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NT Labor counts the cost of federal and state indigenous policies

The ALP losses in the Northern Territory are fairly clearly related to Aboriginal rejection of their treatment - not just what was done to them, but how it was done. There has been little acknowledgement…

Northern Territory’s new Chief Minister Terry Mills has benefited from indigenous disenchantment with state and federal Labor policies.

The ALP losses in the Northern Territory are fairly clearly related to Aboriginal rejection of their treatment - not just what was done to them, but how it was done.

There has been little acknowledgement by ALP governments in the last few years of how major policies on both a state and federal level have roused local ire.

The Northern Territory Emergency Response group (NTER) was perceived to have failed to seriously seek and incorporate local input into Stronger Futures, the extension of the NT Intervention.

Yet the clues have been there in the content of their own recent reports on their own extensive consultations for Stronger Futures. They failed to note the clear concerns from many in more remote communities about both what was being done to them and, importantly how.

The NT Government’s introduction of super shires, which abolished 52 local community councils, was often raised as a problem in these Federal consultations and was obviously seen as part of Labor’s overall approach.

Similarly, the lack of funding for outstations was seen as a joint problem, as it was targeting of only some towns for growth.

The signs were in these reports that they chose to ignore: there were problems in how decisions were being made by both governments, so locals put local and national issues together.

The voting patterns in many of the outer communities indicate wide discontent with Labor. The booths vary enormously, reflecting local loyalties and personal factors but show the punishing of the ALP was diverse.

There were many first preferences for the Country Liberal Party (CLP) but also for Greens and the new First Nations Party in some areas. The low turnout and spread of votes suggest these electors were exploring their power in many new ways, rather than just turning conservative.

The CLP may have been seen as a least “bad” option, and it did make a serious effort to say it was prepared to change the models for making decisions. The main advantage they had was that they have not been in power for some time and they could therefore promise to do things inclusively and differently. Whether this will occur will be crucial to their maintaining these seats.

Federal Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Jenny Macklin needs to consider whether the presence of many Canberra bureaucrats and the ineptitude of many processes have contributed to the loss.

It is too easy to say the issues were local. The shires issue was certainly a major one, but the general lack of local respect and real partnerships displayed by a generic Labor brand can’t easily be obscured by not using the logo, or not asking any federal ministers - including the Prime Minister - to take part in the campaign.

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11 Comments sorted by

  1. R. Ambrose Raven

    none

    Although the issues go beyond Labor, or even government, Labor deserved what it got.

    Government agencies don't listen, nor do politicians appear to want them to do so. It is said that many Aboriginal people attempting to engage with Labor have been treated with disdain, hostility, and intimidation.

    Malcolm Fraser, for instance, has said that Canberra-based officials appeared not to have the capacity to "talk to Aboriginal people with respect or treat them as equals" when visiting remote…

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    1. Philip Dowling

      IT teacher

      In reply to R. Ambrose Raven

      In 2012 Malcolm Fraser says "It's the saddest thing that in 2012 the Australian government has not learnt to communicate on a reasonable basis with its indigenous people."
      I would like to remind Malcolm Fraser that I along with many other voters decided that it's the saddest thing that before 1983 his Australian government had not learnt to communicate on a reasonable basis with its people.
      The Hawke ascendancy was the result of his failures, and consigned the Liberal Party to a long period in…

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    2. R. Ambrose Raven

      none

      In reply to Philip Dowling

      Philip's extremely dated recollections of his views of Malcolm as PM takes us nowhere as regards the issues.

      It seems quite clear that in this case, if not all cases, Malcolm is accurately assessing the attitude of contemporary Labor towards Aboriginal people on Indigenous issues. Not only is arrogance not a virtue, the Re-Intervention overall appears even more evil than the Intervention, and even more likely to much harm.

      It took an investigation by the government to rediscover that the services…

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    3. Philip Dowling

      IT teacher

      In reply to R. Ambrose Raven

      Fraser intervened in Zimbabwe's internal politics but not Singapore's. Around the time of this intervention, Zimbabwe and Singapore has similar GDP's.
      I predict that the same lack of knowledge and intellectual rigour produces similarly poorly informed judgements.
      Incidentally could you please advise me of anybody who has more current recollections of the time Mr Fraser as PM?

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  2. Philip Dowling

    IT teacher

    I am so pleased that Eva Cox is so sprightly at her age and so able to analyse the Northern Territory election. She would have had such a good view of the whole process from the top of the upper floors of the grey monolith that dominates the UTS campus. Of course, the multicultural perspective of the cafes in Glebe would have assisted her analysis.

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    1. Dean Wilkinson

      Researcher

      In reply to Philip Dowling

      Sounds like you have an axe to grind. I suspect Eva Cox is in a better position to analyse the NT election than "Philip Dowling, IT teacher".

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    2. Philip Dowling

      IT teacher

      In reply to Dean Wilkinson

      Dean, Thank you for your comment. Could you please elaborate the reasons for your suspicions?

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  3. Jon Hunt

    Medical Practitioner

    Could we perhaps bring the discussion back on track and talk less about Malcolm Fraser?

    I have had a lot to do with helping Aboriginal people. I have been continuously dismayed at how politicians ignore them. How can you help people if you ignore them? I dont think they genuinely care; for some reason they seem to derive pleasure from passing legislation and making decisions which treat Aboriginal people with indifference. Little wonder things are no better. Even when this is pointed out to them they seem to blame everything else except themselves; there's no insight at all. I hope that this recent election result changes this.

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    1. Jon Hunt

      Medical Practitioner

      In reply to Jon Hunt

      Should the title of the photograph perhaps read "The Northern Territory's new..."?

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    2. Helen Westerman

      Deputy Managing Editor at The Conversation

      In reply to Jon Hunt

      Oops! Thanks Jon, this has been corrected.

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  4. P Mohan

    studying Bachelor of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advocacy @ Charles Darwin University

    So Aboriginal people voted Liberal because they were disappointed with the way Labor treated them? Next time if it was the CLP that mistreated them, they will then go back to Labor at the next election?? And after that back to CLP???

    Aboriginal people could have voted Greens or their own First Nations Party and ensured either of the two minor parties won for the first time and then may be we could have expected things to change.

    Democracy is our asset and strength and there are more than two political parties in Australia. You keep voting Labor and Liberal and then keep crying.

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