'Intervention Rollback Action Group' statement on Tony Abbott's Wild Rivers bill

www.rollbacktheintervention.wordpress.com October 6th 2010

Statement on Tony Abbott's Wild Rivers bill
from the Intervention Rollback Action Group Alice Springs

Tony Abbott and Nigel Scullion don't care about Aboriginal Land Rights

We have been sickened by the hypocrisy of Liberal leader Tony Abbott and Liberal NT Senator Nigel Scullion on their recent crusade to overturn Queensland 'Wild Rivers' legislation.

Tony Abbott has argued he is "defending Indigenous Land Rights". Nigel Scullion has talked about "the fundamental principles of self-determination and informed prior consent".

This from politicians who launched and continue to support the NT Intervention, the most destructive and disempowering policy in Aboriginal affairs since the Stolen Generations.

Land Rights? These politicians suspended the Racial Discrimination Act to compulsorily acquire Aboriginal township land across the Northern Territory, a policy which has seen millions of dollars worth of land, property and assets transfered from Aboriginal to state ownership.

Informed consent? When Scullion was confronted in 2007 by elders in Arnhem Land about the Intervention he said, "I know you are angry you were not consulted - but we didn't consult with anybody".

They say they care about economic development and jobs opportunities in Aboriginal communities. But 7500 Aboriginal people were employed in Community Development Employment Projects (CDEP) in the NT before 2007 when the Liberals started to attack the program. Thousands of these jobs have now been lost, throwing people onto the dole. The remainder will go in 2011 when the program stops for good. We know Cape York communities are also suffering under this policy.

These jobs cuts are not happening because of a shortage of money. Unprecedented levels of public money are being spent on paying government bureaucrats to control Aboriginal people. $350 million will be spent on Income Management in the NT alone over the next four years.

The only "economic development" Abbott and his supporters want Aboriginal people to have is the kind that supports the interests of big corporations like the mining company Cape Alumina who are lobbying to overturn Wild Rivers. In the NT too, communities are being told they are 'unviable' unless they can attract major corporate investment.

The toxic trade-off Abbott would further enforce on Cape York is already in play here. Aboriginal people from Muckaty north of Tennant Creek were told by the Liberal Party they would only receive funding for roads, housing and education if they accept a nuclear waste dump on their land. Abbott and Scullion are continuing to support laws which would force this waste dump on Muckaty by over-riding the Aboriginal Land Rights Act (NT), the Aboriginal Heritage Act and the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.

We support the Greens in opposing Tony Abbott's bill. They are rightly demanding that the principle of Indigenous 'informed consent' for developments on Native Title land should take place through amendments to the Native Title Act that apply nationally. To have any value, 'informed consent' must be for all developments including mining - not just a set of environmental regulations in Northern Queensland. Even better - lets put national Land Rights legislation back on the agenda.

As it stands Abbott's bill will further lock the future development of Aboriginal communities into the straight-jacket of high-impact, destructive projects.

The Greens have been attacked in this debate by conservative Aboriginal figures Noel Pearson and Marcia Langton. But Pearson and Langton too have lost all credibility. How can they talk about Aboriginal rights after their high-profile support for the dispossession of the NT Intervention and the suspension of the Queensland Anti-Discrimination Act to enforce punitive welfare regimes on Cape York?

Aboriginal communities across Australia badly need the resources and full Land Rights to both develop their communities and protect the environment. Rejecting the disgusting hypocrisy currently on display by the Liberal Party is an important part of this struggle.

Intervention Rollback Action Group Alice Springs

IRAG is a campaign group based in Alice Springs that has been organising against the NT Intervention since 2007. See Roll Back the Intervention for more information about our activities or contact rollbacktheintervention@gmail.com

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