Wanna know
the difference between being a junior minister and a member of cabinet? Keep an
eye on Indigenous Affairs Minister Mal Brough. He’s learning the hard way.

When you’re
a politician, you can have a great issue ready to run with – but you’ve got to
be able to deal with the consequences of the issue you raise. Even more so when
you’ve got responsibility for it.

Brough and
his advisers appear to have been unable to see past the first headline. They seem
to have confused ends and means. That’s the only explanation for his claims of
paedophilia on Lateline on Tuesday. Brough wanted to talk tough. He wanted to be able to assert his
power. Host Tony Jones must have been primed by the pressie. Look how the
interview began:

TONY JONES: Well, it’s been a confronting 24
hours for the Indigenous community. Nanette Rogers’s comments on this
last night seem to have opened the floodgates. Today, we’ve been
reports from different parts of the country. From Western Australia,
there are new claims of Aboriginal
babies and children being raped and molested. And later today, we’ve
about an horrific attack on an 18-year-old woman from the
community in South Australia in the past few days. We’ve been told she
petrol thrown on her stomach and was set alight. She has deep burns to
20% of her body and is now in the burns unit of the Royal Adelaide
Hospital. Joining me now to talk about what
can be done to stem the endemic tide of violence and substance abuse is
Federal Minister for Aboriginal and Indigenous Affairs, Mal Brough.
Thanks for
being here.

MAL BROUGH: Good to be with you, Tony.

JONES: It’s much more widespread than central Australia by what you were saying today?

BROUGH: Yes, it is. Yes, it is…

played his card:

BROUGH: I would first and foremost want to work
with the elected government of the Territory. If that fails to produce what I
think are the only workable solutions, which is good governance and law and
order, then we shouldn’t close our minds to any alternative that is possible to
the Federal Government.

JONES: Including, obviously, from what you are saying, anything.

BROUGH: Anything.

JONES: So the Commonwealth could take control of the Northern Territory and deal with the Aboriginal issues
in the NT itself, take that power away from –

BROUGH: Tony, I’m talking on face value what I saw ten minutes ago by a
constitutional lawyer. I am not a constitutional lawyer. All I would simply say
to you is that the Australian public should demand of the Howard Government
that if the Territory Government doesn’t deal with these issues with us in a
cooperative fashion, then we should not at any stage rule out every

But with
power comes responsibility. Brough played his card. And then he dropped the

Until you get out the root cause and it comes
back to the fundamental issue I keep speaking about, and that’s law and order
and maintaining it. Everybody in those communities knows who runs the
paedophile rings. They know who brings in the petrol and they know who sells
the ganja. They need to be taken out of the community and dealt with, not by
tribal law, but by the judicial system that operates throughout Australia. We’re all equal in this country
and we should all be treated the same way.

Jones knew

I’m sorry, you just said something which
astonished me. You said paedophile rings that operate in these communities.
What evidence is there of that?

It’s been back-pedalling ever since. Today’s Agewraps it all neatly:

Brough, who arrived in Alice Springs last night to visit town camps and meet traditional owners about the
problem, said he had already raised the issue with NT Police Commissioner Paul
White and a senior Alice Springs policeman.

But Mr
White yesterday issued a statement saying he had not held discussions about paedophile
rings with Mr Brough, and urged him to report any information he may have.

Chief Minister Clare Martin accused Mr Brough of political grandstanding by
making “unsubstantiated allegations”. She said if he had evidence he
should pass it on to the NT police…

At least he
knows what to do when you say too much – let your words get lost in more talk.

Brough has now
announced a national summit to discuss ways of cracking down on the abuse of
women and children in the Indigenous population.

The Prime
Minister has also weighed in from the other side of the Pacific with a handy
reminder that more money is not the solution to violence in Aboriginal
communities .
No doubt he’ll have more to say to his new Cabinet member in private when he returns.