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
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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory
DEBATES - Wednesday 27 November 2002 Mr AH KIT (Community Development): Madam Speaker, I pick up on some of the comments made by the opposition leader, basically to let him know that as far as the government is concerned, this is a win/win situation. In rising to commend the Chief Ministers statement on parks and reserves, I point out that this is one that holds enormous significance for the future of the Northern Territory for two important reasons. First, it marks a irrevocable shift in the way government does business. The days of secretive back room deals, with vested interests, mindless confrontation and damaging disputation are over. The people of the Northern Territory have demanded that we treat them and their representative organisations with openness, transparency and honesty, whether they be miners, tourism operators, fishermen, business people or ordinary citizens. They have demanded that we seek solutions that provide win/win solutions for all sectors of society. This government has listened. The second critical significance of the statement is that it recognises that we must harness the skills, knowledge, and financial and human capital of our citizens if we are to build a strong, vibrant and independent community. National parks are one of the key assets of the Northern Territory in terms of the maintenance of biodiversity and tourism. Therefore, it is vital that we pursue strategies that will combine all our collective resources and to work together as a community. The approach outlined by the Chief Minister makes a virtue of the fact that all parties have been consulted, and will continue to be consulted, over ways to maximise the benefit of these parks and reserves. It is a simple logic that seems to have escaped the attention of the Leader of the Opposition. Funnily enough, it was a simple logic that for a brief time seemed to be embraced by the Country Liberal Party, but which is now rejected by them. The Leader of the Opposition now seems to be saying that recognising Aboriginal interest in national parks is a process of being conned into giving up our parks. Yet, in the case of Nitmiluk, the CLP government put into place a properly negotiated joint management plan that fully took into account Aboriginal interests. In the 1980s and 1990s, I was privileged to work with the senior Jawoyn people who were to form the first board of the Nitmiluk National Park. This group of proud Aboriginal men and women had spent two years appearing before land claim hearings, and then they had a five-year wait before the Land Commissioner recommended the return of Nitmiluk to its traditional owners. They then faced further delays. I should point out that the then CLP government, through most of the 1980s, opposed the Jawoyn claim in Nitmiluk in no uncertain terms. Indeed, a predecessor of yours, as Speaker, led rowdy demonstrations in the streets of Katherine. As a park ranger, the current Deputy Opposition Leader made accusing statements against the Jawoyn claiming they would remove Katherine Gorge from the Northern Territory parks estate. The Jawoyn elders had always made their position clear from the time of the land claim hearings through to getting the Nitmiluk National Park established under joint management with the Northern Territory government. They wanted to care for their traditional lands as a national park. They wanted to do that in partnership with the people of the Northern Territory. They wanted to establish the park as the basis for the future economic independence of their people, their children and grandchildren, through economic enterprise and land management activities. Since 1989, the Nitmiluk board has been doing these things. In all of this, not a single non-Aboriginal person has lost his or her job. Indeed, the opposite is true. There are many more sustainable jobs at Nitmiluk as park rangers, tour guides and other employees than back in 1989. All but two of those first board members have since passed away. I am certain that the regime they established and nurtured since 1989 would be the model they would have wanted other Aboriginal groups in the Territory to follow. The great irony is that the joint management arrangements set in place back in 1989 had bilateral support in this parliament, and the active endorsement of the then Country Liberal Party government. But let us get it clear. Since 1989, the CLP has refused to countenance a single other Nitmiluk-style joint management arrangement anywhere in the Northern Territory; that is, in 12 years, they have refused to have anything to do with meaningful joint management arrangements with Aboriginal people. Just listen to what the Opposition Leader wrote the other week. He said that, while the CLP would negotiate Nitmiluk-style arrangements, he would refuse to accept any native title interests in Territory parks and reserves. He would have them extinguished. He would rather pour taxpayers money into the pockets of lawyers as he fights compensation claims over each and every parcel of land. While he said he would negotiate with the CLC over 11 land rights claims under the Land Rights Act, so they remain within the parks estate, he seems to think it is all right to have the other 38 parks and reserves become legal wilderness zones while he fights all native title claims. If we went down that path of litigation rather than negotiation, these parks could not be developed or 3096
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