Stolen Wages compensation offer is an insult.

I rise tonight to respond in some way to the insensitive remarks made today by the Minister for Indigenous Affairs in relation to the stolen wages issue. We all know this issue has been a historic injustice that has been dealt with by the 2008 report “Reconciling the Past”. It is an injustice that has been dealt with in the Senate inquiry. I was seriously distressed by the statement that was read out in this place today and by the minister’s flippant response on the ABC.

This has been a significantly important issue to Indigenous people in Western Australia and Australia. The ministerial statement was, in my view, mean-spirited and an obfuscation of the responsibilities of this government and past and future governments on this issue. The amount of $2 000 being made available to Aboriginal people born prior to 1958 and who are still living is an absolute nonsense. How can any minister of the Crown actually believe that $2 000 will in some way make reparation for the injustices done to people who had 75 per cent of their wages stolen? It deals with neither the interest, nor the value of those dollars in today’s
terms. If we take into account the 2008 report and the Senate inquiry recommendations, and indeed what has been achieved in New South Wales, the offer falls dramatically short. I think it is important to read the principal paragraph of the overview of the 2008 report. The report states —

It is important to acknowledge Aboriginal people as the original custodians of the land on which the Colony of Western Australia was founded, and that as descendants of the first peoples they have made an irreplaceable contribution to the State’s identity.

The payment of $2 000 to people who had their wages stolen is an abject insult.

I go to paragraph 8.26—recommendation 4—of the Senate inquiry recommendation, which relates to Western Australia. The report deals with the same matters for each state and territory. Recommendation 4 states that —

(a) the Western Australian Government:

(i) urgently consult with Indigenous people in relation to the stolen wages issue; and

(ii) establish a compensation scheme in relation to withholding, underpayment and non-payment of Indigenous wages and welfare entitlements using the New South Wales scheme as a model …

I do not think the New South Wales scheme is much better, but at least New South Wales is giving its stolen wages people $11 000; our $2 000 is absolutely paltry—it will not even pay for a funeral. It will not compensate people for the loss of that money, the interest that could have been earned on that money, or indeed even reflect
the value of that money in today’s wages.

Minister, I think it was an appalling announcement, and I do not think it goes nearly far enough, and I think the minister should hang his head in shame.

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