Fraser backs Aboriginal anger over laws
Former Liberal prime minister Malcolm Fraser has backed Aboriginal leaders from Arnhem Land threatening to revolt against the federal government's Stronger Futures laws.
Labor's Stronger Futures draft laws are before the Senate and likely to pass with bipartisan support after federal parliament resumes in May.
A group of traditional owners, Yolngu Nations Assembly, representing 8000 people in west, central and east Arnhem Land, have written to the prime minister, indigenous affairs minister, opposition leader, senators and NT government calling for the Stronger Futures laws to be scrapped.
The laws continue the former Howard government's Northern Territory intervention introduced in 2007 to address violence and alcohol abuse in Aboriginal communities.
The measures are widely opposed by NT Aboriginal communities, who say they were not properly consulted on the government's plans and that the laws are racist.
The letter, obtained by AAP, says until the laws are discarded traditional owners will refuse "participation in land lease negotiations with the federal government and approval for any exploration licences".
"Traditional owners of prescribed community lands have been placed under extreme pressure from the federal government to grant them head leases over these communities," Dr Djiniyini Gondarra wrote.
The traditional owners want the federal and territory governments to return to "the mindset of partnership based on self determination".
The draft laws include alcohol restrictions and a controversial program that cuts the welfare payments of parents whose kids skip school, known as the student enrolment and attendance measure (SEAM).
Mr Fraser on Wednesday said he backed the indigenous leaders' plea for the laws to be dumped.
"It is my hope that those in government will listen to the request of the Yolngu Nations people ... and end the interventionist policies," he said in a statement.
Former late 1970s Aboriginal affairs minister Ian Viner QC agrees.
"It is a strong statement which I am ready to support," he said.
The laws are also opposed by the Catholic and Uniting churches and St Vincent de Paul.
A spokeswoman for Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin defended the government's plan.
"The Gillard government has given a clear commitment to Aboriginal people in the NT to work with them over the next 10 years to overcome the unacceptable levels of disadvantage too many people still face," she said in a statement.
Opposition spokesman Nigel Scullion said the circumstances in the Northern Territory were still so grim it warranted a continuation of "intervention" policies.
He cited 2010 statistics on indigenous community night patrols, which cover an adult population of 29,000 people, showing there were 100,000 incidents of violence.
"That is the motivation for some sort of intervention," he said.
He challenged Mr Fraser's and the churches' opposition to the laws.
"Quite clearly he does not understand exactly what Stronger Futures does," the NT senator said.
Senator Scullion said he wasn't in a habit of defending Labor government legislation.
"But we all have a responsibility to be bipartisan and defend what is reasonable," Senator Scullion told AAP.
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