Tony Abbott is a man with a plan. A stupid plan, but a plan nevertheless. This week a leak to the media revealed his secret proposal to forcibly shift tens of thousands of east coast public service workers to Karratha, Cairns and Darwin.
He also plans to create new tax zones to benefit northerners. Thanks, Tony. You might be offering a tax break, but in exchange we have to put up with a bunch of frowning, slacks-wearing, latte-sipping, weather complainers invading paradise. Hardly seems worth the few extra bucks.
Top Enders would have many practical questions surrounding this idea. Will we all have to commit to saving more stupid croc-ignorant people from our waters?
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If things had been different Azaria Chamberlain would have turned 32 yesterday. But instead of celebrating the achievements of the defining years of her adult life, her parents will mark the end of a long and personal road to justice.
After 32 years of scrutiny and four inquests, the landmark case was finally given closure today by NT coroner, Elizabeth Morris who found that after all, it was the dingo that took nine-week old Azaria from the Northern Territory campsite on 17 August 1980.
You’d like to think the relief will be palpable for Lindy and Michael, who have both re-married, with Lindy living a new life in the United States. Their lives have been inextricably shaped by the tragic events of that day and shared a journey you would not wish on anyone.
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A controversial policy from the Northern Territory intervention has managed to get through the atrocious congestion on the M4 to arrive in Bankstown, in Sydney’s south-west. And some locals aren’t feeling particularly welcoming.
“Income management” is coming to the suburb - a cultural melting pot - in July. It basically means that the Government will give some people on welfare assistance a “Basics” card that contains a significant percentage of their allowances (ie Newstart or the Family Tax Benefit). The card can only be used to pay for “essentials” like food and rent, not to squander hundreds on the Queen of the Nile pokie at Bankstown Sports.
Bankstown is one of just five places where the Federal Government has chosen to roll the program out to a thousand people, the others being Logan and Rockhampton in Queensland, Playford in SA and Shepparton in Victoria. But the opposition to it is particularly making a racket about it in Bankstown.
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Three Aboriginal people have died in police custody in Alice Springs since January. The first was 28-year-old Kwementyaye Briscoe, who died after being picked up by police for public drunkenness. In other words, he was taken into protective custody. That someone died while in a situation designed to keep them safe is sadly ironic.
Four days after Briscoe’s death, a candlelight vigil was held on the lawns opposite the Alice Springs courthouse. I will never forget the tears on the faces of those who loved him, the wails of grief.
Briscoe’s family were clear they did not want this young man’s life to become just another statistic, another figure to add to the Aboriginal death in custody count.
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It is easy to understand why the parents of Azaria Chamberlain, Lindy and Michael, who have long since gone their separate ways, and who were long ago acquitted of involvement, wish the death certificate to be altered to reflect that a dingo took their daughter.
But is another inquiry needed?
In December, a Northern Territory coroner, Elizabeth Morris, said the family had provided her with “information” about dingo attacks on children. After appointing an investigator to review the material, Morris decided to reopen the inquest.
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There has been plenty of diplomatic semantics around the American presence in Darwin but many including the Chinese are still not satisfied. The United States has long wanted a permanent military base in northern Australia.
But they are not stupid.
So when Australian officials conveyed that a fixed establishment would not be politically palatable here they saved us the embarrassment of having to say no in a high-level bilateral meeting if the request was made.
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The naturalist Charles Darwin observed that when confronted with a hostile and unliveable environment, organisms would mutate into strange new species never before seen on the planet.
While controversial when it was first published, this theory does at least explain the existence of Northern Territorians.
It is fitting that the city which bears Darwin’s name is also the home of a new master race that spends most of its waking hours trying to figure out how to keep beer cold.
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With Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin in the Northern Territory last week consulting on “what’s next?” for the Northern Territory Emergency Response, it’s timely to throw the concept of ‘exit strategies’ into the mix. In particular, how do people exit the Government’s income management program and take control of their finances?
It’s a very real dilemma for governments at all levels. Teetotalers and drunks, spenders and savers, good and bad parents - it makes no difference. If you’re an Aboriginal person receiving welfare payments in the NT, you live under the Emergency Response and half your welfare must be spent on the priority goods like food, clothes, rent and health care.
You can’t use the money for alcohol, tobacco, pornography or gambling – well at least not the quarantined half anyway…
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When it comes to waste and mismanagement, Julia Gillard’s Building the Education Revolution debacle is recognised as the gold standard, but it has a new challenger in the form of the Labor government’s Strategic Indigenous Housing and Infrastructure Program (SIHIP).
However, federal Labor – like its state Labor counterparts who gave themselves glowing reports for their management of the BER – has insulted our intelligence by their boasts in early January that it has exceeded its 2010 targets for building houses in remote Indigenous communities.
The reality is the government has blown the same amount of taxpayers’ money on administration costs and inflated salaries for consultants under SIHIP as the disastrous schools halls project, in relative terms.
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The Sorry has come and gone and now Kevin Rudd has a problem that’s been simmering in Darwin and is possibly about to boil over.
Next week the Government of the Northern Territory could be brought undone by an angry woman and her unlikely ally, and it all started with the $675 million the Feds allocated to Indigenous housing for the Territory.
Alison Anderson this week quit the ALP and the ministry, and now holds the balance of power in the Legislative Assembly with Independent Gerry Wood. It’s fair to say the pair are being portrayed as crack pots who could bring down the government.
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