were asked during the Senate inquiry and debate, which, according to Senator Nick Minchin:
…has now gone on for more than 15 hours and is becoming one of the most exhaustively-tested pieces of legislation in Australian history.
Some of the questions concerned compensation for the forced take-over of lands and whether or not it would be constitutional. Alas, the government has decided to push ahead with the plan regardless:
The laws offer Aboriginal people “a reasonable amount” of compensation in return for losing control of their land, but not compensation on “just terms” as required by the constitution.
The government refused to amend the bills this week to enshrine the constitutional guarantee of compensation, amid warnings the laws could be the subject of a High Court challenge. (AAP)
But a legitimate question remains unanswered: who decides what “a reasonable amount” is, and by what yardstick?
The cost of the intervention strategy is predicted to come close to $600 million in the first year alone. Jane Simpson has provided a breakdown of where the majority of that money will end up, and it appears as though - like every other aspect of indigenous affairs in this country – only a very small proportion of it will reach the ground.
The government’s refusal to listen to any amendments put forward by any of the non-coalition parties has even drawn criticism from their Indigenous Affairs mascot, Noel Pearson, who warned the government against such intransigence as it has displayed towards other parties’ proposals. I might warn Mr Pearson against any more dissent from the Coalition plan, lest he get labelled a kava addict, as happened to the entire community of Yirrkala after they asked the survey team to leave last week.
The only good news is that due to the rain, I might not have to spend as long washing my car before returning it on Monday morning.