Communist Party of Australia

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Issue #1616      October 30, 2013

Quandamooka anger at sandmining move

Quandamooka people of North Stradbroke Island were blindsided last week when the Queensland government introduced a Bill that would extend sandmining on the island until 2035. Quandamooka Yoolooburrabee Aboriginal Corporation (QYAC) chair Cameron Costello said that despite repeated requests, Premier Campbell Newman and Mines Minister Andrew Cripps had refused to come to the island and meet with traditional owners.

“I received a courtesy call from the Minister at 9am to let me know they were introducing the Bill, despite commitments from the Premier in 2012 that they would consult with us before introducing legislation,” Mr Costello told the Koori Mail.

“They’ve completely disregarded our interests. Our Elders and the Quandamooka people are upset and angry. It’s extremely disappointing for every Aboriginal person in this country that this government has further continued the treatment of Aboriginal people, where we are pushed aside and mining companies come first .”

In 2011, the Bligh government passed legislation phasing out sandmining by 2019, ending nearly six decades of community division during which time the traditional owners received no compensation.

QYAC also had its native title rights recognised by the Federal Court in 2011, and signed an Indigenous Land Use Agreement (ILUA) that included compensation and the transition to joint management of Naree Budjong Djara National Park.

“Now the government has come in and said they want to extend sandmining. It’s asking the question of all native title bodies who have an ILUA whether its worth the paper it’s written on, if they can bring in legislation to change it two years later,” Mr Costello said.

“This will have significant environmental impacts on our country and it’s worrying for all Aboriginal people and all Australians.”

Quandamooka Elder Joan Hendriks said she was devastated by the government plan. “It’s a sorry time for all of us. The land and waters of our island home are our very lifeblood and it’s a very sorry time,” she said.

There are also concerns the laws breach the native title rights of the local Quandamooka people, as the areas currently under mining lease by Belgian company Sibelco were set to revert to native title in 2020.

Queensland Opposition environment spokesperson, Jackie Trad claims Sibelco spent more than $90,000 on postage and printing to help Premier Newman get elected in the seat of Ashgrove.

But Sibelco said the previous government’s plan to end mining by 2019 did not allow enough time for an alternative economy to develop. “By continuing the life of sandmining, we are also ensuring the continuity of job security for a large number of Indigenous and non-indigenous families on North Stradbroke Island,” the company said in a statement.

“Made their choice”

A spokesperson for Minister Cripps said, “The Newman government made its position on sandmining clear prior to the election and Stradbroke Island locals made their choice” and that department representative had met many times with QYAC.

“The QYAC and Quandamooka people have been consulted and can be assured that in developing the Bill the interests of traditional owners were taken into account,” the spokesperson said.

“We have consistently maintained that the extension of mining will not impact on the ILUA between the QYAC and the State of Queensland. Nor will any extension if sandmining occurs over any indigenous joint management areas.”

QYAC is seeking legal advice.

“Our view has always been that the Premier and the Minister should have left negotiations to extend sandmining between the mining company and the Quandamooka people.” Mr Costello said.

“If the Quandamooka people agreed then the mining lease should have been extended, but what the government has done is to give the green light to the mining company, who can then come and throw scraps to the traditional owners.

“The government is protecting the interests of a wealthy foreign-owned company that after 50 years was paid no mining royalties. This would have been the one chance for Quandamooka to make up for exclusion from economic development, but the government has continued the sorry practice of excluding Aboriginal people.

“It’s a very sad day for Quandamooka people and our ancestors and we will not give up without a fight.”

A parliamentary committee will examine the laws introduced by Mr Cripps. The committee took written submissions on the Bill until October 28.

People will have the opportunity to have their say on the at a public hearing to be held in the Parliamentary Annexe on October 30.

The committee will report back to parliament by November 14 next year.

Koori Mail

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