A wrap of commentary and reaction to Prime Minister John Howard’s announcement of sweeping changes to indigenous welfare and health policies in the Northern Territory.

“While the Federal Government’s plans to take control are overpowering and unprecedented, with a heavy, uncompromising and unapologetic emphasis on law and order through paternalism, there is a sense their time has come.” — Dennis Shanahan, The Australian

“Can this work? Is this more than pre-election posturing? Will the states take up Howard’s challenge to follow suit with tough measures to crack down on crime and violence in Aboriginal communities? (If you’re asking me: hopefully, yes and probably.)” — Matt Price, The Australian

“So serious is the crisis of Aboriginal children that measures that normally would be regarded as over-the-top come to seem necessary.” — Michelle Grattan, The Age

“Let there be no mistake: yesterday’s declaration of a national emergency by John Howard ranks with the referendum of 1967, or the passage of land rights in the Northern Territory, as a turning point in Australian history: in what direction remains to be seen.” — Nicolas Rothwell, The Australian

“Critics can legitimately ask why it has taken 11 years for Mr Howard’s Government to take action on the nation’s greatest social catastrophe? But while it may be late in the day, the plan is neither racist nor paternalistic, and voters will back it strongly. ” — Gerard McManus, Herald Sun

“Yesterday John Howard took (Pat Anderson’s) advice. He stopped the p-ssing around that has best described the approach of all Australian governments, including his, to now. The Prime Minister supplied the vital missing ingredient — political will.” — Peter Hartcher, Sydney Morning Herald

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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