Debates Day 2 - Wednesday 27 November 2002
Parliamentary Record 9
Debates for 9th Assembly 2001 - 2005; ParliamentNT; Parliamentary Record; 9th Assembly 2001 - 2005
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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory
DEBATES - Wednesday 27 November 2002 canvass options to accommodate their needs within the parks estate. We will also recognise the reality that, at least for the present, Kakadu and Uluru are leased to the Commonwealth. Contrary to the previous governments approach, we will work with the Commonwealth, through the master planning process, to pursue mutually beneficial arrangements, and to attract Commonwealth funds to the NT parks system. This will maximise the benefits of a comprehensive approach to park management. My government has sought to develop a consensus approach from day one in addressing the matters I have identified today. I must therefore report my disappointment that the Opposition Leader has chosen to advocate the path of conflict and confrontation. It was this discredited approach that led us to the current position. The Opposition Leader has stated that we should just agree to support scheduling of the 11 parks on a lease-back arrangement and that he would fight native title determination and compensation claims in the court. Where it is found to exist, he would compulsorily acquire and thereby effectively extinguish the native title rights of Aboriginal people in all 38 parks not subject to Aboriginal Land Rights Act claims. Why would Aboriginal interests agree to lease back 11 parks that they can claim in their entirety whilst we would also seek to extinguish their native title rights in all other parks? This highlights the need for an all encompassing solution. Moreover, what the Opposition Leader does not tell us is how long his approach would take to resolve these issues, and what the potential cost in litigation and compensation might be, let alone the enormous community division and tension that would result. He argues we should not worry because the Commonwealth will pick up 75% of the compensation bill. The Opposition Leaders approach is one that will lead us absolutely nowhere. It will keep us in the courts for decades and the cost of litigation alone, without taking potential compensation into account, will be enormous. The Territorys potential 25% share of the compensation cost conveniently overlooks the fact that that could itself still amount to a very significant impost on Territory taxpayers. Even more compelling would be the significant opportunity costs to the Territory community as a whole. Why would we want to spend the next 30 years in the courts, with all the attendant uncertainty when we could be investing in and creating real jobs and development for Territorians? It also stands in contrast to the actions of his own previous government which eventually realised the value of seeking negotiated solutions such as the model adopted in relation to Rosebery and Bellamack. Fortunately, my government faces up to reality and is prepared to make the hard decisions and to do the hard work to achieve better outcomes for all Territorians. We recognise that here we have the opportunity to turn a potential problem into an opportunity. I am pleased that the land councils, which are also native title representative bodies in the Territory, have agreed to these principles and committed to negotiating an outcome rather than fighting us every step of the way in the courts. When we briefed the land councils it was significant that leaders present, including Galarrwuy Yunupingu and David Ross, stated that we should have both adopted this approach 30 years ago. They recognised that we should have avoided the millions of dollars in litigation that could have been spent on schools, housing, and medical services. As a responsible government, we realise the need to balance the public interest in this matter and ensure an outcome that meets the community benefit test. We are recognising, in contrast to the previous government, that Aboriginal interests exist equally validly alongside the interests of the tourism, mining and pastoral industries and all users of NT parks. We recognise that the traditional owners for each park will need to agree to these arrangements, so it will take some time before they are finalised. To ensure certainty, once the negotiation with the land council is finalised and traditional owner assent is forthcoming, we will legislate to guarantee the agreed arrangements. The establishment of a viable and well resourced park system is crucial to the Territorys future. The Territorys natural environment and indigenous culture have a high value. As I mentioned at the outset, our park system represents one of the Territorys major competitive advantages and needs to be leveraged into playing a key role in the Territorys future economic development. One has only to examine the 2002-07 Draft NT Tourism Strategy to see how the approach we are adopting over parks should result in helping meet the demands of our interstate and international visitors to experience indigenous culture and visit remote and pristine areas. Investment in park infrastructure and development will bring significant financial returns to increased visitation numbers and expenditure in the Territory generally, improved tourism services opportunities, indigenous employment opportunities, as well as environmental and conservation benefits. We have an historic opportunity to create a world class NT parks estate. We have the opportunity to invest in an expanded system of parks and reserves and to showcase to the world both the Territorys indigenous art and culture and its unique national 3091
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