Saturday, February 23, 2008

A black Leftist sees the reality of black problems

And our blinkered Prime Minister thinks bigger government is the answer

THE Rudd Government must stare down the indigenous service provider industry that profits from entrenched Aboriginal disadvantage or risk dooming the federal intervention into Northern Territory communities, former Labor president Warren Mundine has warned. Mr Mundine urged his party to "have courage" in challenging the "old guard" whose political power base lay within remote Aboriginal communities and who opposed aspects of the intervention. He warned that a welfare industry had built up around Aboriginal people that could derail Kevin Rudd's pledge to "close the gap" between indigenous and non-indigenous life expectancy rates.

"What we have created in Australia is an indigenous industry that lives off people's poverty and misery," Mr Mundine said. "It's destroyed incentives. There's a whole culture that developed over a period of time of dependency." He said some Labor powerbrokers in remote Australia, such as Defence Science and Personnel Minister Warren Snowdon, had been key players in the land rights political movement and were pushing for the party to return to the "status quo" prior to the intervention. "There's no doubt there's a split in the party about what needs to be done," Mr Mundine said. "And we have people whoare harping back to keeping the status quo prior to the intervention."

His comments came as Reconciliation Australia director Fred Chaney labelled remote Australia a "failed state" with little electoral clout that had been abandoned by federal, state and territory governments. "Government have essentially stepped outside and left these communities to their own devices," Mr Chaney said. "This intervention has had to make it up as it goes along. There is a serious gap in governance of the governments themselves." ....

The Northern Territory Government this week introduced legislation to reform disparate local government authorities into a series of "super-shires", but the reforms that were crafted by Australia's father of reconciliation, Pat Dodson, were watered down at the last minute when the Government exempted the Top End shire, dominated by white pastoralists, from the super-shire structure. The exemption prompted the resignation of NT local government minister Elliot McAdam.

Visiting the northwest NSW town of Walgett yesterday, the Prime Minister said the Government had begun formulating a plan to attack duplication and infighting among Aboriginal service providers and government agencies by creating local boards for remote indigenous communities that would be responsible for ground-level service delivery.

Speaking on his first visit to an outback indigenous community as Prime Minister, Mr Rudd said he was considering bringing together service providers and local, state and federal government agencies to co-ordinate indigenous service delivery on a community-by-community basis. "Maybe it's time for us to look at much more of a whole-of-local-community focus whereby you have around the one table not just all the representatives of organisations and groups but the various levels of government," he said.

But Mr Mundine said the "indigenous industry" would prove difficult to reform. "There's a whole culture that's developed over a period of time of dependence," he said. "I have never seen a place in the world where they've got more governance of people. "We've got to get bureaucrats out of the way. Let's stop spending money on bureaucrats and get money on to the ground."

Mr Mundine's comments come after former indigenous affairs minister Mal Brough told a dinner for Quadrant magazine in Sydney last week that political correctness hampered many of the people working within the indigenous sector who wanted to bring about change...

Mr Rudd said that governance was one of two key messages from his five-hour visit to Walgett. The other was creating a flexible approach to housing that would allow private ownership in one community and communal title in another. With a majority of indigenous residents, Walgett is one of the most disadvantaged communities in the state. Mr Rudd toured two Aboriginal reserves and was taken to task by Ann Dennis about the level of duplication and lack of communication by service providers. She said funding was not the problem. "It's the co-ordination and planning, not the money coming in," she said. [That would be right. That's typical bureaucracy]

Mr Rudd said he was committed to ending a one-size-fits-all approach. "It may be that in the 300 to 400 remote indigenous communities in Australia that we'll end up with lots of different housing models from full private ownership, through to leasehold through to community ownership," he said. He asked Ms Dennis if they wanted private ownership of homes, and she said the community did.


Black settlement taskforce gets "star chamber" powers

An extreme abuse of liberties but there are exceptions to every rule and the circumstances here may warrant it. The crimes being investigated are certainly extreme

A FEDERAL investigation into child sexual abuse and violence in Aboriginal communities has been given star chamber powers to imprison unco-operative witnesses after its 18-month investigation hit a wall of silence in the outback. The granting of the status of a special intelligence operation is a significant upgrade of the Alice Springs-based taskforce running the investigation, and came only after members had to argue its case in front of Australia's eight police commissioners.

The new powers put violence and child sexual abuse in Aboriginal communities on a par with outlaw motorcycle gangs and international crime syndicates as priority for law enforcement. The powers investigators will use are similar to those granted to people investigating a terrorist plot.

The Australian understands that investigators, while having significant success uncovering information, have been frustrated by the unwillingness of non-government organisations to provide formal disclosures. In addition, people in Aboriginal communities are often intimidated into not disclosing crimes, such as child sexual abuse and domestic violence. Critically, the investigators have uncovered many communities run through intimidation and standover tactics by men involved in criminal activity, including abuse. Anyone questioned in what is known as the star chamber is legally prevented from revealing that the interview occurred, except to their lawyer.

Australian Crime Commission chief executive Alastair Milroy told The Australian yesterday the aim of the new powers was to obtain specific intelligence relating to violence, child abuse and related offences of substance abuse and pornography. "Coercive powers will provide a clear legal basis and protection for non-government organisations, state and territory authorities, service providers and individuals to provide confidential information, as well as an environment that is more conducive to gathering personal testimony," he said. "The approval of coercive powers was considered essential to overcome impediments in accessing information collection relating to indigenous violence and child abuse."

Mr Milroy said the powers would not be used to target victims. The star chamber may travel to communities, if necessary, taking into greater account the need in many cases to protect the identity of witnesses being questioned.

The 31-strong National Indigenous Violence and Child Abuse Intelligence Task Force has made significant inroads exposing an epidemic of child sexual abuse and violence similar to revelations contained in the Little Children Are Sacred report, which was released in June last year and prompted the Howard government's emergency intervention in the NT. As of Tuesday, the taskforce had provided police and child protection authorities in every state and the NT with 236 reports that could be used in subsequent investigations.

The star chamber inquiry is carried out by an independent examiner. The findings of inquiries cannot be used in court but the disclosures can be passed to police to investigate later. Initially, the powers would be used to force organisations and individuals to produce documents from which further inquiries would be launched, Mr Milroy said. "The ACC will utilise coercive powers in a culturally sensitive manner in order to identify offenders and obtain specific intelligence relating to violence, child abuse and related offences of substances abuse and pornography," Mr Milroy said. The taskforce is expected to continue its work until the end of this year before presenting a comprehensive report to the nation's police commissioners in the middle of next year.


Public hospital negligence kills again

A DEVASTATED family has been left angry and searching for answers since their beloved grandmother died after tripping on unfinished roadworks outside the Royal Hobart Hospital. Margaret Wakefield, 77, died in hospital last week after falling near the entrance to the new emergency department. The fit and active grandmother had been going to the hospital to visit a sick relative, and now her family is struggling to comprehend how a simple day out turned to tragedy.

Katie Wakefield, 20, was with her grandmother going to visit a relative in the hospital last Thursday. Miss Wakefield, 20, from Rokeby, was carrying her 18-month-old daughter, Shaelah, while her four-year-old son Justin was holding his great grandma's hand. Then Mrs Wakefield tripped on a section of raised footpath, believed to be the base of an old emergency department sign that had been removed. Miss Wakefield and her children were horrified to see their nan on the ground with blood streaming from her face. "She hit her face on the ground. I thought she'd broken her nose. There was blood everywhere and her glasses were stuck to her face," Miss Wakefield said.

She managed to get her conscious grandmother to the emergency department and waited about two hours for attention. They then spent several hours waiting for scans before being sent home. But soon after leaving the elderly woman's condition worsened. "On the way home she started vomiting so we called an ambulance," Miss Wakefield said. "She just got really confused and couldn't walk, she started deteriorating and they did a scan and found she had a blood clot forming in her brain. "She went into a coma and was on life support, and after that she died."

Miss Wakefield reported the problem pavement to hospital staff and a safety barricade was erected. The pavement has since been repaired. But they can't ignore the irony of having their grandmother die from an accident outside a hospital. "You come to hospital to get better, not to die," Miss Wakefield said. "It's simple: if things hadn't been sticking out of the footpath, she wouldn't have died. "And because of her age they should never have sent her home from hospital in the first place, she should have been kept in for observation."

Hospital community relations director Pene Snashall said condolences had been extended to the family in what was obviously a very sad time for them. She said the RHH was unable to comment further until a coronial inquiry was held.


MORE corruption in the West Australian police

Spin, spin, spin in the State of Corruption

A SENIOR police officer has resigned after 15 months with WA Police, to take up a job as the chief executive of the Shire of Ravensthorpe. Superintendent Paul Richards resigned from the State Intelligence Division on Monday. He was recruited from the United Kingdom 15 months ago as a highly qualified and regarded intelligence specialist and change manager.

His resignation comes after an internal investigation into the alleged misuse of resources by the State Intelligence Division, one of the state's most top-secret police squads. The Sunday Times revealed on January 27 that an internal investigation had been ordered into allegations that officers from the State Intelligence Division misspent thousands of dollars -- possibly on alcohol, entertainment and accommodation -- during a schoolies week "operation'' in November. It was alleged that officers from the State Intelligence Branch spent $15,000 during several days in Busselton.

Deputy Commissioner Chris Dawson today told PerthNow that the internal investigation had been thoroughly investigated and the complaint was not sustained. Mr Dawson rejected suggestions the resignation was a poor reflection on the success of the Direct Entry Accelerated Training (DEAT) program, which international recruits complete, because Supt Richards was not recruited through the program and paid his own relocation expenses.

"Supt Richard's departure does not reflect on the success of the DEAT program in any way,'' Mr Dawson said. "Since the DEAT program program began, WA Police has recruited over 360 overseas officers. Just under 10 per cent of those officers have since resigned for a variety of reasons,'' he said. "Given the logistics and family ramifications for these people of moving to the other side of the world this is a figure that was expected, and overall the DEAT program has been an outstanding success in bringing experienced, well qualified officers to WA.

"I'm sorry to see Paul go as he is a highly regarded professional officer who's achieved much in his short time with WA Police. We wish him well with his appointment as the CEO of the Shire of Ravensthorpe."


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