I got an email last week from a friend about some comments Nigel Scullion has been making. The comments were regarding the Wild Rivers legislation, and Tony Abbott’s private member’s bill in particular. As Shadow Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Scullion spoke about the lack of informed consent in regards to the way the Wild Rivers legislation was written and implemented. A point that, if true, is a valid criticism and one that means the Wild Rivers legislation needs further work to become law. I’m not going to get into that here though, it’s too big for my limited lack of legal matters to get my head around and I feel that there have already been some good writings about it that can be found online.
The point of my friend’s email was the hypocrisy of the Coalition running this line. This statement about the lack of informed consent was coming from a man who, in the early days of the Intervention, told a Yolgnu man that they didn’t have anyone’s consent (as seen in Our Generation).
Now maybe it’s just cynical of me to think this. For all I know, Scullion may have had issues with the way in which the Intervention was first rolled out, he may himself not have been informed or consulted about the legislation before he had to go and inform people across his electorate. Given the rushed nature of the NTER legislation, that isn’t impossible. Possibly he – and the rest of the Coalition – may have changed their minds about fundamental principles when it comes to Aboriginal policy in Australia – they are now bracketing informed consent, after all.
This may be the case. Maybe.
I just can’t say. Only those in the room and the politicians involved can know that.
Whatever the case, to my friend here in Alice, there seems to be a hypocrisy around a party that can rush legislation without any consultation whatsoever – legislation that overrides and suspends the Racial Discrimination Act, that vilifies and demonises Aboriginal people living in selected areas – yet now has issues with a lack of informed consent. Which they then use as grounds to repeal legislation that doesn’t fit with their neoliberal agenda. This looks a lot like hypocrisy about when and where informed consent matters.