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Last Updated: Friday, 22 June 2007, 11:33 GMT 12:33 UK
Aboriginal abuse curbs 'racist'
Aboriginal children in Australia (file photo)
Many Aborigine communities suffer from a range of social problems
Plans by the Australian government to ban alcohol and pornography in some Aboriginal communities have been branded racist by critics.

Prime Minister John Howard announced the ban after an inquiry found child sex abuse in nearly all indigenous communities in the Northern Territory.

Mr Howard said the action was necessary to tackle the "national emergency".

But several indigenous leaders and politicians have criticised the plan as hastily prepared and badly thought out.

They have also accused Mr Howard of trying to grab votes ahead of national elections later this year.

"It would be different if his social behaviour strategy applied to everyone in Australia, but it doesn't," Michael Mansell, of the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre, said.

It has got nothing to do with race, it's got everything to do with responsibility of the parents
Prime Minister John Howard

"This is a racist attack on the weak, and an immoral abuse of power, amounting to nothing more than political vote scoring."

Leader of the Green party, Bob Brown, described it as "selective, cynical and racist".

Some critics warned that the plan could even breach federal anti-discrimination laws.

However, the National Indigenous Council has backed a crackdown and Mr Howard's plan has received in-principle support by the main opposition Labor party.

Social problems

Mr Howard announced on Thursday that the federal government would take over the administration of Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory for the next five years so that new laws could be strictly enforced.

Under the measures, alcohol will be banned for six months, hardcore pornography made illegal and all publicly-funded computers searched for pornographic images.

Abuse is serious, widespread and often unreported
Aboriginal people not the only victims or perpetrators of sexual abuse
Contributing factors include poverty, alcohol and drug abuse, gambling, pornography
Health and social services desperately need improving

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All Aboriginal children in the territory will be medically examined, and welfare payments will be contingent on children attending school.

Mr Howard denied his actions were racist and said the government had a duty to protect children regardless of their background.

"It has got nothing to do with race, it's got everything to do with responsibility of the parents," he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

"It's just that the worst examples in Australia are to be found in many of these Aboriginal communities".

A report commissioned by the Northern Territory government last week said it found evidence of child abuse in each of the 45 communities visited.

Investigators identified a wide range of social issues, from substance abuse, unemployment, poor health and nutrition and overcrowded housing that had contributed to the problem.

Alcohol banned in Aborigine areas
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Alcohol 'time-bomb' of Aborigines
12 Feb 07 |  Asia-Pacific
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17 Apr 04 |  Asia-Pacific
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16 Feb 04 |  Asia-Pacific
Country profile: Australia
09 May 07 |  Country profiles

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