Hasten slowly on Indigenous welfare: Catholic Social Services

At least two months is needed for genuine consultation on draft legislation introduced into Federal Parliament yesterday by Indigenous Affairs Minister Mal Brough, says Catholic Social Services chief Frank Quinlan.

In a statement, Mr Quinlan also said that the legislation should be referred to a Senate Committee for further consideration, a recommendation later accepted by the Government which will allow a one day Senate enquiry this Friday.

However, Mr Quinlan said it is essential that sufficient time - at least two months - is allowed for genuine consultation regarding this important legislation.

Members of the House of Representatives will have eight hours to consider the five bills to be tabled, Mr Quinlan said.

"This is significant legislation and we need to get it right," Mr Quinlan said.

"The inquiry must provide the opportunity for Indigenous leaders close to these issues to raise their concerns and feed into this important debate.

"Undue haste and failure to consult risks worsening circumstances for those the legislation is purporting to protect.

"The scope of this legislation goes well beyond the issue of 'child abuse' in certain communities by extending to the permit system and land rights in the Northern Territory; and introducing radical change to the national welfare system.

"Together with the Indigenous communities most affected and the broader public, we are unable to comment in any detail on the substance of the 500 pages of legislation to be introduced and voted on today.

"But we call on the Federal Parliament to abstain from passing legislation with racist dimensions.

The Catholic Social Services statement also noted that Australia's bishops had earlier criticised the proposed legislation as racially discriminatory and counter productive.

"Institutionalised racism cannot be acceptable," the bishops said in a statement early last month.

Mr Quinlan also criticised the "quarantining" of welfare payments, saying that overseas evidence suggests that the practice produces no beneficial outcomes.

"'Quarantining' of welfare payments is highly contentious, and should not be introduced without adequate explanation and community debate."

Indigenous and welfare legislation must go to committee (CathNews, 7/8/07)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Catholic Social Services
Mal Brough website

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8 Aug 2007