Failure of the ALP Oppostion to protect First Peoples

The true test of character is how people react when the going gets tough. Faced with a government attack on First Peoples which employed a whole range of known manipulative ploys – a bullying approach, bluster, an abuse of due Parliamentary process and the use of highly emotional blackmail – the Rudd-led Opposition squibbed it.

Instead of showing us how the ALP could deal with similar tactics from overseas politicians, instead of insisting that such tactics can never be rewarded, instead of showing what someone who aspires to be accepted as a real leader is made of, the ALP elected to vote for the government’s legislation!

At a mere minimum, the Opposition strategy should have been to, at least, abstain. True leadership would have committed its full resources to oppose this legislation and have been prepared to go down fighting if necessary.

If Paul Keating’s Redfern speech was the high point of ALP commitment to indigenous affairs, the Rudd-led vote for the government’s NT National Emergency legislation is its nadir. “Rudderless” is more like it.


The Rudd led Australian Labor Party, in voting to support the Howard government’s legislation, has legitimised an ethnocidal approach to First Peoples in Australia.

From this point on the true opponents to recognising the rights of the Northern Territory’s First Peoples will be able to say to the ALP “Well, you voted for it.”

And they will say this in international forums when indigenous representatives seek to gain redress. What international body is going to overturn domestic legislation which was voted for by both the government AND the Opposition?

The struggle for the recognition of the rights of Australia’s First Peoples has never taken place on a ‘level playing field’. The doctrine of terra nullius cast Australia’s First Peoples into a deep pit requiring them to make the most of a few finger-holds.

The ALP Opposition, in seeking to improve its chances at the ballot box (so it can secure gains for the largely non-indigenous workforce) has, by voting for that legislation, willingly sacrificed the well-being of First Peoples by legitimising the Howard government’s cultural genocide approach.

This may have been clever, avoiding a possible wedge – but it is too clever by half. Sacrificing the well-being of First Peoples as a matter of course is the one thing the Australian peoples need to put behind them. In so doing, the ALP failed a key leadership and character test.


The ALP has now disqualified itself from representing indigenous well-being should it win government. There can be no comfort to be derived from the thought that a change of government will result in real improvements for Australia’s First Peoples.

When this is coupled with the position of the Coalition government it is clear that there is a complete failure of the Australian Parliament to protect the well-being of Australia’s surviving First Peoples in the Northern Territory.