Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Denis Walls responds to the Wild Rivers debate

Denis Walls of The Greens, writes a personal response to the ongoing debate about Labor legislating to regulate use of Cape York's Wild Rivers.

He explains that The Greens support the Wild Rivers legislation.

There are six statements often made which attack Wild Rivers. Denis states that these responses expressed are his own.


1.) It has been imposed on Indigenous communities without their consent.

The criticism previously was that there had been inadequate consultation. Now the tack is that there hasn’t been consent. The WR consultation process isn't new - it is set out in the Wild Rivers Act which has been in place since 2005.

This Act explicitly recognises Native Title rights. Balkanu Cape York Development Corporation was contracted and paid around $70,000 by the Queensland government to organise the consultations for the Lockhart, Stewart and Archer rivers, which happened over a six month period. It appears there was a rough split between the western side of the Cape and the Gulf (who were broadly in favour of the legislation) and the eastern side (who were mostly against).

Many Weipa and Aurukun leaders and elders have come out strongly in support of the legislation – Gina Castelain, Reverend Silas Wolmby, Pastor Ralph Peinkinna, Elder Rebecca Wolmby, Elder Pat Pootchemunka, Elder Caroline Peinkinna and Elder Anne Woolla. Greg McLean, Hope Vale mayor, has recently said that the WR legislation won’t affect communities unless the Queensland Government is planning major developments like refineries (which the legislation disallows).

On the results of the consultations, and as per the WR Act, the relevant Minister made the final decision to declare the rivers.

2.) It ignores Indigenous people’s record of stewardship and proven conservation on Cape York.

No, it doesn’t. A Wild Rivers declaration recognises the conservation value of a river system and ensures these values are protected long term, helping to safeguard it from external development pressures such as strip mining, large dams and intensive irrigation in sensitive riverine and wetland areas.

For example, declaring the Wenlock River a Wild River would help protect unique spring systems from the new bauxite strip mine that is being proposed by Cape Alumina.

3.) It stifles sustainable economic opportunity, undermining Indigenous people’s attempts to get off welfare.

After repeated efforts to find out what economic opportunities will be stifled by this very mild legislation, the only thing mentioned has been a passionfruit farmer near Hope Vale, where there is no Wild River and the farmer uses bore water for his crops. Activities of this nature are permitted under the legislation.

The Cape York welfare reform agenda is already in place in four communities in the Cape. This has been supported to the hilt by the government. Millions of dollars have gone into it, a part of which revolves ultimately around the quarantining of welfare payments to people in those communities if certain conditions are not complied with. It is worth noting that, whatever you think of this policy, it has been deemed racist by many people when applied to the Northern Territory intervention.

4.) It is a backroom political deal that does nothing to stop large scale mining or uranium mining on Cape York Peninsula.

The oft-repeated claim that the legislation was pushed through in exchange for green preference deals at the last state election is simply untrue. There was no preference deal done in the Brisbane suburbs based on Wild Rivers. The Wilderness Society hold precious little sway with the Greens as a political party at election times and this constantly reiterated furphy demonstrates that the ‘antis’ have little idea of how green politics actually works.

The Chalco mine that this refers to has not yet been approved. The Aurukun Elders, although in favour of the WR legislation, are rightly concerned about the impact of this mine should it go ahead. However, WR declarations can actually prevent new mines by limiting water extraction and protecting explicit areas as mentioned in point 2.

5.) It will mire communities in red tape, forcing local Indigenous people, wanting to make a living from small business, to negotiate a minefield of bureaucracy.

Although government bureaucracy is always a worry, it seems unlikely there will be a new ‘minefield’ to negotiate. After all, only excessive developments as indicated in point 2 will be disallowed. Case managers are already employed to support individuals with form filling and so on in the Cape.

6.) It removes the opportunity promised by land rights and dwarfs the gains made by the long fought battles of the Wik and Mabo.

This is a grand and rather fluffy statement meant to tug at the emotions. But, in reality, there appears to be no tangible way in which it does this.


It has been hard for environmentalists and many Indigenous people in the Cape to work out what the agenda is behind the virulence of the anti-Wild Rivers campaign. Its leaders have simply refused to meet with the state government. What is, however, of increasing concern is the affiliation of the ‘anti’ leaders with right wing, anti-green, pro-big business interests. Shock jock Alan Jones, Property Rights Australia, the Centre for Independent Studies and the Chamber of Commerce have all recently attacked the WR legislation.

Who is funding this concerted and expensive anti-Wild Rivers campaign and why? Is it big business groups which might stand to benefit from large scale development in the Cape? Surely the campaign is not being funded from public monies?

On a matter of such importance, the public is entitled to know why there is an obsession among a few powerful people with this very mild legislation which does not.contravene any Indigenous custodianship on the Cape or any specific development proposal.

50 comments:

A. Migaloo said...

Thank you Mr Walls. I think that the whole issue has been blown out of all proportion by individuals with a politically driven agenda rather than an environmental one. I hope that people actually read what the whole act entails before knee jerking off as has a lot of local aspiring 'media identities' have tried to do.

Bryan Law said...

It’s good to see far north Greens spokesman Denis Walls break cover and say what he really thinks about the Wild Rivers legislation. It would have been even better if he could have kept his response balanced and factual instead of waving away the concerns of indigenous folk on Cape York and continuing the personal attack on Noel Pearson.

Denis says “Although government bureaucracy is always a worry, it seems unlikely there will be a new ‘minefield’ to negotiate.” People ought make up their own mind, and a good start can be had by reading the Consultation Report on declaring the Archer River a wild river by the Department of Environment and Resource Management. http://www.nrw.qld.gov.au/wildrivers/pdf/archer_consult_report.pdf

That report discusses the new bureaucracy and says
“With the exception of agriculture and animal husbandry, wild river requirements are
integrated with the existing requirements of regulating acts. There is no new application
process as a result of a wild river declaration. Applications will continue to be dealt with by
the relevant state agency or local government as occurred prior to a declaration. The
assessing agency or local government will apply the wild rivers code requirements along
with all the other existing requirements for a particular development type. In many cases
there will only be one or two additional requirements to those already existing.”

That’s a relief. In many cases there will only be one or two more hurdles to jump when seeking any license, permit, or approval from state or local government agencies. A piece of piss really, no grounds for concern at all (provided you have the resources of Rio Tinto Alcan).

Denis falsely denies that big mining corporations are able to acquire exemptions from Wild Rivers legislation. He says the Chalco bauxite proposal is yet to be approved, but it will be. Here’s what the Consultation Report has to say about the existing (Rio Tinto Alcan) mine:

“Part of the government’s 2004 wild rivers election commitment was that all existing
agreements, permits, lease conditions and undertakings would be honoured. The Aurukun
project formed part of previous government commitments and was considered an
undertaking that must be honoured. The Aurukun project was made exempt from the
application of the Wild Rivers Act as it is considered a project of importance to the state, has
the potential to attract large investment interest and provide much needed employment
opportunities for remote Indigenous communities”.

Does anyone here believe that Chalco, or Rio Tinto Alcan, is going to have any trouble getting whatever exemptions it wants to run a mine in Cape York?

Bryan Law said...

I don’t want to play the same game as Denis and TWS. It’s not appropriate to smear those who think differently with unfounded innuendo, or to challenge their integrity. Denis and TWS do it when they raise the $70,000 Balkunu received for facilitating consultation, and when Denis says (without any foundation at all) “Who is funding this concerted and expensive anti-Wild Rivers campaign and why?” (the implication being that “big business” is behind it).

Denis makes great play of Gina Castelain and the elders of the Uniting Church in Aurukun supporting the Wild Rivers legislation, which he tells us is meant to bring big mining under control.

No less a figure than Australian Minister for Indigenous Affairs told the Parliament last year that

““Let me tell you about someone I met in Aurukun. Gina Castelain is a traditional owner and Wik woman - inspirational, articulate - she's twenty four years old and a remarkable young woman who is a central figure in the Southern Trust. The Trust channels Rio Tinto Alcan royalties into local communities.

It has some impressive runs on the board including building the Aurukun Uniting Church and the Justice Group building, supporting community education and sporting programs and establishing bursaries for kids going away to school.

It's also a pioneer in Indigenous business. Among its enterprises - Aurukun Earthmoving, Western Cape Earthmoving and Wetland Charter which owns the MV Pikkuw - a fishing boat for charter.

Through the Southern Trust subsidiary Wik Projects, Gina Castelain is also a key player in the negotiations with Chinese mining giant Chalco whose proposed mining venture has the potential to deliver hundreds of jobs to locals. And that's just Chalco”.

http://www.jennymacklin.fahcsia.gov.au/internet/jennymacklin.nsf/content/out_of_the_chaos_27mar08.htm

Now I think that Gina Castelain has a perfect right to seek economic development for her people in whatever ways she sees fit. Her part in the (eventually successful) Wik Waya’s return of land earlier this year is testament to her own work, and her family’s work, for land justice over decades.

But for Denis and the Wilderness Society to falsely claim that mining corporations are the target of Wild Rivers legislation, and that Noel Pearson must be a supporter of big development because he opposes that legislation, and that Gina Castelain is an Aborigine with a green agenda while failing to mention her relationship with big mining corporations – well, it strikes me as more than a little dishonest.

The Greens, the Wilderness Society, and the Queensland ALP are a disgrace in the way they continue to attack and divide Aboriginal people, and I think they need to be taught a lesson at the next election.

(I’ll be submitting a separate piece about the Queensland Greens “policy” on Wild Rivers, and the way it allocated preferences in March to Anna B Ligher and the ALP – along with what I saw of TWS and Wild Rivers in that process. If I were Denis I’d be too ashamed to admit it too).

Facts said...

Facts:

- The Archer River declaration has effectively stopped sand mining going ahead in the Aurukun wetlands.

- The Wenlock River declaration will effectively stop the Cape Alumina mine.

- Pearson has negotiated several huge mining developments on the Cape.

- Pearson supported Bill Heffernan's "food bowl of Asia" push for Northern Australia.

- Pearson et al have been caught out distributing propaganda in Cape York communities that Wild Rivers will lead to an end to traditional hunting and fishing, amoung other mistruths.

- No one has divided Aboriginal people more than Noel Pearson, just get off your bum and talk to traditional owners on the ground and ask them what they think about the regional power base that consistently misrepresents and misappropriates government funding.

Fasky said...

I enjoy reading Cairns Blog but...Brian Law, our own old Man of La Mancha - why don't you start your own blog? Then you can lay shit on anyone who thinks differently to you to your heart's content and we don't have to continue reading your self opinionated windmill tilting diatribes.

Wade S said...

To Fasky -

So you prefer a free run of comments providing they agree with you ? and comments that dont agree should be taken off site ?

Whilst i dont agree with everything Bryan Law has to say - he is entitled to say them!

maynard said...

if every word brian law typed was equivalent to steps (ie walking) then mr law would be a) very far away. and b) a whole lot slimmer.

Denis Walls said...

Gee Bryan, I thought the piece was pretty balanced and very factual, that’s why I mentioned Gina and the others to show the diversity of views on the issue. I did not even mention Noel which hardly amounts to a personal attack. Your bureaucracy quibble is just that. Re-mines, what I said was that WR declarations CAN actually prevent new mines by limiting water extraction and protecting explicit areas. i.e. make it tougher for them. Of course I know the power of the mining lobby when it comes to getting its way.

There’s no smear or innuendo Bryan. It’s a simple question to ask: “who is funding the campaign?” It’s nonsense for you to state that it is divisive to draw attention to difference within the Indigenous community over an issue such as Wild Rivers. Having worked in the Cape and Islands for nearly 20 years, I know what a rich and diverse mix of people and opinions there are.

However, if you’re gunning for the Greens, TWS or Uncle Tom Cobley in your usual non-violent consensus building way Bryan there won’t be much that I or anyone else can do about it.

Bryan Law said...

In his article, Denis said "what is the agenda behind the virulence of the anti-Wild Rivers campaign" and "of increasing concern is the affiliation of the ‘anti’ leaders with right wing, anti-green, pro-big business interests".

Now he says "There's no smear or innuendo".

I've watched the calculated deceptions by TWS, the Greens, and the ALP on this issue for six months now. On this very thread we have such luminaries as "facts", "fasky", and "maynard" continuing with misrepresentation and personal attacks against Noel Pearson and anyone else who opposes the legislation.

Denis knows this and consents to it, although he doesn't like taking responsibility for it.

You can rest assured Denis that I'm not "gunning for" the Greens. What would be the point? Apart from delivering preferences to the ALP, what power or influence do you exercise? None. What prospects do you have of winning a seat in the Queensland parliament? None. A Senate seat? None.

At the next Queensland election I'll be gunning for the ALP.

Later tonight I'll tell the story about a small group of white male Greens in Brisbane who decided preferences would go to Labor in the 2009 election - irrespective of branch or membership opinions, and that Bama's interests in Cape York would be ignored.

It's not "consensus". It's not democracy". It didn't achieve anything, but hey, it was white, and male, and middle aged or older - so I guess we can tell just what the Greens stand for these days.

Denis Walls said...

Connections of the ‘antis’ to the organisations I mention are facts Bryan. Smears generally relate to things that are not true.

What do you want me to say or do about ‘facts’, ‘fasky’ or ‘maynard’? They have their own minds and opinions. Do you want me to try and regulate their thought processes? How undemocratic?

The three pre-selected Qld candidates for the Senate are women. Not a middle-aged man in sight! Btw, I disagree with you about the Qld senate seat. Every federal election the Greens get a little closer.

I look forward to your ‘informed’ account on horse trading for preferences in Brisbane about which you can know next to nothing as a non-Greens member.

Smithfield Sam said...

Denis Walls sez:
"The three pre-selected Qld candidates for the Senate are women. Not a middle-aged man in sight!"

Two of them are white lesbians. Seems Bryan Law's on to something.

Scott C. said...

I think Wade S. that Fasky's view is that we have an overload of Mr Law's point of view in this blog. I didn't see any mention of removing comments off the blog as you suggest.

It is good to have a balance of opinion which makes this blog an interesting read, but Mr Law always seems to have the last word and it never seems to change. Like a few other local individuals with a political axe to grind (see the links at the side), he really should start his own blog.

cutting hedge said...

Dennis walls you win the funniest blog entry , with " Every federal election the Greens get a little closer."
To what extinction , they are mud in victoria after the bushfires ,mud in cairns by prefrencing wettennoballs in barron river ,they got flogged in mulgrave, you kill me denis hhaaaaa

Wade S said...

Scott C -

Fasky made it clear he/she would prefer BL to be offsite when he/she said "why don't you start your own blog? Then you can lay shit on anyone who thinks differently to you and we don't have to continue reading your self opinionated windmill tilting diatribes"

In other words - "I dont agree with what your saying so you should piss off"

Maybe Law has the better argument and therfore the last word?

KitchenSlut said...

"The Wenlock River declaration will effectively stop the Cape Alumina mine"

Is this the same Cape alumina mine where Beattie controversially pulled the leases from French interests with 'sovereign risk'implications and subsequently flogged to the Chinese because the State Govt wanted it pushed faster and developed?

Confused, Bryan? said...

"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" - Bryan Law.

You actually don't support Aboriginal sovereignty Bryan, you support Pearson sovereignty, as you are ignoring the traditional owners who want wild river protection and oppose Pearson.

Also, what happens when half of a traditional owner group wants a mine, the other wants to protect their country? Where does the position of "Aboriginal sovereignty" lead you then? Half a mine? It appears that you simply take the view that Pearson does because in your mind he represents what you want the Aboriginal position to be, and simply won't accept the diversity of Aboriginal Australia.

You are humurously blind to what is clearly a propaganda campaign on behalf on Pearson on this issue. It is Ok to have your own view on this Bryan, you don't have to default to Pearson you know.

The point is you are so morally confused that you are deferring your opinion on these matters to the supposed higher moral ground of Pearson, at the expense of any self judgement.

It is possible to be pro Aboriginal rights and critical of Pearson, Bryan. Good luck overcoming your confused and frequently humurous moral dilemma.

Bryan Law said...

Welcome Jon Metcalf to the discussion, even if you have to hide your own name and start by asking whether or not you are confused (“confused Bryan?”).

Yes you are confused Jon, and have been for some time, but it doesn’t mean your life is over. You can get past this! It would be best if you started by connecting “theory” to “reality”, and dealing with practical and concrete issues instead of asking how many angels dance on the head of a pin.

Aboriginal sovereignty, my old sausage, means that Aboriginal people get to decide things for themselves, without a benevolent (or malevolent) old uncle guiding them and making the final decision if they get it “wrong”. If Aboriginal people disagree among themselves, they use processes of their own choosing to determine those disagreements. If they then make decisions you disagree with, you are free to take it up with them as equals, and argue the issues honestly. Provided you have integrity, respect, and good intentions it can be a valuable, illuminating and effective approach. Try it some time.

On the other hand I’ve never heard of “Pearson sovereignty”, and I believe it’s an idea very similar to the one about Angels and pins (no real substance). I’m happy to disagree with Noel when I think he’s wrong – and he makes it easy by publishing widely on his opinions, theories and programs. I guess that’s why his welfare program is on the front page of the Australian today being credited with strongly increasing school attendance by Cape York Aboriginal kids.

On the other hand it’s hard to evaluate what you stand for because you don’t debate publicly, publish your ideas about anything, or take responsibility for the back-room deals you do with the ALP.

Denis, I’m a little pushed for time now until next week, so I’ll defer telling the preferences story until then. Mostly it will be about what happened in Barron River when Drew Hutton decided we’d all be better off with Steve Wet’nNoBalls – and the way that was done without even consulting the local candidate Sarah Isaacs.

I know I’m not a member (you and Jon wouldn’t let me) but sometimes that means I have better information than the members do because I don’t rely on the official Green channels of information flow. For example I know that in 2005 the indigenous issues working group of the Queensland Greens recommended that the Party oppose the Wild Rivers legislation – and that Drew Hutton, Libby Connors, and the state executive overturned that recommendation with their usual democratic zeal (when they could spare the time from conducting purges of the “Grassroots Greens”).

Denis Walls said...

Actually Bryan, the whole branch and most of Queensland didn't want you in. With your aggression problem and bullying 'I'm always right' approach to everything can you blame them? Hell have no fury like a Greens applicant scorned, eh Bryan?

Bryan Law said...

Denis, does this mean you're going to stop talking about issues now and focus exclusively on personal attacks and slander? At this rate you'll soon get a turn as a Greens Senate candidate.

Byran's still confused said...

"Aboriginal sovereignty, my old sausage, means that Aboriginal people get to decide things for themselves, without a benevolent (or malevolent) old uncle guiding them and making the final decision if they get it “wrong”" - Bryan Law.

There you go again, as I say, you support Pearson sovereignty, not Aboriginal sovereignty, as Pearson and his regional organisations have established themselves exactly as "old uncle" you refer to, speaking for other people's country etc, only they happen to be indigenous.

I think the rest of the world sees that you simply have an axe to grind with everyone but Pearson, I feel for you Bryan, it must be difficult being so angry and confused.

Bryan Law said...

Jon Metcalf says "I feel for you Bryan, it must be difficult being so angry and confused". You're right there Jon. Send money.

Not Happy Noel said...

Pearson's downfall will be when a brave journalist or investigator, perhaps the 'Four Corners' show delve into the financial affairs of the Cape York Institute, Cape York Land Council and Balkanu. These three organistions have two men as directors and dictators, Noel and his brother Gerhard. Money is sloshed around these three organisations without transparency or accountability. Noel will be eventually be exposed.

Whose Rights Whose Authority? said...

I was in Cape York last week and I noticed a range of people who had their OWN thinking regarding the new layer of regulation. Denis's assertion that people are being manipulated by big campaign money is fairly disrespectful. Are you saying that Indigenous people shouldn't organise?

Also, people may 'not like' someone's leadership or personality but still reject a new layer of legislation [further] restricting their Native Title Rights. [I've noticed Aboriginal people are fairly distrustful of a range of people outside their immediate families: Why wouldn't they be?] Whether people like or approve Noel Pearson has nothing to do with whether people support the new regulation. That is a furphy. Stop linking them because it devalues the range of people talking and thinking about the issue.

Some Aboriginal people might 'support' a new layer of regulation. Good on them. They have that right to think and organise about their Land. Some Aboriginal people support mining. Good on them. They have the right to think and organise.

If Gina Castellain can support both environmental outcomes and some mining then so should other young leaders coming later to the negotiation. Some families may not be ready for that for generations btu when they are ready that possibility should be there, underpinning their responsibilities as Indigenous owners of the Land.

The Land is not ours to regulate.

It does not make sense for white lobbyists to 'use' those people against people who have a particular perspective as the TWS site does and as Denis does in his article. It is divisive. I disagree with Denis' assertion that it is not.

Furthermore most people support the environmental maintenance of their Land along with the economic aspirations of their people. As one man said to me - "of course we do, we have been the best environmentalists - look at how our land is pristine - we want to be able to hunt and fish and use the Land in the ways we always have as well as do new projects"

The Qld govt historically has NO track record in supporting either the environment or Indigenous people [remember stolen wages. education, - remember the coal industry, ferals/weeds, deforestation...]

Indigenous people have a track record. They have the authority. They have the right.

The wilderness society and their supporters in the north would be better to focus on some of the hard issues further south. Instead of creating messes in their relationships with Indigenous people. Instead of using the idea of 'wilderness' to further dispossess.

Welcome to the Club, Bryan! said...

Bryan, congratulations for joining for the long list of right-wing luminaries fully supportive of Pearson and opposed to Wild Rivers. Your name will be added to this distinguished list:

- Property Rights Australia
- Centre for Independent Studies
- Institute of Public Affairs
- Agmates
- AgForce
- Life Source
- ex PM John Howard
- Senator Bill Heffernan
- Senator Barnaby Joyce
- Senator Ian MacDonald
- Warren Entsch
- (Most of the LNP party for that matter)
- Chris Mitchell (editor of The Aus)
- Jennifer Marohasy
- "Australian Environment Foundation"
- Balkanu Development Corporation
- Cape York Institute
- Cairns Chamber of Commerce
- Advance Cairns

As per other luminaries, your award of a golden statue of a burly man standing on a fallen tree, while laughing and pointing at lefty scumbags will be sent in the mail.

Whose Rights? Whose Authority? said...

Wow more defamation regarding Mr Pearson.
What is your evidence for this assertion?

Tell us about the institutions you've built and sustained and the social change you've enacted.
What is your structural and historical analysis?

What is your thinking about "Trustees on Trial" and the use of Indigenous Public Resources for a century and a half in Queenland...

Get real.

Denis Walls said...

Thanks 'Whose Rights, Whose Authority'. Is that Michael?

Anyway, I appreciate your comments even if we disagree on some things. I have named a few people who favour WR to draw attention to the view being perpetuated in many quarters that Indigenous views on WR are unanimously against.

It is not intended to be disrespectful or divisive but to express Indigenous diversity.

Cheers, Denis

Rights as citizen of the Earth said...

Yes, well I would probably reject the legislation too "Whose Rights? Whose Authority", if I'd been blatantly lied to by the "Give Us a Go" campaign and Pearson.

If you are told Wild Rivers will stop traditional hunting and fishing and is like a national park - which Pearson and co have been caught out doing - then of course people will be worried.

If you are told Wild Rivers will stop big dams etc and protect your river from rampant development, as it does, then maybe your view would be different.

The point is people have been fed so much bullshit and lies, and the "groundswell" of opposition is so confected by this means, that Pearson and his campaign is completely discredited.

And some Indigenous people do support rampant development at all cost - which we all have the right to disagree with and suggest alternative futures, including other indigenous peopl.

The planet belongs to us all, not just the residents of Cape York.

Denis Walls said...

Not MM, our illustrious Blogmeister, but another Michael.

John T. said...

I would like to correct something Brian said about the Greens over-riding the indigenous issues working group

. He said "– and that Drew Hutton, Libby Connors, and the state executive overturned that recommendation with their usual democratic zeal"

I was convenor of that working group. Drew and Libby were part of it too and, at the time, supported a call to return to the drawing board on wild rivers. It was their opponents including the so-called grass roots greens who opposed the indigenous issues working group (including its indigenous spokesperson) and ran with the Wilderness Society.

Since then there has been the Ronan Lee factor in the Greens too.

Before Lee defected to the Greens he was the one who, as part of the ALP cabinet, championed Wild Rivers Laws on behalf of the Wilderness Society.

When his campaign became the highest priority for the Greens in the election, so did his agenda including Wild Rivers.

The tragedy of the Greens in the last few years is not just their racist stand on Wild Rivers. Around about 2005 they had a branch on Palm Island which ran in the council election and the first ever Green politician was elected in Queensland when the Greens won the mayoralty.

However the Palm Island branch was pretty much ignored. Aboriginal politics, it seems, is just something that the Greens are not capable of engaging with. They lost a magnificent opportunity by neglecting the Palm Island branch and their present role in the Wild Rivers debate is also an indication of their complete inability to engage with Aboriginal politics..

Like the Wilderness Society, the Greens embrace a colonial notion of what the natural environment actually is.

Steven Nowakowski said...

To John T.

Thank You for enlightening me about the Greens. Its good to see grassroots greens do have a say.!

With regards to the ex-Palm Island Mayor, she has never run as a Greens candidate.

Palm Island Aboriginal Shire Council

Everything you have said is complete gobwash.

So I'll summarise what you have said:-
i) grassroots greens want 'Wild Rivers' - I'd say that's right.

ii) Palm Island Mayor was ignored even though was never a Greens candidate (I can't comment if she was even a member). I suppose Mike Berwick was ignored as well and all other left leaning mayors or councillors in Australia.

How do you fix this:- Give more voice to grass-roots greens and support every left leaning candidate in every tier of government. Come on Mr John T. give me a break..

Whose Rights? Whose Authority? said...

Someone up there said "The planet belongs to us all, not just the residents of Cape York."

The planet belongs to all of us but Cape York belongs to the Indigenous people of Cape York. Or are we still in a process of colonisation?

And is that process of colonisation now being supported by the Green movement.

I think we can do better.

No one has pushed the "all Aboriginal people are in agreement" line. Murrandoo Yanner was clear early on that it made sense for HIS country as did David Claudie. No one disputes that there a pockets of assent. But there is no universal consent.

People are not fed anything, Mr Walls: that is is a disrespectful assertion. People think through the issues just like they do on your side of the fence. They already have EXPERIENCES of colonisation and excessive regulation to draw upon in understanding the issues - experiences and therefore knowledges that you don't have.

You can't tell me the environment movement has never undertaken to a little extrapolating and hyperbole to win a point. Maybe to Indigenous people who did already assent to 50% of their land as National Parks, maybe this does seem like a land grab.

People's concerns as they been described to me relate to the extra layer of bureaucracy that Indigenous people are pretty sure they and their families won't be able to handle in the near future - and will become a further BARRIER to their economic aspirations. Also they are concerned that if this layer can be imposed in 2009, 10 years following overcoming the Wik 10 point plan, then perhaps, in the the next 10 years their 'allies' the Greens will support ANOTHER layer of regulation without their consent.

Afterall there are already 15 layers of Land regulations. Why should Indigenous people or their sceptical supporters believe that the Government is acting in good faith and this is the last layer. I don't.

This looks to me like a wedge that may be part of the longer term "World Heritage" goal that TWS also quietly sits on. Will that be passed without consent or consensus too?

I am also concerned about the information that the Greens ignored their own Indigenous policy group to move forward with support on Wild Rivers in 2005.

Why weren't these issues openly discussed at the last election as part of an open discussion? That is still a question unanswered.

When asked about World Heritage and Wild Rivers at an open meeting last year, Christine Milne asserted that these things would not go ahead without broad Indigenous consent. There is no broad consent for several of the river catchments: there is Mr Claudie and the Uniting Church committee. [Good on them: they have that right to assent though I'm not sure that there comments actually indicated assent to extra regulations]

If as you say it is all a great big misunderstanding with a fluffy outcome, why are non-Indigenous leaders not speaking about it in frank and open ways?

I still think it smells of those things that mainstream politics does best: back door deals, quiet exclusions, power trades, misinformation [from TWS], lies, slimy moves.

Where are the empowerment processes? I can see them at the upper Wenlock effecting a handful of people [David Claudie and family] and I can see them on the other side?

I don't trust the Labor party. They have no history on the environment; they have no history supporting Indigenous Australians.

Whose Rights? Whose Authority? said...

ON ALLYING WITH THE SO-CALLED CONSERVATIVES

And as for the list of conservative forces that Mr Pearson is supposedly subject to or in charge of or in bed with: I went to a lecture of his about 8 years ago where he openly stated that he was going after a broad consensus politics because being stuck with the so-called 'left' was not safe enough for his people. They had nothing to show for the support of the left. The left ON ITS OWN couldn't figure out how to be thoughtful or helpful to indigenous interests. CULTURAL change was needed and that wasn't going to come from the 'left' alone.

This was a clear, articulated, political move. DERRRR' Of course he allied himself with the conservative forces. In a decade dominated by conservative forces what do you reckon - he should have relied on Anna Bligh and her ilk - or perhaps bomber Beazley would have safety represented Aboriginal interests?

It's called building a movement. You can't do it with one side alone. He built across the middle ground and gained support for a lot of projects. [it might not be perfect but it is something - its a go]

I ask a general question to the knockers: What did you do in that time to build a movement for Indigenous people in that period?? That supported real change on the ground and amongst whites? I can tell you Indigenous education hasn't been too hot in the last decade if that is your claim to fame. [still no ESL teachers in the Cape] QH Indigenous housing is terrible; Child Safety is hopeless; and on and on ... These are domains of the qld Governments efforts.

There may have been gains here and there: [the Indigenous ranger movement went off in Kowanyama and up north too probably; David Claudie was supported on his patch on the Wenlock;]

But it has been the broad middle ground politics that has tried big new things and had some major changes.

It may not be perfect but they are strategies, many initiated by Indigenous people that can be evaluated and adapted by Indigenous people.

A broad-side politics is a STRATEGY. It is NOT an 'identity'.

Not everybody has a left/right identity. Actually, it looks to me, that only people raised in the cold war have a left/right identity as far as I can tell. Mr Pearson, I think you will find, actually has an Indigenous identitiy that is probably related to the elders and intellectuals that shaped him and he most likely prefers to define it for himself.

Whose Rights? Whose Authority? said...

Stephen,
Best not to summarise or reinterpret other people's stuff - You spread confusion which is not helpful - to the Greens, or to the discussion.

KitchenSlut said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Grateful Mac said...

Meantime,in the real world, the blackfellas sat around in bemused silence while the whitefella political factions bashed each other around the ears with their various political dogmas...

Wild said...

"Whose Rights" (Mike Winer), as has been noted above, people HAVE been fed something, and that's a whole lot of lies about Wild Rivers, there is no disputing this, wilderness society had published the flyers in crikey.

To claim this is "disrespectful" is rubbish - it is disrespectful of those deliberately peddling lies.

As for the issue of "consent", your reasoning is troubled. What happens if one group at the mouth of a river "assents" as you say, and others at the top of the catchment "dissent" and opt for massive river development, thereby trashing the whole river system. What happens then? Do we just "protect" one part of the river, while those in the other part of the catchment carry on merrily to trash the river for everyone else?

Of course Indigenous people should have special negotiating rights, but to pretend the issue of consent is easy as "they say yes, they say no, so just protect this bit where they say yes", completely defies ecology and the reality of damage we've already done to so many river systems.

It is a complex debate, but it certainly isn't helped but blatant lies and distortions from the Pearson camp. It also isn't helped by Pearson apologists, who fail to see the reality of the regional power base and the great illegitimacy of power that has been established.

John T said...

Steven N.

The link you provided was for Delena Foster.

The previous mayor (to Foster) was Erykah Kyle. She was indeed a member of the Greens and represented Qld, in at least one national conference.

The Greens had a branch on Palm Is. that was set up according to the Greens constitution and endorsed by the state and national organisations. They preselected Erykah who ran on a sustainability ticket and won.

The fact that you seem unaware of this clearly indicates my point that the Greens ignored the whole process.

The policy frameworks that came out of Palm Island were also ignored by the Greens. In 2006 Drew Hutton commissioned the following report which was also totally ignored by the Greens in the state election despite issues of housing on Palm Island and the killing of Mulrunji were high on the national and international media.
Palm Island housing report

Denis Walls said...

To ‘Whose Rights’: I have looked at what I wrote and can’t see anything about people being fed stuff but notice that another poster used that phrase. It’s actually quite disrespectful to have things attributed to you that you didn’t say.

“I can tell you Indigenous education hasn't been too hot in the last decade if that is your claim to fame”. If you are indeed Michael then you will know that I have been coordinator of RATEP (Remote Area Teacher Education Program) since 2000. (I am on leave at the moment which is why I am contributing to this blog). I don’t know if that sentence is a swipe at me or not but RATEP is widely recognised as the most successful Indigenous education program in Queensland with 120 B.Ed. graduates including many from the Cape and Islands. It is a bottom up, community driven partnership program which has won numerous awards for its contribution to Indigenous communities throughout Qld. You may know how hard I have tried to engage with Cape York Institute over bridging courses for Aurukun teacher aides who can’t reach the Cert III standard necessary for enrolment into the RATEP program. Marcia Langton, Noel Pearson and Tania Major all acknowledge what has been achieved through RATEP (which is mostly supported by the Qld govt) and Noel and Tania were the guest speakers at two of the last graduations.

To John T re-Indig policy group on Wild Rivers: Because Steven may or may not have been aware of something does not prove that the Greens ignored the whole process. That is strange logic. I would certainly like to find our more about the detail of what happened in 2005 before running to judgment.

Re- Palm Island, John, you are a very harsh critic. I know how hard Drew Hutton worked to keep the Greens alive on Palm with constant support. I, myself, have been there many times and know how difficult an environment it is. (There was a RATEP program there for many years and it was only closed in 2007, and transferred to another needy, remote area site, after producing several excellent primary teaching graduates who are currently working on the island).

The truth is that Erykah Kyle did a great job in the time she was mayor as a Green but when she left the position, suffering from fatigue and poor health, the branch lost impetus which was very hard to resurrect. For you to say that the Qld Greens ignored the Palm Island branch is very unfair and repudiates the drive (or lack thereof) of the local branch to also be responsible for its own destiny.

John T. said...

Denis,

I think the fact that active Greens members are not aware of the only ever elected Green member in Queensland is indeed an indication that the Greens ignored the whole process. (which had nothing to do with wild rivers). It is not a "strange logic" at all.

You are correct that Drew worked very hard for Palm Island. What is missing from your account of the process is the intense and often grubby campaign against Drew and the indigenous agenda by, in particular, the "grass roots greens". He got anything but "constant support" from the party.

I certainly encourage you to look into the events of 2005 and the state-wide gossip circle that was mobilised against Drew and the indigenous agenda.

This is why I corrected what Bryan said about Drew and Libby. He was criticising the wrong faction when it comes to racism in the party.

I am glad you have visited Palm Is. and I know some of the Townsville Greens have also. Bob Brown made several important visits to the Island too.

However white politicians visiting the ISland is nothing new and there is nothing inherent in these visits that supports Palm Island agendas. It is just tokenism.

But what I said above is that the Greens have been incapable of engaging with Aboriginal politics and, despite occaisional visits to Palm Island (or any other community) from Greens members, I see nothing of substance to challenge my harsh criticism.

When the Greens somehow, one way or another, manage to promote Aboriginal agendas as determined by Aboriginal people, then I will praise the Greens. Until then, I will continue to try to shine a light on the racism of Greens policy including their present support for the Wilderness Society and ALP's push to diss-empower the traditional owners of Cape York.

The whole reconcilliation movement articulated an ethic of negotiating with Aboriginal people as equals. Environmental policy is not exempt from this principle.

Instead of the Greens backing the Wilderness Society in their war with Cape York traditional owners, they could have/should have played a mediation role to re-unify the Aboriginal and ecological agendas. Instead they opted for colonial state power as a way of enforcing ecological agendas onto traditional owners.

Perhaps it is not too late for a real reconcilliation but it will never come when the Green movement insists that it and the government knows better than the traditional owners when it comes to managing country.

Whose Rights? Whose Authority? said...

Mr Walls is correct. I have attributed a comment to him that was in fact said by someone else and then by ?Jon Metcalf? again regarding being "fed ... bullshit and lies".

I apologise.

But I repeat "People think through the issues just like they do on your side of the fence. They already have EXPERIENCES of colonisation and excessive regulation to draw upon in understanding the issues - experiences and, therefore, knowledges that you don't have."

As Greens you get to support them in a process that they are in charge of - not a process that YOU [or the Labor party, or TWS, or the Ronin Lees of the world] are in charge of. Bryan already made that point.

In answer to "what do we do if Indigenous people disagree" - we support them in finding a process in their own way and time. This legislation does not do that - clearly - or there would be no such conflict. And we must assume that if they come to decide one thing over another - that is their business. Not yours.

Steven Nowakowski said...

Hi John T.

My apologies. I do now recall being told that the Mayor of Palm Island was a Green in 2005.

It is unfortunate what happened. The Greens are a growing political party and it is only natural to have diverse interests, with no common ground. Just ask Malcolm Turnball right now.

The Greens must learn and move forward, however I find that many of the good people get burnt out and this must be addressed. For example what is Erykah Kyle doing now.? For a person with so much experience she needs to be contained within the Greens as her knowledge is needed to go forward.

Wild said...

Whose Rights? Whose Authority? said: "And we must assume that if they come to decide one thing over another - that is their business".

What if the group at the top of the catchment are backed to the hilt by big business, persuading them to pursue development that trashes the river?

By having no protection in place this group will always win out, and the group who wants to protect the river downstream and build businesses around a healthy river will lose. So does the Australian and global public for that matter, who may care deeply about the river even though they may not have formal stewardship of the area.

Do we then just accept that it is "the business" of the river developers and allow the river to be trashed, even though we are fully aware of the consequences (ie be complicit)?

Do we allow one group to then continue in a position of unbalanced power where they benefit from environmental destruction while others suffer as continues to happen everywhere?

Should we not therefore all have a say about the future of the river, at the same time as recognising indigenous rights (which is different to what you support)?

Your position by default supports river destruction as it will always win without proper protection in place - this is the problem with your logic and failure to accept the real complexities of the debate and the ecology of river systems.

Denis Walls said...

‘Whose Rights’ uses ‘colonisation’ and John T uses ‘colonial’ and ‘racism’ about some WR supporters. Ouch!

In a good post from ‘Wild’ he/she outlines the way that Indigenous futures, without WR legislation, could be determined by a massive influx of capital (e.g. through mining) into one part of a river system to the supposed benefit of a few TOs but in fact with significant impacts to others elsewhere in the river system as well as to the landscape.

Lenin stated that when capital ran out of easy places to put down its greedy roots, it went hunting in the colonies, hence his famous saying that imperialism (colonialism + surplus cash) was the highest stage to capitalism. During the ‘Scramble for Africa’ in the late 19th century, the colonial powers cut deals with tribal leaders to extract the maximum amount of natural resources for the benefit of the west. This is what still happens today in PNG and Amazonia with minimal economic return to Indigenous people and a destroyed environment.

‘Whose Rights’ and John T appear happy to have parts of Cape York colonised by multinational corporations with, for the most part, the export of the wealth created. You’ve got it the wrong way round guys. Wild Rivers protection against the potential industrialisation of the Cape is actually an anti-colonial, anti-imperialist measure which, with the active support of the many Indigenous WR supporters, has enormous potential to provide economic opportunities in tourism, small scale industries and environmental maintenance.

Btw ‘Whose Rights’, you got sloppy again and named Jon Metcalfe when Jon has not made any postings. This goes for Bryan too. Jon has been far too busy tidying up the mess after the CAFNEC bike ride, as well as working full time, to find the time to scratch himself let alone contribute to this blog. So I guess ‘Whose Rights’ and Bryan now need to apologise to Jon for believing that anything well written and critical of you guys must be his. Tsk, tsk.

John T. said...

Denis,

For all the Greens rhetoric about consensus they seem to take a pretty adversarial line on Aboriginal affairs.

You said..."‘Whose Rights’ and John T appear happy to have parts of Cape York colonised by multinational corporations with, for the most part, the export of the wealth created."

It is this sort of misrepresentation and caricature that really disgraces the Greens and TWS in dealing with indigenous issues.

These are complicated issues that include issues of extreme poverty. The prescriptions for green jobs in the tourism and ranger industries just do not offer any solution to bring whole communities out of poverty. Such jobs will obviously help but of themselves do not offer any hope for Aboriginal people.

The Greens and TWS are trying to demonise the poorest people in Queensland by saying they are puppets of multinationals for wanting to step out of poverty by using their own land.

The positive and sensible thing for the Greens to do would be to open negotiations with the traditional owners and join them in their struggle with the state government for land rights, self determination and an independent economic base rather than joining in the Wilderness society and ALP's campaign of wedge politics in Aboriginal affairs.

This is a disgraceful time for all of us who hoped that environmentalists and Aboriginal people could work together to look after this country. The Wilderness society have polluted a growing history of such co-operation and turned greenies and Aborigines into enemies.

Shame on TWS and shame on the Greens for following them.

And.......the up-river/downriver argument is a disgraceful racist red herring too.

Aboriginal communities can work out for themselves disputes about land management, (including distribution of equity in enterprises), if given the opportunity to do so, they are all strongly connected to each other. They do not need white environmental legislation to protect them in such negotiations or disputes.

Denis Walls said...

John, I really don't like the way you bandy the word 'racist' about like confetti. It is deeply offensive to those who just happen to hold a different view to you. It is highly adversarial and antagonistic language.

I really wonder just how much you know about how hard TWS and some Greens have worked to build Indigenous partnerships.

This public ping-pong has perhaps run its course but in the interests of bridge building and to learn more about your take on things, I would be happy to enter into a polite email dialogue with you if you choose. My email address is at the foot of my article.

Denis

Cape York said...

Who is supporting "GIVE US A GO" and Noel Pearson Campaign?

A broad range of Australians, from those who are directly affected by Wild Rivers and various other legislation that take away property rights in the name of the "ENVIRONMENT. Members of the judiciary, academics, landholders, business people and working people. The same broad range of people that have supported us in the past, only this time supporters see the gains made over the last 40 years being traded away for the maintenance of political power. This time around support is coming from a lot o other Australians who were directly involved in the previous land rights battles. These people were fearful that their property rights were under threat, but came to terms with the concept of Aboriginal Land Rights, did deals with Aboriginal people about land and STUCK with them. They are now incensed that after all that grief and subsequent goodwill, governments now turn around and take away these rights, leaving Aboriginal people stuck in the WELFARE TRAP. It is often said "Aborigines are land rich, but dirt poor" With these takings, Aborigines are not even land rich anymore, but remain dirt poor.

MaryO said...

I have read this and all the related debates with great interest - and thanks to all the contributors - it is wonderful to have such vibrant local input. Helps those of us who don't live in FNQ to understand what is happening on the ground.

Yet, from the comments posted to date, it seems to me that the "green" side really don't quite get the vital importance of the notion of free, prior informed consent (FPIC). And how, ultimately, decision-making, including environmental protection and/or development in the CY region must be driven by the resident Aboriginal peoples themselves.

Further, the "green" side don’t fully comprehend the full “indigenous context,” or those historical and continuing factors that act to effectively impede indigenous participation in decision making in Australia.

For instance, take a look at the following FREE material, easily searchable on google:
1. Power, Culture, Economy: Indigenous Australians and Mining.
2. M, Dodson and D, E, Smith., Governance for Sustainable Development: Strategic Issues and Principles for Indigenous Australian Communities, (2003).
3. Or the various reports by the international Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people, or the Social Justice and Native Title reports by our own Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commissioner.

And note that "development" is not necessarily mutually exclusive to the notion of ecologically sustainable development. For example, visit the Californian EcoTrust site. And read: A Cultural and Conservation Economy for Northern Australia (2008). In fact, cultural input demonstrably achieves greater environmental objectives than the sole use of western scientific tools.

(Incidentally, the "EcoTrust" model is in fact analogous to the "nation - building" approach as facilitated by those organisations interested in promoting a "human rights approach" to indigenous development issues. Central to both these models is the notion of FPIC in a cultural, or indigenous context. See, for example, the Harvard Project site.

Until the importance of FPIC is fully understood - and implemented - this issue may continue to stink, and poison the prospects of a united effort (indigenous and conservationists) for years. And issues such as these are on the rise in Australia - given the increasing indigenous estate with largely intact ecological values...

Then p’raps you guys could show the rest of the world how to get it right in gorgeous Cape York!

MaryO said...

Apologies - just realised should have explained the assertion made - in my post above - as to why “ultimately, decision-making, including environmental protection and/or development in the Cape York (CY) region must be driven by the resident Aboriginal peoples themselves.”

Essentially, the rationale is two-pronged - that is, the LEGAL and the PRAGMATIC (comprising of the political (economic), scientific and social - and underpinned by substantial empirical evidence).

1. Legal:

The international human rights legal framework is increasingly supporting greater participation rights - not necessarily just those indigenous peoples (IPs), but of all people. For example, as implemented in the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (DRIP).

As we all know, international laws are not directly enforceable in Australia, unless incorporated in Australia’s domestic laws. Yet indisputably, enhanced participation rights, such as the right to free, prior informed consent (FPIC) are being strengthened and will become increasingly incorporated into Australian legislation - as it is indeed already in some.

So do we all want to be engaged in a merry-go round of legal battles over the Wild Rivers Act (WRA) when we could all focus on mutual benefits. That is, achieving enduring (including ecologically sustainable) indigenous socioeconomic development (ISD) whilst maintaining the ecological integrity of the CY region.

So why not just implement FPIC anyway via agreement making - as consistent with the government’s commitment to DRIP. Note also, that the processes of agreement making enables the incorporation of a host of ethical considerations that the mere imposition of legal rules does not.

2. Pragmatic:

This prong is, arguably, the core issue - and highlights the benefits of a joint environmental and IP position. Just say if, for instance, ecological integrity was the ultimate objective, then upholding the FPIC of resident IPs is arguably the most feasible and effective means of achieving the same for the following reasons:

a. The core opposition to WRA is ostensibly on economic grounds. So why not defuse the political pressure arising from socioeconomic aspirations coming from those IPs in CY who do aspire to economic development - as they have every right to do so. Note that research strongly indicates that enduring (including ecologically sustainable) ISD is only achievable through - very simply - the implementation of FPIC.

I personally believe much of the opposition to the WRA in the local communities is based more on the fact of insufficient consultation (i.e. not being properly operationalised by the FPIC principle), rather than on the basis of the actual effects of the WRA on ISD. In other words, there exists far greater scope for mutual cooperation and benefits (indigenous and conservation) than is be immediately apparent from all the HOT AIR - and for the combining of political power against the government/industry.

b. The core support for the WRA is ostensibly on environmental grounds. Yet, research reveals ecological integrity is best achieved via a human rights approach to development. Which, in this context, means enabling IPs to drive their own development and manage their own lands, with support/expertise from all interested stakeholders - and once again, best operationalised by FPIC.

These are all most compelling considerations given the general trend towards the strengthening of of IP legal rights at the international level - not to mention the fact of increasing sources (domestic and international) of philanthropic funds for joint ecological/indigenous initiatives...

So from this very short summary, it becomes readily apparent that FPIC is key. Not only as an objective in itself on legal (and ethical grounds) - but as the ONLY means to achieve the pragmatic objectives of ecological protection in conjunction with ISD.

NB. There are copious references to support all the above assertions at the NAILSM, TRaCK, ECoTrust, AITSIS, CAEPR etc... websites.

Bryan Law said...

Hey Mary O, well written.

Please understand that "the Green side" does not represent all Greens. They have already excluded from their process any "green" that doesn't support a top-down authoritarian practice where the state compells the citizen to do "the right thing". The right thing is often no more than an uninformed opinion.

I agree that free, prior informed consent is a linch-pin of effective conservation practices. It takes time and energy up front, but is appropriate, adaptive and laughing.

Wild Rivers Act, at best, will last until the next state election, or until Tony Abbott's bill is passed in the Senate.

At that time the authoritarian greens + their allies in the ALP will pretend it's all a horrible right wing plot to strangle babies before eating them.

One day I hope they take an honest look in the mirror, and see where their problems are really coming from.

Mary O said...

Hi Bryan,

Yes, should have said "with some notable exceptions", including yourself. But, I was also trying to avoid getting bogged down in personalities etc... and offer a broader perspective from a distance.

For me, this blog has been so instrumental in understanding what the "green" issues are - or the various threads of dissent.

And in order to solve a problem, it's necessary to understand the source, or the cause. And I do think the conflict between the "green side" and the indigenous peoples (IPs) is critical - especially as Noel Pearson pointed out very recently in his presentation to the Senate last Tuesday, a political solution (agreement/consensus) rather than a legal one is far preferable. Provides greater certainty for all the parties involved, is cheaper and less divisive.

And as you would appreciate, the IPs in CY require long term planning certainty and stability in order to carry out to overcome the myriad, complex and considerable hurdles to indigenous socioeconomic development - as opposed to the piece meal solutions been previously imposed in CY in an entirely uncoordinated manner to date.

And note how the other Senate Inquiry presenters - the highly experienced lawyers, George Williams and Greg McIntyre set out all the various legal avenues the IPs could fruitfully pursue - and some key areas in need of law reform. But it also clear from their presentations, that in many areas the law is exceedingly vague. This is because these issues are fairly new to law - e.g. such as the relationship between native title rights and interests and economic development (see the latest Native Title report by the Commissioner, 2009). No one really knows the answer yet to these kinds of questions.

Hence, why Noel’s arguments are more directed to future development potential, and the fact that the current socioeconomic state of CY IPs means that to date, they have not yet had a chance to fully self determine amongst themselves what their preferred development options are.

Note for the record that Australia wide surveys of indigenous aspiration carried out to date invariably reveal that on the whole, IPs rank access to intact traditional lands above everything else - including economic development. Note the paper: R, Hill et al., A Cultural and Conservation Economy for Northern Australia (2008) offers some insightful comments on this issue in relation to CY.

However, extreme poverty will always naturally skew preferences towards more immediate, and conventional development options in the face of alternatives (e.g mining is often the only employment/income option in some remote areas - though I believe this doesn’t necessarily have to be the case - with a bit of creative thinking... - and this is where the environment movement comes in).

In other words, I wouldn't be too afraid of the CY IPs long term objectives. And Noel Pearson is really just one person - and other voices will be more readily heard upon full implementation of FPIC in CY. Though, personally I think he makes an invaluable contribution to the debate as he challenges discriminatory notions of what Aboriginal person should want.

BTW, I prefer not to use the term “racist” - it’s unnecessarily inflammatory and offensive, and only serves to distract attention away from the core issues. Instead, we could all remain open-minded - and respectful - while becoming better informed about indigenous perspectives per se. We are, by far, the most dominant culture on this land after all.