Wednesday, 16 August 2006
Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Amendment Bill 2006
The Greens too will be supporting these amendments, you may be shocked to hear! I agree with Senator Bartlett that a lot of the debate has hinged on words—’consultation’ and what consultation is. I was told that my understanding of consultation may be different from the government’s. Yes, it is. What I have heard in talking to people about this and in reading what is here and in listening to the debate is that Aboriginal traditional owners in the Northern Territory feel that they have been told about these amendments rather than—according to my definition of consultation—having someone actually sitting down with them and talking about the issues and, hopefully, coming up with an understanding of an agreed approach.
This is particularly important when we are talking about traditional lands. We are talking about the traditional owners’ lands and I would have thought that in the 21st century, instead of just telling traditional owners what is going to happen to the lands, their agreement would have been sought. I think that the approach taken is the paternalistic approach that Minister Abbott talked about a couple of months ago. That is what I feel is happening here: traditional owners are being told, ‘This is what we think is best for you and this is what is going to happen.’ No matter how you dress it up, you cannot say that traditional owners agree with this approach. There is a mountain of evidence in Hansard and in the committee inquiry report that shows that they do not support this approach. No matter how you dress it up, you cannot get away from the fact that you are taking away their rights to try to claim this land and have their claims determined. No matter how you say it, that is taking away a right.
There have also been other word games played. A while ago I mentioned the Aboriginals Benefit Account and the fact that headleases will be paid for. I may have actually used the wrong term there, because the new leasing arrangements and the funding for them will initially be drawn from the Aboriginals Benefit Account. I may have used the wrong term in saying what will be paid for. If you are talking about the headlease and the arrangement for that, it may well be paid from a separate account. But I just referred you to the words that were in the committee inquiry report. So, no matter how you dress this up, this is about taking away rights, using word play to take away from Aboriginal people rights for self-determination, to make decisions over the land and to decide how best to promote economic development in their communities.
The government has come in and paternalistically told Aboriginal people how they think it best to improve economic development in their communities without addressing the real, significant issues that prevent that economic development. We will be supporting these amendments because we do not agree with taking away traditional owners’ rights, no matter how you dress it up. People will know that we do not support this bill as it stands but that we tried to support or make amendments that actually sought to improve it, and these amendments do seek to improve what is, in our opinion, bad legislation. So we will also be supporting these amendments.