Senate debates

Tuesday, 30 November 2021


Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Amendment (Economic Empowerment) Bill 2021; Second Reading

1:15 pm

Photo of Lidia ThorpeLidia Thorpe (Victoria, Australian Greens) Share this | Hansard source

I rise to speak to the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Amendment (Economic Empowerment) Bill 2021. It sounds lovely! But what does it really mean? Let's pull out the devil in the detail, hey? This bill is the most extensive change to the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act since 1976, and it's being rushed through this place. Surprise, surprise! There are problems through the bill, but the main ones, the critical flaws in this bill, are the lack of self-determination and of free, prior and informed consent in the development of the bill.

Both the government and Labor have hailed this bill as an example of a bottom-up approach, based on consultation with First Nations people in the Northern Territory. But the government didn't actually talk to communities in the Northern Territory; those who they really talked to were the land councils.

Let's talk about the land councils—the elephant in the room. The land councils are the ones who have really been consulted in the development of this bill, and that's because they're the ones who get substantial powers through this bill. No wonder the land councils are so in favour of the bill! Land councils are supposed to act as representatives of traditional owners and to always act in their interests and always obtain their free, prior and informed consent. But this doesn't happen. The direct feedback I get, regularly, from traditional owners, family clan groups, in the Northern Territory about this bill is that communities have absolutely no idea about this bill and what it will mean to them—how it will affect their life. They have not been informed of the extensive changes proposed through this bill and have certainly not been consulted. So there you have it. Consultation is not consent.

Communities in the Northern Territory don't want this bill to be passed—it's as simple as that. They want more time to understand and examine the changes proposed. That's called free, prior and informed consent. That's called self-determination. Communities want to have input into the amendments made to the Aboriginal land rights act. Hello? They want to know the details. And they have the right to know the details, surely?

At the Senate inquiry into this bill, almost all submitters did not want this bill to pass, due to the lack of consultation with traditional owners. Dot paintings; Black Lives Matter; but don't worry about consultation! The only ones who want this bill to pass are the land councils and the national Indigenous, Aboriginal advancement—the blackfella version of this government's approach to fixing the Aboriginal problem in this country. The only other submission received in favour of this bill was from the Minerals Council. There is no surprise there either, as it helps facilitate mining and exploration applications. Let me just make that clear for Northern Territory mob at home who are listening and have asked me to say these things and call out the government and call out Labor. This bill is supported by the Minerals Council, which helps facilitate mining and exploration applications. This bill we're talking about now gives the mining companies direct access with no free, prior and informed consent.

This bill is not about self-determination. It's certainly not about the empowerment of First Nations people. It is yet another example of how we are being patronised and decisions are being made for us instead of by us. I want to make clear to the Senate and those watching—I know you're paying attention to how people in this place are voting, even though some don't turn up to vote because they are so shamed by how they voted yesterday on Beetaloo—the Australian Greens can't support this bill unless schedule 2 is removed. It's as simple as that. Schedule 2 is about fast-tracking the destruction and desecration of country. It's about mining destroying and desecrating sacred sites. This parliament has no business passing this bill as our people have not consented. They do not consent. That should be the end of the matter. But, no, the government, with their Labor mates, are going to support it and ram it through anyway.

I say to everyone in this place that the Australian Greens cannot support this bill if it will make it easier for the big mining corporations, which have purchased so many politicians in this place, to destroy country. That's what they've done. They've purchased politicians. They've said: 'We'll donate to your campaigns for the next election, but you have to pass this bill, mate. You have to pass it. Don't worry about the blackfellas and their country'—you want a welcome to country all the time—'Just pass the bill. We'll give you money for your campaigns and we'll get easier access to destroy country and frack.' Nice one! This little black girl ain't silly and neither are the blackfellas out there watching. They're not silly. We know what you're up to. We have blacademics out there now.

The Greens are on the side of First Nations people in this country. There's absolutely no doubt about that. I say to the elders fighting for country and to the land and water defenders across this country: we are genuinely with you. We won't tell you that we support you and then, when you turn your back, stab you in the back. We don't do that. We genuinely listen and genuinely act.

No consent means we're not going to support it. Why would anybody else? Labor can laugh at this very serious matter, which they're doing in the chamber right now. In fact, the senator who made the previous speech is having a good old laugh down there.


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