Will abuse of trees do?

Saturday, 7 July 2007 

It would be laughable if it was not so disgraceful.

Mal Brough and his military entourage continue their tour of the NT aboriginal communities in search of the elusive child abuse epidemic. A paper by Melbourne University Professor Botsman and comments from the co-author of a Commonwealth commissioned child protection report both suggest that he will not have much luck, with NT levels if anything being lower than the national average. An article by Mike Steketee in The Australian adds to the suspicion that child abuse claims are being talked up by some, such as the NT report’s authors, as a way of attracting more funding – irrespective of the distress such claims may cause parents in the communities.

The 7.30 Report recorded the farce to which this whole business has descended when the cavalcade entered Santa Teresa on Thursday, a place already with a long-standing alcohol ban and according to the local policeman no history of either drug-use or child sexual abuse. This was not enough, however, to escape being one of the communities singled out by the government. Standing in front of a posse of police, government bureaucrats and soldiers before the bemused residents Brough entered into this enlightened exchange:

MAL BROUGH: I suppose you’re wondering why all this lot are here? [pointing at the military]

LOCAL RESIDENTS: We’re wondering why you came.

MAL BROUGH: The sad reality is that in many communities, little ones, even as young as this little one here, have actually been hurt. That may not be happening here, not saying it is, but in a lot of places it is happening. Only this week a 3 month old was bashed to death by a 17 year old father is the allegation. There’s some really serious things happening to some little kids.

The residents’ main concern was less lurid than the Minister, namely over government plans to cut funded work programmes in the area. After being unable to give assurances on that issue and finding nothing in Santa Teresa, Brough then went 14 kilometres out of town where the unfortunate local residents are forced to go to have a drink. There he did find something to disturb him. Not only were there empty beer cans, but worse, the trees had been cut down for firewood presumably to warm up those forced to drink at night in the middle of nowhere. This seemed to upset the Minister.

MAL BROUGH: All the trees are gone. That’s a lot of drinking. I mean, seriously, that’s a lot of trees to go. That’s extraordinary.

“But this happened in more than 20 years” was the reply.

Posted by The Piping Shrike on Saturday, 7 July 2007.

Filed under Political figures

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