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Thursday, December 21, 2006

Paradise - Penal Colony - Place of Promise

Palm Island: Paradise, former Penal Colony, place of promise

" When you come here and say you can't do anything,
you must accept the cynicism and disbelief of this community,"

These words by national ALP President, Warren Mundine, to Queensland Premier Peter Beattie say it all.

However, it could have been that yesterday Peter Beattie was indulging in the art of dog-whistling. Dog-whistling is a way of speaking of which Prime Minister John Howard has often been accused.

Was Peter Beattie dog-whistling yesterday when he said - on one hand - that he would not tell the DPP, Leanne Clare, what to do and yet - in the next breath - Beattie said that if Leanne Clare decided to seek an independent review and call in the NSW DPP, Nicholas Cowdery, to review the decision not to prosecute Chris Hurley in relation to the death of Mulrunji (Cameron Doomadgee) he would support the decision?

Is this how to tell a DPP what should be done when you won't tell the DPP what to do?

Beattie also said he would support the Doomadgee family if they decided to seek a review of the decision of the DPP in the Supreme Court of Queensland.

So for all he did not say, did Beattie really say something? Time will tell.

What disgusted Miss Eagle is the announcement by Beattie that he would provide funding for the building of a diversionary facility on Palm.

Here in a nutshell is the ignorance and arrogance of governments of all persuasions in Queensland.

Palm Island is social mess - but it is a social mess of historic whitefella making from when the Queensland Government rounded up Aboriginal men and women from across North Queensland early in the 20th century and herded them onto Palm Island in what was - for all intents and purposes - an Aboriginal penal colony. People were thrown together irrespective of family and clan connections or clan rivalries. Palm Island was a gulag where even someone like Aboriginal Liberal Party Senator Neville Bonner would have to get permission to visit his family on Palm - and that permission was not always forthcoming!

True, Aboriginal people, just like settler people, could always do better.

Above all Queensland has to do better.

In Miss Eagle's book, Queensland has a fail mark on race relations. In fact, Queensland - with its head and its money stuck firmly in the south-east corner far, far away for the state's north - hasn't a clue. Beattie displayed that yesterday. Beattie will continue to sink money hand over fist into Brisbane because it is the second-fastest growing city in the world after Phoenix Arizona. In North Queensland, there is not even a flood free highway - let alone money for justice and redressing social, health, economic, educational, employment, and governance issues on Palm Island and other Aboriginal communities.