CAN'T BE LOOKED OVER: Liberal Member for Hughes Craig Kelly is under fire for his comments this week about Russia and the downing of flight MH17.
CAN'T BE LOOKED OVER: Liberal Member for Hughes Craig Kelly is under fire for his comments this week about Russia and the downing of flight MH17. MICK TSIKAS

Creek community in crisis

ON MONDAY, June 18, a delegation of indigenous leaders alongside the Tennant Creek Mayor went to Canberra to see Malcolm Turnbull.

It was straight after Question Time. Niceties and formalities usually associated with a meeting in the Prime Minister's office were kept brief. They came from the bush, but they weren't there to beat around it. Their community was in crisis and something needed to be done.

Alcohol abuse and drug use, they said, were contributing to increasing crime. Government services were lacking or ineffective because of decentralised decisions being made 500 kilometres away in Alice Springs. They wanted their community back.

It wasn't a whinge fest. They weren't putting their hands out for more money. They wanted a new approach involving all levels of government working with, not against each other.

Much had already been achieved with the Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion (he's a straight talking hero in these parts - his colleagues should keep that in mind if they're thinking of rolling him at the next reshuffle), but they invited Mr Turnbull to Tennant Creek to send a message that everyone is in this together.

The Prime Minister arrives on Sunday joined by the Northern Territory's Labor Chief Minister Michael Gunner. The visit comes six months after the rape of a two-year-old girl in Tennant Creek.

When news broke of this horrific crime in February there was almost a collective gasp of horror across Australia.

We were disgusted in ourselves as a nation. City dwellers were especially shocked.

Tennant Creek residents were not. Local police were not. Welfare workers were not.

Since July 2015 this toddler, still in nappies, had been the subject of 21 notifications to the child protection department, 16 of those had come directly from police. It was not an isolated case. Far from it.

There is no shortage of government funding. There is no shortage of goodwill. And, now, there is no shortage of attention on the deep-seated social and cultural issues that too many people have turned a blind eye to, for too long.

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting a different result.

While a John Howard-style intervention will not be tolerated, Minister Nigel Scullion and the Social Services Minister Dan Tehan (under Mr Turnbull's leadership) must be allowed to pursue a new approach that moves beyond bureaucratic bickering. The chain of command through tiers of government and welfare agencies must be fixed.

KELLY'S COMMENTS

Liberal MP Craig Kelly is not a bad guy. But he did make heartless comments this week.

In his blind defence of US President Donald Trump's meeting with Vladimir Putin, he gave a leave pass to a brutal dictator.

Russia's refusal to admit its part in the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight 17 has only added to the grief of victims' families.

Mr Kelly compounded that grief this week when he told me on Sky News "if (it) means some of the things that Russia have gotten away with in the past have to be slightly looked over, well, I'm sorry, that's the price that we have to pay sometimes to have good relations going forward”.

No. That's not who we are as a country. Our political leaders should never give up the pursuit of justice for the 298 people who were murdered. If one of those lived in the electorate of Hughes I think Mr Kelly might not excuse such murder.

If he does lose his seat in a looming preselection battle, this could well be the issue that sealed his fate.

Paul Murray is on holidays. Laura Jayes anchors NewsDay each Monday - Thursday from 12pm-4pm AEST on Sky News Live, Foxtel Channel 103 and 600



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