'Land rights for mining companies'


By Maurice Sibelle

BRISBANE — Protesters stormed Parliament House, jumping the fence and occupying the courtyard for about two hours on May 23, during a 750-strong, mainly Aboriginal demonstration against the Goss Labor government's land rights bill.

National Party members, including former deputy Premier Gunn and opposition transport spokesman Bob Katter, appeared smiling on the Parliament House balcony.

Premier Wayne Goss said the legislation would not change "one iota" because of the protests. "No government can allow itself to be stood over or pressured by a rabble, irrespective of the issue", he said.

The legislation had been kept secret until it was tabled at 1 a.m. on the morning of the protest. "Once again it has been a case of dictation not consultation", said the Foundation for Aboriginal and Islander Research Action (FAIRA).

Aboriginal groups object to the legislation for a number of reasons:

  • It does not grant real ownership of land and resources to Aboriginal people.

  • It offers Aboriginal communities no prospect of economic independence from government welfare.

  • It makes no provision for acquisition of alternative land to compensate for sites irrevocably lost.

  • It makes inadequate provision for groups wanting to maintain traditional economic activity.

  • It provides no economic base for Aboriginal community and political institutions.

The Queensland land rights bill has been described as the most conservative to date. It compares badly with the NSW law, which grants 7.5% of state land taxes to Aboriginal land councils and trusts.

Aboriginal people are also concerned that the claims process was adopted without consultation, and offers communities little access to legal resources and historical and cultural records.

"This is land rights for the mining companies and pastoralists", said FAIRA spokesperson Bob Weatherall, calling for federal government intervention to ensure consultation with Aboriginal people. n