The Guardian 2 March, 2005

Dingo bytes

NSW Greens MP Lee Rhiannon has called on the state government to quickly introduce its bill on workplace deaths and not get sucked into the scare campaign being run by big business and the Liberals. The Carr Labor government was due to introduce the Workplace Fatalities Bill into the Legislative Council last week but after a bashing over the head from some of its corporate donors it has stalled the legislation. In the last seven weeks there has being six fatalities on building sites around NSW. "The Government has accepted the need for change, consulted on it and now they should just get on and do it", Ms Rhiannon said.

A group of 21 Victorian Indigenous groups met in Melbourne last week to call on the Bracks government to stop stalling on land justice for traditional owners. "Traditional owners are concerned that the process is not moving faster", Native Title Services Victoria Chairperson Graham Atkinson said. "Among other things, land justice for traditional owners must mean the return of ownership of land and resources, control of their cultural heritage and a real say in the management of state lands, waters and resources. Attorney General Rob Hulls is blaming the delays on the Federal government's native title process. There are 11 rural claims that have been waiting to be settled. Most have been before the Federal Court for six years. Federal Court Judge Tony North noted that Victoria lags behind the other states in the processing of native title applications. The Bracks government announced two years ago the in principle agreement of the Wotjobaluk claim which is still to be finalised.

Meanwhile, the traditional owners of Kakadu National Park have agreed to talks with French National Power Plant owner AREVA which wants to mine uranium three kilometres from Nourlangie Rock. Five years ago the traditional owners, the Mirrar people, through the Northern Land Council, imposed a moratorium on mining Kadadu's Koongarra high-grade uranium deposit, in the park's central catchment area. The Northern Territory government has played down the chances of AREVA getting approval for the second uranium mine, near the Ranger mine where there has been more than 120 toxic spills.

HOG OF THE WEEK: Kerry Packer. A Senate Estimates Committee hearing has revealed that Australia's richest man, Kerry Packer, received a $660,000 grant from the Howard government's Regional Partnership Program to reopen his Queensland meat works at Lakes Creek. The parliamentary secretary responsible for the Program, De-Anne Kelly approved the grant last July to Packer's Consolidated Meats in the lead up to the federal election. When the Lakes Creek abattoir closed in 2002 Consolidated Meat was allocated 40,000 tonnes of US beef quotas, worth around $20 million, under a Howard government deal with the US.

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