The first test of a “voice” to Parliament failed last night thanks to the major parties and the Greens, Katter’s Australian Party Leader and Traeger MP Robbie Katter has said.

Mr Katter’s Working with Children (Indigenous Communities) Amendment Bill 2021 was voted down last night by Labor and the LNP. The Greens also refused to support it.

The Private Member’s Bill, requested and supported by Indigenous Queenslanders over the last decade, would have handed decision-making capacity within existing regulatory frameworks to designated First Australian communities where job opportunities are scarce, unemployment is high and Blue Cards are an unacceptable barrier to getting people into work.

Child safety would have remained paramount, as the Bill only proposed to transfer decision-making capacity to communities – through their Local Justice Groups – when an applicant had a limited criminal offending history, none of which could involve the harm of children.

Mr Katter said he’d given the Palaszczuk Labor Government more credit than it deserved in relation to its commitment to advance the interest of Indigenous Queenslanders.

“This Bill would have given a “voice” to First Australians to make decisions on who gets work in their community, rather than someone from Brisbane,” he said.

“Given Labor and the Greens do a lot of talking about how important it is to give First Australians a voice and improve their lives, we thought this was a no-brainer for them to support this.

“This only cements my scepticism that talk of ‘treaty’ and an Indigenous ‘voice’ are nothing but platitudinal distractions that will mean little to the First Australians who need change the most.”

In his speech to the Parliament last night, Mr Katter referenced the support from Indigenous mayors from some of the communities the Bill would have assisted.

In supporting the Bill, Palm Island Mayor Mislam Sam said:

“I think one thing I will say from the get-go is this community needs a brave State Government. Our welfare snowball continues to grow by the day. Every year we have 50 funerals. There are probably two weeks in the calendar year where we do not have a funeral on the island. I have one of the busiest cemeteries and busiest airports. Do you see the correlation? All the people are flying in and out of my community because locals cannot hold down simple local jobs because they cannot access a blue card.”

Also supporting the bill, Mornington Island Mayor Kyle Yanner said:

“The blue card has failed us, like most other systems in communities. They are not fit for purpose in our communities. At the end of the day, not just individuals but the whole community loses. We also lose. We sometimes get employees, young families from cities like Brisbane or Cairns, who want to come and work here, who want to come and help us, who want to come and make a difference and help us change the struggles that we face, but we lose them mainly because our preschool is normally understaffed. It is not running efficiently because our mob cannot get blue cards to work in this place. It is hard to get family orientated people across to our island to work in the preschool also. Not only do we lose with that; we have young families who lose also. They want to get ahead. They want to build a better life but they cannot because our blue card system restrains our other mob being able to work there to cater for these families who have young families.”

Finally, Yarrabah Mayor Ross Andrews said:

“For us the blue card issue is important in terms of a lot of the big reforms that are happening around First Nations people – particularly the Voice to Parliament, the Path to Treaty, Closing the Gap, health equity and a few others – both at the state and national level, where First Nations people have to have a voice consistent with fellow Australians. For us, this issue is important in terms of economic engagement and participation.”

Mr Katter said he was deeply disappointed that his long-running campaign to assist First Australians by addressing the over-reach of the blue card system had failed again.

“These are aspirational people, they want a job. they want a house – there is a racial pay gap here” he told the House.

“In Doomadgee, the average annual income is $63,000, you try to live off that when you are paying 600 bucks a week for groceries.

“No wonder they are angry, no wonder their kids are angry and coming to Mount Isa and playing up.

“They are angry because we are not backing them, (but) here is an opportunity to back them.

“Go and talk to the mayors; I challenge any Member to go and ring a mayor anywhere through the Cape or the Gulf to argue with the concept here.

“If you want to argue semantics then put an amendment in, or come back tomorrow if you are the Government and reintroduce it and suspend standing orders.

“Bring something back in which fixes this because I would love to support it.

“I could not care less if it does not have KAP’s name on it; this is much greater than politics.”



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