Contributed from Queensland
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull deserves too be been condemned for his act of disrespect for Clinton Pryor and by extension, Aboriginal people, with his initial refusal to meet the man who had walked 6.000 kilometres across Australia to bring the plight of his people to mainstream.
Other members of parliament, including the opposition leader, came out met Clinton and talked to the elders. Basic decency demanded that the prime minister do the same.
Instead, he insisted that if they wanted to talk to him, they had to come to him through the back of Parliament House and undergo security checks.
The message sent by this snub, is that Malcolm Turnbull and his government do not give a fig about Aboriginal people.
“We were disappointed that we had to walk around the back to meet him, he should’ve came out and seen me after I walked 6,000 kilometres to see him,” Clinton Pryor said.
A meeting did take place and Turnbull did come out later, after being persuaded to so so. It was not enough, given that Pryor and others at the meeting were angry about what they say was a refusal to show any great concern for the problems faced by their people.
At the centre is the matter of the cashless debit card and its roll out in Ceduna, despite the evidence that rather than bringing improvement to the lives of those who it has been forced on, is making the situation worse. The card is seen to be discriminatory for good reason.
Recipients get the card instead of a welfare payment and do not have the right to decide where they spend the money. The justification given is that this is to prevent money being spent on drugs, alcohol and gambling. However, it is not based on evidence that the individual is guilty of this, but on being a member of a particular community. It is clearly discriminatory.
Government policy is to roll this out through the Aboriginal population ans there is talk of extending the card to poor noon-aboriginal communities.
The dehumantising, unfair and growing sense of permanency of the card is creating a growing opposition and it is a key issue for extending the reconciliation of Aboriginal and white Australia.
Turnbull’s show of insensitivity does nothing to help this.
Especially disturbing is that this contrasts with his more sympathetic approach when in opposition, demonstrating that perhaps, the problem extends past the prime minister, to his government and its key backers.
Despite this, many are hoping there will be some change of heart when discussion resumes in November.