Prime Minister John Howard today begins a rare
two-day visit to Queensland Indigenous communities.
Mr Howard will
investigate the successes of new alcohol restrictions on Cape York
He has been invited by one of his strongest critics,
land rights activist and lawyer Noel Pearson, who says social problems
facing Indigenous people mean differences must be temporarily set
"What avails if we've got our land back and
our people have fallen apart?" Mr Pearson said.
Cape York Land
Council spokesman Ritchie Ah Mat says Mr Howard's visit is a historic
"To have the PM of this country actually come
and listen and hopefully understand what we're all on about," Mr
Ah Mat said.
Queensland Premier Peter Beattie agrees.
"I'm hopeful that ... his visit there will
be increased coordination between the Commonwealth and the state
to get a better outcome for Indigenous Australians," Mr Beattie
"I know that there've been some criticisms
of the PM visiting the cape, but ... I applaud him for it because
it puts the national spotlight on Indigenous issues in Cape York.
"It also puts the national spotlight on what
the state Government's been doing there with its alcohol management
Mr Howard will visit Weipa and Aurukun.