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ATSIC boss labels Vanstone 'coward'

Extract from Australian Broadcasting Corporation - ABC Online, on 2 April 2004


Queensland ATSIC leader Ray Robinson has labelled Indigenous Affairs Minister Amanda Vanstone a "coward" for attacking him under parliamentary privilege.

Senator Vanstone used Parliament to hit out at Mr Robinson over his support for Labor's plan to abolish the peak Indigenous body and its related agency, ATSIS.

She says a recent audit of eight companies associated with the ATSIC Commissioner found $1.9 million was unaccounted for.

Commissioner Robinson says the money was legitimately paid to 50 different traditional owner groups.

"She has made a statement in the Parliament under the protection of Parliamentary privilege," Mr Robinson said.

"Any coward can do that, let her come outside and say the same thing."

'Race card'

Mr Robinson has warned the Federal Government will exploit Indigenous affairs the way it did with the Tampa Boat Crisis to win the next election.

He warned Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders to prepare for a cunning election campaign based on racially unprincipled issues and spearheaded by a "shameless Government".

"I think we have got to brace ourselves for a race election because they can see themselves going down in the polls," Mr Robinson said.

Mr Robinson says Opposition leader Mark Latham is giving Prime Minister John Howard a run for his money and the Government will almost certainly play the race card to gain extra votes.

"It's the type of stuff Pauline Hanson used and I think we are going down that track again," he said.

"I think we are seeing that from the Howard Government, I think they [are] going to play the race card."


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