Abbott offers bi-partisan approach to talks with NT indigenous people

Tony Abbott on the intervention
7:30 report ABC TV 28 April 2010

CHRIS UHLMANN: I spoke with Opposition Leader Tony Abbott earlier today and asked if the intervention had achieved its primary aim, protecting children.

TONY ABBOTT, OPPOSITION LEADER: I think the intervention has made a difference. It hasn’t been perfect. Nothing is perfect, but it has made a difference and I think the challenge now is to build on that to try to see if we can extend the intervention to Alice Springs and the other major centres of the Territory, so that we ensure that everywhere in the Territory the kids go to school, the adults go to work and the ordinary law of the land is observed.

CHRIS UHLMANN: But it’s not just a failure of this Government or that Government, is it, it’s a failure of all Governments at all times.

TONY ABBOTT: I absolutely accept that, and that’s why I said to the Prime Minister to indicate that the country, not just individual politicians, are taking this seriously, why don’t the two of us, in the spirit of bipartisanship, go to Alice Springs, sit down with the senior Indigenous leadership and at least let them know that we are determined to make a difference.

CHRIS UHLMANN: Aren’t all these things, though, just symptoms. What we really face is people trapped between a lifestyle that no longer exists and one that they don’t have access to?

TONY ABBOTT: And this is why you’ve got people like Noel Pearson saying that Aboriginal people, Aboriginal kids, need the very best general Australian academic education, but they also need a decent education in their own high culture. Now, I think this is a very lofty goal that Noel has put forward, but if you look at people like Alison Anderson and Bess Price, they are fluent in many Aboriginal languages. They are people of law and culture and language, but they are also extremely capable of operating at the very top of the general Australian community. Now, that’s got to be the aspiration that we have for Aboriginal people.

CHRIS UHLMANN: One of the problems with the first intervention was that you didn’t go with the goodwill of the people because you didn’t consult them. How can you possibly consult enough people in this very fractured environment?

TONY ABBOTT: Well, I accept that the original intervention wasn’t perfect. I think it was necessary, but, sure, it wasn’t perfect. But there were particular circumstances applying at the time of the original intervention. That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be working for further change, further improvements that build on the platform that the original intervention gave us.

CHRIS UHLMANN: Finally, Tony Abbott, do you actually think that Julia Gillard will make a journey with you to central Australia?

TONY ABBOTT: Well, as I understand it, as a result of today’s meeting, she and I are both going to be invited to a meeting of the Central Land Council in August. I certainly want to be there and I intend to be there, and I hope the Prime Minister comes too. I don’t see what harm it could do, and given that we both want to see the kids at school, the adults at work and the law observed, why not go there and talk to the Aboriginal people about how we can make this finally happen.

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