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Vanstone defends asking Aborigines to wash for fuel

Extract from Australian Broadcasting Corporation - ABC Online, on 9 December 2004

The Federal Government has defended its offer to provide a remote Indigenous community with petrol bowsers and new health programs, if it meets conditions including ensuring children shower every day.

Under the proposed deal, the Mulan Aboriginal community in Western Australia would also be required have household rubbish bins emptied twice a week and houses treated for pests four times a year.

Labor has called the draft agreement one-sided and patronising.

Indigenous Affairs Minister Amanda Vanstone thinks it looks pretty good.

"If this agreement goes ahead and it works, what could anyone complain about?" she said.

"A community gets what it wants, a petrol bowser. It gives them a chance for a bit of economic development.

"People might stop to get petrol, they can put a store there and don't have to drive themselves 70 kilometres away to get petrol and then back again.

"The kids get better health outcomes."

Prime Minister John Howard agrees.

"I think what has been talked about makes common sense," he said.

Labor's Indigenous affairs spokesman Kim Carr is not impressed.

"I see it as being very one-sided, it is unbalanced and it would appear all the obligation is on one side of the community," he said.

He has told the ABC's AM program that it is an issue the National Indigenous Council should be raising, when it meets senior government ministers today.

Federal Member for Kimberley Carol Martin says the Government has ignored the fact that some Aboriginal communities do not even have water to wash their faces.

Ms Martin says the needs of the community need to be addressed before people can even consider the plan.

"If you're going to have mutual obligation it actually means a little bit more than bloody dumping everything on Aboriginal people isn't it?" she said.

"Before there's an assumption that these kids can wash their faces in the morning, is there water?

"I'm just asking a simple question because mutual obligation means just that."

Western Australia's Indigenous Affairs Minister John Kobelke says the state Government supports the partnership.

"I'm certainly accepting that the principle is one that we can work with, as long as it's one of equal partnership where Indigenous communities enter into that on the basis that they will be seeking to get certain things and will get other things in return," he said.

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