Jolt for Hindmarsh Island commission

By Alice Davis

ADELAIDE — The royal commission into the Hindmarsh Island bridge fiasco was jolted on July 27 by the one of the key governmental witnesses' withdrawal of his statements. Doug Milera's earlier claims that Aboriginal women's beliefs about Hindmarsh Island were fabricated provided the pretext for creating the royal commission.

Despite this, the Brown government is pushing ahead with its inquiry into the spiritual beliefs of Ngarrindjeri women.

The Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress (SA region) and the solidarity and justice unit of the Uniting Church (SA Synod) have stated: "The Hindmarsh Island bridge was a glorious opportunity for 'white Australia' to break with the past destructive pattern of power relationships and to make a new start, to show its commitment to building a new relationship with Aboriginal people. Instead Mr Brown has not only let the chance slip away, but he and his colleagues have chosen to champion the worst of the past."

The Conservation Council of South Australia has also raised questions about the commission's terms of reference. Its brief states that there will be a full investigation if any aspect of the "women's business" is a fabrication, yet does not call for one if the "women's business" proves not to be a fabrication.

These organisations have called for an investigation into the circumstances in which certain parties contrived to make the "women's business" appear to be a fabrication, who those parties were and who they represented.

Despite the public pressure, both Labor and Liberal parties have refused to establish a wide-ranging inquiry into the affair that would explain to long-suffering taxpayers why there was no environmental impact statement and why the developers did not comply with the terms of the planning approval regarding Aboriginal consultation.

The former Labor government ignored the findings of the 1993 Environment, Resources and Development Committee report, which called for a second ferry rather than construction of a bridge. The Liberals' promised before being elected to stop the bridge.