15 Feb KATTER LAUNCHES LAST DITCH APPEAL FOR LUI’S SUPPORT
Katter’s Australian Party Leader and Traeger MP Robbie Katter has issued a last-ditch appeal to garner Labor’s support for his Blue Card Bill by writing to Member for Cook Cynthia Lui, who represents around a dozen of the communities where the “life-changing” legislation would apply.
Ms Lui was celebrated for a “Mabo-like achievement” when she introduced and ensured passage of her Kupai Omasker (Torres Strait child-rearing practice) Bill back in 2020 but has so far been silent on Mr Katter’s First Australians-focused bill.
The Traeger MP said mayors, elders and community leaders from across Cape York supported his Blue Card Bill, and he implored the Member for Cook to stand behind her communities and ensure Indigenous people wanting to improve their lives through meaningful employment were given a fair go by the State.
“The Member for Cook was celebrated in 2020 when she had her Kupai Omasker legislation passed, which formally incorporated into law traditional Torres Strait cultural practices,” he said.
“This was a great achievement and now, having written to her this week, I am asking she again muster that same bravery and loyalty to her people to either win over her party room or cross the floor to stand with the First Australians who would benefit from my Bill.”
In his letter to Ms Lui, Mr Katter described the Blue Card system as one of the greatest barriers to accessing jobs in Indigenous communities across Queensland.
“My Bill seeks to break down some of these barriers by handing Blue Card decision-making capacity to the communities (namely the Community Justice Groups) in a limited set of circumstances,” he wrote.
“I trust that, as the Member for Cook and a passionate advocate for reconciliation between non-Indigenous and First Nations Australians, you see the value in my Bill and the way it seeks to empower Indigenous communities to make their own decisions and play an active role in self-determination.”
Late last year the Labor-stacked Legal Affairs and Safety Committee said it would not support passage of the Bill.
LASC chair Peter Russo admitted in his report that applying for Blue Cards could be “exhausting and re-traumatising” for Indigenous people due to intergenerational trauma, language barriers and complex ID requirements.
He said the Committee had been informed some employers were making Blue Cards mandatory to apply for jobs that didn’t involve any direct contact with children.
“This overly prescriptive approach by employers restrains – unnecessarily in my view – several employment opportunities for local Indigenous people in these remote communities, and operates as a bias, whether it be conscious or unconscious, against First Nations people,” he wrote in the report.
The Committee also admitted negative Blue Card notices issued for minor or non-violent convictions separated families and impeded kinship care in remote communities.
“Our inquiries revealed manifest disadvantage, including that negative notices impact not only individual families but the wider community by disconnecting young people from family, country, language and culture,” Mr Russo wrote.
“This disconnect is a modern-day injustice, with a haunting reminder of other times in our history when First Nations people were separated from family and country against their wishes.
“We have to do better.”
Instead of supporting the Bill, the LASC recommended a number of more minor actions to address the chronic issues of unemployment in Indigenous communities, such as employing local government officers to assist with Blue Card applications and streamlining disclosure of information between departments.
It’s anticipated that Mr Katter’s Blue Card Bill will be debated, and voted on, in the Queensland Parliament next Tuesday.
Photo caption: Robbie Katter MP with Mornington Island Mayor Kyle Yanner, who supports the Blue Card Bill.