A Nightmare of the Neocolonial Kind: Politics of Suffering
in Howard's Northern Territory Intervention
University of Otago
This essay provides a critical discussion of the Howard government's 2007 intervention into 73 Aboriginal communities in Australia's Northern Territory. Contending that the official purpose of the intervention differs from its actual purpose, the paper argues that the federal government has mobilised issues of violence, abuse and neglect in these communities as a pretext for advancing an unrelated agenda. The paper characterises the intervention as neocolonial and its actual agenda as one of assimilatory neoliberation. It encompasses discussion of the privatising of Indigenous lands, the corporatising of Indigenous governance, the disciplining of Indigenous labour, and the violations of land, sovereignty and human rights the intervention entails.
We have a long way to go before human conditions will be obtained by this highly gifted race. The facts are at present that they are being willed to death. The majority of Australians are still poisoned with a strong anti-native bias - the criminal cannot forgive the victim he has wronged ... Nobody could be more cruel, greedy, dishonourable and unjust in their dealings with native races than the British Australian.
—Mary Montgomery Bennett 1936, cited in Paisley, 2006: 222.
John Laws: But if you do that, Mal, you're going to be accused of discrimination against Aboriginals.
Mal Brough: Yes, John, I don't care. I mean, I really don't care.
—Mal Brough, 2006: 2.
1. On 21 June 2007 John Howard's federal government initiated an intervention into 73 Aboriginal communities in Australia's Northern Territory. The intervention mobilises military force and involves a set of power moves granting the government direct control of the targeted communities, for a period of five years. In media reports the intervention has been described as a "revolution" and "takeover", but also a "crackdown" and "rescue plan."  The stated primary purpose of the intervention is to address the problem of "intra-racial child sexual abuse" in these communities, as attested by the report of a recent Northern Territory government inquiry into this issue, Ampa Akelyernemane Meke Mekarle, 'Little Children Are Sacred' (AAMMR, 2007: 234). The Prime Minister asked Australians to understand the problem of sexual abuse in Aboriginal communities as a "national emergency" akin to Hurricane Katrina (2007a: 2-3): a disaster situation in which a particular population of victims require urgent rescue and protection by a government strong and responsible enough to "grab control" and "stabilise the situation" (2007c: 2). As this image of abject suffering ameliorated by heroic government suggests, the intervention configures the relationship between morality and power in a very particular manner. Morality appears to lead power, with the suffering of Aboriginal children positioned as an immoral reality that directly compels the federal government to gather, enhance and deploy its various powers of intervention into the lives, communities and lands of Aboriginal Territorians in general. At the heart of the intervention lies a transaction by which the federal government extracts from disempowered children the power to act unilaterally upon and within their communities. The Prime Minister calls this transaction "exceptional measures to deal with an exceptionally tragic situation" (Howard 2007a: 12). Written as the early stages of the intervention unfold, this article provides a critical discussion of these exceptional measures as well as the government's representation of the exceptionally tragic situation it purports to address.
2. Howard's Northern Territory intervention is made possible by two legal manoeuvres: the exercise of certain constitutional powers, and contravention of Australia's obligations under international law. The intervention exercises the constitutional power conferred on federal governments to usurp the sovereignty of territory governments by overriding or remaking their law (known as the territories power, Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act [CACA], Section 122). In this case, the constitution enables the federal government to override the authority of the Northern Territory government, initially to place occupying forces in control of the targeted communities and subsequently to introduce new laws. The Howard government has invoked the territories power on two previous occasions: in 1997 to override the Northern Territory's euthanasia law and in 2006 to override the Australian Capital Territory's same-sex marriage law. What distinguishes the government's use of this power on this occasion is that it affords a greater scope and array of powers and extends to military occupation. The intervention involves a historically significant domestic deployment of the Australian Army, combined with weakening of the permit system by which Aboriginal communities can restrict entry to their land, a programme to conduct medical inspection of Aboriginal children under the age of sixteen, the imposition and enforcement of bans on alcohol and pornography, blanket 'quarantining' of welfare payments, and a wide range of land tenure, governance and labour-related changes instituted through follow-up emergency legislation. Howard described the intervention as "radical, comprehensive and highly interventionist" (2007a: 2). He also stated, "We can do something about the Northern Territory because we have the power and that's why we're doing it" (2007c: 2).
3. The follow-up emergency legislation is racially discriminative -- it targets Indigenous Australians specifically. Secondly, then, the government is using the so-called races power (CACA, Section 51 xxvi), which permits the making of racially discriminative law. Yet the emergency legislation's discriminatory character exists in tension with the Commonwealth Racial Discrimination Act 1975 (RDA), which protects fundamental human rights and implements Australia's international obligations under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD). In a bid to resolve this tension, the emergency legislation excludes the operation of the RDA as well as the Northern Territory's Anti-Discrimination Act, while also casting the measures taken in the emergency response as 'special measures' permissible under the RDA. The RDA permits measures that can be said to advance the interests of a targeted group, such as affirmative action or other forms of positive discrimination, if those measures are taken under certain specified conditions. Hence Minister for Indigenous Affairs Mal Brough claims, "I have breached the Racial Discrimination Act in a positive sense" (2007f: 2). However, as we will see, the emergency measures do not constitute positive discrimination and fail to conform to the conditions specified under the RDA pertaining to consultation and consent. As such the emergency legislation violates fundamental human rights, contravening the Australian government's obligations under international law.
4. Howard's positioning of the suffering of Aboriginal children as an exceptional circumstance mandating exceptional measures is an effort to justify these legal manoeuvres, and also to delimit public discussion of the intervention. The government's stated intention to "stamp out sexual and other abuse of defenceless Aboriginal children" (Howard, 2007b: 1) confers virtue, giving purchase on an apparently morally unassailable position that is outside of politics and beyond the reach of criticism. After all, who would block or delay rescue of a suffering child? With the official discursive terrain set out in this way, criticism of the intervention is morally questionable before it is voiced, and when it is voiced, can be evaded through accusations of callous disregard or insufficient cognisance of the realities of sexual abuse. Accordingly, Howard cast critics of the intervention as inappropriately politicising an issue on which "there is not a political argument", offering an all-purpose response in the form of a rhetorical question: "I'd simply say to all of my critics, what is more important, protecting vulnerable children or debating political theory?" (Howard, 2007c: 3). Similarly, Brough met criticism with graphic descriptions of sexual abuse, vowing to disregard criticism by taking it "on the chin, because hopefully this [intervention] will stop some child in the future from being so terribly, terribly damaged" (Brough, 2007a: 2). Thus the discursive terrain set around the intervention enabled both politicians to identify not just with but as victims -- victims of politicising critics, insensitive cynics, and morally questionable souls. As the government mustered troops, crafted an inter-state police force, committed $130 million to building new police stations, and began making arrests, it simultaneously conferred upon itself dual status as heroic protector and defiant victim.
5. This prohibitive packaging has not, however, succeeded in deterring critical discussion of the intervention.  In the wake of Howard's announcement two lines of criticism began to develop. The first centres on the idea that the intervention's paternalistic, militaristic and punitive character ensures its inadequacy as a response to the complex problem of child sexual abuse. Although Howard and Brough claim to be acting on AAMMR, the authors of that report, Pat Anderson and Rex Wild QC, have publicly criticised the intervention in this way. Anderson said she felt "Betrayed, disappointed, hurt, appalled, angry, all at the same time" (2007: 1) as the intervention unfolded in a manner completely at odds with the report's 97 carefully wrought recommendations (see also Wild, 2007). The measures the intervention does take are not recommended in the report, while measures the report does recommend have been ignored, particularly those stressing the need for government to consult and work in consensual partnership with Aboriginal communities -- that is, measures that respect Aboriginal sovereignty and reflect the established framework of human rights. 
6. Meanwhile, a second line of criticism began to crystallise around the idea that the government is using the issue of child sexual abuse as legitimating cover in order to advance unrelated and less publicly salient agendas. The first of these agendas is electoral success. A federal election is due later in the year, and critics have observed that the intervention vividly recalls the Tampa affair, by which the Howard government galvanised the popular vote in the lead up to the 2001 election. As Jennifer Martiniello writes, "The focus on the sexual abuse of children is guaranteed to evoke the most emotive responses, and therefore command attention, just like the manipulation of the Tampa situation" (2007: 3). In the Tampa affair the government claimed that, in an un-Australian violation of family values, a large group of mostly Afghan asylum seekers stranded off Australia's north coast had thrown their children overboard, justifying the government's staunch refusal to permit them onto Australian soil. The claim was later proven to be manifestly false, but for electoral purposes it conferred a mantle of bold guardianship upon the government and effectively dog-whistled the racist anxieties of white Australia. That a replay of Tampa forms part of the Northern Territory intervention goes some way toward explaining the complicit response of the Australian Labor Party (ALP) in opposition.  Rather than be drawn into wedge politics and risk appearing less militaristically staunch, the ALP offered 'in principle support' for the intervention and subsequently passed, where it could have contested, the intervention's complement of racially discriminative legislation. As one report observed, "Labor also knew that on an extremely emotional issue such as this, even qualified criticism might have been attacked by the government as endorsement of the shocking abuse many children have endured" (Coorey, et al, 2007: 3).
7. The second agenda linked with the Northern Territory intervention, and the one that most concerns me here, is considerably more serious. It is put succinctly by Pat Turner, former head of the now disestablished Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission: "We believe that this government is using child sexual abuse as the Trojan horse to resume total control of our lands" (2007: 1). Let us pause here and consider Turner's comment. In his piece 'When Was 'the Post-Colonial'?' Stuart Hall observes that some would deny the term postcolonial to white settler colonies because 'post' takes us too far away from capturing the character of ongoing struggles between Indigenous peoples and white settler governments (1996: 246). If Turner's Trojan horse thesis is even halfway right, and even if we are to understand the 'post' in postcolonial as signalling a reverberative aftermath of colonisation rather than a period somehow beyond colonialism's historical conclusion, then the term postcolonial is inadequate for Howard's intervention. If Turner is even halfway right -- and, as we will see, there is abundant reason to consider that she is fully correct -- the intervention must be regarded as a neocolonial moment, a moment in which the objectives, relations and effects of the colonial syndrome do not merely reverberate but resurge. Indeed, in his address to the Sydney Institute, Howard explicitly framed the intervention as a renewal of colonialism's civilising mission. Although averse to debating political theory, he invoked a classic text of English political philosophy, Thomas Hobbes' Leviathan, and superimposed upon Aboriginal communities a revised version of Hobbes' conjectural description of human insecurity in the state of nature:
Tonight, in our rich and beautiful country, there are children living out a Hobbesian nightmare of violence, abuse and neglect. Many are in remote communities in the Northern Territory. To recognise this is not racist. It's simply an empirical fact. (Howard, 2007a: 1)
Implying that Dreamtime has resolved itself into a nightmarish conclusion, Howard casts remote communities as heretofore insufficiently colonised zones to which the sovereign's rule of law must now finally be extended. The sovereign in this case is Hobbesian also. As Howard puts it, to force a transition from "extreme social breakdown" to "social order enforced by legitimate authority" the federal government must undertake "a sweeping assumption of power" (2007a: 2-4).
8. Turner's Trojan horse thesis indicates what is at stake in this intervention, while also pinpointing its main weakness. That is, the counterintuitive link its architects make between addressing child sexual abuse and relitigating Indigenous land tenure and governance arrangements in a manner that undermines Aboriginal sovereignty and further opens Aboriginal lands to private interests among the mining, nuclear power, tourism, property development and labour brokerage industries. In the following section I will show that the intervention's mobilisation of child sexual abuse as a pretext for an unrelated agenda is evident from the fact that the intervention strengthens and advances an already existing effort to privatise Indigenous lands, corporatise Indigenous governance, and discipline Indigenous labour. In short, this neocolonial intervention accelerates and secures an already established programme of assimilatory neoliberation -- assimilatory in the sense given that term by earlier Australian governments, as described with a tone of irony by Murray Goot and Tim Rowse: "The task of assimilation was to endow Aborigines with the capacities that would make it no longer necessary to discriminate against them. That much was agreed" (2007: 30). While the link between the intervention's stated purpose and actual aim is counterintuitive in a practical sense, it is highly intuitive in a political sense. Following my discussion of the programme of assimilatory neoliberation the intervention brings to fruition, I will indicate the human rights violations the intervention entails. It is in view of these violations that the government's need for moral cover can be most clearly discerned -- not just any moral cover, but one capable of rendering as urgently needed the non-recognition of rights that are in fact inalienable.
Neoliberating the Northern Territory
9. In his address to the Sydney Institute Howard himself implied that his government's sweeping assumption of power is Hobbesian in character. But in that same part of the speech Howard characterised his government's assumption of absolute sovereignty as a departure from "laissez-faire liberalism" and "light-touch government", as though militarization and the supplanting of democratic principles with coercive authority were somehow at odds with the politics of neoliberalism (Howard, 2007a: 2). Despite the Prime Minister's representation of it, this intervention sees the federal government assume absolute sovereignty in order to advance neoliberalism, rather than temporarily desist in its practice and promotion. The intervention provides a stark example of one of neoliberalism's salient contradictions:
Neoliberalism lauds individualism, personal freedom and the free market, but in practice it relies heavily on state regulation and control to ensure conditions which are conducive to business ... from the manipulation of interest rates by reserve banks, to influencing family behaviour through welfare benefit policies". (McMartin, 2007: 1-2)
Through a dizzying array of inadequately debated legislative and policy changes, the bulk of which well predate the release of AAMMR, the intervention advances an effort to assimilate Indigenous Australians within what Brough calls "the real economy" (2007d: 5). All of these changes directly target Indigenous ways of life and notions of land tenure, and serve either to diminish or eclipse the land rights and negotiating powers of Indigenous organisations, transferring these rights and powers to government through a systematic bolstering of ministerial power. As I noted above, the programme of assimilatory neoliberation underpinning the intervention consists of three interrelated strands. I will address these in turn, with primary attention to the first.
Privatising Indigenous lands
10. 'Privatise' in this context refers to two processes. The first is a process of replacing communal land ownership in Indigenous communities with private free-market land tenure arrangements, facilitated by successive amendments to the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976 (ALRA). The second process is one of easing the path of certain private interests wanting to do business on Indigenous land, through amendment of the ALRA but also the Commonwealth Radioactive Waste Management Act (CRWMA). Both processes precede and are further advanced by the emergency legislation the government has passed as part of the intervention. The ALRA is historic legislation that was drafted by the Whitlam government and passed under the Fraser government, after decades of struggle that succeeded finally through the leadership of Vincent Lingiari. It returned approximately 50 per cent of the land area of the Northern Territory to its traditional owners, instituting a form of freehold title that enables communal land ownership and expressly rejects the concept of private property ownership. The Howard government's first amendment of this legislation in 2006 came 30 years after it was passed and 218 years after the lands were taken. Despite the history and significance of the ALRA, the government did not consult with Indigenous people about its proposed amendments, and allowed only 39 days for submissions to the Senate Committee Inquiry overseeing the amendments. Not surprisingly, only 4 submissions from Indigenous organisations were received (Calma, 2007: 4).
11. The task of Howard and Brough's Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Amendment Act 2006 (ALRAA) is neatly summed up in the explanatory memorandum: "The principal objectives of this Bill are to improve access to Aboriginal land for development, especially mining." In addition to 'streamlining' the process of procuring mining and exploration agreements by restricting the grounds on which they may be refused, the amendment takes an existing feature of the ALRA -- the provision for traditional owners to grant a 99-year lease over a township to a particular body -- and elevates it to the status of prescribed model for future township development. The dominant and preferred practice to date has been for Aboriginal Land Councils to grant individual subleases over portions of land within townships, maintaining communal ownership while allowing some room for private commercial activity. The ALRAA seeks not only to replace this practice with the 99-year whole-township lease scheme, but replaces Aboriginal Land Councils with a government authority as the maker and manager of lease agreements, removing the statutory guarantee of minimum funding for Land Councils. The government did not indicate why traditional owners and Land Councils would not retain control of leasing arrangements and the private property development they will oversee, and failed to specify what form this government authority would take. The government authority was then specified a year later in follow-up legislation, the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Amendment (Township Leasing) Bill 2007. This further amendment establishes the position and office of an Executive Director of Township Leasing who will "enter into and administer township leases on Aboriginal land in the Northern Territory." Although their salary is to be paid by Aboriginal people with money taken from the Aboriginal Benefit Account, the Executive Director is to be appointed by the Queen of England's Australian representative, the Governor General.
12. To the extent that the government's ALRA reforms are designed to generalise a private property system of land ownership and commercial development within Aboriginal townships, they perfectly contradict the system of communal land ownership instituted through the ALRA and maintained by Land Councils for thirty years. As Shadow Minister for Indigenous Affairs Jenny Macklin observed, the reforms "fundamentally ... alter the principle of communal landownership which is at the heart of the land rights regime" (2007: 2). It is curious, then, that the government has presented its reforms as serving the best interests of Aboriginal people because they open opportunities for the same kind of private home and business ownership found in "normal suburbs" (Brough, 2007c: 7). As the Law Council of Australia observed,
Support for the amendments is based upon an assumption by government and others that Indigenous peoples naturally desire the lifestyle and value changes which go with economic development, including opportunities to own homes in Aboriginal communities ... Concepts such as 'mortgage,' 'leasehold interest' or even the process by which a house or land is bought and sold, have no role to play in traditional Indigenous communities ... Unless changes of the type contemplated are positively sought by Aboriginal people, the risk is that the traditional culture of these communities will not be able to adapt to accommodate the changes, with potentially devastating effects on the continuation of that culture. (LCA, 2006: 5)
LCA here underestimate the proven capacity of Aboriginal communities to cope with changes wrought by colonising processes, but they are right to suggest the ALRA reforms pose serious risks. They pose in particular the risk of displacement and dispossession. The ALRA reforms are coupled with the Home Ownership on Indigenous Land Scheme (HOILS), which constitutes the government's effort to address the chronic problem of overcrowded and inadequate housing in many Northern Territory Indigenous communities. Although the government represents the 99-year lease scheme as voluntary, access to the $107.2 million allocated to HOILS in the 2006 budget is predicated upon agreement to a 99-year lease. Thus traditional owners are faced with a choice between retaining their land rights and accessing their right to adequate housing. Even if traditional owners were to agree to such a lease, their capacity to buy into housing developments on their land is far from certain, given that average individual incomes for Indigenous Territorians range between $8,632 and $13,460 per annum (LCA, 2006: 11). As Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner Tom Calma observes,
Basic economic modelling demonstrates that the Australian Government's expanded home ownership scheme will be out of reach of the majority of remote Indigenous households ... Clearly, the benefits of the government's strategy are directed primarily to individuals and communities that are already advantaged or to the non Indigenous business and investment sector. (2007: 7)
By replacing traditional ownership with free market competition, HOILS and the ALRA reforms create a context in which traditional owners, upon forfeiting their townships, may or may not be sufficiently economically competitive to buy back individual portions of their own land. The 99-year lease scheme is designed to provide certainty of tenure, but for whom?
13. Among the primary reasons why housing and other basic resources and services in Indigenous communities are inadequate is that they have been consistently under-funded by government. In 2006 the Australian Medical Association observed that in recent years the annual funding shortfall for Indigenous primary health care services has blown out to $460 million, leading them to call for a Royal Commission into government under-funding of Indigenous resources and services across the board (Briskman, 2007: 233). Consistent under-funding of basic services creates needs that the government can then propose to meet on the condition of land tenure reform. This form of coercion also is present in the system of Shared Responsibility Agreements, and extends to the use of Indigenous lands for dumping radioactive waste.  At the same time as the government was amending the ALRA, it amended the CRWMA to remove the consent procedures enabling traditional owners to nominate where radioactive waste can be dumped on their land. An amendment to the third section of the Act "provides that no person is entitled to procedural fairness in relation to a Minister's approval of nominated land as a site" while an amendment to the seventh section of the Act "provides an absolute ministerial discretion to declare in writing that one (or a specified part of one) of the sites is selected as the site for a facility and for related acquisition or extinguishment of rights and interests." With ministerial power thus bolstered, the government approached the Ngapa people on Muckaty Station in Central Australia with a $12 million dollar package for education, health and infrastructure, offered in exchange for agreement to provide the nuclear power industry with a waste dump on their land. The position of the dump will be decided by company surveyors who, like the Minister, are no longer required to respect sacred ground.
14. The forms of power and authority the federal government has been taking from Indigenous communities and conferring upon itself are strengthened and expanded by the raft of emergency legislation rushed through parliament as part of the intervention. Consider the array of new government powers over Aboriginal land Brough outlined in his speech to parliament on the legislation, even as he insisted "this is no land grab" (2007c: 6):
This bill provides for the Australian government to acquire five year leases over townships in Land Rights Act land, community living areas and over certain other areas ... Provision will be made for early termination of the lease, such as when a 99 year township lease is granted ... The leases will give the government unconditional access to land and assets ... The bill also provides an option for the government to make a long term investment beyond the period of the emergency response in improving town camps and, if necessary, the Commonwealth can acquire freehold title over town camps ... The bill also provides for regulations to remove listed town camp land. (Brough, 2007c: 5-7)
... The permit system for people entering Aboriginal land will be retained but permits will no longer be needed to access common areas in the main townships and the road corridors, barge landings and airstrips connected with them ... [the Bill] provides that Land Councils and traditional owners cannot revoke permits issued by another party. (Brough, 2007d: 4-6)
Note 99-year township leases feature as the alternative to government control over townships, and that in these passages, as in all the others, rights and processes of appeal are perfectly absent. Because the government gave parliament less than a day to read the 500 pages of emergency legislation, it has been passed without proper scrutiny and debate, and as with the legislative manoeuvres preceding it, consultation with Indigenous communities is completely lacking. Openly adopting the politics of assimilation and the de-realisation of Aboriginality it entails, the legislation proposes to transform "failed societies" in which there is "no natural social order of production" into "normal suburbs" (Brough, 2007c: 1-2). Rather than assume responsibility for the effects of consistent under-funding, the government attributes socio-economic malaise in these communities to Aboriginality in general and Aboriginal land rights in particular. Accordingly, in his speech Brough cast Aboriginal land rights and the permit system through which they are secured as "artificial barriers preventing change for the better" (2007c: 3).
15. Just as the ALRAA supports the welfare of the mining industry and the CRWMA accords government assistance to the nuclear power industry, so too the emergency legislation will provide aid to the tourism industry. As Brough explains, "tourists have been discouraged" by the permit system (2007d: 5), and weakening that system will promote "free flow of visitors and tourists" through Aboriginal lands (2007c: 3). Had he consulted with Indigenous communities in his capacity as Minister of their affairs, he may have reached a different view on what constitutes change for the better:
The permit system is important because we want to protect the environment, the rock art and our ceremony ground. Someone who walks into our country has to have approval. We ask them to respect our wishes. Balanda (white people) don't know which is ceremonial ground or burial ground, they just walk anywhere; that's why we have to have this system. (Gumurdul, Mikginmikginj and Nayinggul, 2006: 2) 
That weakening the permit system has more to do with strengthening government control and advancing private interests than with addressing the social problems targeted in the intervention is clear from the fact that the permit system is the key instrument through which dry Aboriginal communities restrict illicit sale of alcohol and, in Mutitjulu's case, exclude suspected sexual abusers of children. As Mutitjulu community leaders stated in response to the intervention, "We have thrown suspected paedophiles out of our community using the permit system which the government now seeks to take away from us." They also observed,
"We have tried to put forward projects to make our community economically sustainable ... but the government refuses to even consider them ... The fact that we hold this community together with no money, no help, no doctor and no government support is a miracle". (Randall and Randall 2007: 1)
Corporatising Indigenous Governance
16. The government amended the ALRA in 2006 but the year before it replaced the ALRA's companion legislation, the Aboriginal Councils and Associations Act 1976, with legislation called the Corporations (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander) Act 2006 (CATSI). Just as the ALRA reforms advance private property land tenure arrangements in assimilatory mode, so too CATSI serves to constitute existing and future Indigenous organisations (councils, associations and existing corporations) as corporations which operate to the "same standards of corporate governance" as the rest of corporate Australia (ORATSIC, 2006a: 5). In effect, CATSI brings the Corporations Act to Indigenous communities, which are to operate in accord with "modern corporate governance laws" in land title holdings and the provision of federally funded programmes and services (ORATSIC, 2006b: 5). CATSI was passed in October 2006 and came into effect on 1 July 2007, just after the intervention began. The concern raised by CATSI is not just that corporate governance may be inappropriate as a prescribed model for Indigenous organisations, but that CATSI will operate as a further instrument of government control by making Indigenous communities newly vulnerable to blame-shifting claims of corporate failure in the management of programmes that are inadequately funded in the first instance.
17. In 2005, prior to the introduction and passing of CATSI, the Registrar of Aboriginal Councils conducted 'examinations' of 64 Aboriginal communities across Australia, most of which resulted in the issue of notices regarding inadequate governance and the appointment of outside administrators to assume control of organisations' affairs. The Mutitjulu Community Aboriginal Corporation (MCAC) was one of these. The people at Mutitjulu are the traditional owners of Uluru, which is among the most lucrative of Australia's tourist attractions, and their community was at the centre of the first media frenzy over sexual abuse in Indigenous communities in April and May 2006. As Martiniello documents, when the ABC's Lateline programme profiled Mutitjulu,
one of Senator Mal Brough's personal staffers was the so-called ex-youth worker interviewed on that programme, and the content of that interview was laden with myths and mistruths. The staffer in question failed to appear when summoned before a Senate inquiry to explain (2007: 4).
In July 2006 Perth-based Brian McMaster of the company Kordamentha was appointed to administer MCAC's affairs. MCAC were given one day to make a case to the Registrar as to why they should not be placed under administration, and upon the administrator's appointment their government funding was frozen, leaving them unable to pay staff and provide services. McMaster's appointment proved disastrous:
since [his appointment] we have been without a doctor, we have fewer health workers, our council has been sacked, and all our youth and health programmes have been cut ... if there is an emergency, why won't Mal Brough fast-track our kidney dialysis machine? (Randall and Randall, 2007: 1). 
18. In what one community member described as "fascism at its best" (Guiseppe, 2006: 1), the government had used a vague claim of corporate mismanagement to usurp community leadership and freeze funding. I characterise the claim as vague on account of the subsequent Federal Court ruling. MCAC applied to the Federal Court to review the Registrar's decision to appoint an administrator. The decision initially was upheld, then overturned on appeal: "There was no evidence of any particular threatened unlawful or imprudent transaction on the part of the Corporation ... Even if there were, the Registrar had adequate powers to step in without the appointment of an administrator" (Justices Gyles, Edmonds and Buchanan, 2007: 1). The Federal Court's decision was an important victory for MCAC, and took place six days before the intervention was announced. It is significant then, that recourse to the Federal Court has effectively been blocked by the intervention's emergency legislation. Unlike the rest of corporate Australia, the affairs of the targeted Indigenous communities are to be overseen by Government Business Managers for the next five years:
This bill contributes significantly to improving the way communities are governed, by providing appropriate powers to support the appointment of Government Business Managers, who will manage government activities and assets in the selected communities ... powers introduced to support their role include powers to terminate or vary Commonwealth funding agreements ... [and] to place certain bodies in external administration for failures relating to the provision of government-funded services ... [the powers will be exercised] where community organisations are unable, or unwilling, to make the changes that are needed. (Brough, 2007c: 7-8)
Rather than improve governance by providing adequate funding and support, these measures usurp community self-government, bolstering federal government power yet again. The measures seemingly are based on an assumption that Indigenous communities will fail to effectively become the corporations CATSI has constituted them as. So far, CATSI's blanket corporatisation of Indigenous organisations does not appear to be directed toward genuine corporate mainstreaming, but rather to providing a context for casting unsubstantiated palls of suspicion over the capacity of Indigenous organisations to manage their own affairs.
Disciplining Indigenous Labour
19. In December 2006 a Senate Committee report called Unfinished Business: Indigenous Stolen Wages (ISWR) was released, with the Committee calling upon the federal government to respond to the issues it raises as a matter of urgent priority. The report proves there was extensive systematic withholding and mismanagement of Indigenous wages and welfare entitlements on the part of Australian governments between the 1890s and 1960s, in some cases until the 1980s, under the 'Protection Acts' regime. The report details government regulation and control of the labour of Indigenous children and adults under this regime, providing substantial evidence of underpayment and non-payment of indentured and non-indentured labour (ISWR, 2006: 7-28). It details restrictions on access to Commonwealth entitlements, from child endowment and maternity allowances through to old age and war veteran pensions (ISWR, 2006: 29-40). Such entitlements initially were withheld from Indigenous people, and when entitlements were granted they tended to be conditional upon "character, standard of intelligence and development" (ISWR, 2006: 38), with provision for 'indirect' payment to a third party, such as a government authority or mission. There is evidence that third parties withheld payment, made partial 'pocket money' payment, and used threats to withhold payment as an instrument of work-discipline. Highlighting the status of the report as a window onto consequential poverty, sponsor of the inquiry Senator Andrew Bartlett pointed out that successive decades of misappropriating the wages and entitlements of Indigenous people "is the foundation for the poverty and lack of opportunity that many Indigenous Australians face today ... it is no great surprise that if you take away people's earnings they stay in poverty" (2006: 1-2). In terms of the Howard government's response to this report, what is most disturbing is not that they situated AAMMR instead as the spur for emergency action, but that they appear to have used the Stolen Wages Report as an instruction manual.
20. The emergency legislation brings to fruition a process that began in 2005: the disestablishment of the Community Development and Employment Project (CDEP) scheme. This workfare scheme was introduced under Fraser in 1977 and provides bulk grants to urban and remote Indigenous communities for community development, income support and employment creation (Altman, 2007a and 2007b, Sanders, 2007). CDEP is the primary employer of Indigenous people in the Northern Territory.  Key features of the scheme include flexible working arrangements to allow for ceremony and remuneration for work not supported in the mainstream labour market, such as art making, land and sea ranging, and wildlife harvesting (Altman, 2007b: 2-3). CDEP also sponsors and staffs a large network of community shelters and programmes for Aboriginal women, children and young people, as well as community night patrols. When ATSIC was established in 1990 it took over CDEP, and when ATSIC was disestablished in 2005 CDEP passed to the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations (DEWR). Notwithstanding consistent under-funding, CDEP is highly successful, as confessed in the title of DEWR's first document to initiate reform, Building on Success: CDEP-Future Directions . That CDEP would not have a future became clear the following year. In March 2006 DEWR introduced a twelve-month cap on employment within the scheme and a requirement that CDEP employees register with an outside Job Network Member. In November 2006 they closed CDEPs in centres with "strong labour markets" and introduced a rival "brokerage service" scheme called Structured Training and Employment Projects (STEP) (Sanders, 2007: 2). STEP is a mainstream training and work-for-the-dole scheme focussed on "meeting employer demand through tailored assistance to employ Indigenous job seekers" (DEWR, 2006, cited in Sanders, 2007: 2).  As part of the emergency legislation accompanying the intervention, CDEP will be phased out in the Northern Territory and wholly replaced with STEP (Brough, 2007e: 8-11).
21. Given that STEP aims to broker Indigenous labour to non-Indigenous employers (Government Business Managers initially and private employers subsequently) on a compulsory basis, it is powerfully reminiscent of the indentured labour schemes instituted under the Protection Acts regime. CDEP participation was voluntary, and as Jon Altman points out, with the transition to STEP "participants are being forced from voluntary workfare to compulsory work for welfare, considered in some quarters an infringement of human rights and tantamount to slavery" (2007b: 4). STEP also shares with the Protection Acts regime a belief that Indigenous ways of life are antithetical to the development of a work ethic, and that this is a problem that needs to be fixed through disciplinary erasure of Indigenous ways of life. This belief underpins the key assumption of STEP, which is that "CDEP positions" are not "real jobs" (Brough, 2007e: 10). Judging from the following statement, the government has made clear its position that capitalist business necessarily eclipses Indigenous business:
[Minister Tony] Abbott has told central Australian Aborigines in Pitjantjatjara land that spending months on ceremony doesn't work in today's Western culture. He told an Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara meeting that "if you're going to develop a working culture, you can't have a three month ceremony season and you can't take six weeks off because your cousin has died. I wouldn't imagine that long before white man came a death would have stopped hunting." He is wrong. Our ceremony is part of our work. That is why we call it "business". In our country, in Arnhem Land, ceremony has continued uninterrupted for a very long time. (Gumurdul, Mikginmikginj and Nayinggul, 2006: 2)
Among the stated aims of the intervention is to tackle 'passive welfare' by creating 'real jobs' for Indigenous Territorians. CDEP workfare clearly is not passive welfare, but is included by the government in that category. In the transition from CDEP to STEP, previous CDEP employees will come to be registered as unemployed welfare beneficiaries (losing their entitlement to superannuation in the process). Altman identifies the terrible irony of this: the Territory's Indigenous unemployment rate will soar from 15.7% to at least 50%, making this an instance of "government policy that creates unemployment through institutional destruction" (2007b: 3). However the government's intensification of the problem it purports to remedy serves another aspect of the intervention, also strongly reminiscent of the Protection Acts regime. Reviving that regime's infantilising constitution of Indigenous adults as 'assisted persons,' the intervention introduces a blanket regime of 'income management' for Indigenous welfare beneficiaries in the targeted communities. It is only by disestablishing CDEP that 7500 previously wage-earning CDEP employees can be included among those subject to the benefit income management regime. As Brough himself admits, "Moving CDEP participants on to income support will allow a single system of income management to apply to welfare payments" (2007e: 11).
22. Where STEP enables disciplining of Indigenous wage labour, the income management regime enables disciplining of Indigenous domestic labour. In order to bring the domestic arrangements of Indigenous families into line with "normal community standards and parenting behaviours" (Brough, 2007e: 2), the income management regime positions the government, by way of Centrelink, as micro-manager of individual budgeting and expenditure. As a blanket measure, and one that does not include any right of appeal, non-parents as well as parents will be subject to income management:
Fifty per cent of the welfare payments of all individuals in the affected communities will be income managed for an initial period of 12 months during the stabilisation phase ... The new arrangements may follow an individual even if they move out of the prescribed community to ensure they cannot easily avoid the income management regime ... It is important to acknowledge that this bill will not take one cent of welfare from individuals ... but simply limits the discretion that individuals exercise over a portion of their welfare and prevents them from using welfare in socially irresponsible ways. (Brough, 2007e: 8-9)
The quarantined money will be set aside for a voucher system of expenditure on items such as groceries and clothing, with the remaining money rendered as "discretionary cash" -- pocket money -- that cannot however "be used to purchase excluded items: alcohol, tobacco, gambling and pornography" (Brough, 2007e: 3). Needless to say, measures to discipline mining workers involved in pornography swapping and the illicit sale of alcohol are nowhere mentioned in Brough's plans.
23. Brough's social security emergency legislation does, however, contain a plan to extend its disciplinary measures beyond the targeted communities. The income management regime will apply to beneficiary parents nationwide who do not enrol their children at school, fail to ensure sufficient school attendance, or are the subject of notification of child neglect. This is probably an effort to capture Indigenous beneficiaries residing in areas immune to the government's territories power, and to target a category of person also much-maligned under this government: solo mothers (Summers, 2003: 253-4). The impetus for the income management regime comes from Noel Pearson's Cape York Welfare Reform Project. But Pearson's project only applies to families subject to notification of child neglect, within communities that volunteer to participate in the scheme after a process of consultation with community elders (ANTAR, 2007: 2-3). Moreover, Pearson's scheme is in its trial phase and its effectiveness is completely unproven. The other authority Brough calls upon to justify income management is the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW). But the very AIHW report he draws on observes that "low incomes and financial stress" are cardinal factors in child neglect--factors his income management regime is poised to intensify rather than remedy (AIHW, 2006: 31).
Violating Human Rights
24. Taken together, the three strands of the programme of assimilatory neoliberation I have discussed suggest that Turner's Trojan horse thesis actually understates the breadth of this intervention. Not content to resume control of Aboriginal lands, the intervention marshals a breathtaking array of techniques -- usurpation, occupation, coercion, disciplinary normalisation, media mendacity, and double-speak -- to reach into and attempt to reshape almost every aspect of the lives of Aboriginal Territorians within the targeted communities. Accordingly, the intervention commits just as breathtaking an array of human rights violations, including rights to equality before the law, to freedom from discrimination, to self-determination, and to not be arbitrarily deprived of property, all of which are recognised and upheld by the RDA. That the intervention does not constitute 'positive discrimination,' fails to qualify as a 'special measure' for purposes of the RDA, and does therefore contravene Australia's obligations under international law, is clear from three features of the intervention highlighted in my discussion: the government's consistent neglect of consultation with the communities it is targeting; the powers over Aboriginal land the government has assumed; and the variety of respects in which the intervention is poised to intensify the problems it purports to address.
25. With regard to the first of these, as the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC) explains, a special measure is one that is taken "following effective consultation with the intended beneficiaries and generally with their consent" (HREOC, 2007: 3). Despite Brough's claim that the measures outlined in his emergency legislation "come from Aboriginal women" (Brough, 2007b: 3), these measures were not developed though adequate consultation with parliament much less the 40,000 Indigenous Australians directly subject to them, whose consent cannot have been granted because it was not sought.  Secondly, the RDA specifically "excludes from the 'special measures' exemption laws that authorise management of property without the consent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people or prevent them from terminating management by another of land owned by them" (HREOC, 2007: 4). In other words, the consent of Aboriginal landowners must be sought and granted in order for measures such as five-year government leases and the installation of Government Business Managers to be lawful. Hence a fundamental feature of the intervention -- the government's 'takeover' of 73 communities -- is unlawful. Thirdly, to the extent that the emergency measures carry evidently negative consequences, they cannot be said to constitute positive discrimination. Of the variety of negative consequences identified in my preceding discussion, those attending the disestablishment of CDEP -- in particular the intensification of unemployment and closure of shelters and programmes for Aboriginal women, children and young people -- as well as the baldly illiberal income management regime, are among the most immediately pressing (see also HREOC, 2007: 5-8).
26. In view of the Howard government's willingness to violate the human rights of Aboriginal people in order to undermine the few rights to land and sovereignty Aboriginal people have managed to win from the Australian state, it is not surprising that Australia was not among the 143 countries to vote in favour of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples on 29 June, five days after the intervention began.  Although Article 22.2 of the Declaration endorses measures that ensure "indigenous women and children enjoy the full protection and guarantees against all forms of violence and discrimination", the Declaration contains 14 Articles, pertaining to land tenure, sovereignty and assimilation, that in principle would render the Northern Territory intervention as a contravention of internationally agreed norms.  Salient among these is Article 19:
States shall consult and cooperate in good faith with the indigenous peoples concerned through their own representative institutions in order to obtain their free, prior and informed consent before adopting and implementing legislative or administrative measures that may affect them.
Politics of Suffering
27. Among the most disturbing aspects of the Howard government has been its refusal to recognise the historical sufferings of Indigenous Australians -- in particular children of the stolen generations -- and its impugning of those who do as sentimental exaggerators bent on manufacturing 'Black Armband' history (Macintyre and Clark, 2003). For purposes of this intervention, however, Howard appears to break with his reluctance to recognise suffering, expressing sentiments he has previously maligned: "I thought the report [AAMMR] was just horrific. This is very genuine. I am distressed. It is terrible. Little children. Don't underestimate the personal interest and commitment to this" (Howard quoted in Corey, Hartcher and Peatling, 2007: 1). Yet the particular form of suffering Howard has selected for recognition, and his particular manner of recognising this suffering, is entirely consistent with his government's unfailingly pernicious attitude to Indigenous Australians. The intervention's source of official legitimacy consists in what Howard refers to as an "empirical fact" one can recognise without being "racist": the fact that there are higher reported rates of child abuse and neglect in Indigenous communities (Howard, 2007a: 1). But two racisms are operative in the government's manner of recognising this fact.
28. In her book Dislocating Cultures Uma Narayan discusses how colonialist representations of violence against women play a key role in the construction of contrasts between Western and non-Western contexts. She observes, for example, that dowry murders in India are rendered in Western national contexts as a cultural phenomenon, a form of "death by culture", while analogous forms of violence in Western contexts, such as domestic violence murders, are not (Narayan, 1997: 42-80). The rendering of analogous forms of violence in contrasting ways is part of a broader tendency to regard non-Western contexts as temporally 'behind' and in need of Westernisation. A form of representation closely akin to the one Narayan describes structures the government's intra-national representation of child abuse and neglect in Indigenous communities. In truth, the official legitimacy of the intervention does not rely on the empirical fact that child abuse and neglect takes place in these communities, but on the contrast that is drawn within this statement of fact. As Brough elaborates:
It has become clear that we are facing two very different situations in Australia. For most of the country, the parental behaviour the government is concerned about occurs relatively infrequently and is limited to a relatively small number of families ... The second situation involves some remote Indigenous communities where normal community standards and parenting behaviours have broken down. (2007e: 2)
Brough is right to imply the rate of reported child abuse and neglect is higher for Indigenous Australians.  However his application of the neutralising terms "infrequent" and "small" to "most of the country" is obfuscating. Judging from these terms one would not imagine that between 2005 and 2006 there was a general total of 28,809 substantiated cases of child abuse and neglect in Howard's home state of New South Wales, compared with a general total of 480 substantiated cases in the Northern Territory (AIHW, 2006: 60). Of the NSW cases, 3,451 involved sexual abuse, compared with 27 in the Northern Territory (AIHW, 2006: 60). The first racism, then, is operative in the government's emphasis on rate figures rather than aggregate figures, enabling child abuse and neglect to be framed as a problem specific to Indigenous Australians, while other Australians are rendered morally clean, their land tenure arrangements left undisturbed.
29. Secondly, Howard has chosen to recognise contemporary rather than historical suffering, and forms of suffering Aboriginal people inflict upon one another, rather than sufferings inflicted upon Aboriginal people by Australian governments and justice systems. Yet the very report that caused him such distress not only refuses to separate these sufferings; it links contemporary 'intra-racial' sufferings with the historical sufferings his government has notoriously refused to recognise. Mobilising the concept of inter-generational trauma in its explanation of child abuse and neglect, AAMMR emphasises the generative role played by "previous government policies of assimilation, as well as Indigenous peoples' experience of racism, dispossession and marginalisation" (AAMMR, 2007: 223). AAMMR expressly rejects the model of individual pathology driving law-and-order responses to child abuse and neglect, arguing that "blurring the boundaries between individual, family and community ... allows for the inclusion of child abuse and neglect as a result of past and present social policies, racism and disadvantage" (AAMMR, 2007: 222). Howard and Brough omit this aspect of the report in their own explanation of child abuse and neglect, preferring instead a homespun theory that attributes these to land rights and Aboriginal sovereignty.  The second racism, then, consists in a tailored telling of 'intra-racial' suffering, one in which Aboriginal children are mobilised as symbols of an urgent need to deprive Aboriginal people of land, sovereignty and human rights. In combination, the rendering of child abuse and neglect as specific to Aboriginal communities and as a justification of rights violations furnish the intervention with a much needed moral cover, but one that is bound to wear thin.
30. I have argued here that Howard's Northern Territory intervention consists of two parts: an underlying economic agenda geared to assimilatory neoliberation, and a moral cover geared to converting the issues of violence, abuse and neglect into bottomless sources of official legitimacy for that agenda. As an effort to expel the land rights regime, the intervention is indeed a land grab, but it is also much more than this. Given its resumption of the politics of assimilation, revival of key aspects of the Protection Acts regime, systematic undermining of Indigenous authority, and blatant violation of fundamental human rights, the intervention is nothing less than a neocolonial endeavour. Some joke that Howard's social conservatism has him 'looking forward to the 1950s.' But this intervention, which he may well regard as a final flourish in the dying days of his reign, has him looking forward to the earliest days of Australian colonial administration.
Rebecca Stringer lectures in Gender Studies at the University of Otago. Her research area combines political theory and feminist theory, and her key research interests lie with concepts of victimisation and how they are mobilised across the political spectrum. She has written on the victim/agent dichotomy, Nietzsche's concept of ressentiment , the concept of foetal rights, the gender pay gap in New Zealand and, with Heather Brook, the government of drug use. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
While the views expressed here are my own, I would like to thank the editors, Vijay Devadas and Chris Prentice, for their patience and support, Vijay for providing useful material and valuable discussion, the anonymous reviewers for their astute suggestions, Barry Hindess for his insightful comments on an earlier draft, Brian Roper for sustaining me as I worked, and Brook Andrew, who emailed in the nick of time.
 These terms were used in the following news stories: 'revolution' and 'takeover' in Coorey, Hartcher and Peatling (2007), 'crackdown' in AAP (2007) and 'rescue plan' in Murdoch and Westermen (2007).
 An anthology of discussions and evaluations of the intervention has recently been published (Altman and Hinkson, 2007).
 See also Ian Anderson's comparison of the intervention with AAMMR's recommendations (Anderson, 2007). The line of criticism discussed here is shared among Aboriginal women's groups and groups such as Rape Crisis (see, for example, Kapululangu Aboriginal Women's Association, 2007 and Willis and Burke, 2007).
 In terms of electoral strategy, the intervention also provides the federal government with occasion to impugn the Labor-led Northern Territory government as irresponsible and incompetent, enabling it to imply that similar problems would plague a federal Labor government.
 With Shared Responsibility Agreements government funding and basic services become conditional upon behavioural changes and other commitments. For example, in exchange for 200 air conditioners, Murdi Paaki communities in New South Wales have to demonstrate a reduced rate of domestic violence (See Briskman, 2007).
 The key pieces of emergency legislation are: the Northern Territory National Emergency Act 2007, the Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs and Other Legislation Amendment (Northern Territory National Emergency Response and Other Measures) Act 2007 and the Social Security and Other Legislation Amendment (Welfare Payment Reform) Act 2007. On 7 August 2007 the legislation entered parliament at the second reading stage, spent a brief period under committee, and came into effect on 18 August 2007.
 Brough's claim that the permit system prevents tourism also ignores the existence of Aboriginal operated tourism ventures such as the Titjikala community's highly successful Gunya Tourism. Because this and numerous other ventures are supported by the Community Development and Employment Projects scheme, Brough's legislation, which disestablishes that scheme, threatens their demise.
 Given the purported aim of Howard and Brough's intervention, it is significant that when the Wirrimanu Aboriginal Corporation was placed under administration in 2003, the direct result was to deprive the Kapululangu Aboriginal Women's Association of funding and support, preventing achievement of one of their key aims: to provide a shelter for women and girls (see Kapululangu Aboriginal Women's Association, 2007: 6-8).
 Of the 15300 Indigenous people employed in the Northern Territory 7500 are employed through the Territory's 50 CDEP organisations (Altman, 2007b: 2).
 At this time DEWR also opened CDEP service provision up to the mainstream market by introducing a contested contract model for selecting service providers, resulting in the exclusion of 33 long-term CDEP organisations (Sanders 2007: 2).
 As HREOC observe, "Measures taken with neither consultation nor consent cannot meaningfully be said to be for the 'advancement' of a group of people, as is required by the definition of special measures. To take another approach contemplates a paternalism that considers the views of a group as to their wellbeing irrelevant. Such an approach in the context of Indigenous people is contrary to their right to self-determination as well as undermining their dignity" (HREOC, 2007: 4).
 For discussion of the intervention in relation to the Declaration and human rights more broadly see Davis, 2007. For discussion of the Howard government, the Indigenous Affairs portfolio, and the United Nations see Robbins, 2007.
 On my reading of the Declaration, the Articles that would render the intervention as out of step with established norms are: 8, 10, 11, 14, 17, 18, 19, 20, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29 and 32.
 With regard to rate figures, AIHW record that the majority of notifications of child abuse and neglect in the Northern Territory in the year between 2005-2006, 356 involving Indigenous children, have as their source of notification police (28 per cent), health care workers (15 per cent) and school staff (11 per cent) (AIHW, 2006: 30). In others words, these figures also are a record of interaction between predominantly white Australian institutions and Indigenous Territorians, with the latter forming part of the most intensely policed group of people in the country: Indigenous Australians are 2.4 per cent of the total population and 22 per cent of the total prison population (Krieg, 2006: 534). However child protection service providers have no mechanism for assessing whether notifying parties are more likely to report concerns regarding Indigenous families than non-Indigenous families. Hence we have no way of knowing to what extent greater notification of child abuse and neglect in Indigenous families actually reflects greater incidence compared with non-Indigenous families: one group is racially marked and intensely policed, the other is not. It would take a government capable of acknowledging the existence of racism to find this out.
 As Brough puts it, "sit down money with Gough Whitlam and land rights under the Fraser government ... did more to harm indigenous culture and destroy it than any two other legislative instruments ever put through parliament" (2007f: 6).
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Willis, Karen and Burke, Jacqueline (2007) 'Opinion From NSW Rape Crisis Centre,' http://www.antar.org.au/content/view/500/1/ (accessed 14 August 2007).
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