Stronger Futures continues dark era for Aborigines, says Amnesty

AMNESTY International has sharply criticised Australia's treatment of its indigenous people and asylum seekers in its annual world review of the state of human rights.
Many of the organisation's criticisms centred on the Gillard government's so-called Stronger Futures proposals, which would extend elements of the federal intervention in the Northern Territory for a further 10 years.
The proposed laws would introduce tougher penalties for alcohol offences, extend pornography bans and continue a direction preventing courts from taking customary law or cultural practice into account in considering the seriousness of an accused person's conduct in bail and sentencing decisions.

The proposals would also give authorities the power to refer people to Centrelink for income management so a proportion of income must be spent on essentials. They also expand a measure allowing Centrelink to suspend payments to people whose children miss school.
The proposals are expected to pass Parliament with the support of the Coalition, but Amnesty said this would ''signal a continuation of a dark era for Aboriginal peoples in the Northern Territory''.
''An overwhelming majority of affected Aboriginal communities oppose the legislation,'' said Claire Mallinson, national director of Amnesty International Australia.
The Indigenous Affairs Minister, Jenny Macklin, said that the government had developed its proposals after a consultation process that included meetings in 100 locations.
''I recognise that even after our extensive consultations, not everyone will agree with what the government is doing,'' she said.
''I am confident that the priorities we are addressing … are the priorities shared by Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory.''
Amnesty also condemned Australia's policy of mandatory detention of asylum seekers as ''inherently flawed,'' and said its preference for offshore processing ''flies in the face of international law''.
It called for a time limit on detention, transparency around ASIO security assessments and an independent guardian for unaccompanied children.
A spokeswoman for the Immigration Minister, Chris Bowen, said the government had released the majority of asylum seeker children and families into community accommodation and was allowing eligible asylum seekers to live in the community on bridging visas while their claims are assessed.
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