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 ELFERINK (Macdonnell): Madam Speaker, I rise to make a few comments in relation to what has been said here today. I believe that the Leader of the Opposition surmised the position of the opposition particularly well, in a careful and articulate fashion. I am pleased that the debate is proceeding in a calm and rational fashion which is something that is long overdue with these sorts of debates in this House and I am grateful for it. I am grateful to the minister for the consideration of his comments, but I would like to pick up on a few things without being critical of the minister at all. There is nothing inconsistent with what the Leader of the Opposition said and what occurred at Nitmiluk in terms of the claims process. What occurred was that the Jawoyn people asserted a claim of right over the Katherine Gorge and the Northern Territory government of the day said, We are the keepers of that estate on behalf of the Crown and ultimately the people of the Northern Territory and if, under the Land Rights Act, you wish to assert a claim of right, we, as keepers of the estate, want to test the validity of that claim. This does not change the law. It does not change anything other than the fact that we are saying to a person who lodges a claim against the Commonwealth of the Northern Territory that they should prove that claim as being lawful which the Jawoyn successfully did. When the Jawoyn successfully proved that claim as being a lawful claim, the Northern Territory government of the day was perfectly well prepared to engage in a joint management arrangement to ensure the joint management into the future of that piece of private property which was owned by the Jawoyn people. The Jawoyn people agreed with the Northern Territory government of the day that for their return of expertise and money and those sorts of things, they would engage in a 99 year lease, I think it is, or a 50 year lease over that park so that the park could continue to operate as a park into the future for the benefit of all Territorians. There is nothing inconsistent with that approach in what the Leader of the Opposition has said today. What is being proposed here is different from that process. That process is now changed under what is being proposed by the Chief Minister. The Chief Minister is proposing that we accept prima facie that there are automatically people with a right of claim over some 11 parks in terms of land rights claims and a further 38 in terms of native title issues and automatically, especially in terms of the native title issue, the Chief Minister is already asserting that people who have yet to put their hand up already have native title rights over particular areas. That is a very large step sideways from asking people to prove those native title rights and all of the ... Ms Martin: No, it is not. The CLP did it in government all the time. Madam SPEAKER: Order! Mr ELFERINK: It is a large step sideways from simply asking people to prove the claim that they make. Now a government may choose, and the CLP government did choose, to accept that prima facie - which is a demonstration that it is indeed a myth that we resisted all land rights claims. Tempe Downs is a classic example, Central Mount Wedge also springs to mind. So, we can accept prime facie a claim that is made against the estate of the Northern Territory but there are occasions when it is proper and fitting that a government should ask the claimant to make a test. Recently in the case of De Rose Hill in South Australia, claimants who would appear on the face of it to have a strong claim after being tested did not or were not able to establish their native title claim over a pastoral lease despite the fact that they were Pitjantjatjara speakers. So there are times when it is valid to be able to ask a group of people to assert the claim that they make against Commonwealth property held on behalf of all Territorians including Aboriginal Territorians. Aboriginal Territorians are just as capable of enjoying the amenity of national parks or the Territory parks estate as any other Territorian. The step which the Chief Minister is taking in this instance is saying that all of the parks estate are prepared to engage in a management plan. That will involve the transfer from the public estate into private ownership of some of those parks. How many of those parks she does not make clear. All I am saying is that we have to be very careful as we take this approach. This is the stated position of the government. Even when they were in opposition they said they wanted to negotiate ILUAs, the Indigenous Land Use Agreements. This is essentially an Indigenous Land Use Agreement over the Territorys parks estate. What we need to know is how much of the parks estate is going to transfer from public ownership, ownership that every Territorian has including Aboriginal Territorians, into private hands and what the effect of that is going to be. The Chief Minister says that this is all done in an effort to avoid litigation. That is fine; I have no problems with that approach. But bear in mind that she has already stipulated six key areas, principles, they are like lines in the sand, where we will not allow this situation or these principles to be breached. What happens, Chief Minister, if the other party you are negotiating with chooses in one fashion or another to step over one of those boundaries? You then have two choices. You either continue to 3098
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