Wednesday, 16 August 2006
Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Amendment Bill 2006
In my speech in the second reading debate I expressed the Greens’ concerns about this particular section of the act, so we are supporting the Labor Party’s opposition to these items. We likewise are concerned about the undermining of the independence of land councils and the shift in the balance in decision making over how this money is spent. This measure concentrates further control with the government and with the minister rather than with land councils. It is undermining their ability to self-determine and their capacity to determine how these funds will be spent, when the government’s intention is supposedly to increase Aboriginal enterprise. The amendments proposed by the government to take further control of this account seem to us to be in fact undermining Aboriginal communities’ capacity to increase their ability to engage in economic development and increase their enterprise.
The concern we also have is that—as we have been through extensively in this debate—we do not believe the land councils actually support many of these amendments. They do not support the issue of headleases and the 99-year lease at this stage. They do not believe there has been enough consultation, and yet their own funds are being taken to put these provisions in place. These funds are going to be used to pay for the establishment and the administration of these leases. They are also going to be used to pay the rent on these leases. I do not believe that is fair. I do not think that is natural justice for the land councils and for traditional owners. We therefore do not support increasing the concentration of the minister’s control over these accounts. I do not believe that they are being used for what they were originally intended for. While I acknowledge that, as I understand it, the proportions of the allocations of the funds were fairly arbitrarily decided in 1974, I would have thought extensive consultation with the traditional owners, with land councils and with Aboriginal people would have been needed if the proportions of the allocations were to change.
As we have gone through the debate in this place, we have articulated fairly extensively that there has not been extensive consultation on many amendments in this bill, and this is certainly one of those on which there has not been extensive consultation. I do not believe the changes have the support of the land councils. In fact, I have heard very strong arguments that they do not have the support of the land councils. Therefore, we are supporting the Labor Party’s opposition to these items. We believe the formula at this stage should remain the same. If it is to change in future, that should be on the basis of decisions made by the traditional owners, the land councils and Aboriginal peoples. They should come forward and suggest to government what proportions should change in the future, after there has been extensive consultation. I do not believe we should foist on the community changes that they do not want, that they have not been adequately consulted about. It is rubbing salt in the wound to make communities pay for these changes that they do not want. So we will be supporting the Labor Party in opposing these items.