Territory Stories

Debates Day 2 - Wednesday 27 November 2002



Debates Day 2 - Wednesday 27 November 2002

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Parliamentary Record 9


Debates for 9th Assembly 2001 - 2005; ParliamentNT; Parliamentary Record; 9th Assembly 2001 - 2005




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 27 November 2002 environment. We have the opportunity to start to turn around the dire social and economic situation for Aboriginal people in remote areas by building on current initiatives to manage and protect the land. We have the opportunity to enhance the eco- and cultural tourism industry by incorporating culture into the parks experience and enhancing services and facilities. We will do all this by working with Aboriginal people and using productively the money the previous government would have happily wasted on litigation. The end result will be a larger and better resourced parks estate for the Territory. We will achieve a lasting solution to yet another problem that we inherited from the previous government. While we work towards this resolution, it will be business as usual in NT parks and reserves. Madam Speaker, I move that the Assembly take note of this very important statement. Mr BURKE (Opposition Leader): It is an important statement, Madam Speaker, because it is not often that you get to see your estate traded away so easily. We have a number of problems with this statement, not the least being that the Chief Minister has already accepted that all Territory parks have traditional owners and that the land claims over 11 of the parks are valid. I am not surprised, then, that this government should say it would be wrong to litigate over these matters. The Chief Minister has already with this statement conceded that whatever case might have been put, that some or all of these parks belong to Territorians. Let us imagine for a moment going into court or even to the negotiating table to. argue the position that all Territorians own these parks. Now, even before you put the case the land councils would say, Just hang on a second, Chief Minister. You told parliament that we can claim 11 parks in their entirety. Then you talked about the traditional owners of each and every park in the Northern Territory. So, you have already admitted that you do not have any case. You have already admitted ownership in your statement today, in the Assembly, of all the parks in the Northern Territory because you refer to them all having traditional owners, so well done. This is a great way to begin negotiations on keeping the Territory park estate. You have conceded whatever negotiating position you might have had. We should not be suiprised that the Chief Minister has so blatantly handed over the common lands of Territorians. It is consistent with the way this government has reacted since the implications of the Ward High Court decision became obvious. Its first reaction was to declare that there was a crisis. Its second reaction was to declare, we have a crisis but do not worry, we will soon solve it. Both reactions were wrong. Mr Ah Kit: What did you want? More litigation? Mr BURKE: Madam Speaker, I would ask for silence in the Chamber. I have given the Chief Minister silence with her statement and I expect the same in return. So if we go back to the advice that this government received from the Solicitor General on the High Court ruling, it is interesting - and I would hope also, as the Chief Minister has said that she has now been provided with second expect legal opinion, surely that expert legal opinion is available to the opposition? I would hope she would provide it from her eminent external counsel. But back to the summary provided to me by the government on what the Solicitor General advised, and he advised this: Firstly, all parks declared between 1978 and 1998 were potentially ... And I emphasise the word potentially ... affected by the Court High decision. Secondly, whether or not they are will depend on whether or not any native title existed at the time the parks were declared. Thirdly, the majority o f the parks can be re-declared as parks. Fourthly, even some o f the parks claimed under the Aboriginal (Land Rights) Act can be re-declared. Fifthly, there are a small number o f parks that cannot be re-declared and are now subject to claim under the Aboriginal (Land Rights) Act Six, notwithstanding any invalidity o f the original declaration o f the parks, the Parks and Wildlife Commissions powers to manage all the areas remains, although the plans o f management fo r these parks would not have the same statutory force. Seven, in respect o f the majority o f parks, the legal solution is to re-declare the parks. That was the advice from the Solicitor General. That is the crisis - or the so-called crisis. We have a problem with a few of our parks, but for the vast majority of our parks the solution is simply to re-declare them. The government did that in respect of 38 of the parks and reserves on 7 November. The remaining do present a problem 3092