Just over a year ago, the head of the Australian Medical Association in the Northern territory called for the Army to be sent into the Aboriginal community of Wadeye, where violent abuse of children was commonplace. Howard ignored the call for help, and Mal Brough insisted it was a Northern Territory police matter. Brough instead called an Indigenous Violence Summit, rejecting Clare Martin's demand that the problem be escalated to the Prime Minister's COAG meeting. Influential officials ridiculed Brough's summit as a yet another talkfest.
Last night on the 7:30 Report Mal Brough admitted that, if not for Howard's dramatic intervention, "this would have been yet another report that came and went." And there have been plenty of missed opportunities:
KERRY O'BRIEN: Have you asked one of your predecessors Philip Ruddock why he didn't act on the warnings from senior Aboriginal leader, Mick Dodson who at the National Press Club down the road from the Parliament four years ago... when he warned in the starkest terms of child violence in Aboriginal communities, of incest, of paedophilia and rape of youths?While it is a refreshing surprise to see a Howard government minister accepting blame for anything, the person who should be bearing most of the blame for this current situation is the man who has overseen all such failed programs for the past 11 years: the Prime Minister, John Howard.
"Our people are experiencing sexual abuse beyond comprehension."
Couldn't have been much more specific than that...
KERRY O'BRIEN: When Senator Heron, another of your predecessors, when he was Aboriginal Affairs Minister right back in 1996 when he announced cuts of $450 million over four years he said, "We want programs that benefit individuals and families in the community. We will deliver results not lip service."
Eleven years later, you deliver a national emergency... declare a national emergency and blame the Territory. You would acknowledge there have been so many reports, surely the Federal Government must front up to some of the blame?
MAL BROUGH: Kerry, I have no issue on personally taking the blame.
The more one looks into the details of this latest plan, the more bizarre it becomes. Last night Mal Brough repeatedly refused to answer a simple question: "Are children going to be physically examined for signs of sexual abuse?'
MAL BROUGH: Well, Kerry, it's very interesting how we are having this discussion because, let's turn it around. Let's do nothing.AFP officers have now arrived in the NT and will get just one week's training before they are sent out into the communities. It sounds very much as if their duties are being made up as we go along.
KERRY O'BRIEN: Mr Brough, that's not...
MAL BROUGH: No, Kerry. No, Kerry.