Senate debates

Thursday, 21 June 2007

Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Amendment Bill 2007

In Committee

7:26 pm

Photo of Andrew BartlettAndrew Bartlett (Queensland, Australian Democrats) Share this | Hansard source

I thank the minister for clarifying that. I will not press further on the matter of the authority’s position. My understanding was that their formal position in their submission to the review supported retraining the Indigenous representative. I am sure that if I am wrong about that I will be told, one way or another. To me that goes to the heart of the problem. I know that everyone is keen not to be here forever tonight but I think this is a very important principle and I am very concerned about its potential ramifications. It appears that this bill will go through, but I would like to call a division on this because I think, if possible, it should be clearly on the record how senators vote, particularly Queensland senators.

I would like to ask one final question of the minister. I hope he will answer it with a negative, but I think it is important to get it on the record. I have received some feedback from the community since this became known. It only really become known in the wider community and Indigenous groups—including Indigenous groups that work with natural resource management—when I contacted them once this inquiry was underway and said, ‘Do you know this is happening?’ They said: ‘No, we didn’t know anything about it. That can’t be right; we haven’t heard anything about it. Nobody has talked to us.’ I guess the government will say that they have done everything they could and if people did not know there was only so much they could do. I will not have that debate now, but I will say that a lot of people in Indigenous communities were not aware that this was happening. As the minister probably knows—certainly the department would know—there has been a continuing push and continuing effort by Indigenous people to strengthen joint management and cooperative management in natural resource areas and protected areas.

My question to the minister is: if this Uhrig principle is just going to be applied as a blanket principle to all authorities and boards, is there a prospect that existing Indigenous representation on other national park boards—such as at Kakadu, Uluru, Kata Tjuta, and Jervis Bay—is potentially at risk down the track? Is there any prospect that those positions could be removed or weakened by using the Uhrig principle? It seems to me that they are in exactly the same position; they are there as traditional owner representatives. If we have this principle now that people are not to be there as representatives, is that a risk? I would hope not. During the hearings of the Senate inquiry that I was on, I certainly had no indication that it was at risk, but it is an issue that has been raised with me by Indigenous groups. They are asking whether this is the start of a big unwinding of a victory they assumed they had already achieved. I expect and I hope that the answer is no, but I think it is important to have the answer on the record to say that we are quarantining this issue—that we might not like it but it is only happening here and it will not happen anywhere else.


No comments