Christian Kerr writes:

So Wadeye has got its “General Cosgrove”. Mal Brough and Clare Martin are talking today. But will anything change?

There
has been revelation after revelation about the extent of violence,
depravation and squalor in Indigenous communities for thirty years now.
Michael Duffy listed some
on the weekend. It is clear policies have failed – yet various members
of the “Aboriginal industry” have managed to push them under the carpet.

While
it’s important to debate issues such as the role political correctness
has played in bringing this situation about, we shouldn’t forget that
this is an issue of public administration.

There are some people
in the corridors of Canberra who will tell you that the issue is only
now getting the attention it deserves from the Government because The Australian
has picked it up. At the same time, however, I don’t recall a time when
Indigenous people have said that emergency powers are the only solution.

You
can learn about the dynamic of the story from Crikey’s own coverage – a
lead on Monday expressing our shock at the depths of depravity remote
communities followed by two days of jabs at Mal Brough. Other media are
the same. They are palpably unhappy and scared about their own
revelations. They are lashing out.

Brough, as the federal
minister, is the only person who can actually do something about it.
But for that he needs help – and a little understanding.

He’s
new to the job. Like the rest of us, he, no doubt, has been shocked and
horrified at what he’s found and determined to do something about it –
and has then run into the roadblock of the states.

Labor might
say that the Howard Government has been there for ten years and should
have done something earlier. Well, the NSW State Labor Government has
been there for 11. State and Territory Labor governments are well
entrenched. Are they cooperating?

Intractable problems become
intractable because no one can tackle them. If one level of government
shirks its responsibilities towards Indigenous Australians, that makes
tackling the difficulties they face intractable.

If the states
or the Commonwealth interfere with each other’s ability to take hard,
effective decisions – like enforcing removal of all substances that can
be abused from these communities – then we’d better get used to reading
about children in nappies being anally raped.

Peter Fray

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Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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