Cape York alliance to defy Borbidge


By Bill Mason

BRISBANE A landmark Cape York agreement between Aborigines, conservationists and pastoralists will go ahead, regardless of the opposition of Queensland Premier Rob Borbidge, according to Noel Pearson, Cape York Land Council executive director, speaking on April 12.

Pearson said Borbidge's opinion of the Cape York heads of agreement did not matter because the $40 million of federal government funding needed for it had already been assured.

Borbidge publicly backed the unique agreement between the land council, the Australian Conservation Foundation and the Cattlemen's Union before the February Mundingburra by-election, but recently did an about-face.

On April 10, Borbidge described the agreement, designed to protect pastoral leases while giving Aborigines access to traditional land, as having no legal standing because the state government had not been involved.

However, federal environment minister Robert Hill affirmed his commitment to the deal, which he said was a "positive development for resolving land use issues in other parts of Australia".

Pearson said the premier had retreated from the agreement "like Dracula from a wooden stake".

ACF executive director Jim Downie said on April 12 that Australia could not afford to lose opportunities like the Cape York agreement. "If this one goes down, it will set back not just Cape York, but the use of negotiated solutions as an approach to resolving land use elsewhere."