Debates Day 1 - Tuesday 10 October 2006
Parliamentary Record 10
Debates for 10th Assembly 2005 - 2008; 10th Assembly 2005 - 2008; Parliamentary Record; ParliamentNT
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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory
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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory
DEBATES Tuesday 10 October 2006 3114 Certainly, there needs to be a strategic framework and focus. However, I cannot help but wonder whether there is a fair amount of political spin in all of this, again for the most part creating the impression - although I concede that some positive things have been done - and using the same language as has been used previously to create the impression that inroads have been made to improve economic development. Look around you, minister! Some of the regions are simply not doing very well. If you look back to what represents the blueprint, then an internal analysis, even in your own conscience, must reveal that the runs are simply not on the board. Yes, there have been some good things in some areas - and please do not misunderstand me in that regard. However, if you step back from it all, not many runs on the board, minister - not very many runs on the board. When we were all out campaigning for the Stuart by-election, for instance, I went to some places that I have never heard of, frankly. That is not surprising because it is an enormous electorate. To see some of the things that were happening in those communities was very upsetting and distressing. Even though I thought I understood many of the issues, it was not really until you see some of them right in front of your eyes that you really can have an appreciation of the difficulties that are being experienced by Aboriginal people. Whilst it is easy for us to talk about the regions in terms of Alice Springs, Tennant Creek, the Barkly region, Gove, etcetera, there are subregions in an electorate like Stuart, for instance, that are just disgraceful - absolutely disgraceful. People are living in conditions that my fellow Australians should not be living in. I mention those matters, minister, because you talk a lot in your statement about indigenous and regional development. Equally, in the economic development document of 2002, indigenous economic development had its own chapter, and a list of strategic approaches and priority actions. I ask you to comment on those in your reply. Do you think there are runs on the board? Some, not many. I will not keep pursuing that matter, but I thought, as a matter of conscience, I should raise those with you. I do have some other notes about indigenous economic development. I suspect you will not like what I have to say, but I will say it in any event for the purposes of the Parliamentary Record, and to indicate to you where my colleagues and I are coming from in our desire - whether you agree with it or not - to improve things for Aboriginal Territorians. The most disappointing thing from your statement was that, in the 30 pages of text, there is not a single performance indicator. I ask you: are there performance indicators for any of this stuff? If so, would you publish them? Would you table them? Could you tell us about it? Happy to go to a briefing. However, doing things, having a good program here and something good there, is not really part of a sensible, analytical and progressive approach, in my view. I am interested to see that there was nothing in the way of performance indicators there. Minister, it is the CLPs view, and I know you are aware of this, that the greatest impediment to Aboriginal advancement is the Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act. It creates a system of land ownership that is hostile to investment. The reason that the land rights act has been hostile to development is because there is no incentive for investment money to take a risk; few, if any, guarantees can be given to an investor on traditional land; and gaining access to Aboriginal land for the purposes of development has traditionally, as we all know, been very hard. If a person has a proposal for development then the first stop is the land council. That means a meeting has to be organised, usually at the expense of the investor, and questions are raised and further meetings have to be organised. The process takes months and most investors neither have the patience or the money required to jump through all of the hoops that are required. It is simply too hard for so much investment potential to gain a foothold on Aboriginal land. We should ask why that is. The answer, in our view, is that it is because for three decades the argument has been couched in a philosophy of them and us. The problem is that when you study the politics of difference between the groups there is a desire, it seems to me, to maintain those differences, many of which are entrenched. The way that it has been expressed in Aboriginal relationships in the Territory is that it has been entrenched in land law and Aboriginal Territorians have walls built around them. Those walls were once walls of protection but they have, in our view, now become a prison. The fact is that no one in this country can live or can afford to live in splendid isolation. The very nature of wealth generation means that there has to be a willing trade between people and of course that trade is the economy. Aboriginal people have been removed from that economy for the most part by the land rights act and their isolation has meant that they have been unable to generate wealth for themselves. In the instances where the walls have been lowered or removed the results have generally have been positive. I doubt that there is anyone inside this Chamber or outside who would disagree with that proposition.
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