|Queensland Council of Unions|
21 August 2008
Bligh Government Fails Indigenous Workers
The Bligh Government's failure to honour its promise to pay $55.4 million in reparations to the stolen wages claimants was incomprehensible according to QCU General Secretary, Ron Monaghan.
The Bligh Government has recently confirmed that the remaining $21.1m in the Indigenous Wages and Savings Reparations Scheme would not be distributed to the successful claimants. Instead the money previously set aside to pay reparations to workers who had their wages stolen would be quarantined into the newly-created Indigenous Queenslanders Fund.
"In 2002 Premier Beattie acknowledged that research indicated that up to half a billion dollars had been stolen from the Indigenous workers of Queensland and he asked those workers to accept a tenth of what was stolen from them in the spirit of reconciliation. The Indigenous workers accepted the government's word and accepted the offer. It is outrageous that the Bligh Government is reneging on that promise," Mr Monaghan said.
Mr Monaghan said that whilst the QCU and the Indigenous community supported the Indigenous Queenslanders Fund, they believed that it should not be established with money set aside to pay reparations to workers.
"The $55.4 million was set aside to repair the significant and long-lasting damage inflicted on workers whose wages were stolen. It should be used for that purpose and no other."
Mr Monaghan said that whilst the QCU welcomed Minister Carr's recent announcement to re-open the Indigenous Wages and Savings Reparations Scheme, there were still significant concerns about the process adopted by the government.
As the Scheme presently stands, only government records are accepted as proof that a worker's wages and savings were controlled by the state. As the government's records on this issue are notoriously incomplete a significant number of otherwise eligible workers are denied because of the process adopted by the government.
"For the re-opening of the Scheme to actually benefit any workers the process needs to be fair and equitable. Unfortunately what the government announced is neither. In many cases the government's records are incomplete and those workers are being denied payments because of the previous government's failure to keep proper records."
"At the end of the day this is a wage justice issue. For the better part of the last century, successive Queensland governments failed to trust Indigenous workers with their wages. Now the government is taking money set aside to pay reparations to those workers who had their wages stolen and using it for other purposes. We are now in the 21st century and the Bligh Government is repeating the mistakes of the past."
"The forced control of Indigenous workers' wages was an injustice that sowed the seeds of division and inequality for a nearly a century. Justice, equity and good conscience now demand that the Bligh Government remedy those injustices."
For further information: Ron Monaghan (General Secretary) - 0407 654 046
Tania Reeves (Media/Communications Officer) - 0418 700 419