- Parliamentary Business
- Senators & Members
- News & Events
- About Parliament
- Visit Parliament
LEGAL AND CONSTITUTIONAL REFERENCES COMMITTEE
Migration Legislation Amendment (Further Border Protection Measures) Bill 2002
- Parl No.
- Committee Name
LEGAL AND CONSTITUTIONAL REFERENCES COMMITTEE
ACTING CHAIR (Senator Payne)
Migration Legislation Amendment (Further Border Protection Measures) Bill 2002
- System Id
Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Table Of ContentsDownload PDF
Previous Fragment Next Fragment
LEGAL AND CONSTITUTIONAL REFERENCES COMMITTEE
(SENATE-Wednesday, 11 September 2002)
- Committee front matter
- Committee witnesses
ACTING CHAIR (Senator Payne)
- Committee witnesses
- Committee witnesses
Content WindowLEGAL AND CONSTITUTIONAL REFERENCES COMMITTEE - 11/09/2002 - Migration Legislation Amendment (Further Border Protection Measures) Bill 2002
Mr Datjarrangu —What is the reason you came here? We want to know now, because we are really surprised to see you people coming here. Can you tell us what is really happening?
Senator SCULLION —I am part of a committee. The committee is called the Senate Legal and Constitutional References Committee. The parliament has tasked the committee to take submissions on the issues associated with extensions to the existing excision of islands act. Because Elcho Island and a number of other islands lie within the area of the proposed excisions, it was proposed that as part of the submissions the committee visit these islands and listen to what the people have to say about what they think of the law, to find out whether they know about the law and to discuss aspects of that law with the committee. Does that answer your question, Oscar?
Mr Datjarrangu —Yes, sort of.
Senator SCULLION —The chairman of the committee, Marise Payne, will make an opening statement explaining what we are here to do today and outline briefly the process under which the committee will take evidence. I think that will assist you, Oscar.
Before I hand over to Marise, I would make one comment. I understand that the people who are to give evidence today will come together. We can then ask questions at the same time of the different parties, rather than taking them one at a time. I think that has been understood. All of this is being recorded for the Hansard, so that we do not have to remember it all or write it down. Thank you.
ACTING CHAIR (Senator Payne) —Ladies and gentlemen, my name is Marise. I am the acting chair of the committee and I am here on Elcho Island today with my colleagues Senators Nigel Scullion and Ursula Stephens. Firstly, I want to recognise the traditional owners of the land upon which we are meeting today and, on behalf of committee, thank you very much for enabling us to meet here. I thank the Galiwinku community leaders and the whole community for agreeing to our visit to the island this morning, and I thank you for hosting the meeting here so that other community representatives from Milingimbi and Wigram Island can also take part. I also want to thank the people particularly who have come from Milingimbi and Wigram Island to help us; we appreciate that you have done that.
We are here today to talk about the government's proposed changes to the migration laws. But we are here as a committee of the Senate—from both of the major parties, not representing the government as such in that process. You might have heard—or you might not have—that the proposal is to take Elcho Island, Milingimbi and all the islands on the Northern Territory coast from what is called the migration zone of the Australian territory, for migration purposes only. It is also the same for islands off Queensland and Western Australia.
What happens under the proposal is that the islands absolutely remain part of Australia. The changes are proposed to only affect people who come here from other countries, without visas. If the proposal is agreed to, it will stop people who come in that way from making visa applications while they are on one of these islands in Australia. The minister, Mr Philip Ruddock, has explained that the changes are intended to discourage people—what the act calls `unauthorised' people—who do not have a visa from leaving countries where they might be now or other places where they are now and coming here without the proper permission, without the processes that everybody else who comes undertakes. The government has indicated that it thinks we need to make the change because there are signs that the people who smuggle these individuals in on their boats are planning to bring new boatloads of people closer to the mainland of Australia, and the government wants to discourage them from doing that.
All of the changes to the migration zone have no effect on other laws, such as govern the customs department, the quarantine people or fishing laws, and they have no impact on the rights of anyone who lives here. So there is no change at all to the rights of people who live here. As Senator Scullion has said, the Senate has asked us to talk to you about this particular proposal and about whether you were consulted in putting it together and how it will work from now.
Just so everyone is comfortable with the arrangements that we have here, this is an official meeting of the committee. As we have come here this morning in an official capacity, we need to make a transcript, and that is why Deborah is here. The transcript means that we, ourselves, do not have to write down or remember everything that is said. We have a recording to do that, and Peter operates the sound equipment which is doing that. If you do want to say something, please say first what your first name is and which community you are from. That will help a lot.
We and you who participate in this today are also protected by the rules of the parliament. That means that, if you want to speak your mind here today, the parliamentary rules protect you from being caused any difficulty about that. As I have said, we are here to listen to you. Nigel may have some words that he might like to add, and Charles may wish to begin by making some initial statements, and Terry may want to translate some of what I have said.
I want to thank you again very much for coming, for spending some time with us this morning and for telling us what you think about some of these things. We have somebody here from the department which is responsible for this particular proposal; if we do have a lot of questions, we can also try to help with answering some of those. Thank you very much.
Mr Yumbilul —My name is Terry Yumbilul. I come from coastal Australia, north-east Arnhem. I have a question to ask you. We are talking about immigration and refugees. They have been tampering around here in these parts of the country without, I suppose, the knowledge of everybody—of Australians on the mainland and us on the coast and around the islands. The question I ask you is: by talking about giving these people a visa, technically does that mean we are opening the area to anyone who will come into the coast? That is question No. 1. My No. 2 question is: how are we going to monitor the people who are going to come in? My No. 3 question is—this is going to take a long time, so forgive me—in parts of the region here along the coast, we have been sitting here talking about it for years, asking not only state but federal governments to maintain and monitor the coast for the purpose that has now arisen.
What we want now is—I suppose, for myself, living on Wigram Island—that it is about time for there to be recognition by the federal government to be able to do it now and to continue looking after and protecting the coast of Arnhem Land here, this region, and not only mainland Australia. Give us the opportunity of opening the gates by which we will have some sort of law which is good. That is all I have to say. Thank you.
Senator SCULLION —Perhaps I can respond to some of those questions, and I will do so in two ways. First of all, I will try to respond to what I think the question means. If I am not right, I am sure you will stop me and explain what your question was. You have said that the visas potentially open up areas. The legislation that we are looking at has no impact on visas or travel documents for anyone in Australia. It simply takes away the capacity for someone to make a valid visa application for residency in Australia in an excised offshore place. So it has no impact whatsoever on Australia.
On the second question, I might seek some clarification, Terry. You are asking how you know whether someone is an illegal immigrant or not. Is that what you are asking, that you do not know what sort of documentation you would need to check? Is that what you are asking?
—Yes, that is what I am asking. There is an area which is called a black market. People go over and get a visa and come out here, and these guys here along the coast—anyone along the coast—will show us that they have a visa. It is printed and done on the black market, so that these refugees can enter. So we have to look at both areas, the two sides of the coin, to be able to fit these and put them into a law. Some people come in here with a visa which is from the black market. There are money-making people: the captain and the owner of the boat make money out of these people when they come across to this shore. So we have to look at it in two ways and we have to see that the law will cover that area too. That is all I am saying.
Senator SCULLION —When someone comes to Australia, whether they have a false visa, a black market visa or a real visa, they are not allowed lawfully to remain in Australia until those documents are issued, stamped and examined by the Australian customs and immigration service. So, if people arrive on your land or adjacent to your land in a boat and you believe that they are not from Australia—you have talked to them, or for some reason you are suspicious about their lawful situation adjacent to your land—you can ring some numbers that we will supply to you today through Annette. She will be putting out some education kits, and they will have those numbers. Those numbers will enable people from the departments of customs and immigration to come to your country, question those people and examine those documents for you. You cannot lawfully come to Australia unless you have come through both the quarantine and customs barriers that check very carefully into those things.
Going to the third question about coastal protection and opportunities for traditional owners to participate in protecting their country, is that what you are asking, Terry?
Mr Yumbilul —That is one of the questions, yes. I remember, going back about six years now, a big ship landed on Cape Wessell. They were refugees and they landed, and they just ploughed right through to a little island at Cape Wessell with 95 people on board. So the 95 people on board came to the Australian shore or territory, and crossed over the economic zones and territorial waters into our waters here. Out of that, they were brought down here to Galiwinku, Elcho, and shipped out from here to Darwin. After that the epidemic broke out of the sickness hepatitis, and the people copped it here.
What you are saying you are about to do and what this meeting is all about is to protect against that disease and other animals, like those shells—and that is good—to monitor the areas here. All right, we have got Coastwatch flying around. We see the plane. Every now and then we watch our watch and time them, because every Saturday at about 11 o'clock they fly. That is not right. We time those people when they fly Coastwatch—and don't get me wrong; they're doing a good job—and every time at 11 o'clock exactly on the dot they fly. The people that are immigrating, the refugees, they don't have times; they never have times. They will come across night and day. They are not going to wait for Coastwatch. It is protection for the coast that we are talking about.
ACTING CHAIR —I understand you better, Terry, from your explanation; and that is part of the background to this particular piece of legislation. You explaining that to us means that we can take better information back to the parliament and it also helps us to understand what more needs to be done. We appreciate that, thank you. Charles, do you wish to say anything?
Mr Yunupingu —I am Charles Yunupingu. I was watching the television this morning and that video. Places like Thursday Island, New Guinea and areas like Saibai Island are not far. There was the bloke that asked that question of Phillip Ruddock: `Do they have to have a visa to come across to New Guinea?'
—An explanation was given on an explanatory video as part of an education package that people observed this morning. On that, Mr Ruddock was saying that there are traditional movements currently under traditional arrangements between New Guinea and Saibai Island, which is part of the Torres Strait. The traditional long[hyphen]term arrangement between the traditional owners and inhabitants of the island of Saibai and New Guinea allow that, under certain arrangements. The minister was observing that the excision of islands, including Saibai, from this made no impact at all on those arrangements, because they were arrangements that were already in place; and that is recognised specifically as a part of this law. Does that help?
Mr Yunupingu —Yes. What about the coastal areas throughout the Arnhem region? What about the people? Do they have to have a visa to go to Saibai Island?
ACTING CHAIR —No. There is no change to any of those arrangements which are in place and have been practised over a long period of time. There is no need for visas and there is no alteration to that movement at all.
Mr Yunupingu —What if we go over to Indonesia?
Senator SCULLION —You will still need a visa from the Indonesian government.
Mr Yunupingu —That is all I have to say.
ACTING CHAIR —Thank you very much, Charles. Would anyone else like to say anything?
Mr Gandhuwuy —My name is Richard Gandhuwuy. I was born in Milingimbi in 1940 and my age is 62 now. Originally I am from Elcho Island. My particular clan is the Garrawurra. I am from the mainland.
I would like to strongly support the new proposal that the committee is looking into now that is going to be a part of the legislation to control the coast, especially in Arnhem Land, Northern Territory. I would like to strongly support that legislation to go ahead and be approved by parliament and become a law, an act. So that is all right from the mainland.
My mother is from the islands over there and also my grandmother is from the islands, but I am from the mainland. But I would like to support the coastal people and their right and their control, which the committee is looking at now to become a part of the law as an act to control the sea, because we have got enough sickness around here in Australia—all sorts of sickness. We have got enough problems here to rescue. So I would like to once again strongly support that that part of the legislation to go ahead, that the law be passed to control immigration. And I am just hoping for the people wanting to become part of Australia that that will still continue. But otherwise I support very strongly that this legislation will go ahead and the law will be passed to control Australia. Thank you.
ACTING CHAIR —Thank you very much, Richard. Would anyone else like to say something?
—Good morning. My name is Joe Gumbula. Terry has already clarified some of the issues that have been brought up this morning. Mainly he was talking about the start of recognition. If the law goes through the parliament, what about the responsibility of Yolngu people to carry out their duty as well, like recognition, especially of the sacred areas and islands, streams and waters and all that? They will actually be able to spot these people—because we are talking about these people coming in. If cabinet put through this legislation and it becomes a law, why don't they get another resource of funding for some particular Yolngu people to straighten out these things and give them an opportunity, like in customs? That is recognition too. We need to get some sort of support from that too, and have the Yolngu people start to look around, because of the nature of the area. That is all from me.
ACTING CHAIR —Thank you, Joe.
Senator SCULLION —I would like to ask you to clarify that, because it is important that parliament hears what you are saying. Are you telling me that you have an opportunity, because you all live in this country, to keep a lookout?
Mr Gumbula —We live in this country. We know the areas. We know the land. We know the locations. We know the areas, the sacred objects and all that.
Senator SCULLION —So, in terms of employment for Aboriginal people in these areas, you can add very much to the opportunities Coastwatch may have?
Mr Gumbula —That is what we are heading for.
Senator SCULLION —And the recognition that you already add a great deal of value, and always have, in looking after our coastline?
Mr Gumbula —Yes.
Senator SCULLION —I understand that now.
Mr Gumbula —We are not talking about invasion. They are different subjects.
ACTING CHAIR —That is a good point about the local communities and the role that you already play and that could get more recognition. We can certainly take that message back.
Mr Yumbilul —I have a short couple of points. Please excuse me, Senators, but I will talk to the group here in our language and then get back to you.
You get locked up when you go over the other side to their border. Here, we look after them. Out of your money and the taxpayers' money we pay to send them back home. Are we going to keep on doing that, sending these people back from here because they have not been invited here? Are we going to keep on doing that, or are we going to stop them by making a law? We have to stand up and make a law now to say no more of this, we have had enough and we will keep the taxpayers' money here in this country and use it on something else for us, instead of putting it on a plane fare to send them back home. Are we going to keep on paying the plane fare to these refugees or immigrants who come over to this country, or are we going to look after ourselves and make a law?
Mr Gumbula —Tell John Howard to make that law, not us: to stop giving a lot of money to those people—our taxpayers' money.
Mr Yumbilul —I do not know whether you senators got that little bit. I have explained to the group here that we are getting sick and tired of paying taxpayers' good money, which is supposed to stop here in this country, on sending those refugees and other people uninvited who come over here, migrants. We want to keep that money out of the paying of the tax here and put it towards these good people here. I haven't got the answers or the nod or whatever from the group. I think they are still thinking about it and they will come back to you later—hopefully soon—and give you that answer so that we will make it into a law to go over to John Howard and Phillip Ruddock, the minister for immigration and aboriginal affairs. And our answer to him will be: okay, we have been monitoring and looking after the coast so long. Now the law is coming towards us and it is here now—you senators are here on the island. What are we going to do about it? Are we going to give you guys the okay, the green light, or are you going to turn on the green light yourselves, you senators, or the parliament too?
Joe Gumbula has explained in his own language, and I will try to explain what was said. He reckons that, all right, with the migrants or the refugees coming across to this country, the law or the idea of talking about these regions and protecting the coast of Australia and these islands here is okay; it is good for this shore. He is talking about, as I mentioned earlier, monitoring that on a day-to-day basis. The only way that they want to monitor is we have got Coastwatch, Customs and a Navy destroyer—okay, it goes up and down maybe 150 miles out, because 200 is where the economic zones are. That happens along the coast here. But who is going to monitor: Coastwatch from up in the air, or the people themselves on the coast with a little dinghy or a boat? In other words, they are asking for funds to do the monitoring and be the eyes of the coast here themselves. In other words, they are asking for employment and to put the funds here so that these people will do it themselves, be trained, everything, instead of Coastwatch going around at 11 o'clock on a Saturday.
ACTING CHAIR —We can take that message back. None of us is in a position to actually be signing off on those sorts of agreements, but we can certainly convey those views and messages, and talk about what you have told us you and your communities do, talk about the issue that has been raised about the regular 11 a.m. Saturday Coastwatch flight and make some points about that. Would anyone else like to say anything?
—I am from Marthakal Homelands Resource Centre. We had a situation last week. The TOs had a meeting on Monday about NORCOM. NORCOM has made a request that the Navy be allowed to anchor off the coast of Jensen Bay, which is up in Martjanba Island, up in the Cape Wessell group, because they are going to be monitoring—this is in the letter—illegal boat people and illegal fishing. They have asked whether they can have a 12-month window of opportunity so that, after a little while of being out on the sea, they come over to Jensen Bay, hop off the boat, play touch football, have a barbecue, hop back on the boat and go back and do their work. Is this part of a strategy that the government has, or is this just a one-off?
ACTING CHAIR —Obviously I cannot answer that with the authority of NORCOM behind me, and I would be interested to know what the TOs think about it. That would be part of the broad border protection strategy that involves more use of Defence than has previously been the case—so more use of the Navy. Certainly they would need to approach the Traditional Owners about that sort of thing. I think it is good that they have done that. In terms of the broad border protection strategy, yes; but no, it is not part of this legislation.
Mr McIvor —The TOs have agreed to that with some provisions, because they do not like people going onto areas which are significant sacred sites.
ACTING CHAIR —I understand that.
Mr McIvor —But it seems to be a bit one-sided. We would have thought that, if the Navy were going to do that, they would include using the people already there to be eyes and ears as well.
ACTING CHAIR —That is a similar sort of theme, which is again another point that we can take back. I guess what I am taking out of this is that there is a lot of potential, a lot of opportunity for this to be much more of a two[hyphen]way process than it currently is. That is a message which we can certainly take back. I do not know what my colleagues think.
Senator SCULLION —Perhaps I can ask one question that may be of value. You may have to take this question on notice. Would you be able to give us indications of over what times of the year that the homeland centres are in fact occupied; whether Barripang's outstation actually has people there at Jensen Bay? That may assist, because the obvious question NORCOM will ask is: what people? They live on boats and they probably do not even know there is an outstation there, to be honest.
Mr McIvor —They probably know that the outstation is there. The outstation is occupied throughout the year. It has only been made available over the last little while because we upgraded the airstrip, and so we are able to get planes in there now. There are some works going on up there in the next month or so to put in a tank and tank stand at the house, and later on we will be doing some renovations.
Senator SCULLION —You are responsible, I understand, for the homeland centre, which is responsible for all the outstations that work out of Marthakal; is that right?
Mr McIvor —That is correct. There are 28 outstations.
Senator SCULLION —Would you be able to provide the committee with a list of the outstations and, for example, if they are occupied all year round, indicate that and, if they are not, perhaps give us some advice on what times of the year they are occupied? That certainly would be of assistance in having NORCOM come to some consideration of those matters, I think. Would you be able to take that on notice?
ACTING CHAIR —Any information along those lines would be helpful. From this process we can write letters on issues that have been raised. This committee will make a formal report, and we want to be able to put as much information in that as we possibly can. So, Roger, anything that you can give us would be appreciated.
Mr McIvor —Could I send that information through to you, Nigel, on email?
Senator SCULLION —Yes, certainly.
ACTING CHAIR —Yes, send it to Senator Scullion. He can give that to the committee as official correspondence.
Mr Newton —I am the council clerk at Galiwinku. Further to that point of the potential for job opportunities that might arise out of this whole migration issue, we have had visits at different times—Oscar and Roger might talk about them—from AQIS and Customs, and there have been some preliminary discussions on the potential for a ranger type program that is funded to actually create employment for people to become involved in this type of activity. It is not just about illegal migrants; it is other diseases and pests and things that are likely to come across, airborne as well as by boat and that sort of thing. If you do have the opportunity to try and move forward this potential for some employment—in the areas where there are very few chances of meaningful employment—in this ranger type program, that would be appreciated. But, when we talk about it, it always seems to get back to: oh yes, but you're going to have to supply all the vehicles and those sorts of things. We have people who have got good skills but, as communities, we have not got the money to purchase that infrastructure. It has to be a total package. It is a matter of how much the government sees these things as being important—the AQIS type problems and Customs problems as well. So I just raise that point.
Perhaps I could also raise the point on, I suppose, the process that has confused people in this legislation that we are talking about now. The first we heard of it was more or less that `the islands are going to be excised' or words to that effect. The concerns that people have is that they immediately ask, `Does that mean we're not part of Australia anymore?' I think you have all picked up these messages, but I think the whole consultation process that has surrounded this has had some problems with it. What we want to know is how it will affect us on a day[hyphen]to[hyphen]day basis and whether the Australian government is there to support us if people do get through and start landing on the island. Quite frankly, we have limited capacity to respond ourselves.
—I hope that, to some degree, we have responded. I have answered the questions about whether it is still part of Australia. That is absolutely very much the case. There is no change, and no change to anyone's view about that. I want to reassure the communities about that, from both the Senate's perspective and the government's perspective. In terms of consultation, I think I can say with some confidence that I often see Senate committees doing this sort of thing—doing more consultation than some of the other decision making practices that happen around the place. I think it is important that we are able to come and talk to the people here and hear from the communities and the leaders of the communities in this way, rather than by trying to do it in an artificial way from Canberra. I hope that your communities think this is useful and productive, because we certainly do, and we are very grateful for what you are giving us. Terry, do you want to say something else?
Mr Yumbilul —Yes, I had a couple of points, but you took the words out of my mouth, Senator.
Senator SCULLION —Perhaps I could seek some clarification, if that is possible. We have spoken about this before but, for the Hansard record, I would like to ask whether you can supply me—again, on notice—with a list of those people in government, both federal and state, who come to this community effectively to seek assistance from the people here without any payment. These would be beyond Australian Quarantine Inspection Service, Immigration, Customs, the state quarantine service, the Navy, the Army, the conservation commission, the national parks, the Federal Police, the state police, the department of fisheries at a state level, the Australian Fisheries Management Authority and Coastwatch. That is just in my own mind a brief list, but perhaps you could supply me, on notice, if you would, perhaps a more comprehensive list of those people. Then, when we are speaking to people about the opportunities that this might provide, that will give us a comprehensive list of those people. If you could supply a list of those, we would appreciate it.
Mr Newton —I think that between us we can come up with a list of all the organisations that drop in from time to time to pull our brains apart, yes.
Mr McIvor —It is nice to know that we are still part of Australia. We were a bit concerned; we thought we might have got away with not paying any taxes. We still have to pay our taxes?
ACTING CHAIR —Unfortunately, yes. That is the bad news. Is there anyone else who wishes to say something? You are very welcome to say anything that you wish to say.
Aaron —My name is Aaron. What will the response time be? If we ring up this number and ask for somebody to come out and check out a boat, it may take them two weeks to get here.
ACTING CHAIR —I cannot answer in exact terms. I assume that it is meant to be a fast response, fast turnaround. But we can ask Customs and Immigration what their plans are and we will get an answer to that question for you.
Senator SCULLION —Perhaps in addition I can say that we now have an additional resource in the Northern Territory; it has just moved to the Northern Territory. It is the Airborne 1st Brigade, which is a helicopter brigade. For the first time in the Northern Territory, that gives us a very fast capacity to move large numbers of men and equipment to deal with almost any eventuality. We have not had that capacity in the Northern Territory before now. Again, I would have to defer to the comments of the chair in that we would probably need a more comprehensive response.
ACTING CHAIR —We will ask that question of Customs and we will bring a response back.
—I am a resident of Galiwinku. I have lived here all my life. I just want to let you know what Manbuynga ga Rulyapa have been doing. Nigel knows all about it. He was involved with it before the work he is doing now. He knows all about it. We were trying to monitor fisheries, looking after what fish is thrown overboard. Now we are talking about something bigger but the same sort of thing we were trying to put together before. It is the same thing that Joe was just saying when he was talking about employment. Also we are talking about times, as Terry was saying. So I think it is about getting something that we used to talk about many years ago; I think it began to be talked about 10 years ago. Now we are getting to the stage where I think we are getting serious here, now the government is seeing it.
Also we have enough problems amongst ourselves—within white communities and also within black communities, like us. I have got some stuff here that is killing our kids. We got marijuana and kava. Kids here are raiding this place. Instead of looking after people coming from other countries, we have got enough problems ourselves here—in white communities and here in black communities. So I think people have been saying a lot of times, `Talking, talking, talking; meetings, meetings, meetings; but no actions.' This is the first time we are talking about the people coming in. So, in my opinion, when we see the people on the boat, send them back. First, we are saving our time and our money so that we can look after ourselves here. We have enough problems here amongst ourselves. So I just want to push what Joe and Terry were trying to say. We have been saying it for nearly 10 or 20 years. That is all I want to say. Thank you.
ACTING CHAIR —Thank you very much.
Senator SCULLION —Perhaps I could ask a couple of questions, Keith. You have indicated that you have been part of Manbuynga ga Rulyapa. I understand that that is a committee that looks into the issues associated with the Yolngu culture and the Balanda culture in the ocean, generally speaking. I was just making a suggestion to the chair. It may be worthwhile, if we can pass on some of the concerns about people here being the eyes and ears of the coast and the issues about employment. Perhaps a committee, a representative from the department of immigration and perhaps others, can come and listen to what you have to say specifically, because that committee has been set up with those sorts of people in mind. Would that be something that would be worthwhile?
Mr Dyiniyini —I am trying to address here the timing and turning these people back—the same area, the same spot: out. Bring the authorities to the spot and send them back. No more messing around. Thank you.
Senator SCULLION —I think that point is clear. I just want to say that, in regard to Manbuynga ga Rulyapa, there is an opportunity there to invite people to come and listen to the community with that particular committee, because it represents the coastal people. Would it be reasonable for us perhaps to make a recommendation to extend an invitation to people from the department of immigration to come and meet at the next meeting?
Mr Dyiniyini —Yes, sure. That is what we would like to do. We want to talk one-to-one. We want to put something in writing, and then we need some action. We have been talking too long; we are getting grey hair.
—I am talking about the two currents. Maybe it is not important to Balanda—and I am not looking at you, Senator Scullion—but I am talking about the two currents in the water. It may not be important to Balanda, because all the Balanda look at is what they can get out of it. The importance we are looking at is the current that is running between those two waters out there, which are salt water. Fresh water comes down and meets them and creates life. By `life', I mean a coral reef with shells growing underneath and fish eating them and fish growing, which is a nursery. The good part of the thinking or the strategies that the federal government is coming out with, or has put out, is about those shells that are going to kill that life—shells such as those that came out in Darwin at Cullen Bay. We are trying to protect the water, the ocean and what is in it from all those things.
All right, forget about that. We are looking at two parts: one is employment to monitor the coast, like we have been talking about for 10 years; two is that the minister for immigration finally sent you guys out here to talk about whether we can try and stop them. Good. There is no problem with that and no harm in it. We will stop them. We will turn them around and send them back where they belong. But are we going to have some sort of agreement between government and these people here living on the islands? And by `agreements' I mean more communication—not only every now and then. I mean we have to be able to sit down and talk with our government—not only state but also federal or Commonwealth; three regions and three parts—and say yes. Only then will we be recognised or have the recognition. At the moment you guys are out there and we are here. There is nothing in between you guys and us. We cannot have communication. We can send a fax, we can send Internet or whatever, or talk on the phone. But is that it? That is not good enough. Talking on the phone is not good enough. Come out here and sit with us and talk with us, and then you will see the environment and the environment's people here on the site, on their home. This is their world. When they talk about the ocean, that is their world too. That is out there. It is called the Arafura Sea, and that is their world. And the piece of dirt where we are sitting or standing is their world. This is their everything.
ACTING CHAIR —Terry, I think you have every right to expect more communication, better communication. I understand that is the point you are making. Depending on the views of the members of the committee, we can certainly make that point very strongly in sending that message back. I do not think anyone here disagrees with you at all. The list that Nigel went through and the names that the clerk, Mike Newton, is going to add to that list, if there are any more, are just an indication of how much expectation and work is put on you. I think you have every right to expect proper communication in response—every right. That is certainly a message that I will take back.
Senator SCULLION —Terry, perhaps I could ask you a question in clarification. All your points were pretty well made. That we are here in your country talking to you today I think validates your position. It is a first step. You spoke about the black-striped mussels from Cullen Bay. Can you tell me about the pearling industry in this area and the potential impact that may have on the development of the pearling industry?
—With the potential impact and other interests to these guys here, the pearling industry is another thing that they tried out as a test. But that test is for the dignity and pride of the human soul, which is for these guys here. They are trying to prove, for their dignity and pride, that they can do it and turn it into a job. It is not only royalties but also, as with any project, it is in the interest of their dignity and pride. Regarding what they have tried to do with the pearling, many Balanda people, looking at Yolngu people, say, `They are only doing that for a royalty.' It comes out of the mouths of Balandas, because all they can see are short periods of time. But Yolngu people do that for the pride and dignity, proving it to outside Australia, saying, `We are Australians; we can do this just as well as anyone else.'
Senator SCULLION —There are a number of pearling opportunities for Traditional Owners in this area, and I understand that they are being progressed; is that right?
Mr Yumbulil —Yes; for pride and dignity.
Mr Datjarrangu —I think you know me already. I said a few words before. I would like to say a few things. I am not from the mainland; I am from an island. Am I a migrant or a refugee? I am just asking you that question, because I am from an island and not from the mainland.
ACTING CHAIR —You are an Australian.
Senator SCULLION —You are an Australian. Everything remains the same.
Mr Datjarrangu —Okay. The minister for Aboriginal affairs, Phillip Ruddock: I want to know how much money he is actually spending on these refugees coming in and going out?
ACTING CHAIR —We can find that out for you.
Senator SCULLION —We can get that on notice.
Mr Datjarrangu —There is the Northern Territory quarantine. This is Ruddock's Indigenous affairs for 2003. Most of the money is already spent, I think. But we need to know this, because we are not getting enough resources from the federal government. We need to get more money from the federal government. What Terry has said is very true; we need to employ our own people. We need to get that money out into the community to be able to assist or employ our own people, especially rangers. We need our own Yolngu rangers to go out to the reef, out to the river and out to the ocean to see what activities are happening. Those are the things we need. We have been fighting for maybe 20 years or more, and still nothing is really happening in the community. We, the people who are living on the islands, are really concerned about this because refugees are coming probably every month, and we need to solve this problem by doing that. We have to do it ourselves, and we still need support from the Commonwealth. We have been waiting for a long time now. We want to know how much money Phillip Ruddock is actually spending.
ACTING CHAIR —As I have said, we can identify the figures for you, Oscar. We have taken a lot of information from what you have said and what has been said by Terry, Keith, Roger and others about employment issues and engagement of the local communities that you think are important. We can deliver that message and deliver it very strongly. We are here today to hear those sorts of things, and we will do that.
—It is not only that. A lot of Balanda people are employed. They are rangers in Darwin and this is probably already happening. But they do not know where to go; they do not know where the places are. But we Yolngu people know very well where to go. Most of the places are really sacred. I have been involved with Manbuynga ga Rulyapa. We had a meeting probably two months ago and we spoke about it really strongly, because we have to look after the species in the sea too. Most of the creatures there are really sacred. We need to be able to get funding so that we, Yolngu blackfellas, can look after the land and the sea. We need the money.
Mr McIvor —I would like to support what Oscar has just said. At that meeting we went to in Darwin a couple of months ago, we found out that there are only enough funds for five Yolngu rangers right across the Top End.
ACTING CHAIR —Who was that meeting with?
Mr Yunupingu —That is the Manbuynga ga Rulyapa meeting, which is part of the state fisheries consultative process.
ACTING CHAIR —Is that a Territory one?
Mr McIvor —Yes, a Northern Territory Fisheries consultative. There was a fellow there from the Conservation Commission, I think it was. He said that there is enough money for just five Yolngu rangers right across the Top End. That is peanuts. It is not going to do anything for anybody. It looks like two of the rangers are going down to Boorooloola way. They are thinking about putting one at Nhulunbuy, which is a crazy place to put one, because it has to be over this side, on the western side, where all the islands are. Thinking about getting some rangers together is fine, but to have only five for the Top End is ridiculous. It is like trying to plug a hole in a dike.
ACTING CHAIR —Another gentleman will have his comments translated by his daughter now.
Timothy —This area of the land is very good and effective for all the Yolngu people here. People have been living here for more than 50,000 or 60,000 or 2,000 or 200 years, and we are still here. The waters have always been here and there was no sickness here before. When people came and visited us, invaded this country, they brought sickness and then people started to get ill. This committee must do the right thing on whatever these issues are, and you have to make a law to send the migrant people away from this island.
I raise three points. If these people come here, there must be good health, good food, good land; and they must not be people with diseases. Another point is that we want money to help and care for young people. It is about time that government people looked into training Aboriginal people. Strategies must be developed of how we can go about producing from this land and how we can get self-determination. Please take that message to Canberra. We will be waiting for a good story, not a mix-it-up story—a different one.
ACTING CHAIR —Thank you very much for your help.
Senator SCULLION —Jeff, perhaps I could just ask you a couple of questions.
—Jeff, thank you for your help with the arrangements for today. We are very grateful.
Mr Leggat —I am the council clerk at Milingimbi.
Senator SCULLION —Jeff, you have been at Milingimbi for some time. The front page of the Australian dated Friday, 28 June 2002, had the headline `Island wants to keep mainland status'. The article quotes Charlie Dhurrkay as saying that he could walk from Milingimbi to the mainland. I have since spoken to Charlie and he has confirmed, in fact, that the journalist has misquoted him. I also understand that the Australian has made an apology about that. Just to clear that up for me, have you had an opportunity to speak to many people in the community about this issue? Could you relate to us the sorts of questions they are asking, in general terms?
Mr Leggat —Probably a number of community members are aware of the issues as a result of that journalist being out there initially and talk down in the camps about what it means to Milingimbi. Of course, one thing that has come up is the confusion. One of the main reasons I am here today is to listen and go back and write up a bit of a story about what has been stated here today and to try to clarify things, in a public notice back to the community—just to reassure them about the way the people here today have interpreted things. I cannot speak for the community, but certainly I feel comfortable that the story I will be taking back will be one of clarification about the role.
Let me just say that you cannot walk from Milingimbi to the mainland. Although I have thought about it at times, it is not possible. We are an island and we are a very proud island. We were the first one established in the area back in 1923. So there is a lot of history here. People are concerned about their future, the same as everywhere. They are concerned, as was stated before, about the children and what will happen in 10, 20, 30 or 40 years time.
The issues that have been raised of pestilence and plague are a real concern. There has been misunderstanding, again, of what is likely to happen. But it is a concern, because there is always that doubt in people's minds. Even though we provide the same services pretty well in our communities as on the mainland, there is a certain isolation factor in living on a community, and we need to be reassured that we are being looked after, just the same as every other part of Australia is. I do not think there have been any big concerns, but people have wanted to participate in this meeting so that the story can be taken back to the people, both by Yolngu and me. I have to say that is probably true. Mulawa? Do you think that is right? You are happy with that. Kenny, do you want to say anything? Batu is here, and James as well, and so they are four community members who will go back and talk further with their people. My understanding is that the committee sittings today are really only the start of it. If there are any issues that I have not been able to raise, they can be raised through other forums and in other ways.
ACTING CHAIR —I very much appreciate the community members coming today also. Did anyone say yes, that they wanted to say something?
—I want to ask you a question. In the Australian, Charlie made a statement. But I told that journalist that something like this would come, an inquiry from the Senate and all that. That is what I suggested to him. Apparently some chief at the Australian made that story up. So I was hoping for this kind of hearing—and it is much appreciated that it is happening right now. I am wondering why there is this inquiry and why the government wants to see this from the Aboriginal point of view. I am asking why the community should get much involved in this kind of debate, and all that?
ACTING CHAIR —That is a good question, Jeffry. The answer to why is because the effect of this particular piece of legislation is here; it is on you and community members from Elcho and the other islands which we are visiting today. The effect is not in Canberra; it is here. So our inquiry comes here to talk to you about what you think that might mean. You have asked us some questions, some of which we have been able to answer and some of which we have not—but we will go and get answers.
We take our jobs, all of us, as you do, very seriously. If we had sat in Canberra or Sydney or Melbourne or even Darwin and said, `This is what we think is going to happen and this is what we are going to write down and this is the story we are going to tell'—a mix-up story, probably!—that would have been the wrong thing to do. But the right thing to do is make sure that we know as much as you are prepared to tell us about what you think and what is important to you. That is why.
Senator SCULLION —I have a question for Jeffry. This law is a further protection measure for our border control. It makes a stronger layer of protection. Its intent is to stop people wanting to come to the islands, because there is no visa outcome. That is the intent of the law. So, should this law progress, do you think it is a good law for that?
Mr Mulawa —Yes.
Senator SCULLION —There will be some information from Annette, who is here somewhere, that you can take back to Milingimbi. But I also understand that, someone will come out to further explain and they will have materials that you can look further to today.
Senator STEPHENS —I am very interested in finding out something about the map. You can see quite clearly that the yellow part is the excision part; this is the part that is going to be affected by the legislation. I found it quite hard to understand why this had happened in the Gulf. I cannot understand what that would mean, in terms of traditional law in your country, for the white part to be out of the zone and the yellow part to be in the zone. Can anyone tell me the answer to that?
Mr Duinyini —Probably somebody forgot to colour it.
Senator STEPHENS —No; there are two very distinct lines. Can no-one tell me the answer?
Mr Yumbulil —We are dealing with the same people anyway—same Aboriginal people, same law.
Mr Yunupingu —You can ask those people.
Mr Duinyini —I think it is funny; but, really, I think somebody forgot to colour that in.
Mr Yumbulil —The blue line is not covered by yellow.
Senator STEPHENS —This is part of the Gulf.
Mr Yumbulil —Yes. That is part of the Gulf where trawlers go. What we are looking at is the coastal waters and the islands up around the regions of the Wessells and up in the islands and the coast going further out towards Coburg Peninsular and Tiwi Islands. Most of those refugees and migrants land in this region. They do not go further there because it is New Guinea. Irian Jaya will shoot them down and we do not.
ACTING CHAIR —We have been very fortunate to hear from so many people who have had things to tell us, and we are extremely thankful for so many people coming from different places, and important representatives of your communities. That means that we have useful information for our work, and that is extremely important to us. I want to say thank you on behalf of everyone who is here today.
Mr Datjarrangu —I have one question. One particular issue is really important, because we are the Indigenous people of Australia. Have we got the right to say no to those refugees entering Australia? Somebody is making the law in parliament?
ACTING CHAIR —This proposed law is about saying to those people who come illegally, unlawfully, to your areas without visas that they cannot get visas, if they come here to come to Australia. That is what this law is about.
Mr Yumbulil —Thank you, chair. From this meeting or gathering here, are you guys searching or asking for an agreement to give the panel here?
ACTING CHAIR —Not necessarily. We do not need to have an agreement. What we have needed to hear is what you have had to say.
Mr Yumbulil —We will do it right down to the line now. We will clear it up. I am going to ask the group here now: do you want these immigration boats and others things to bring disease and other things to this side of the country or not? The group is telling me, `Kick them out. No, we don't want them here. Kick them out. We can make that law.'
Mr Yunupingu —Thank you. Also thank you, Nigel, for coming out to Galiwinku. Next time you come here, please stay for a couple of days.
ACTING CHAIR —This is a very beautiful place. I would like to stay for a couple of days. I will make Senator Scullion bring me back.
Senator SCULLION —We will try very hard.
—Stay for a week so that we can take you fishing.
ACTING CHAIR —That sounds good. Thank you all very much.
Proceedings suspended from 12.07 p.m. to 2.55 p.m.