The Guardian September 6, 2000


A great day for mining corporations

by Andrew Jackson

"Indigenous people have been sold out," claimed ATSIC chairman Geoff Clark, 
as Federal Labor struck a deal with the Queensland Government which would 
allow mining exploration on up to 60,000 square kilometres of land where 
native title may exist.

Under the deal Labor voted with the Howard Government in the Senate to pass 
seven laws (out of 13) which would remove the right of Indigenous owners to 
negotiate over mining exploration, and remove the right of the Senate to 
scrutinise Native Title in that state.

The laws breach the United Nations Convention for the Elimination of Racial 
Discrimination, which has already condemned the Federal Wik legislation as 
discriminatory, along with state laws which are based upon it. Labor 
endorsed that UN finding.

Daryl Melham, Labor's Aboriginal affairs spokesman, resigned in protest 
saying his conscience would no longer allow him to serve on the front 
bench. He had urged Labor to reject all 13 bills.

Mr Clark was amazed at Labor's apparent back-flip on human rights.

"Only yesterday the opposition was distancing itself from the Federal 
Government's hysterical over-reaction to some mild United Nations 
criticisms of its policies."

"A day later the opposition is endorsing a Queensland native title regime 
based on federal laws found by the UN to be racially discriminatory."

He said the deal "is also contrary to the relatively principled position 
Labor took in the 1998 Wik debate and its own Indigenous affairs policy 
endorsed only last month at its national conference in Hobart.

Queensland Premier Peter Beattie hailed the passing of the legislation, 
saying "This is a great day for indigenous Queenslanders..."

Queensland Indigenous Working Group chairman Terry O'Shane responded with 
"Beattie and Beazley have got blood on their hands."

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