Given the history of sometimes strained relations between Aboriginal people and coppers in the Northern Territory, there has been a remarkable confluence of interest between the two groups in recent weeks.

Picking up on a groundswell of opposition from bush coppers, rugby playing-NT Police Association boss Vince Kelly has come out swinging in support of his members’ opposition to Brough’s abolition of the permit system. The call was followed this week with strong support from the federal association.

The reasons precisely echo that of Aboriginal traditional owners throughout the Territory. Coppers and blackfellas alike claim there is no plausible link between abolishing the permit system and child protection—indeed the opposite.

They argue the permit system is a protection against dope sellers, grog runner and p-edophiles coming from the outside, so the real issue to strengthen the permit system through greater resourcing—not its dissolution.

And there’s potential trouble brewing out bush for Federal Labor with the Ruddster and his cohorts appearing to want to sacrifice the federal seat of Lingiari, held by long-time leftie, Warren Snowdon.

Bush back benchers in the Territory’s Legislative Assembly, along with Snowdon and Labor Senator Trish Crossin, have met a barrage of demands from their bush constituents over Rudd’s position—or lack thereof. At the core of their demands is a commitment to repealing the permit abolition and compulsory acquisition of leases over 70+ Aboriginal townships and communities.

Ronnie Barramala, along with others of the community council at Ramingining near the northern Arnhem Land coast, is calling on his people to boycott voting at the next federal election.

“Well I think the main point was the people said that if the Federal, some of the laws is going ahead which already it passed the Federal legislation, we said that if this will go ahead, no vote for Federal election by the Ramingining people,” he told ABC radio.

“What we were planning to do is boycott the election and protest—we’ll even bring in the media if we have to.

“We can be fined, we can be put to jail, that’s no worries, you know.

“It’s just, you know, the Government has to listen to us, you know instead of government’s policy is just overriding our law, our thinking, our thoughts and our everything.”

Word has it that erstwhile Labor stalwarts in other Arnhem Land communities—usually able to muster very solid Labor votes—are now saying they will not assist federal Labor this time around.

Crikey hasn’t heard Snowdon’s response to this, but he’s unlikely to be happy. There’s a suggestion that Rudd is on his way to the Territory some time soon. Maybe he should be listening.

Labor needs to win 16 seats to oust Howard; losing Lingiari won’t make it any easier.

Peter Fray

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