Monday, September 23, 2002


Another gem from Carmen Lawrence, this time in her role as Opposition spokesthingy for Aboriginal affairs. This time she is undermining the future re-election of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander chairman Geoff Clark, but her reasons are a little hard to understand. Lawrence does not appear to be disappointed in Clark’s performance as the highest elected indigenous official. Nor is she influenced by multiple rape accusations against Clark (although the police have declined to proceed). Lawrence does not mention the looming assault charges against Clark over a recent pub brawl.

So what’s the problem? Lawrence has her reasons:
"I was worried by the (Aboriginal affairs) Minister (Philip Ruddock) saying he thought Geoff Clark should remain in the job," she said yesterday. "That suggests maybe he's a little close to government and that's what worries me a bit about ATSIC as an organisation at the moment."

Now, call me crazy, but why is it a problem for the head of the peak indigenous body to be “a little close” to the Government? If Lawrence is really in the business of advocating the improvement of aboriginals, it should be good news that Clark is close to the source of all largesse and welfare payments to what is arguably the most disadvantaged groups in Australia.

Lawrence is revealing part of her true agenda: it is more important that aboriginal advocates be seen to be closer to the Labor Party, than it is for them to be successful in pressing their case. She wants to ensure that aboriginals do not progress under Conservative Governments, for fear of losing the votes of those who believe in the cause of aboriginal advancement. If Labor is seen to be no longer have the exclusive rights to aboriginal welfare, this will contribute to the further haemorrhage of votes from the left and right wings, already in disarray over issues such as immigration, environment and war on Iraq.

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