Wednesday 28 October 2009

How wild is my river?

Bryan Law says there's movement on the Wild Rivers issue.
Mostly it comes from the Cape York Land Council which is building strong alliances well beyond the usual suspects, and last week brought on-side Peter Holmes-a Court to ramp up business and community support.
In conjunction with News Ltd’s The Australian, Noel Pearson created significant national attention for the issue, and continues to build broad opposition to it.

Of particular note in that article is the express support of former Queensland Labor Premier Peter Beattie for one particular bio-fuel development that the proponents claim will be adversely affected by the Wild Rivers legislation. Mr Holmes a Court claims the legislation is “horrifically unjust and immoral”.

Early this week prominent native title barrister Greg McIntyre SC gave an interview to the ABC’s National Interest in which he provided a lay explanation of CYLC’s forthcoming legal challenge to the Wild Rivers legislation.

For me, the kernel of the interview is when Mr McIntyre says “the way it ought to operate is that before the responsible Minister makes a declaration under the Wild Rivers Act, he must give notice of that under the Native Title Act. It's [the declaration] an Act which will take away the Native Title right to speak for country and make decisions about how that country should be used. Once he's given that notice, then that activates a six month negotiation in good faith period, under the right to negotiate, which applies to Native title holders and in particular the Wik peoples. That is designed to see if the Wik peoples in this case would consent to the Act taking place, following their negotiations, perhaps on conditions which make it more appropriate to integrate with their Native title rights.

Now if that's not agreed, then there's an arbitral process under the Native Title Act. Now none of that has happened in the way in which the Queensland government has done this, so in my view, they've been acting inconsistently with the Native Title Act.” Emphasis added.

Natural Resources Minister Stephen Robertson re-affirmed on Friday’s National Interest the Queensland government’s advice that Wild Rivers declarations will not affect native title rights, although it seems clear the Minister believes native title rights are restricted to hunting, fishing, camping and collecting bush tucker. His response to the intended legal challenge is to in effect say “bring it on”.

He also responded to allegations that the consultation process leading to recent declarations was flawed by saying “Some indigenous people are unhappy, not all” and “We paid Balkunu money, how can they be unhappy now”? How and why he believes that “some” indigenous leaders deserve to be shafted is unclear.

Meanwhile the Australian Attorney General, Robert McClelland, has called for negotiation in good faith about the Wild Rivers legislation, aimed at making a voluntary and consensual agreement between the parties.

Nationally the campaign by the Cape York Land Council appears to be having a significant impact and, among other things, may lead to another landmark legal case about just what “native title” consists of and how it must be respected. Anyone familiar with the history of the Cape York Land Council and native title will understand the importance of that landmark.

In Queensland the Labor government appears ready to die in a ditch rather than compromise (or disappoint the Wilderness Society), and that seems to be of a piece with the way it is selling off public assets, pissing on the trade union movement, and generally acting like a bunch of arse-holes (Alert! Danger, Will Robinson! Personal opinion detected in otherwise flawless article).

Locally there is movement in community groups and political parties as they consider how this issue is going to play out in the 2012 Queensland election, and also in the 2011 Commonwealth election.

Tania Major has recently announced she won’t be running in Leichhardt, while Liberal stalwart Warren Entsch has nominated Wild Rivers as an issue he wants to stir up in that very seat. Bob Katter Jr and the “Fishing and Australian Lifestyle Party” have brought Wild Rivers into the debate along with the Coral Sea Marine Park as a challenge to Labor and the Greens, and they are seeking to win a Senate seat in Queensland (the same one the Greens would like).

Some members at least of CAFNEC and The Wilderness Society in Cairns are dismayed by the conflict being waged, and looking for ways to bring it back under control. This is likely to lead to calls to slow the process down and attempt to win much broader consent from Aboriginal people for the Wild Rivers regime, or some version of the Wild Rivers regime.

Many “greenies” that I talk to are upset by the way in which CYLC is waging its propaganda cause, and producing materials they say are exaggerated to the point of lies. Some of them admit they do it to. I’m attaching an image of a sign, said to be erected at Lockhart River, which raises the spectre of the “slippery slope” where Wild Rivers today leads to more extreme outcomes next decade. I notice this is the same formulation used by the Fishing Party mob in Cairns last week.

That ol’ slippery slope argument has been around a long time, and I often have it used against me. The way to counter it is by producing a clear and compelling truth that people respond to and support – not by shooting the messenger (or by calling them variously a developer/greenie/ratbag/sexual deviant).

A win in Court by CYLC will stop wild Rivers dead in its tracks and require major changes that may or may not have a Labor government available to make in Queensland.

Most people reading this blog will know my views on the need to respect Aboriginal sovereignty and native title. I do not understand how the Green/Black alliance made 15 years ago with such promise has fallen into the present bitterness and negativity. During that time I’ve witnessed Noel Pearson become one of Australia’s leading public intellectuals, and the Queensland Greens descend into an excluding, carping minority cabal that has failed to win a Senate seat.

I hope this Wild Rivers conflict gets sorted out in the next twelve months, or I’m afraid the 2011 and 2012 elections are going to be a very sad time for the Labor and Green Parties in Queensland. The only consolation is that the fate they enjoy will be one of their own choosing.


Unknown said...

Lying Bore is at it again. full of it, as usual.

the wild rivers act explicitly rules out any impact on native title.

what a strange bedfellow he makes with noel pearson.

He's a John Howard LNP urger and nothing more, doing the bidding of his big business puppetmasters.

Have a look at how many LNP staffers have worked for cape york institute.

Ask how many big businesses contribute to it.

Ask where it gets other donations from.

all noel pearson is campaigning for is his own self-interest.

he represents Cape York indigenous people about as much as Lying Bore does.

And this post is just more publicity-seeking by Lying Bore.

He's been very busy lately since he was found by our judicial system yet again to be nothing more than an old windbag.

Ringing his pals at the Cairns Post and giving them the inside running on his latest ridiculous protest.

Did he supply the picture to illustrate the story? I wonder.

Trotting out more outright lies and half-truths and inuendoes on this blog.

what a man! what a champion of the people!

What a tired, self-interested, self-promoting publicity hound!

The Lillian Frank of the Far North.

Noj Nedlaw said...

I don't know what all the fuss is about. Steve Wettenhall knows the right questions to ask. He did so this morning (29/10/09) in question time:

Wild Rivers Ranger Program

Mr WETTENHALL: My question is to the Minister for Natural Resources, Mines and Energy and Minister for Trade. Would the minister please outline the progress of the government’s wild rivers ranger program?

I thank the member for Barron River for his question and acknowledge his abiding interest in initiatives to create employment in Far North Queensland, including Cape York. The wild rivers ranger program currently employs 20 Indigenous rangers across the Gulf of Carpentaria and Cape York to look after Queensland’s declared wild rivers. These rivers are of outstanding national and international significance in terms of their natural and cultural features. The job of the wild rivers rangers is to keep them that way by preventing wild fires, invasive weeds and feral animals, land disturbance, rubbish and water pollution. This very successful wild rivers ranger program will be expanded this financial year with additional funding of $5 million over four years to employ an additional 10 rangers. Rangers deliver on this government’s election commitment to protect some of Queensland’s most magnificent natural assets. That is exactly what these wild rivers rangers are doing.

In the 2008-09 financial year the rangers program offered dozens of activities including treating over 3,000 hectares of weed infested country, eradicating in excess of 2,700 wild pigs, undertaking fire control management on 20,000 hectares using a combination of contemporary and traditional burning practices, erecting five kilometres of fencing of wetlands to keep out cattle and pigs, undertaking surveys of 10 river systems and gathering information on crocodiles and the monitoring of significant water bird nesting sites, and removing in excess of 190 ghost nets. As well as addressing issues in the wild river catchments, the program supports the generation of sustainable employment through an intensive mentoring model. This provides these rangers with nationally accredited training, improved confidence, leadership skills, extended networks and project management experience.

There are some who claim that these are not real jobs. I reject that. These are the kinds of jobs that sit alongside very well our aspirations for Cape York. These are real jobs. These are real skills that are being provided. There are some who allege that there is no long-term commitment. This program is funded in terms of all of the outyears that any government provides in terms of long-term funding. It is about time some of the knockers actually got on board and supported programs such as this. That is why later today I will be meeting with seven of those rangers and coordinators who are visiting Brisbane to participate in the annual Premier’s public service awards. I wish them success in these awards and look forward to hearing more about their endeavours. Wild rivers rangers undertake an important role in protecting the environmental values of Cape York. Most importantly, the program is providing real jobs and real skills for young Indigenous people on the cape.

We can all rest easier now.