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Conscience vote call as Labor "divided" on Stolen Generations

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The State Opposition will call for a conscience vote on a bill to grant compensation to South Australian members of the Aboriginal Stolen Generations when it reintroduces it to parliament, possibly as early as tomorrow.

A private member’s bill passed the Upper House late last year to allow a fund to be set up for compensation payments to avoid forcing victims through the courts. But it was thwarted in the Lower House and lapsed when Premier Jay Weatherill opted to prorogue parliament.

Opposition Leader Steven Marshall will champion a new bill in the House of Assembly this week or next, but it will likely meet the same fate as its predecessor unless the Premier accedes to a free vote.

InDaily understands the Labor caucus is divided on the issue, with senior figures on the party’s Right taking the view that a compensation scheme would open the floodgates for further claims and “there are no votes in it”.

“I don’t think there’s an appetite in the Government to do anything about it,” a Labor source said.

Aboriginal Affairs Minister Kyam Maher, who was elevated since the previous bill was quashed, told InDaily he had been in “regular discussions with the Liberals”, and as recently as last week, “about how to move forward with Stolen Generations compensation”.

But Marshall argues “the Labor Party is clearly divided on this and other issues relating to Aboriginal people”.

“It has had five ministers in the past six years, and its track record on indigenous disadvantage is nothing short of shameful,” he said.

Marshall said he met with the Premier earlier this year, with Weatherill indicating the Government would introduce its own legislation, but “we’ve seen no progress since then”.

“My gut feel is that the cabinet is divided,” said Marshall.

“We say we should have a conscience vote on this issue … we think it would then pass.”

He said many members of the Stolen Generations “are in the twilight time of their life, and essentially they don’t want to take a vexatious legal action against the State Government”.

“This is actually a way we can actually rule a line under this and move forward,” he said.

Greens MLC Tammy Franks agreed the Government “has had long enough”.

“We’re happy to address their concerns in parliamentary debate, but they haven’t brought a bill forward,” she said.

“Stolen Generation members are dying as they pursue this through the courts – they deserve compensation.

“It’s just salt in the wounds of people who have been harmed their whole lives…and Weatherill can act, Kyam Maher can act, but they’ve not done so.”

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