The past week has seen a huge brawl develop between the offices of indigenous affairs minister Mal Brough and heath minister Tony Abbott — with Abbott coming out on top.

Brough and Howard’s lurid promises to deliver compulsory sexual health checks to all Aboriginal kids under the age of 16 living on remote Territory communities last week has simply collapsed. Abbott’s office came under pressure from the AMA, including from former AMA president Bill Glasson, hand-picked by Brough to be on the National Taskforce steering the occupation of around 70 Aboriginal communities by troops, coppers and Commonwealth public servants.

In short, the advice given by the AMA to Abbott’s office was that the compulsory sexual health checks without parental consent would constitute assault. Abbott’s legal advice confirmed this, and the fact that — whatever other legislative changes are being considered to legalise the retaking of the Northern Territory — it would be impossible for any government to be seen condoning the assault of its citizens.

And on another front, Brough is having to take a deep breath. After a phone hook-up with Northern Territory ministers on Monday, it became clear that the ability of drafting interstate coppers to operate successfully in the wilds of the Territory was in doubt.

Brough’s office has conceded this, and has approached the NT Police with the suggestion that the draftees effectively be relegated to back filling bush-experienced Territory coppers; with the imports pounding the streets of Darwin and other major centres. It has also been conceded that Australian Federal Police would refuse to kick down doors: they want to be seen as the good guys. In most cases, federal plods will be accompanied by their Territory counterparts on their outback assignments.

So much for shock and awe.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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