Monday 1st August 2016 - 6:12 pm

PM accepts key resignation

by Alan Thornhill

The Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, has had  to accept the resignation of the man he chose to conduct a Royal Commission into the mistreatment of mainly aboriginal juveniles at the Don Day centre, in the Northern Territory.


The Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said Mr Turnbull must to learn to consult more widely before  in future, making such appointments, to avoid similar embarrassments.


However Brian Martin, who was to have conducted that job, withdrew after certain Aborigines questioned his suitability for it.


He will be replaced by the Aboriginal and and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner Mick Gooda and Margaret White.


The Law Council President, Stuart Clark, said the appointment of Mr Gooda and Ms White was a vital step to ensuring the Royal Commission could advance its critical agenda.


“This Royal Commission is absolutely vital, because of the need to examine, in detail, what appears to be a deep cultural and systemic problem within the NT juvenile detention system,” Mr Clark said.


“Mr Gooda and Ms White are extremely well qualified to carry out this important inquiry, with the necessary independence from the Northern Territory Government and confidence of the community.


“The broader issue of Indigenous imprisonment is one that overlaps inexorably with juvenile detention in Australia,” he added.


Mr Clark also congratulated Mr Martin on putting the community’s interests ahead of his own.


In a separate statement, Mr Martin also said both the Prime Minister, Mr Turnbull and his Attorney General, George Brandis, had been disappointed by his decision to quit.


But he also said the decision did not indicate that his critics were right.


Indeed, Mr  Martin added: “Since my appointment was announced I have been extremely disappointed with the disingenuous and ill-informed comment that has ensued.


“ However, notwithstanding the ill-informed nature of the commentary, it has become apparent that, rightly or wrongly, in this role I would not have the full confidence of sections of the Indigenous community which has a vital interest in the inquiry.


“As a consequence, the effectiveness of the Commission is likely to be compromised from the outset.


“I am not prepared to proceed in the face of that risk,” Mr Martin said.


“This Royal Commission is far too important to undertake that risk and, in the public interest, personal considerations must take second place,” he added.


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Alan Thornhill

Alan Thornhill is a parliamentary press gallery journalist.
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