NT Intervention Breaches Act

Image source: CrikeyUN 'concerned' over suspension of Racial Discrimination Act

The Australian March 19, 2009 - By Paul Maley

The UN has written to the Rudd Government expressing "concern" over the suspension of the Racial Discrimination Act, a move taken as part of the intervention in Northern Territory Aboriginal communities.

Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination chairman Fatimata-Binta Victoire Dah has written a two-page letter to the Government requesting a progress report on Kevin Rudd's promise to reinstate the Racial Discrimination Act, which was suspended by the Howard government.

The letter was written in response to a complaint made to the UN last month by a collection of Aboriginal communities. It refers to allegations of "serious discrimination" against Aboriginal people living in the Northern Territory and affected by the intervention.

"The committee notes with concern that the Racial Discrimination Act was suspended as a necessity to enact the measures contained in the NTER," it states.

"However, the committee ... observes that the current Government ... is in the process of redesigning key NTER measures in order to guarantee their consistency with the (RDA)."

The UN acknowledges there has been "constructive dialogue" with the Government. It goes on to request the Government provide details on its plans to lift the suspension of the act by July 31.

Yesterday, one of the complainants, Sunrise Health Services chief executive Irene Fisher, expressed regret the matter had escalated to this point.

"As an Australian citizen, I'm really disappointed that we had to take this to the UN," she said. Aboriginal leader Warren Mundine described both the complaint and those making it as a "joke". "If people are accusing Rudd and (Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny) Macklin of being racist ... it's laughable," he said.

He said said the real human rights violations were being perpetrated against Aborigines living in sub-standard conditions in the Territory.

A spokeswoman for Ms Macklin said the Government welcomed the letter. "We will be providing the information as requested," the spokeswoman said. "In October, the minister announced that the Australian Government would lift the former government's Racial Discrimination Act suspension and design a compulsory income management policy which does not require the suspension of the Racial Discrimination Act. We will introduce legislation in the spring session of parliament."

University of NSW law professor George Williams said Australia was a signatory to the Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Racism, the convention the committee was set up to enforce.

He said Australia appeared to be in clear breach of its obligations under the treaty and predicted the complaint would be upheld.

"The committee's findings are not enforceable under Australian law," he said. "The main sanction is international shaming and the impact on Australia's reputation."
Story

The letter was written in response to a complaint made to the UN last month by a collection of Aboriginal communities. It refers to allegations of "serious discrimination" against Aboriginal people living in the Northern Territory and affected by the intervention.

"The committee notes with concern that the Racial Discrimination Act was suspended as a necessity to enact the measures contained in the NTER," it states.

Source: The Australian 19th March 2009 - See Complete Article
Image source: crikey.com.au - Crikey NT Intervention Articles