The Australian gives new meaning to the term beat up with today’s front page yarn “Macklin opts for luxury in Aurukun.” Under a photo of the barefoot Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin stepping onto a dinghy in the Cape York Community of Aurukun (set to ferry her to the “luxury charter boat”) Padriac Murphy reports:

Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin has passed up the opportunity to learn first-hand about conditions in one of the nation’s most troubled Indigenous communities after dark, opting to spend her night in Aurukun on a luxury boat moored offshore rather than sleep in town….Instead of staying the night in the community’s basic eight-room guesthouse, behind razor wire next to the council chambers, [Macklin] chose the MV Pikkuw, a $680-a-night boutique fishing charter boat moored off the western Cape York coast… The boat, which caters for the lucrative recreational fishing market, claims on its website to be ‘a spacious, modern, comfortable, custom-built vessel with accommodation for up to eight passengers’…the Pikkuw is fitted with state-of-the-art entertainment systems, including a flat-screen TV and DVD player. The boat is also partially exempt from Aurukun’s alcohol restrictions, although no alcohol was served during a barbecue hosted by Ms Macklin last night for 20 people.

If Macklin’s “boutique” boat costs $680 a night, and the minister and her guests number eight passengers (which they did), that’s a nett cost of $85 per person. I think it’s pretty difficult to mount a case that Macklin et al were living large on the taxpayer teat.

It’s not, however, difficult to prove that The Australian might have been pulling the collective leg of its readers, for the story is most notable not for what it says, but for what it leaves out. Quite a few of what might be called “facts” were omitted from the story. And here they are.

Regular readers of the National Indigenous Times might recognize the MV Pikkuw. We did a series of stories on it in 2003. In one of those thoroughly mundane yarns, where there are no little children being r-ped and no women being flogged by wild, drunken black men, we reported how more than 36 Aboriginal youths from Aurukun became involved in a boat building project courtesy of the Community Development Employment Project (CDEP, aka “work for the dole”).

And lo and behold, from the fruits of their labour the MV Pikkuw was borne.

The boat is now owned by the local community and operated on a not-for-profit basis. Having employed more than three dozen people during its construction, it now employs almost one dozen Aboriginal people on an ongoing basis.

Here are some happy snaps:

  

So Jenny Macklin – winer, diner and suspected hedonist — supported a locally-owned, locally-run, not-for-profit Aboriginal enterprise that has seen around 50 people employed and three dozen jobless black youth gain valuable trade skills. As Monty Python might say: “She’s a witch. Burn her!”

Peter Fray

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