Politics,Climate Change and Sundry issues

Politics,Climate Change and Sundry issues
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Wednesday, 26 November 2014

'Fear Campaign' Behind Attack On Land Rights | newmatilda.com

'Fear Campaign' Behind Attack On Land Rights | newmatilda.com

'Fear Campaign' Behind Attack On Land Rights

By Amy McQuire

documents show the Baird government was crafting a fear campaign over
Aboriginal land claims before attempting to pass controversial
legislation, the Greens say. Amy McQuire reports.

NSW government was prepared to rush through “misleading” legislation
curtailing land rights despite being warned that public access to
beaches was not threatened by Aboriginal land claims in an attempt to
drum up a fear campaign around the issue, a Greens MLC has told

NSW Greens Aboriginal affairs spokesperson Jan Barham addressed
Parliament last week following the tabling of internal documents leading
up to the Baird government’s controversial legislation which would have
extinguished hundreds of Aboriginal land claims over coastal areas.

It followed an order of discovery lodged by Christian Democrats MLC Fred Nile in November.

In late October, Minister for Natural Resources, Land and Water Kevin
Humphries introduced the Crowns Land Amendment Bill with no
consultation with the NSW Aboriginal Land Council, the peak Aboriginal
land rights organisation, with the government saying it wanted to
protect public access to the state’s coastal areas.

It followed a successful land claim over a stretch of beach in Coffs
Harbour by the local Aboriginal Land Council, known as the Red Rock
decision. The decision was handed down on the basis the local Aboriginal
Land Council would allow public access to the beach in perpetuity.

The Baird Government chose not to appeal that decision, and instead
sought to pass legislation while claiming that public access to beaches
were threatened by Aboriginal land claims.

The NSW Aboriginal Land Rights Act 1983 allows Aboriginal land
councils to claim vacant Crown land on freehold title for cultural,
economic and social purposes. The NSW Land rights system is widely
regarded, despite its faults, as the best in Australia.

Aboriginal land claims have never blocked public access to coastal areas in NSW.

The Humphries legislation was withdrawn following a snap protest by members of the NSW land rights network, who
rallied outside Macquarie Street earlier this month as the NSW
government attempted to pass it in the last sitting week of Parliament
before the state election next year.

Protesters from the NSW Aboriginal Land Rights network rally against the Crowns Lands amendments in November.
Protesters from the NSW Aboriginal Land Rights network rally against the Crowns Lands amendments in November.
While the legislation has been withdrawn, it is not off the table, with Mr Humphries signalling it could be brought back.

Ms Barham told Parliament the documents released under Rev Nile’s
order include a list of “high profile” beach and coastal areas subject
to unresolved Aboriginal land claims and maps of coastal land claims.

“They all appear to have been crafted to suggest that the bill was
needed to prevent loss of public access to beaches, despite the clarity
of the Red Rock decision,” she told Parliament.

The interpretation of the Red Rock decision, and “the rejection of
the need for this bill”, was made clear to the Baird government by legal
experts and stakeholders, Ms Barham told Parliament.

She said the government had been warned the legislation was a potential breach of the Racial Discrimination Act.

“Legal experts and the Aboriginal land councils regard that assertion
as inaccurate and have suggested that the bill was unnecessary,
unreasonable and potentially in violation of the Commonwealth Racial
Discrimination Act,” Ms Barham said.

She argued Mr Humphries had misled Parliament on the Red Rock
judgement because “the Land and Environment Court’s judgement made clear
the ‘foreshore’ was not included in the land claim, that the Coffs
Harbour and District Aboriginal Land Council and the court were both of
the view that the ‘beach and any land necessary for access to it was not
claimable, and that the provision of an easement was adequate to ensure
public access in perpetuity”.

Ms Barham did not tell Parliament whether the documents explained why
the NSW government had chosen not to appeal the Red Rock decision, and
had instead attempted to introduce legislation affecting all Aboriginal
land claims.

The Red Rock decision was a significant victory for the Local
Aboriginal Land Council and the wider NSW land rights network, and it
settled a 20-year long fight.

The claim was first knocked back by the Lands Minister in 2008,
nearly two decades after it was first lodged in 1993. The Coffs Harbour
Local Aboriginal Land Council won the decision in the NSW Land and
Environment Court last year, with a key condition being allowing public
access to the coastal area in perpetuity.

The land is of deep cultural significance to local mob and the claim
was lodged following concern over vandalism and degeneration over
significant cultural sites.


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