Debates Day 5 - Wednesday 28 February 2001
Parliamentary Record 27
Debates for 8th Assembly 1997 - 2001; ParliamentNT; Parliamentary Record; 8th Assembly 1997 - 2001
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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory
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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory
DEBATES - Wednesday 28 February 2001 minister today and is a very traditional CLP line: Because of the evil federal government, acting in concert with the land councils and the Labor Party in the Northern Territory, we have this unworkable regime of land tenure arrangements involving traditional ownership, and it is going to grind all further mining exploration and other lifestyle activities here to a screaming halt. Contrast that with the Chief Minister getting up and taking the position: Negotiated agreements do have the capacity to move development forward and reconcile the rights of Territorians, even if they have to still be married to the use of litigation to scope the boundaries of the rights that may be involved. Is this the onset of schizophrenia? You cant have it both ways. Either the operation of land rights and native title rights have to be opposed at all costs, as the minister is trying to claim today, or there is a possibility of working creatively within the processes of these acts and through negotiation, as the Chief Minister was trying to convince us last week. Why are we getting these two positions? It is a novel stance from that side of the House. Why do we have the Chief Minister taking a different line to the Minister for Resource Development? If the positions put by these two ministers are premeditated and coordinated, are we now following a dual strategy? Will we have the good policeman, the Chief Minister, and the bad policeman, the Minister for Resource Development, who will continue to provide assurance to the rump of voters who want to oppose everything connected to land rights or native title? This is a very intriguing situation. There are reasons that, after 26 years, the CLP is patting its head and rubbing its stomach at the same time. From our discussions with the minerals council and other miners around the Territory we know that the industry is underwhelmed by the CLP political agenda and its effects on their ability to get on with business. The mining companies are not interested in ideology; they are interested in mining. They want a clear set of rules, a clear process, and a clear timeline to bring on a project. They dont give a damn whether that is delivered by a Labor government by a conservative government. They dont give a damn what other issues are involved. The core issue for them is to get secure control of a resource that they can use as the basis of their business. The electorate is getting heartily sick of the Chicken Little politics of this government. It is apparent that, after being told for the last 20 years their backyards will go, future mining development in the Northern Territory will grind to a halt. The black-tide-is-going-to-sweep-over-their-lifestyles- and-the-future-of-their-kids approach only washes for a certain time. We are now at the stage, thankfully, in the Northern Territory political scene where politicians, of whatever ilk, can no longer get away with that nonsense. Its clear to people who have lived here for any length of time that life does go on and that commonsense arrangements can be made and, with goodwill, you can solve most problems. That is what makes the Territory such a special place. When people forget their ideological divisions, they generally pull together much better up here than in other parts of Australia. We have a population size to sustain that approach to problem solving. It is becoming self-evident, because of negotiations that have been aheady held under both the Land Rights Act and the Native Title Act, that you can and do produce acceptable results if people enter those negotiations with energy and goodwill. We have seen the railway corridor cleared; we have seen the Wickham Point land clearance successfully completed with Phillips; and we have seen the successful negotiation with Giants Reef, which I note the minister crowed about earlier in these sittings. One clear common thread ran through the negotiations over Wickham Point and Giants Reef. The Territory government was told to get out there and stop playing politics. There is also the example of fishing access for both commercial and amateur fishermen. I will quote from the letter that the amateur fishermen circulated to us and to the CLP; it makes the same point: We dont want politics in here. We want to sit down with the appropriate bodies and try and find a solution through goodwill and through negotiation. That is what they said to me, to us, and to the ChiefMinister. If we have a good-policeman bad-pohceman approach suddenly appearing as a political agenda, is the ChiefMinister now trying to change the image of the CLP, soften it a little bit, so that the mining companies dont get so cranky about the ideology that has been plugged? And so the voters feel that a new deal is coming through and life isnt constantly on the edge of litigation and they, as taxpayers, arent shelling out yet another multimillion dollar legal bill on continuing opposition to the inevitable? You havent won too many at all over the last 26 years. Millions of dollars have gone into that process, beyond the legitimate scoping hearings that I have aheady acknowledged are a part of this process. However, when it is a bloody-minded opposition to every single attempt by traditional owners to get their position within the land tenure arrangements of the Northern Tenitory confirmed and finalised, then you are spending millions and millions of dollars that could be going into the creative development of the Northern Territory - the creation of jobs, and the creation of a secure place 7536
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