Govt 'gag' on indigenous advisers

Source: The Age

December 8, 2004

The government planned to gag the new members of the National Indigenous Council (NIC) even before the council had its first meeting, the Opposition said today.

Labor spokesman on indigenous affairs Kim Carr said his information was that the government was very concerned about comments being made by panel members.

Only committee chairwoman, Perth Magistrate Sue Gordon, has been exempted from the gag.

Senator Carr said the government was clearly terrified of what other members might say.

"This morning the government has its first meeting of its new indigenous council and their first task is to sign a gag order," he said.

"These are supposed to be the experts that the government has selected and yet they are not allowed to speak to the Australian people. It is an extraordinary circumstance and it suggests to me that this this is not a great sign of things to come."

Senator Carr said the government required the members of the NIC to sign a confidentiality agreement.

He said the government had appointed members of the council on its terms but apparently took the view that they were not to be trusted.

"It is highly unusual to compel member of consultative committees to sign such agreements," he said.

"Frankly, that is just not good enough. The government ought to lift this ban, ought to lift this gag order and allow these people they say are their experts, they say is their principle source of advice ... to be able to speak to the Australian people."