Monday, September 6, 2010

Challenge at the first hurdle for newly elected Aboriginal MP

Like many Australians I was very pleased and supportive of the election of Ken Wyatt as the Liberal MP for the marginal seat of Hasluck, and hoped that he would use his profile and position to speak out and influence the Liberal Party's poor record of late on Aboriginal issues.

As the first ever Aboriginal person elected to the lower house of Federal Parliament in the country's history, expectations were high (partly as a result of comments he made during the campaign) that Ken would speak out on Aboriginal issues.

Within days of his election the new Federal MP was confronted with a major challenge, due to the decision by the WA Barnett Government (his own party) to begin a process to compulsorily acquire land that is the subject of an Aboriginal native title claim as the site for the James Price Point gas development in the Kimberleys.

Despite the Barnett government's actions being among the most divisive and provocative acts by a WA Government since the Nookenbah crises in the 1980's during the period of the Charles Court Government,  the new Federal MP choose to remain silent.

The West Australian newspaper quoted a spokesperson  for Ken (rather than Ken himself) who said that he would not say whether he backed Premier Colin Barnett's plan for compulsory State acquisition of James Price Point because negotiations between the Government and Aboriginal groups were ongoing.

Distinguished Noongar and Aboriginal community leader Ted Wilkes expressed anger at Ken Wyatt's failure to speak out against the compulsory acquisition and claimed that it demonstrated that the new member for Hasluck was just part of the Liberal Party "machine". 

Ted Wilkes commented:
"He is an Aboriginal man and I need to express my disappointment. For important issues like this I think it's important for our politicians to have a say."

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