For only the third time since the introduction of the Race Discrimination Act, legislation has been introduced that specifically excludes the operation of that Act. And it depends on the “race power” to achieve this. The so-called “race power”, passed overwhelmingly 40 years ago, and always assumed to be for the “benefit” of Aboriginal people, now allows discrimination against Aboriginal people... On the three occasions it has been suspended, it has been aimed at Aboriginal people only: over the Wik legislation; over Hindmarsh Island; and for the purposes of the second Intervention into the Northern Territory.
And let’s look at the way it has been used in that Intervention. It has been used:
- to compulsorily acquire interest in Aboriginal private property in “prescribed communities”;
- to remove the permit system, or the right of Aboriginal traditional owners to say who can, and who cannot, come onto their property;
- to arbitrarily control individual Aboriginal incomes;
- to control Aboriginal organisations and assets.
It is, in other words, a leap back to the days of the first Intervention, to the days of assimilation, control and coercion; to the days when Aboriginal people were regarded as too naïve, and too simple, to control their own affairs. And it has nothing to do with the protection of children.