Friday 20 August 2010

Cape York mayor slams local Labor MPs over Wild Rivers plan

There's been a lot of talk about the protection for the remote Cape York waterways, known as "wild rivers". Recently I ventured the 1,000 kilometers to the very top of Queensland, and asked the locals what they thought.

Cape York's indigenous leader, Joseph Elu, mayor of the North Peninsula Area Regional Council, has told CairnsBlog that his people have been ignored and steam-rolled over Labor's planned Wild Rivers legislation.

The long-serving leader and respected elder, says that the Labor government has got it all wrong.

"We're the first people in Queensland that say the Cape rivers need protection, but protection doesn't mean lock up," Joseph Elu told CairnsBlog. "Wild Rivers is very much a lock up situation."

Mayor Elu says they have river protection covered under conservation covenants and national parks, which is enough protection, he says. He warns any lock up will only damage the river systems, with many feral pigs and cane toads.

He is scathing about the lack of negotiations by the State Labor government over the proposed Wild Rivers legislation.

"Their way of consulting, is telling us what's going to happen," Joseph Elu says. "They did not come to us when the crucial decision on Wild Rivers were declared. They did not come to us and say why they are doing this. They did this behind closed doors."

Mayor Joseph Elu pulled no punches when asked about the two Labor politicians: State Member for Cook, Jason O'Brien, and Federal MP for Leichhardt, Jim Turnour.

"Jim Turnour keeps saying it's not a Federal matter, and what we say about Jason O'Brien is, he is a Labor Party man in Cape York. He's not the Cape York representative in Parliament. So whatever Anna says in Brisbane, Jason says here. Whatever we tell him, never gets to Brisbane," Jopseph Elu said.

Liberal Leichhardt candidate Warren Entsch says he will overturn the Bligh Labor Government’s Wild Rivers Legislation.

“Bligh and Labor’s laws are nothing but a policy to keep indigenous people living in the Cape dependent on welfare,” Mr Entsch says. "While the Labor Member, Jim Turnour, has backed Anna Bligh on this policy and has walked away from the Cape communities, I won’t stand by and watch this part of the world be locked up. Under Labor’s legislation it is difficult for people living in the Cape to establish a business, grow food or participate in potential mining operations."

“Why should these people be stopped from making a living?” Warren Entsch says. "It would be impossible to turn around unemployment rates as high as 19.2% to 28.9% in indigenous communities such as Aurukun, Hope Vale and Wujal Wujal if Labor’s policy wasn’t overturned. We have already seen 1700 jobs and $1.2 billion of investment dry up when the Wenlock River’s declaration as a Wild River made the Cape Alumina Bauxite project un-viable."

“If Labor lock up more rivers there will be no investment and no future in the region. I will stand up for the Cape and make sure these communities have a future," Entsch says.
However, the powerful Labor lobby of the Wilderness Society backs the Wild Rivers legislation.
“The Greens and Labor have both made clear that they support work towards a World Heritage listing for Cape York, based around the consent of Traditional Owners”, Dr Tim Seelig, Wilderness Society State Campaigns Manager says. "But Warren Entsch and Tony Abbott have not had a positive word to say on protecting Cape York, and instead have vowed to tear up existing river protection laws."

“Cape York is one of the last great wild and unprotected places on Earth, obviously worthy of World Heritage status. This would also deliver many new jobs and investment in Cairns and on the Cape, and should be a high priority for all candidates in Leichhardt," Tim Seelig says. "Mr Entsch needs to explain why he does not support vital environmental protection for a special place like Cape York, and why he’s avoiding this issue”.

“From the environment point of view, Warren Entsch is very much on the nose over Cape York protection,” Tim Seelig says.


Syd Walker said...

In this interview the Mayor repeatedly refers to the Wild Rivers legislation as a "lock-up", which "excludes people" and "keeps people out", thereby preventing remedial work on feral species.

This is simply incrrect. The Wild Rivers legislation doesn't involve fencing off areas or excluding human management.

If this is really what Mayor Elu believes - and he seems a nice and intelligent man - then the State Government has clearly not communicated at all well over the Wild Rivers issue.

On the other hand, its task is not aided by a steady, persistent and highly dishonest disinformation campaign from the usual suspects, trying desperately to drive a wedge between conservationists and the indigenous community.

If anyone really cares about indeigenous issues in this election, they should certainly preference the Greens above either of the big old parties.

The Greens voting record in the Senate has been consistently more favourable to Aboriginal interests than either of the major parties; the Coalition's polices have consistently been the most regressive.

The Wild Rivers wrangle has been cunningly used to obscure this rather obvious fact.

Johnno P said...

Are you dumb Sidney???

The Mayor LOIVES there. He has SEEN FIRST HAND what the wankers of Labor are up to. Why do you think he would get it "so wrong" about the "Lock out"? Well, because he did't.

By the way.. great reporting Michael... when that deaditor at the cairns post givin you a job?

Hank said...

mmmm... The Mayor lives there, and his people before him lived there and watched what happened to there land and social structure at the hands of the ....ooh.. the Qld government - both Labor and Liberal. over many years.

the Greens have thoughtful elements. But where they cooperate with making/supporting new Land Legislation, without involving fully Indigenous voices, they are making a mistake. It always was, always will be Aboriginal Land. Therefore all new land/environment legislation must have Indigenous owners central to the negotiations.

Thanks Mike. Nice little story. I reckon you are "nice and intelligent" too .. pat pat pat.

Syd Walker said...

@ Jonno P

Would you like to show me where, in the Wild Rivers Act, it is specified that these areas must be surrounded by a fence?

Where does the legislation preclude management of feral species?

Money prize available if you can come up with anything more than bluster.

MaryO said...

Warren Entsch says "We have already seen 1700 jobs and $1.2 billion of investment dry up when the Wenlock River’s declaration as a Wild River made the Cape Alumina Bauxite project un-viable."

When talking about the mining industry in relation to Aboriginal employment, it’s helpful to bear a few factors in mind...

1. Modern mining processes highly industrialised with relatively few employment positions per se.
2. the more highly paid positions are very technical - e.g. generally require the equivalent of a uni
degree - e.g. engineering. There are relatively few in the mid-range income bracket - so more
generally, Aboriginal people tend to be employed in the more menial, low-paid range - cleaning, catering, gardening, site regeneration
3. Mining companies publicly state they wish to employ Aboriginal people, but are often unwilling to provide the extra support required.
4. Upon receipt of mining revenues by Aboriginal people, governments tend reduce funding so that indigenous mining incomes become effectively substituted for government funding. Consequently, Aboriginal communities expend their own income on infrastructure and essential services in order to receive the same benefits as everyone else.
4. Historically, minimal benefits accrue to local communities in close proximity to mining projects.

There’s also a comprehensive survey of Aboriginal peoples’ direct experiences of mining throughout Australia by CAEPR. It’s stunning, shocking and a great read. Will dig up the details.

Alison Alloway said...

Thank you MaryO. You have neatly summed up the experiences of aboriginal peoples in the NT.

MaryO said...

Thanks Alison!

Anyway, here's a link for some direct quotes from Aboriginal people about mining employment in the Pilbara. Can't find the other ref I had in mind. See

For e.g:

"We got a few people working now. Hamersley put out a lot of training thing now. What they tell me, they go and do all the training at Pundulmarra College, but then they say, ‘where we gonna go then, no jobs?’ I been talking to mining companies, ‘if you are going to give them a training, then you should give them a job too’. That word has gone around now, so nobody want to do the training, they think, ‘well what’s the point?’ I think the problem is that they are hiring people from elsewhere with better qualifications than we can get around here. Sometimes they do ten month training but then get no job, but they say there are biggest mob of jobs, but they aren’t training people to the right standard if they can’t get a job at all. Also they are using government money to provide that training for mining."


"All those new jobs coming up, well they’ll be fly-in-fly-out. Yep. They don’t give Aboriginal people the opportunity. You might get some good educated ones put in their resume and everything like that, but they don’t even get an interview. And that’s letting them down, and they think, ‘forget it, I’ve had a go, my application was good enough to have an interview and I don’t get one’. They just feel let down and that’s when they let their self esteem go down, finish. And they don’t worry about applying again. The best thing to do with Aboriginal people is the hands on, get em in there on job training. But they don’t even give them that opportunity."


"They reckon they got jobs after that training for us locals, and they do that training, you know, the local people, they stick to that training, and they think to themselves, ‘I done all this training I might have a full time job then’, but they aren’t guaranteed a full time job which is very very sad, it’s rough. It’s all fly out and fly back, fly out and fly back! We don’t want em’ them peoples like that, and you know they say its there for the local people."


"Some of those white fellas in mining are racist too you know, they say, ‘ah bugger Aborigines they got no brains at all, they won’t hang in there long’, and all those sort of things, you know. And our mob need the support when they get into those sorts of positions you know, encourage them more. If they can’t pick up something well at least like supervisor go there and have a talk to them nice way, like not just tell ‘em to just get on with that job, Aboriginals got a different feeling, you gotta have a really good person to talk to those fellas you know, the white bloke gotta come up and help those young fellas, and you gotta have another Aboriginal person, older one, old enough to tell them ‘no don’t do that’ and help ‘em, learn ‘em you know?"