The decision to allow alcohol restrictions to lapse in some Northern Territory communities was comparable to withdrawing troops from Afghanistan without providing support to those left behind, a new Labor MP says.
Marion Scrymgour is the first Indigenous Australian to represent the sprawling electorate of Lingiari in the Northern Territory, which spans more than one million square kilometres.
She is one of 11 First Nations members in the 47th parliament, the most in Australian history.
In her first speech to federal parliament, Ms Scrymgour slammed the former government’s decision to allow alcohol restriction measures in Indigenous communities to expire.
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The curbs had applied in some communities for more than 14 years and pulling the pin on the protective regime was negligent, she told parliament.
“It is tantamount to causing injury by omission,” Ms Scrymgour said.
“Many organisations and many Aboriginal people called on the former government to look at harm minimisation that should have been properly addressed.”
Any justification for removing the restrictions as self-determination is ridiculous, she said.
While the new Labor government is not in a position to reinstate the now-expired laws, Ms Scrymgour said she wants action to protect people in those communities
She said she has spoken to Indigenous Australians Minister Linda Burney and NT Chief Minister Natasha Fyles about the way forward.
“Now that takeaway alcohol is getting let back into our towns we need to do more consultation about what happens next,” she said.
“Moving forward, targeted programs have to be part of the solution.
“It is important not to make men think that they are being pre-emptively labelled and vilified, but in the meantime, protections need to be put in place.”