Australia’s Ugly Indigenous Land Grab

Australia’s Ugly Indigenous Land Grab

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March 16, 2009

Two years ago, when Australia’s current Prime Minister was elected, we all of us hoped that it marked an end to years of paternalism and racist colonial policies on part of John Howard’s government. We hoped. Reprinted below, an article by Nigel Carney on Rudd’s Ugly Indigenous Land Grab.

Rudd’s Ugly Indigenous Land Grab

The Rudd cabinet is rushing through a national land grab in a proposed compulsory forty year scheme holding Aboriginal communities ransom. In the very week that Australia must answer to the UN in response to human rights complaints of an ongoing nature, latest developments put the plan into perspective and expose the earlier machinations of a comprehensive assault on Indiginous Australia. Howard’s NT intervention looks more like an entre as Rudd delivers the main course, an all out offensive against the indigenous nations by means of government coercion and withheld supply to assume control of lands for commercial and other ‘in confidence’ purposes. As the government sells its doom and gloom messages to an arrested nation, Australian history enters another dark alleyway of secret deals, racism and more layers of questionable legislation in an attempt to control remote communities.

While state Aboriginal Lands legislation is being urgently reviewed across the country, there has been no media commentary on either the sudden motivation of these reviews or the apparent synchronisation with NT intervention and several pending Native Title deals in nuclear industry hot-spots. While these issues are being brushed aside, the process of endorsing commercial interests in the equation is being lubricated by a distorted ‘YES’ campaign. The proposed serial legislation is of highly dubious intent and we need to take a good look at where this road is taking us and start asking serious questions as to why any government would knowingly inflict harm upon ‘its’ people. Are we witnessing a mineral war via commercialised legislation feigning legitimacy in what would otherwise be described as acts of acquisition by deception? Despite the Australian media currently sticking its head in the sand, the issue is fast gathering international media attention as the UN puts the spotlight on human rights abuses in remote Australia. Time will tell if Jenny Macklin’s ill-conceived land grab plan will hold up against international scutiny on both legal and moral grounds.

The National Indigenous Times reports ‘Native Title Under Attack from ALP’, but is that the full extent of the story and where lies the cause? One need not be a scholar of Australian history to see the effects of Native Title in creating strife and division in affected communities. Native Title was, from its inception, a commercial venture to enable mining. The inevitable negative social outcomes needed to be distanced from the enterprise and repackaged as a divisive blame game, paving the way for suspension of the Anti-Discrimation Act and military interventions. In this attempt at a commercial clean up of the northern and central zones, the government has crossed a serious line in tampering with both human and common law rights.

In the National Indigenous Times article, Chris Graham describes the urgency of the situation and details of the leaked plan:

In a move that will outrage Aboriginal groups around the nation, aspirant landholders in remote regions are also being targeted, with the government planning to refuse to release Commonwealth housing funds for construction of homes on land that is the subject of an unresolved native title claim or claims.

The plan is currently being restricted to remote regions, and will affect about one quarter of the Australian Indigenous population.

The details of the plan are contained in a startling letter from federal Indigenous affairs minister Jenny Macklin to all state and territory housing ministers last month, a copy of which has been obtained by the National Indigenous Times.

In broad terms, it represents a national roll-out of one of the most controversial parts of the Northern Territory intervention — the compulsory acquisition of Aboriginal land for the reconstruction of townships.

It’s also an extension of the Northern Territory Aboriginal land rights act amendments, which were introduced by the Howard government in 2007, and strongly opposed by Labor while in opposition.

And it becomes quickly evident that Native Title processing is part of the agenda,

If the plan is enforced, the practice is almost certain to be challenged legally.

But the greatest outrage about the scheme is likely to be directed at the native title provisions, which will fuel growing suspicions Labor is planning to introduce a sunset clause, or deadline, on the native title claims process.

Labor indicated in opposition it would move to speed up the native title process, but preventing the construction of public housing on “undetermined” land is a major policy shift.

The government will also be accused of holding access to an essential service — namely public housing — over the heads of the nation’s poorest citizens to try to leverage quicker native title outcomes through rushed negotiated settlements.

Currently, almost half the Australian land mass is subject to some sort of native title claim process, although not all of that land is situated in remote regions.

Article sourced from Green Left which abridged from National Indigenous Times

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