By ERWIN CHLANDA
The endorsed CLP candidate for Araluen, Steve Brown (pictured), is rejecting policies to increase involvement of Indigenous people in the construction industry which are promoted by the Country Liberal NT Government.
He wants the government to remove “the words Indigenous or Aboriginal and replacing them with the word Local. That would actually create the stated intent of favouring local business and employment, bringing our community together rather than ripping it apart.”
He says this would put a stop to an “ill-considered, blatantly racist policy”.
The schemes offer generous, taxpayer-funded bonuses for builders and sub-contractors who engage Aboriginal workers and firms, while penalising those who don’t.
Says Mr Brown: “I have spoken to various department heads and while acknowledging the early vision and intentions, I must also acknowledge a wise old saying: The road to hell is paved with good intentions.
“The policy seems to have been developed at the macro level with intent to show good Indigenous employment figures to an east coast audience, but with little or no empathy for the individual lives affected.
“Throughout these policies, decisions to employ or not to employ, to favour or not to favour, are clearly based on race. This is plainly, simply wrong.
“In recent days I have been told of individuals losing their jobs as employers seek to comply with the policy’s Indigenous requirement. Indigenous in, others out. Lives are being affected. Divisions are being created.
“It is also plainly in contravention of this CLP Government’s pledge to end the politics of apartheid, of division, that saw them so well supported at the last election.”
Mr Brown says: “As a CLP candidate standing on the outside of government I feel an obligation to constituents and community both to acknowledge their concerns and to give assurance that I am lobbying vigorously on their behalf, placing pressure on Government to deal with the issues raised. My intention is not to attack government. My intention is to right a wrong.
“Debate should not be seen as harmful criticism but as an opportunity to find and remove policy weaknesses.
“A modern, decent, egalitarian government should be expending every effort to remove all racial tags from legislation and policy, not adding to the burden of division.
“Racial equality is the only way forward, the only worthwhile outcome. The fundamental belief in fairness and equality [is what] I have always believed to be foundation stones of CLP philosophy.”
Mr Brown, an electrical contractor, on February 20 co-chaired a meeting of 16 disgruntled people in the industry, and a government-sponsored meeting last week failed to allay concerns of the industry.
Araluen is a blue-ribbon CLP seat. In the August 2012 election Robyn Lambley won with a 45% margin. She is this time standing as an independent after falling out with the government.
By ERWIN CHLANDA