Territory Stories

Debates Day 5 - Wednesday 28 February 2001



Debates Day 5 - Wednesday 28 February 2001

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Parliamentary Record 27


Debates for 8th Assembly 1997 - 2001; ParliamentNT; Parliamentary Record; 8th Assembly 1997 - 2001




Made available by the Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory





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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory

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Attribution International 4.0 (CC BY 4.0)

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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory



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DEBATES - Wednesday 28 February 2001 At the same forum, Bridson Cribb, Deputy Director of the Minerals Council of Australia, exhorted the mining industry to stop seeking to thwart and change the native title processes, and instead to work towards the negotiation of successful agreements. He also suggested that the industry should earn the confidence of indigenous leaders so that bipartisan discussions can take place in the future, if further amendments to the act are required. How does this minister expect that to happen when he makes such inflammatory statements as those delivered today? Its an absolute recipe for driving the leadership, your great mate, Norman Fry, into the trenches, and we then embark on litigation and obstruction of the processes well into the future. Lets look at the reality. The minister painted the picture that the land councils are responsible for everything that is wrong with the world; they are not doing anything to help development and so on. When we compare exploration of Aboriginal land with exploration of non-Aboriginal land in the northern end of the Northern Territory, we have 28 7422 km under exploration on Aboriginal land and 4352* km under exploration on non-Aboriginal land, which is pastoral leases and other types of tenure. Two pictures are emerging in the pursuit of exploration activity on Northern Territory lands. Exploration of Aboriginal land is proceeding apace. It is in a very healthy state, and it has large areas of land under exploration agreements. Exploration of pastoral leases - the areas where moratoriums have been declared and which have banked-up applications - have fallen away to one- sixth of the level of Aboriginal land. And the two types of land in the Territory are roughly equal. The NLC isnt the one creating these antidevelopment effects; its your politics and your carriage of this issue that has caused that slow down in the mineral exploration of our non-Aboriginal land areas. A wide body of opinion is appearing out there, minister. You are starting to look like a dinosaur, and a pretty ugly one at that. Most people within the industry, most people within the community, are moving on. They are moving on and saying: Look, we have successful examples of negotiated agreements. We have moved forward; we have activity on the ground where people simply use then common sense. There are a thousand applications and I think that your own department is saying something has to be done to streamline the way in which those applications are dealt with. The way you do that is by sitting down and commencing commonsense negotiations. Group the applications together so they can be dealt with in wider groupings and then allow the land councils to deal with fewer applications over wider areas. It is really simple. It doesnt take a brain surgeon to work that out. But you believe it is completely impractical. I am very intrigued that we have this slagging- the-land-council statement being trotted out today, when last week we had the hopeful signs that accompanied the Chief Ministers statements and answers to questions on Kenbi. Last week the Chief Minister got to his feet on three different occasions: A question without notice on Wednesday, 21 February; a ministerial statement on the same topic that day, and, on the Sunday following, an address to the AFANT annual general meeting. We had a good look at the approach the ChiefMinister was tell us he would like to follow. I think the Chief Minister mixed genres a littie in the ministerial statement and talked about domains of land tenure issues. That is a welcome sign. It is a logical starting point for a government trying to deal with a land-tenure issue involving proved traditional ownership in an area. Yes, if traditional owners exist, they have to be a starting point, and certainly stakeholders have to be firmly involved in any further discussions about that land. The Chief Minister, in answer to a question, said that the government, while fully respecting the rights of traditional Aboriginal owners, must also deal with the rights of the whole people. I fully concur. That is a very balanced way of looking at it, and the responsibility of government is to continue to talk with all the stakeholders involved. Perhaps more focused discussions can take place now that the Kenbi issue has been resolved. There are very statements coming from the Chief Minister that provide hope. We are talking about the possibility of negotiation. It is in line with what we on this side of the House have been saying for a couple of years now - this will not be solved through litigation. A negotiated component is required, even if litigation is used occasionally, to scope out the actual nature of the rights that we are trying to balance. At the annual general meeting of AFANT the ChiefMinister was saying that, yes, they thought the Kenbi land-claim issues could be put away by involving strong negotiations between stakeholders. And also that in the debates last week we all agreed that the terms of the land requirements of the greater- Darwin population needed to be revisited and balanced against the rights of the traditional owners. He said that we are in accord over that. We now have, not one, but two positions from the CLP government on the issue of land rights and native title rights. We have the end-of-the-world-as- we-know-it position, which was produced by the 7535

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