Historic changes for Northern Territory Aborigines have been signed off by federal parliament, ushering in a new wave of intervention in indigenous communities.
The laws – which are discriminatory, by the government’s own admission – were passed on an unusual Friday sitting of the Senate after a marathon 27 hours of debate.
They include the controversial commonwealth takeover of indigenous township leases, removal of the Aboriginal land permits system, quarantining of welfare payments for neglectful parents and bans on alcohol and pornography.
NT Chief Minister Clare Martin said some aspects of the federal intervention were not about tackling child abuse, as Mr Howard has claimed.
“We support many of the measures put forward by the commonwealth, including welfare reforms to get children to school, and securing additional doctors and police,” Ms Martin said.
“We’re against measures which have no link to the protection of children, in particular the removal of permits and the compulsory acquisition of land.”
She warned the alcohol restrictions were impractical.
Democrats senator Andrew Bartlett said the government’s failure to consult with Aboriginal people about the changes had rendered the laws “fatally flawed”.
“The government’s insistence on politicising this issue and taking such an aggressively divisive approach where there is almost universal public support for helping Aboriginal people has been destructive and unhelpful,” he said.
“The approach the government has taken deliberately attempts to destroy the middle ground, dramatically increasing the likelihood that this will turn out to be yet another government failure.”