Saturday 26 September 2009

Wild Rivers run free (for a price)

Veteran community campaigner, Bryan Law returns from the wilderness, but not The Wilderness Society, to argue the debate for the indigenous Australians having access to, and making their own decisions about the wild rivers of Cape York.
In April, Law wrote on CairnsBlog, saying how wild he was about Wild Rivers and how he viewed the impact of Labor's brutal protection legislation. He followed it up a few weeks later, following outbursts from the Wilderness Society campaigners and asked why they're wild about wild rivers?
I published a third article in this series in late May, Wild Rivers heritage legislation, leads to conflict, following a letter from Greens leader in Cairns Denis Walls.
Just like our climate, the Wild Rivers contest is getting hotter.

On 17 September, Gerhardt Pearson shaped up to Anna Bligh, over what he called a "grubby Greens preference deal" about the Wild Rivers legislation. Gerhardt alleges serious issues of misconduct and deception against the Queensland government and called Wild Rivers “the biggest con job that this state has ever seen”.

With Gerhardt was Professor Greg McIntyre SC, one of Eddie Mabo’s legal advisers from back in the day. Prof McIntyre foreshadowed a legal challenge over the validity of wild rivers legislation, given its impact on native title. I can imagine that Anna Bligh and Mike Kaiser are just delighted by the prospect of a court challenge to their laws.

On 19 September, this legal and political story was followed by a three-page human interest feature in the Cairns Post. I confidently expect that we’re six months into a two year campaign to repudiate the Wild Rivers legislation.

Anyone interested in the campaign, can read a letter from Tania Major to Lyndon Schneiders from the Wilderness Society, asking him to attend a public meeting at Lockhart River. You can also read letters from Neville Pootchamunka (Mayor of Aurukun) and Alan Creek (Southern Kaanju eleder) asking for discussion and public consultation with the Wilderness Society. The letter from Alan Creek addresses a long shared history with The Wilderness Society around the Cape York Heads of Agreement.

A month ago there’d been public speculation that Tania Major would nominate as a candidate in the next election for the federal seat of Leichhardt against the ALP’s Jim Turnour, and an as yet unknown LNP candidate.

That electoral speculation was widespread, and Crikey published this fevered story about what might be going on. The Crikey piece is interesting because of the way commentors personally attack Noel Pearson, and because (an un-named source from) the Wilderness Society alleges that the mining industry is funding “Noel Pearson’s campaign” and also explicitly raises Noel’s position on the NT intervention as somehow relevant to the issue of Wild Rivers legislation in Cape York Peninsula.

I’m not privy to the political strategy of the Indigenous Environment Foundation, but I guess that running Tania Major as a candidate in Leichhardt (or in Cook for that matter) would provide opportunities to build organisation, show political strength, influence policy development, and pressure the Commonwealth government to restrain Anna Bligh and her pirates from their worst excesses. The Racial Discrimination Act, and the UN Charter on Indigenous Rights may compel the Commonwealth to act.

When the next Queensland election rolls around, there might well be a bunch of Bligh’s crew ready to walk the plank.

Meantime the Wilderness society has been tooling up its own campaign, and we can see pretty clearly now TWS is prepared to lie, character assassinate, misrepresent and sacrifice any principle of sovereignty or equality for Aboriginal people in Australia. In order to support the Queensland ALP.

Exhibit 1 for the people is a web site created by TWS to culture jam the bama. Give us a break mimics the Give us a go website. I think it reveals a lot about TWS’s campaigning principles.

The banner photos on Give us a go are all about people, the enduring culture of people living on and caring for Cape York Peninsula. The banner photos on Give us a break, don’t have any people at all. It’s like TWS has morphed back into a late Victorian matron in charge of keeping children well behaved in the garden. What this country needs is a rejuvenated national parks society toodle pip!

While Give us a go provides whole letters in context, so that we might know what Aboriginal leaders are thinking, Give us a break sticks with short excerpts from people that may or may not be about the wild rivers legislation, or which comes from Aboriginal leaders with no responsibility for Cape York land and no right to speak on its behalf. While Give us a break styles itself as “Indigenous voices on the Wild Rivers initiative” it is very much a western propaganda piece.

Speaking of seriously slick propaganda, Exhibit 2 for the people is a TWS produced video with simply stunning visuals of Cape York rivers and wild life, a group of white tourists recreating in water (recognising true wilderness values), a couple of picaninnies running around on the beach – and one of the sickest and most abusive lies I’ve ever seen in a piece of green propaganda. Watch it and see if you can spot the lie.

That’s right, while the entire first part of the film deals with your actual rivers in Cape York peninsula, at 2.15 minutes a sign appears saying “But these wild rivers are under threat” and at 2.30 minutes “some of Australia’s rivers are already in serious trouble."
Following these two statements, we’ve moved out of Cape York, and are shown a montage of destruction and industrialisation of un-named rivers that are nowhere near our Peninsula – and in no way represent the dynamics of anything existing or intended for Cape York Peninsula.

TWS has deliberately and falsely initiated a scare campaign aimed at naive urban conservation voters. TWS exploits their ignorance and their vulnerabilities by projecting a threat that doesn’t exist.

The decision to do so is politically motivated and has to do with TWS long-standing policy of delivering green preferences to the ALP around Australia.

In the Cairns Post feature, TWS Campaign manager Tim Seelig says “it was not the aim of the Wilderness Society to affect small Aboriginal business but rather large scale mining and agribusiness. He says the North Australian Taskforce was planning to set up large-scale irrigation of fields to make the Cape the "food bowl of Asia", which he says is totally impractical. And he says he doesn’t want Cape York to end up like the Murray Darling.”

When Premier Anna Bligh appeared on the ABC’s Q&A along with Tania Major, she said that she didn’t want to see Cape York’s Rivers turn into another Murray-Darling. Give us a break refers readers to the Queensland government web-site on wild rivers.

TWS and the ALP are singing from the same hymn sheet, and running a campaign to consolidate whatever support they can get from the naive urban greenie.

And also it seems from the more traditional left, which is why Pearson’s support for the NT intervention gets a run in crikey and elsewhere. Socialist Action, and sections of the secular left in this country seem to enjoy demonising Noel Pearson for having had truck with Satan (trading at the time as John Howard PM) and for advocating constraints on welfare.

One of the more curious manifestations I’ve seen of this syndrome that comes from a Jagera run speak-out against Noel Pearson held recently in Brisbane, during the writers’ festival. The Jagera are one of the tribes from Brisbane area, and Sam Watson leads this particular exercise, with a powerful speech from Alex Gator, an indigenous Anglican priest. Socialist Action is also present, and I’m sure that was renowned Brisbane anarchist Brian Laver I saw standing in front of that banner.

Scroll down for the videos with Noel Pearson’s name on them.

This report from the Green Left Weekly highlights the TWS allegations against Pearson as part of the speak-out story, but the video doesn’t show the TWS speaker.

It seems to me that whatever way you slice it, Aboriginal and Labor politics are undergoing a change in Queensland, and the wild rivers campaign has the potential to make or break black/green relations in far north Queensland.

My position on all these issues is pretty clear. I support Aboriginal sovereignty, and I think Noel Pearson is a pretty smart and well organised advocate.

However, I also think the Wild Rivers issues go well beyond one man, and that the Indigenous Environment Foundation with its philosophy of empowering Aboriginal youth is a vital part of this campaign. I hope Tania Major does run for Parliament in Leichhardt.

I think the Queensland ALP government is a disgrace.

I think TWS is a disgrace, and I think the Queensland Greens are a disgrace.

I don’t know what to think about the far north Greens, or the local TWS folk, because they’re not out and about in the community talking and doing politics. What does Denis Walls think about Wild Rivers? Steve Brech? Sarah Isaacs?

In a year or so they’ll be asking for our vote. I wonder what makes them think they deserve it? At this stage (being all wild about wild rivers and all) I’ll be voting First for Tania Major, Last for Labor.


A. Migaloo said...

Ahh, the Liberal Party and their stooges, the big developers and the mining companies. You can almost smell the money that is about to be waved under the people of the Cape's noses.

I would like to hear the opinions of the other Cape dwellers who may not be a part of the Pearson political elite about how they would like to see their land managed.

Bryan Law said...

Oh Mr Migaloo, you is so funny. Big developers and mining companies don't have to stooge for the Liberal Party - all they have to do is convince the Queensland Treasurer and Premier that their project is one of "state significance" and the Wild Rivers constraints fall right away. Local Bama won't see any money.

You is hilarious too for calling Bama on Cape York "the Pearson political elite". R U John Howard? Tony Abbott? They used that line to denigrate unions and NGOs. You is a Liberal Urself, isn't U migaloo?

colin riddell said...

Brian good to see someone who cares about an issue, where do you stand on the recent issue of dugongs and turtles being able to be killed in any numbers at anytime by indigenous peoples and others in anything they can float on water ,but mainly aluminum boats with high powered motors under the guise of traditional hunting and under tribal law?
Be happy to hear your views.
And not in traditional canoe and spear ?
Do you condone this barbaric practice of taking them from anywhere including green zones? And murdered inhumanley by turning them on their backs and slowly killing them over many days?
By the removal of a flipper at a time over many days while alive.
Also the killing of peaceful dugongs that are in decling numbers and apparently on the endangered species list ?

A. Migaloo said...

"I’ll be voting First for Tania Major, Last for Labor."
Are YOU Tony Abbott Mr Law? Or is Tania running as an independent (or Green?) And are all the Bama of Cape York really all Liberal Party supporters as you are suggesting?
You 'is' a very funny Media Tart Mr Law, but you should stick to spray painting tiaras instead of meddling and pushing your own barrow in indigenous issues.

KitchenSlut said...

A very curiously illogical posting Mr Migaloo?

I don't understand the reference to Tony Abbott and the inference to Tania Major? Please explain?

Where is the suggestion that the Bama of Cape York are all Liberal party supporters?

Why is Bryan Law not allowed to comment on 'indigenous issues' and particularly what is the personal 'barrow' he is pushing?

Did you pass comprehension (oops maybe an old fashioned term) in skool or should we just ashume this another edukaternal failyou're?

Bryan Outlaw said...

This whole discussion by Cairns' resident layabout is premised on one flawed idea - the aboriginal community has NO RIGHT to make any unilateral decisions about ALL our land. Australia is our land. It used to belong to them alone, but now it doesn't. This is the natural evolution of every country. Cape York is part of Australia, and we all have the right to make the decision.

These people aren't some kind of "privileged" class with special rights. Many of us are tired of the "special" rights that have been abused - "traditional" hunting of turtles and dugong shouldn't be allowed with large motorboats. If they want a turtle they can make their own canoe out of a tree. No motors, mate. You want traditional, you got it.

The ATSIC community need to finally start to integrate with the rest of the world community. Get some education, get a job, stop waiting for more dole payments (this means you too, Bryan Law) and stop abusing your women and children.

No special rights on Cape York are needed or wanted.

Al said...

Seems to me that the indigenous folk of Cape York are all about their rights but care little for their responsibilities. Colin Riddell makes the point with his comment on the so-called "traditional" hunting issue (an issue which damages their credibility in the non-indigenous community like none other). There is now NOTHING traditional about the indigenous people of Cape York, they are simply Australians, no more and no less than the non-indigenous. They have ancestors who lived in this land a long time ago, the non-indigenous have ancestors who lived in other lands a long time ago. In the end, everywhere is just another part of planet Earth. If the peoples of Cape York have a demonstrable disadvantage, it should be dealt with - but deal with it on the basis of their disadvantage, not of their race. To do otherwise simply perpetuates the myth of their difference.

Bryan Law said...

Thanks to Colin, Al, and Mr Outlawski for conceding that TWS, ALP and Greens are busy lying their heads off about Wild Rivers – and that the principle way forward now for their political game is to raise emotive and irrelevant issues which demonise Bama in the most vile and racist of ways.

If we allow a few facts to emerge, then we see that both recent instances of wild-life slaughter near Cairns were made public by Aboriginal elders concerned to maintain species numbers and bio-diversity in their traditional lands. Both times the slaughters had been conducted for commercial reasons by rogues or outsiders operating without cultural sanction, and both times the Environmental Protection Agency was called on to investigate and prosecute wrong-doers.

I won’t be holding my breath waiting for EPA to produce any results, and the resources that Bama have asked for and been promised for 15 years now to patrol and manage their own lands still haven’t arrived.

It’s absolutely amazing to me that pig ignorant whitefellas – having comprehensively fucked the environment with inappropriate and industrial development, feel qualified to tell blackfellas what their real culture is. And that it boils down to not using industrial products.

That would be like me telling Mr Outlawski (a post WW2 Polish immigrant) that really, his cultural heritage is to have been mass murdered by Russians and Nazis, and therefore the only place left for him is in an un-marked grave.

As for special rights for Aborigines what can I say? Read a book. Get some basic information about Native Title, and understand that state legislation like Wild Rivers is about the wholesale extinguishment of existing Aboriginal legal rights – and that if it was being done to your house and land you’d be up in arms about it.

Either people stand up for the rule of law to apply to all citizens equally, or we don’t live in a democracy. The Queensland ALP has forfeited its legitimacy and its right to govern. I was hoping a few more citizens in and around Cairns might be able to do better.

Al said...

It's predictable (Brian Law), how opinions that do not accord with that of the indigenous intelligentsia become defined as "vile and racist". What is racist about saying indigenous people are Australians - no more and no less than non-indigenous people - and should therefore be treated under law in exactly the same way. I would have thought such equality to be a grand aspiration. And does it matter whether the dugong and turtles - both endangered - are taken with cultural sanction or not? Does it even matter who was responsible for them becoming endangered? They ARE endangered, and with every one slaughtered, become incrementally more so. If a law is enacted to protect such species, it should be applied to all. You cannot feast upon the extinct.
Perhaps you will dismiss such opinions as tricky whitefella "logic" and just another guise for some covert blackfella bashing, though I suspect such dismissal would be only to allow you to keep a foot in both camps, maintain the rage and remain relevant. For me at least, the caravan has moved on. Bad things have happened; invasion, theft, neglect and genocide come to mind, acknowledged and apologised for by some, still denied by others. Winners and losers - it's how humankind has behaved for eons. And here in 2009, on our journey to the future, you can either foster your sad victim status and become irrelevant, or move on with the rest of us. Hopefully we can navigate ourselves towards Nirvana.

Bryan Law said...

Colin ridell said “and not in traditional canoe and spear?”... “murdered inhumanely”. Mr Outlawski said “If they want a turtle they can make their own canoe out of a tree. No motors mate. You want traditional you got it”. Al said “There is now NOTHING traditional about the indigenous people of Cape York”.

Then Al objects to being called vile, racist and pig-ignorant. He wrongly attributes such name calling to “the indigenous intelligentsia”. I’m not indigenous Al, I’m a working class whitefella whose been lucky enough to see a fair bit of the world, and get a little bit of knowledge about Bama and the situation on Cape York.

It’s not Noel Pearson calling you vile, racist and pig ignorant – it’s me - because that’s what you are. How dare you set yourself up as the arbiter of what “real” Aboriginal culture is? Of course you’re also safely anonymous and I doubt you’ll ever proclaim publicly the racism and ignorance you blurt out here.

For those people who are open to a textured, nuanced, self-aware and historically rich discussion on the aspirations of Aboriginal people on Cape York – have a listen to the speech Noel Pearson gave when he opened the Brisbane Writers festival a week or so ago.
If you’re really keen, read his recent book “Up from the Mission” in which he shows the evolution of his thinking over the past 20 years. The articles on Obama and US politics are particularly interesting.

But maybe he was just wasting his time for those 20 years, and writing fancy books like some elitist. Maybe he should have been learning to build bark canoes instead and saying “Yes Massa” to whitefellas the calibre of Al, Colin and Mr Outlawski.

colin riddell said...

Well done bryan you just ran the labor jim mumbles turnour line .
It is racist to bring up the mass unregulated slaughter of dugong and turtles by indigenous folk , that is why weak scared people do when faced with a too hard issue , me I don,t for a moment think it is race related , it is about the wanton slaughter of these creatures by australians , whilst we moan about the japanese killing whales.
Someone I know took pictures down to the greenpeace ship of this slaughter and they told him they were not interested , two faced tossers .
Don,t try to make it into something else.

Al said...

Predictable response Bryan Law. It seems any deviation from your black and white view of society automatically equates to racism ... and preceding such accusations with words "vile" and "pig-ignorant", adds a fine emotive bent to it - the McCarthy-ist method for making your point I presume?
Yes, I know well that you are not a blackfella, but that doesn't stop you being part of, or acting for, the indigenous intelligentsia. I know you relish your high profile status as a Cairns identity, usually described as an 'peace activist' - though some quarters describe you less kindly. I have seen you on television, read of you in newspapers, and even met you in person; we shared a taxi, albeit you as driver, me as your passenger.
Sorry to be off-subject here Bryan, but it's my choice to have a lower profile than you, though not as you unreasonably suggest; to remain "safely anonymous". An example of 'anonymous' is a letter in your letter box to which you cannot respond. This is a blog - and I am not anonymous - my name is Al and you can respond to me. And as the only 'Google account Al' contributing to Cairns Blog, I add my two-bob's worth (with no personal insults) to the ongoing debates, not as an arbiter of opinion but as an individual with a valid opinion. I comply with Michael's blog rules (***NO ANON comments will be posted****) and I welcome any feedback (though not your vitriol). Like it or not, this is how the blog works.
Back on subject; I perceive a future where the terms 'whitefella' and 'blackfella' are replaced with 'fella' and where everyone shares the same rights and the same responsibilities. Not everyone seeks that, for some it will remove their cause celebre.

Bryan Law said...

Alright Al, I'll give you a chance to persuade me on issues relevant to the future of Cape York Peninsula and the people living there, but please accept that IMO denying the realities of race and history by saying that one day we'll all just be "fellas" doesn't cut it.

Have a listen to Noel Pearson's recent speech.

At the beginning is a discussion about the aspirational staircase. How do Bama climb the stair-case to participation in the real economy that we all take for granted?

How do they get to be "fellas" with an acknowledged share of the country? Noel puts forward some pretty clear ideas and proposals.

If you want to respond thoughtfully, I'll be happy to listen. If you want to repeat some simple nostrum about equality and modernism, I'm happy to continue disagreeing.

p.s. You're completely correct. "Vile pig-ignorant racism" is calculated to upset. Don't make me do it again.

Constance Lloyd said...

No culture is locked in a moment of time. All cultures evolve; affected by external and internal influences. Admittedly, such evolution can lead to obliteration of culture. But not here in Australia.

Why is it that so many non-Indigenous Australians still have this perception of the true Aboriginal being the "noble savage" carring a spear, dressed in a loin cloth with one leg raised?

This was the popular picture painted as part of the assimilation policies of ALL major parties in the 1950's.

Times change, culture changes.

The Essence of Good Taste said...

Gentlemen, could we stay on topic. Wild Rivers it is, not dugongs and turtles. It's not that I don't have an opinion on turtles and dugong, but they have their own thread.

It is extremely arrogant and ignorant of anybody to state the indigenous people of Cape York have nothing traditional (and therefore lack unique culture). Obviously you have never met a traditional Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person. Rather than constantly expecting them to learn our ways, why not open your eyes and ears and learn some of their ways. Demonstrate your willingness to learn and they may become more willing to learn some of our ways.

Can I recommend a book "Why warriors lie down and die". It is in the Cairns library. Borrow it, read it twice and really think about some of the issues discussed. It was not written by anyone politicised in our community, so hopefully you will approach this opportunity with an open mind.

I look forward to hearing from you Al and like minded bloggers, once you have read and digested this and some of Bryan's recommended readings. And before you label me a Bryan Law stooge - I have never even met Byran.