22 November 2002
Beattie stolen wages offer perpetuates injustice
The Queensland Government's decision to press ahead with its grossly unfair stolen wages offer is regrettable and will only serve to perpetuate injustice against Indigenous people, Australians
for Native Title and Reconciliation (ANTaR) said today.
"Mr Beattie has decided to tough it out and is now playing politics with the issue, and this can only be a bad thing for reconciliation", ANTaR National President,
Phil Glendenning said.
"Mr Beattie's public comments that the offer is taxpayer’s
money is both morally untrue and likely to encourage negative public reaction to the cause of affected Aboriginal workers."
"This was money under government management stolen from Aboriginal
workers and it is their
legitimate right to have it returned and to have the injustice acknowledged",
Mr Glendenning said.
"Mr Beattie's attempt to claim high moral ground by suggesting he is the one trying to get
Aboriginal people their money before they die is insulting to Aboriginal people who have been
trying in vain to have legitimate concerns about the offer addressed."
"Injustice cannot be remedied by further injustice. But that's
what the current offer amounts to - even according to the Government's
own expert advisors, as well as the Commonwealth's Aboriginal and
Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, Dr Bill Jonas."
The Queensland Government's offer of $55.6 million has been criticised on a number of grounds:
the grossly inadequate amount on offer, representing only about 10% of the wages withheld from
Aboriginal workers over many decades; inadequate consultation with those affected; and the
inappropriate scope and underhand nature of the legal indemnity demanded of those accepting
"ANTaR also has grave reservations whether government-funded legal
advice will be truly independent and whether any legal advice can
be regarded as competent while the government withholds from claimants
their own financial records," Mr Glendenning said.
"The Beattie Government should be congratulated for acknowledging
Government culpability in
the first place and for seeking to settle the issue by agreement
in the spirit of reconciliation.”
“So why squander the opportunity now by refusing to address
legitimate concerns and negotiate further with Indigenous communities?
It just doesn’t make sense,” Mr Glendenning concluded.