UN: Legislation must be based on meaningful consultation

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Pacific representative Matilda Bogner said the UN's various indigenous and human rights offices had loudly criticised the original NT intervention policies, which were brought in by the Howard government.

Ms Bogner said "it would seem that mistakes are being repeated and lessons have not been learnt".

Legislation must ensure that a high degree of control over decision making is given to indigenous communities.

h2>UN urges more scrutiny of Aboriginal laws

AAP Business Spectator 22nd May 2012

The United Nations has challenged Australia to pit its planned laws to boost indigenous advancement in the Northern Territory against its wider human rights obligations.

That task would help sure mistakes of the past were not repeated, the UN said.

The Stronger Futures laws are a 10-year commitment covering significant investment in families, education, health, housing, jobs and safety, building on extensive talks with NT Aboriginal people.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Pacific representative Matilda Bogner has called on Labor to allow a new parliamentary committee on human rights to review the draft laws.

The legislation is before the Senate and was introduced to parliament before the committee was set up late last year.

"Putting it up for review by the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights would be a strong signal that the government is committed to bringing it fully in line with its human rights obligations," Ms Bogner wrote in an opinion piece sent on Tuesday to local media outlets.

She said the UN's various indigenous and human rights offices had loudly criticised the original NT intervention policies, which were brought in by the Howard government.

Ms Bogner said "it would seem that mistakes are being repeated and lessons have not been learnt".

She said measures such as income management and withdrawal of social security for entire families if one child does not attend school can appear punitive and may have a disproportionate and discriminatory impact on indigenous communities.

Ms Bogner noted widespread criticism from indigenous leaders about the government's handling of the consultation process.

"Legislation that seeks to empower and improve the situation of indigenous peoples must be based on extensive and meaningful consultation with affected communities," she said.

"It must ensure that a high degree of control over decision making is given to indigenous communities."

She also pointed to concerns from Australia's Human Rights Law Centre the plan will "undermine democracy, further damage the government's relationship with Aboriginal peoples and be ineffective in addressing Aboriginal disadvantage".

Attorney-General Nicola Roxon has the power to retrospectively refer the Stronger Futures laws to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights.

Ms Macklin declined to comment on why the government was reluctant to put the draft laws to the parliamentary human rights committee.

In a statement, she said the government has given a clear commitment to Aboriginal people in the NT to work with them over the next ten years to overcome the unacceptable levels of disadvantage.

"The Stronger Futures legislation has been designed to comply with the Racial Discrimination Act," she said.

"I recognise that even after our extensive consultations, not everyone will agree with what the government is doing."