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
"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
"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."