Protesters condemn Labor's 'failing policy'

Issue 

"Help us, do something for us — but the way we want them to be done. Talk to us", Alice Springs town camp resident Audrey McCormack pleaded of ALP conference delegates.

She was speaking outside the Sydney convention centre, at a public lobby coinciding with the first day of the conference, on July 30.

Organised by Stop the Intervention Collective, Sydney, the lobby demanded an end to federal government blackmail of Aboriginal communities, whereby they are forced to sign their land onto five-year leases to the government in exchange for housing and services. The communities that have signed onto leases haven't got any new houses anyway.

This is just one of the racist policies of the NT intervention. The lobby demanded the intervention laws be repealed. Another policy is the quarantining of welfare payments to Aboriginal people.

McCormack spoke of the shame and difficulty of life under "quarantine": when her son went to the city on a school trip, she couldn't send him money because it was quarantined to her Basics card, which is only accepted in designated stores. "Quarantine can follow you, but the Basics card can't", she said.

Human rights lawyer George Newhouse, who is part of a legal team challenging Aboriginal affairs minister Jenny Macklin's proposal to take over the town camps (see article page 3), also spoke.

He condemned the long process of "negotiation" between the federal government and Tangentyere Council — which represents the town camps — as an "awful abuse of process. It's discriminatory … it has 'tick box' or no consultation, and it has failed to consult the 200 families who reside in the town camps".

Newhouse condemned the racism of the intervention, saying it "denigrates Indigenous leadership. It's a return to Indigenous policies of the '30s and '40s — this policy is failing".

Other speakers included John Sutton from the Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union and Adam Kerslake from Unions NSW.