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Media Release

ANTaR National

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 the offer.

"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.

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Last updated 12 July, 2003