Indigenous leaders and human rights groups are outraged that their question to the Prime Minister concerning the human rights validity of the recently passed Stronger Futures legislation was not asked, despite it being in 4th place in last Saturday’s Google Hangout with the Prime Minister.
The question, posted by Stand For Freedom director Damien Curtis, received 9000 votes in just 4 days, making it one of the fastest growing and most successful questions in the online competition. It finished in 4th place, ahead of the carbon tax questions heavily lobbied for by commentator Andrew Bolt.
However, those supporting the question were bitterly disappointed when, out of a total of 17 questions put to the Prime Minister, their question did not appear, even though a pre-recorded Youtube video had been submitted of Aboriginal leader Barbara Shaw asking the question.
Along with the winning top 3, the other questions asked included 5th, 6th, 8th and 13th positions, 8 unlisted questions, and bizarrely 52nd and 88th positions (with 100 votes between them).
When asked why the question did not feature in the programme, Eyal Halamish, CEO of organisers OurSay, said that they tried hard to get the question in, “but this was up to Fairfax and the Prime Minister’s office, at the end of the day.”
“We see this as blatant suppression of a widely held concern, that of the lack of human rights protection for Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory. This forum was not, as it claimed, an opportunity to hold our Government to account. It was a carefully orchestrated PR stunt by the Prime Minister. Once more, the Government has succeeded in gagging any dissent when it comes to its discriminatory polices towards the First Australians”, said Damien Curtis.
Barbara Shaw, who pre-recorded the question on video, said: “Why is it that we have these policies placed upon us, but when we legitimately question authorities about them, we get shut out? This is another clear example of the Government not fairly engaging with Aboriginal issues. Again, we have been pushed to the back.”
Les Malezer, co-chairman of the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples, said he was “deeply disappointed”. “The questions put to the PM have not been to the forefront of this nation’s political priorities… I welcome the enlightenment on refugee rights, on children in custody, on gay rights and other new age reforms, but like all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people I refuse to accept that we are the doormat for all these agendas.”