The Greens yesterday talked about ‘a century of mistakes’ in reference to the Wild Rivers debate, saying that the Coalition’s bill to restore Indigenous land owners’ rights threatened the protection of Queensland rivers.
Shadow Minister for Indigenous Affairs Nigel Scullion said he was amazed that Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young had so clearly stated her opposition to Aboriginal access to economic opportunities where there was a perceived environmental threat.
“Land is one of the greatest assets that many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have, yet for decades, collective ownership and paternalistic Government regulations have prevented them from developing this asset,” Senator Scullion said.
“The battle for land rights has been hard-fought, and the Coalition’s bill aims to kick-start a new phase of land rights: the right of our First Australians to have the same rights over the future use, development and protection of their land as other Australians.
“Senator Hanson-Young said that giving Aboriginal land owners greater rights to pursue commercial opportunities on their land would open the door to a myriad of developments.
“Yet other Australians have this opportunity and so long as they comply with land use restrictions and meet environmental guidelines they can provide a secure future for their families now and into the future.
“The Queensland Wild Rivers legislation denies this opportunity to Aboriginal land owners even though they currently own the land and have managed it to date in a way that has maintained the pristine condition and biodiversity values that make it a valuable resource.
“The Coalition’s bill will not overturn the Queensland legislation. It simply ensures Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are afforded the dignity of consent, to have a say over how their land is used.
“To deny this fundamental right is an act of pure hypocrisy by the Greens, who clearly do not support the rights of Aboriginal people to pursue sustainable economic opportunities.”
Download media release:
Greens favour locked up rivers over Aboriginal rights 22.3.11.pdf