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 because, despite the law of the time and various rulings of the High Court, the land council placed claims over them before the sunset clause of the Land Rights Act came into effect in 1997. According to the Solicitor General, this small number of parks have no underlying tenure and, as their original declaration as parks has probably been made invalid by the High Court decision, then the claims over them may now proceed to be heard by the Aboriginal Land Commissioner under the Land Rights Act. That is the sum of the problem. The government is right to attempt to negotiate in relation to those parks so that even if they do become Aboriginal land rights scheduled land they can still be used as parks. But, obviously, it is the threat of legal action over these parks which has prompted the government to throw the rest of the park estate on to the negotiating table. The Chief Minister has made this patently clear in her statement today and I quote: Why would Aboriginal interests agree to lease back 11 parks that they can claim in their entirety whilst we also seek to extinguish their native title rights in all other parks? Is the Chief Minister suggesting, seriously, that the traditional owners are prepared to go to court over these parks and then deny their fellow Territorians access? That is the proposition that the Chief Minister is making: that unless we accede to these 11 parks - and the only way to accede these 11 parks is to throw the whole of the park estate into the bundle - therefore these claimants are going to go to court and prevent access of Territorians to those 11 parks. Does she really expect us to believe that the traditional owners, if they succeed in their claim, will stop their fellow Territorians from visiting these 11 parks, some of which are: Ormiston Gorge, Glen Helen Gorge, Serpentine Gorge and Simpsons Gap? It defies credibility and would make a laughing stock of all the utterances of Aboriginal owners and claimants if, somehow, the resolution of those 11 parks would result in the closure of those parks in their entirety to Territorians. That is what the Chief Minister is proposing; that this would be the situation unless we deal with all of them together - we have a terrible crisis. That is the logic of her argument. The Chief Minister says her government will not litigate over these matters so the only ones threatening such action - if we are going to talk about hundreds of millions of dollars of cost, and the government is not going to litigate, who is going to litigate? Obviously, the land council is going to litigate. So any action with regards to any or all of these parks can only come from land councils themselves. Is that what the Chief Minister has been told? Has the Chief Minister been told that, unless she puts all the parks on the table, the land councils will take these land claims to court and stop them being used as parks? Why else would the Chief Minister wrap it all up in a global deal, when there are, in fact, two entirely different situations? The reality is that the other parks are under no threat from native title claims that did not exist before the High Court ruling or may come in the future, because native title is a fact of life that has to be addressed whenever a claim is made. In fact, if you look in todays newspaper, the listing of claims over 12 areas of the Territory including Adelaide River, Koolpinyah, areas around Mataranka and Larrimah and so on, are there. It is a fact of life in the Northern Territory. Indeed, one of these claims is over the Devils Marbles Conservation Reserve, which is also on the list of parks available for claim under the Land Rights Act. So, if the Chief Minister is not protecting Territorians interest with regard to the 38 remaining parks whilst this good faith negotiation is taking place, you can be damned sure the land councils are protecting their interests, because over certainly one of the 11, they have ensured that they maintain the land claim litigious aspect of it in place. That is the fact of life with native title. These claims have to be addressed as to what native title does exist, what it comprises, and whether or not it has been extinguished for any reason. It is worth recalling that native title is no one thing, as the Chief Minister claims to assert, or tends to assert too easily. It is actually a bundle of rights. It is laid down very clearly by the National Native Title Tribunal and they explain it in this way: When indigenous Australians make a native title claimant application they are seeking recognition under Australian law o f their native title rights. For example, an application may claim the right to go onto land to practise traditional ceremonies, to gather food and bush medicines, and in some cases, to live on the land and share in the return for the resources o f the area. It goes on: Often claims are made for non-exclusive or shared rights. Native title rights can exist and be exercised alongside the rights o f other people. This is called co-existence. The recognition o f native title does not take away other peoples rights over the same area. And the important point that the Native Title Tribunal makes is this: Indigenous Australians are not being given land under native tide. Now, that is 3093