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Howard hints at abolishing ATSIC

Extract from Australian Broadcasting Corporation - ABC Online, on 31 March 2004


Prime Minister John Howard has strongly indicated he believes the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commissioner (ATSIC) should be abolished.

Federal Opposition leader Mark Latham yesterday announced Labor would scrap ATSIC and set up regional partnerships and a nationally-elected advisory body if it won government.

Mr Howard has told Channel Nine, the Government is still considering the recommendations of a review of the organisation.

He says ATSIC is failing Indigenous people and has not worked as a separate body.

"As far as the body itself is concerned, my view and we have that report in front of us, but I'm going to allow the processes of the government to proceed, I'm not going to pre-empt the government's full consideration of that," Mr Howard said.

"I think your viewers would be left in no doubt as people were several weeks ago as to what my view is."

Backing Latham

Bob Collins, the former Labor Senator and co-author of a review into the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC), says Federal Opposition leader Mark Latham's ideas for the peak Indigenous organisation mostly mirror what the review recommended.

Mr Collins says the idea is not a radical one and will provide a clean slate for the management of Indigenous affairs.

He says whatever organisation is established, it will never be free from criticism.

"You're not going to be able to set up some magic organisation let me tell you, that replaces ATSIC, that's going to deliver services into communities, that doesn't cop a hiding from time to time," Mr Collins said.

"So to put it in context, a lot of the criticism that ATSIC's copped would be criticism that any organisation would have copped.

"Having said that, ATSIC has been put in the sorry state that it's in now by a total failure of its national leadership, I've been saying that for a long time."

In other developments:

Federal Opposition leader Mark Latham's policy of abolishing the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC) has been welcomed in Tasmania, but his alternative has been described as a step backwards.

Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC) head Ray Robinson is urging Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders not to panic over a plan by Federal Labor to dump the body.

The Federal Opposition has announced it will scrap the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC) if it wins government.


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