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LEGAL AND CONSTITUTIONAL AFFAIRS LEGISLATION COMMITTEE
13/04/2010
Wild Rivers (Environmental Management) Bill 2010 [No. 2]

CHAIR (Senator Crossin) —I warmly welcome everyone and open this inquiry into the Wild Rivers (Environmental Management) Bill 2010. This is the second hearing for the Senate’s Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee’s inquiry into this bill. This inquiry was referred to the committee by the Senate on 25 February 2010 for inquiry and report by 9 May 2010. This is a private senator’s bill. It was introduced into the Senate by Senator Nigel Scullion. An identical bill has also been introduced into the House of Representatives by the Hon. Tony Abbott.

The bill seeks to protect the interests of Aboriginal traditional owners in the management, development and use of native title land situated in wild river areas. It does this by requiring the agreement of traditional owners to the development or use of native title land in wild river areas regulated by the Queensland Wild Rivers Act 2005. We have received 32 submissions for this inquiry, and submissions authorised for publication are available on the committee’s website.

I remind witnesses today that in giving evidence to the committee you are protected by parliamentary privilege. It is unlawful for anyone to threaten or disadvantage a witness on account of the fact that they have given evidence to this committee and any such action may be treated by the Senate as a contempt. It is also a contempt to give false or misleading evidence to the committee.

We do prefer all of our evidence to be given in public, but under our resolutions you have the right to actually be heard in private, in confidence and in camera, which means you would do so just by yourself with the committee and everyone else would leave the room. If you want to provide evidence in camera as a witness, you need to request this of the committee and we will consider that request.

Mr Claudie —We are situated in central Cape York, which is on the Wenlock River. That is in between Lockhart, Weipa and Coen. We are right in the middle. We conduct land management. We conduct our own governance and stuff like that as the Chuulangun Aboriginal Corporation.

Mr De Busch —Our homelands estate is on the bottom of the Archer, which is around the Peach Creek catchment.

Mr Andy —Our group is comprised of nine tribal groups, from Mission Beach, which is near Tully—on the coast of Tully—and goes down towards this side of Rollingstone, just north of Townsville, and out towards Greenvale. This comprises the nine traditional tribes in this area. We are here to talk about the wild river that was declared in February 2007 on Hinchinbrook Island.

CHAIR —You have given us submissions and we have them on the website as Nos 10, 20 and 26. I am going to ask you now to give us an opening statement or talk to us about your views about the legislation. There is a whole heap of us here, so if you could perhaps make your comments very quick, because we would like to ask you quite a lot of questions.

Mr Claudie —The views of the Chuulangun Aboriginal Corporation are that we are opposed to the Wild Rivers (Environmental Management) Bill mainly because of what they are saying in section 4:

It is the intention of the Parliament that this Act be a special measure for the advancement and protection of Australia’s indigenous people.

The basis for the Wild Rivers (Environmental Management) Bill is seriously flawed, in our eyes. It is clear that the motivation behind the bill is political and in no way reflects Mr Abbott’s purposes for the advancement and protection of Australia’s Indigenous people. Instead the bill reflects the views and agendas of one group which opposes the wild rivers legislation and has been spreading a misinformation campaign across Cape York Indigenous communities. The result of this campaign is confusion amongst some Indigenous people as to what wild rivers is all about. In other words, the people up in Cape York actually have not sat down with the people who are supposed to explain what the wild rivers legislation is all about. Instead it was a political campaign to lobby against the wild rivers of Queensland.

I say that because we have got the wild rivers there and it does not reflect of our homelands movement; in terms of creating jobs for ourselves; in terms of getting our capabilities up to a standard to work with different government regimes, not only state but also federal. Really it does not affect us at all. I think this bill that Tony Abbott put through does not reflect what Indigenous views really are from the people on the ground and out on their homelands. It only reflects the views of centralised people, which is what the government did in the first place with the assimilation era.

Mr De Busch —My view is I do not agree with the wild rivers environmental bill. I particularly do not agree where it says that consent is required by all traditional owners. These are complicated matters that require further consideration in terms of reconciling the rights of Indigenous people to conserve and develop. Furthermore, it is about getting consensus from all the right traditional owners in the first instance to protect the rivers. In addition, it is about getting consensus from the right traditional owners about this bill. The view that I have is that we are not aware that this bill was taken to parliament by Tony Abbott. The Cape York regional bodies have a long history of using Aboriginal people from Cape York as pawns in their political games. My view is that enough is enough and in order to get consent their needs to be a consensus from the right traditional owners who speak for their homelands. This is the way that we have always continued to follow our traditional law.

I see that this bill and this wild rivers agenda have caused a huge wedge between Aboriginal people and families. Even here today walking into this Senate inquiry there are families outside that we are not speaking to, and that is not us progressing forward as a people together. I think that this wild rivers issue has become an agenda of the regional bodies and many traditional owners. As a representative of the KULLA Land Trust, I was not consulted about an inquiry or a submission being submitted to this either by Noel Pearson or the KULLA Land Trust executive. That is my statement about Aboriginal people from Cape York being used as pawns in this whole political agenda.

Mr Andy —As far as the Girringun Aboriginal Corporation is concerned, firstly, we are relatively new to the wild river issue. It has been declared over part of our country, which is Hinchinbrook Island, without any consultation. As my brothers have said, we have not really been told about what ‘wild river’ meant. At present we have been given two wild river rangers from the wild river funding, or whatever you call it. This is like looking through a darkened glass; we do not know what lies ahead of us.

Now this new legislation has been put forward to the government—Mr Abbott’s legislation. Again, I am not quite familiar with this. What we have now before us is wild rivers legislation that we feel there was a lot of confusion about, as my brother said, on just how this one works. This new legislation that is going to go before parliament is again unsure to us. We do not really know what it is going to do from here on.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —Mr Andy, I think you just said you are new to the wild rivers and that it had been imposed upon you without any consultation; is that right?

Mr Andy —Yes, it was declared in February 2007 and from then on we applied to the wild river for rangers to be able to work in and around Hinchinbrook Island, and we got two rangers. To me, it seemed like we just take it day by day—

Senator IAN MACDONALD —I think you said before that happened nobody consulted you?

Mr Andy —Yes.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —Do you understand that it is the Queensland state government that imposed the wild rivers legislation? As to what Mr Abbott’s legislation does—and this is a question I will ask all three of you—the actual bill says this:

The development or use of native title land in a wild river area cannot be regulated under the relevant Queensland legislation unless the Aboriginal traditional owners of the land agree.

What that is saying, just to explain that, is if this bill is passed in the federal parliament it is saying that Queensland cannot do anything on your Girringun land unless the traditional owners agree. That is what Mr Abbott’s bill says. What don’t you like about that? It sounds fairly fair, doesn’t it?

Mr Andy —It sounds fair. But as long as the negotiation is done directly with us on the ground and not through some other organisations. Girringun has a longstanding relationship working through our land and sea, TUMRA—the traditional use of marine resources. We have done that directly with the Great Barrier Reef authority and the Queensland government, and we are looking forward to working directly and not through—

Senator IAN MACDONALD —That is what Mr Abbott’s bill says.

Mr Andy —Okay.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —Could I ask the same question to both the others. Mr Abbott’s bill states that the development and use of native title land in the wild rivers area—that is in your area—cannot be regulated by the Queensland government unless you agree. What don’t you like about that?

Mr De Busch —First of all, my position on the wild rivers declaration of the Archer is that I have never had an issue with it. I was not consulted in the initial stages but after having a look at the piece of legislation I have not had an issue with it. I think it can create a lot of opportunity. That is my position in the first instance. In relation to getting a consensus from the right traditional owners within the area, I agree with Mr Andy that it is traditional owners on the ground that need to be engaged.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —That is what Mr Abbott’s bill is all about. It says nothing can be done on your land by the Queensland government or by the Commonwealth government or by any government unless the traditional owners agree. You said you were opposed to this bill, but I am just wondering what you do not like about that. It seems to be exactly what you want.

Mr De Busch —The fear for me, being a supporter of the legislation, is that to have the wild rivers legislation now removed would not grant traditional owners such as ourselves, who are supportive of it, the ability to have large-scale mining, dams erected; it would be a huge problem to the environment and a huge problem to our homelands.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —I think you said before that some of the Aboriginal corporations have been spreading a campaign of fear. Could I suggest to you that perhaps the Wilderness Society is spreading a campaign of fear, because the operative part of this act is that no government can make any decisions on your land without your traditional owners’ consent. I cannot understand why you are opposed to that.

Mr De Busch —Like I said, I am opposed to it because of the fact that I think there has been a lot of misleading information that has come out from the regional bodies.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —There is the bill. That is really what it says. Perhaps I could ask Mr Claudie again, repeating clause 5 of the bill, that the development and use of native title land in the wild rivers area cannot be regulated under relevant Queensland legislation unless Aboriginal traditional owners of the land agree.

Mr Claudie —The Queensland government has to go by the Native Title Act, which is at the federal level, which is handled by the regional native title representative bodies, to get these groups of so-called traditional owners that Mr Abbott is referring to, that is, to get consent from those people and not the true people on the ground.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —Well, traditional owners.

Mr Claudie —Yes, traditional owners. The definition of a ‘traditional owner’ plays a part here. The bill says ‘to get consent from traditional owners’. It is referring to traditional owners under the Native Title Act, which is at the federal level. That is why the Queensland government has a bit of a problem trying to itemise out who is who and what is what in terms of traditional owners, and who they should be dealing with, because it is a federal issue.

Senator BOSWELL —In your submission you state, ‘Homelands also provide greater opportunities for employment of Indigenous people in environmental services as well as opportunities for enterprise development. The Wild Rivers Act is consistent with facilitating all those important outcomes.’ My question is: can you tell the committee what jobs and businesses you are talking about? How many jobs and what are they that are currently available on your homelands?

Mr Claudie —In order to create jobs and get economic development it has to be the federal government who actually help Indigenous people get back to that regime, because they took us out in the first place from our homelands. In other words, when we go back to our homelands we have got no money. Today you need money to conduct the things you are talking about in terms of creating jobs. With the ranger jobs, we got six rangers. We are getting training. In the training we are trying to get our mob to come back to homelands so that we can have our autonomy in terms of getting ourselves into workforces, and getting ourselves into economic development, like creating businesses. Anyway, we have got to create the autonomy or economy ourselves on our homelands, us Indigenous people. We cannot rely on people down here in Cairns to do that for us. We need to do it up there in Cape York.

Senator BOSWELL —I would have thought this bill actually helps that procedure. How many people do not have a job in your area?

Mr Claudie —There are a lot of people that do not have a job in those centralised places. They are so embedded in the CDEP that was there before. They are so embedded in getting handouts from the government in terms of Centrelink. It was not giving them an opportunity to actually try and create jobs themselves, which is what I am saying here. Our only job is to be land managers and that is on our homelands.

Senator BOSWELL —You say you have been involved with the wild rivers initiative since 2006 and in that time you have secured funding for three rangers and access to a ranger vehicle. So, that is three jobs and a car and that is what the Queensland government has offered you in terms of you supporting their programs. It does not seem a lot, three jobs and a car.

Mr Claudie —Well, but it is something. That is what I am saying. At the moment the Queensland government under the Aboriginal Land Act does not give any Indigenous people any rights in terms of their land trust structures to create jobs, to create things on their homelands. It is all centralisation. That is the same with the federal government with the Native Title Act.

Senator BOSWELL —You say in your submission that the Queensland government could do much better in consulting, and the changes to the high preservation areas in response to submissions should also be closely consulted with relevant traditional owners. Would you like to see changes to some of the high preservation areas, and what changes and consultation would you like?

Mr Claudie —I will give you a bit of a history. When we moved back to homelands that is the first thing we looked at, conservation and environmental stuff, so that we can sustain that environment without affecting it. With the high preservation zones, there are rare and threatened species around there. We looked into the Western scientific side in terms of what we know as Aboriginal people from that area in terms of what we have to protect. Have you seen the Wenlock River in full flood? You have not?

Senator BOSWELL —No.

Mr Claudie —If I am going to be developing right next to those high preservation zones, which is next to the rivers, if I put in, say, $200,000 or $300,000 of infrastructure there, then next year, next flood, that $200,000 or $300,000 is going to be down the drain. We have got to look at sustainable economic development and to create employment around that area.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —But aren’t you people the best ones to know what is endangered rather than some European scientists?

Mr Claudie —That’s it. We do not need Tony Abbott and all them to tell us how to do it.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —No, all he is saying is that you should be the ones who decide, not the scientists that you are talking about. He is agreeing with you.

Mr Claudie —Yes, but like I said before, he is not agreeing with me. He is agreeing with the Native Title Act—

Senator BOSWELL —No, he is not. The Native Title Act says you cannot do this.

Mr Claudie —in terms of native title representative bodies.

Senator BOSWELL —As to the Chuulangun Aboriginal Corporation, how do you get to having a corporation? How many members are in that corporation?

Mr Claudie —We have about six members.

Senator BOSWELL —That is pretty light on, I would have thought.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —Six!

Mr Claudie —It is family based.

Senator BOSWELL —What about you, Mr De Brusch? How many people constitute your corporation?

Mr De Busch —There is about eight.

Senator BOSWELL —This is something I have trouble coming to terms with. There seems to be a proliferation of corporations and those corporations can have between six and 500 members. What weight of value do you give on a membership of a corporation that has six as against 400 or 500?

Mr Claudie —To answer your question, if you have 400 or 500 you have got more Aboriginal people arguing than actually getting implementation and moving forward, whereas if you get a small number, as with the five members that we have got, it is family based and we go by bloodline. It is not by what parliament does in terms of voting, ‘Oh, let’s get this sector here or that sector there.’ We have got different clan estates that are hooked up with bloodline to country.

CHAIR —Senator Heffernan, is that you on the line?

Senator HEFFERNAN —Yes, it is. I have been trying for half an hour to get through.

CHAIR —Senator Heffernan, welcome to our inquiry. Senator Boswell is nearly finishing his questioning to the first witnesses.

Senator HEFFERNAN —I have got a few questions for Mr Claudie, too, about the six-member organisation that he represents.

Senator BOSWELL —I will yield to Senator Heffernan.

CHAIR —You have about two minutes.

Senator HEFFERNAN —Give us a break!

CHAIR —You can ask your questions now. Thank you.

Senator HEFFERNAN —Mr Claudie, you represent six people in your organisation?

Mr Claudie —Correct.

Senator HEFFERNAN —There are three directors, your wife and yourself and someone else. Who is the third director?

Mr Claudie —I am the chairperson and I have got five other ones.

Senator HEFFERNAN —They say in life you are as independent as the person who pays you. You got funding in 2006, according to the Office of the Registrar of Indigenous Corporations, of $187,000; in 2007, $454,000; in 2008, $620,000; in 2009, $887,000. What did you do with that money?

Mr Claudie —We set up our corporation in the sense of getting in officers, getting up into insurances, buying tools and materials.

Senator HEFFERNAN —How many people are you dealing with? There are six people. There are three directors—yourself, your wife and another director—and three other people. What else did—

Mr Claudie —What we are saying is that those six directors are on homelands with me. All the rest of my people are in those centralised places that you mob put in.

Senator HEFFERNAN —So, $887,000 in 2009. Can we put on notice a question to you to provide how this budget for 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009 has been spent? Could you provide us with those details?

Mr Claudie —I have not got the details in front of me so I can probably send them to you.

Senator HEFFERNAN —No. I would prefer that we got the paperwork, if we could get that paperwork.

CHAIR —Do you have questions regarding the legislation before us?

Senator HEFFERNAN —I do, indeed.

CHAIR —We have decided to share the time and you have got one question left. Then we are going to the other senators.

Senator HEFFERNAN —I have been trying patiently since 11 o’clock to get through, so I would have thought you could indulge me with a few minutes.

CHAIR —I am not going to do that today. We have agreed on a time slot and you have one question left and then we are going to other senators.

Senator HEFFERNAN —Mr Claudie, I do not know how old you are or how many kids you have got, but say your kids wanted to go to university or come back and farm 800 acres. By the way, I heard what you said earlier about every time there is a flood you will get your infrastructure washed away. Obviously you can overcome that with engineering if you go about it the right way. But if you had a son or grandson who wanted to develop a substantial piece in life rather than for the rest of his life having the economic opportunity of getting your photo taken with a spear for a tourist, do you not think we ought to be able to develop land that you blokes live on for real economic development, which can be done in conjunction with protecting the environment? Do you not think it is a fair thing? My other question is: do you get any other funding other than the funding I have mentioned? Do you get any funding from the Wilderness Society?

Mr Claudie —No, not really from the Wilderness Society, but I get it from the federal government. We cannot be big developers like you mob, like the white man. We cannot destroy our land, because if we destroy our land then we do not exist.

Senator HEFFERNAN —Mate, I understand that and I completely agree with it.

Mr Claudie —We have got to develop in a sustainable way in order to create that economic development for us.

Senator HEFFERNAN —I agree with you—

CHAIR —Thank you. Senator Heffernan, thank you.

Senator HEFFERNAN —This is pathetic.

Interjector—Madam Chair, excuse me.

CHAIR —No, I am sorry. You cannot interrupt from the floor.

Senator SIEWERT —As I understand this bill, it relates specifically to native title land, and many of the submissions outline the fact that there are a whole lot of different titles held in the cape. Are you native title holders?

Mr Claudie —We are, yes.

Senator SIEWERT —So this legislation would apply to you. I am just trying to work out which areas of land this actual legislation applies to, because it applies to native title lands. One of the criticisms of the wild rivers legislation is that it applies to other tenures as well and that the provisions under the Native Title Act do not protect those people who hold land under other tenures. I am just checking to see that all of you are in fact native title holders, because I wanted to ask others who are not what they thought about the legislation and if they had criticisms of the legislation. I do not think this bill addresses those criticisms. I am not necessarily validating those criticisms. I am just asking about them. In terms of consultation you raised in your submission the point around agreements in the bill. You talk about agreements. You talk about how you would reach agreement across all holders of title for that particular river, upstream and downstream. Could you explain that in a little bit more detail for me, please? What are your concerns around how you would reach agreement and the consultation process?

Mr Claudie —On a catchment basis, you have got different tribes all the way down on the river. For us, for example, we are on top. I have to talk to all of those mob down the bottom to try and get an agreement. We cannot override or impact on each other, if you like. If we contaminate the water up from the top there, for example, the mob down the bottom will get contaminated. For us, that is a big thing. We have to have an agreement with us on the ground in the catchment to sort of make a decision.

Senator SIEWERT —Are you saying that the current wild rivers legislation—not the bill, but the legislation—allows a whole of river approach?

Mr Claudie —Yes, and we do the consultation ourselves. But unfortunately the government does not give us the money to do that. So we do that in our own time, like our old people did before.

Senator SIEWERT —That is in terms of developing how you would manage that whole of the river?

Mr Claudie —Yes.

Senator SIEWERT —In terms of going back to when the wild rivers legislation was first introduced and there was funding provided for consultation, were you involved in that consultation process?

Mr Claudie —I was involved, yes.

Senator SIEWERT —Was each of your organisations involved?

Mr De Busch —No, I was not involved. We are a relatively new organisation, just to answered the question before as to why we have only eight members.

Senator SIEWERT —Have any of your organisations had developments or projects that you would like to do that have been stopped by the wild rivers legislation or that you think would be? A criticism I have heard is that organisations have not put up development proposals because they think they will be knocked back anyway. Have you had any knocked back or have you got any that you would like to do that you do not think you would be able to do under the wild rivers legislation?

Mr Claudie —No, not really, not me.

Mr De Busch —No, not for us. We have aspirations to have sustainable ecotourism ventures, and we do not feel at all that would be stopped by the legislation one bit.

Senator SIEWERT —Mr Andy, have you had any development proposals or any proposals that have either been stopped or that you think would be stopped by the wild rivers legislation?

Mr Andy —No. The only proposal was Caring for our Country, and we were looking strongly at managing our country. Our country, as you know, down past Cairns, is quite different from the cape, which is taken up by the sugar industry, banana industry and cattle—whatever. Not much land is left for us. Our concern is in managing our land. At this present moment we have 11 rangers given to us this year. Two of those were the wild river rangers. We find that economic ventures for our people are going to be hard, because we are battling with these existing structures, businesses, agricultural business in, as I said, bananas and sugarcane. We find at this very present time our business is managing our country. We do have a vision which is ultimately taking control of whatever existing country that we have—when I say ‘take control’ that means managing it. Also, the Queensland state parks and national parks cover a big lot of our country and are run by QPWS. They look after that. We have a vision that one day Girringun Aboriginal Corporation will run that. We will look after that. We will manage all the national park within the Girringun Aboriginal Corporation region and the government will front us and not QPWS. This is our economic viewpoint at this stage. Going into other things, it is hard below Cairns. Everything is taken up.

Senator SIEWERT —Thank you. As to the issue of management of national parks, the wild rivers legislation would not stop you from doing that if that is your vision for down the track. The wild rivers legislation would not stop you from doing that, would it?

Mr Andy —No, not really, no.

Senator SIEWERT —Could I just go back to this issue about consultation? You make a point in your submission also around the misrepresentation of traditional owners, and you were critical of the fact that your organisation is lumped in with other organisations being critical of the wild rivers legislation?

Mr Claudie —Yes, a general misrepresentation of traditional owners. What I see is that in 1997 the Northern Kaanju people registered a native title claim to 235,000 hectares of their homelands on the Wenlock River, over the area known as Batavia Downs Station. The claim is currently undergoing state land dealings towards an Indigenous Land Use Agreement. In 2008 the regional organisation has been contracted by the state government to undertake the land dealings on behalf of traditional owners to send out a submission to the Wenlock Basin Wild River declaration proposal on behalf of traditional owners. This submission is an inaccurate representation of the direction of the traditional owners of Batavia. As to all of the Batavia state land dealings meetings held at Weipa—the traditional owners of Batavia did not authorise the regional organisation to prepare and present a submission on their behalf without any input—I am talking about relevant traditional owners here—or agreement from traditional owners based entirely on that organisation’s own position, which is anti wild rivers. This misrepresentation of traditional owners is one example of the overall agenda of particular regional organisations, which has been to misrepresent and misinform traditional owners of Cape York on land management and other issues such as wild rivers. Further, it is highly hypercritical of this particular regional organisation to criticise the consultation process, given their very high level of manipulation of the information to traditional owners and the blocking of several meetings with traditional owners to negotiate around the declarations. That is what is happening on the ground.

Senator SIEWERT —So as to having consultation with the government in terms of wild rivers declaration, you are saying that you are not being properly consulted in that process?

Mr Claudie —No. The regional organisations get the contract from the government, state or federal, in terms of getting the consultation out to the people on the ground.

Mr De Busch —I think the point here is that you have to understand that the regional bodies are not speaking for every traditional owner in Cape York. Mr Boswell and Mr Heffernan are pretty upset, but this is not an inquiry into Chuulangun. If he is going to do an inquiry into Chuulangun, he should go and do that some other time. We are here to focus on the environmental bill—

Senator BOSWELL —We are asking the questions.

CHAIR —Senator Boswell, thanks very much; we are going to Senator McLucas now.

Senator McLUCAS —Could you indicate to the committee the sorts of economic opportunities that you see for your country and how you would proceed to deliver those outcomes on your country? I understand you have made the point about finances, but what sorts of economic development opportunities would you like to see and how would you go about achieving that?

Mr De Busch —I agree with David Claudie’s statement earlier about the fact that the federal government has a role and the state government has a role in helping traditional owners back out on homelands that do not have families that own huge multimillion-dollar companies in relation to having seed funding to first establish our ventures so we can provide jobs, training and opportunity for people to come back onto homelands to manage our own homelands. The types of aspirations that we have are: sustainable ecotourism, opportunities for scientists to come up and work, and to own the intellectual property rights over the opportunities that exist up there through the flora and fauna. It is those types of opportunities that we see as sustainable and that provides us an opportunity to grant our people jobs back on homeland.

Senator HEFFERNAN —What about food production?

Senator McLUCAS —I understand it is your view that the Queensland legislation does not prevent you from achieving those aspirations?

Mr De Busch —Not at all.

Senator McLUCAS —Not at all?

Mr De Busch —As a matter of fact, we have seen the state government have more of a drive now to actually support traditional owners back out on homeland that have those aspirations. There has been misinformed information that has come out through the regional bodies about traditional owners going and actually cutting spear handles and there was a crazy statement this morning about people having a bucket to go and take water away from the camp because they were not allowed to draw their own water out. It is that sort of misinformation that is exactly what people like myself have issues with.

Senator McLUCAS —I am not trying to upset people, but when you say ‘the regional body’ I think it would be useful for our committee if you were to name that organisation.

Mr De Busch —I can name them. I will just say this: it has been upsetting to see David Claudie attacked a little bit here by two of the senators. Let us have an inquiry—

0Senator Boswell interjecting

CHAIR —Order! Senator Boswell.

Senator BOSWELL —On a point of order. I have a right to take a point of order.

Mr De Busch —Walk into the regional bodies, the Cape York Land Council, the Cape York Institute, the Cape York partnerships, and have a look at how many Indigenous people are sitting behind the desks.

CHAIR —Senator Boswell, I will give you an opportunity to reply, but please do not interrupt the witnesses.

Senator BOSWELL —Madam Chair, I am calling a point of order. Are you denying me the right to have a point of order?

CHAIR —I am saying to you that I understand you want a right of reply to Mr De Busch. I will give you that when he has finished and drawn a breath.

Senator HEFFERNAN —What about me, Madam Chair?

CHAIR —Mr De Busch, have you finished?

Mr De Busch —You’ll get your chance.

Senator HEFFERNAN —What about me?

CHAIR —Mr De Busch, have you finished? You have.

Senator HEFFERNAN —I want to know whether these blokes are prepared to grow commercial tucker on their land.

—It was Senator Heffernan that did it.

CHAIR —Senator Boswell, do you have something you want to say?

Senator BOSWELL —I want to address a statement Mr De Busch made. He said I attacked David Claudie and himself. I asked a question as to how many people were in your organisation.

Senator HEFFERNAN —Exactly.

Senator BOSWELL —I do not accept that that is a personal attack or an attack on your organisation. It was a mere question as to how many people you represent.

Mr Claudie —Didn’t I answer you that?

Senator BOSWELL —You did. But you have not accused me of attacking you. Mr De Busch has accused me, and I deny it.

—It was Senator Heffernan that did it.

Senator BARNETT —Senator Heffernan has requested, I understand—the microphones are not working that well—an opportunity to respond. Senator Heffernan is on the line and I think he should have the right to respond.

CHAIR —I am not sure he requested a response. I think he was interjecting with comments, which are two different things.

Senator HEFFERNAN —No, I wanted to reply.

Senator BARNETT —Right of reply.

CHAIR —Senator Heffernan.

Senator HEFFERNAN —Thank you very much. If there was a misconception that somehow going through the financials is an attack, I apologise if you have misconstrued that. My question really was: with all the land that is up there are the Indigenous people keen to have economic opportunity by way of commercial use of the land such as growing tucker and selling tucker et cetera? Are they opposed to that?

CHAIR —Senator McLucas, your final question.

Senator McLUCAS —My question to Mr Claudie was the same question I asked of Mr De Busch. Your submission indicates on page 3 that there is a range of opportunities that your group would like to pursue. Is there anything in the Queensland legislation that prevents your people from achieving the economic outcomes that you aspire to?

Mr Claudie —No, I do not think so, because it complies with the Wild Rivers Act in terms of protection and conservation and sustainable industries. It is not like we are asking for big mining companies to mine our land or to cut all the trees down and have a timber industry there—things like that. That is what I meant by saying that we have to protect our resources in order to protect ourselves, in a sense, with the land.

Senator HEFFERNAN —That is what Australia’s farmers do.

Mr Claudie —What was that?

Senator HEFFERNAN —That is what Australia’s farmers do.

CHAIR —Mr Claudie, just continue.

Mr Claudie —Well, I’m not an Australian farmer. I’m an Aboriginal of Australia.

Senator HEFFERNAN —Well, I’m a white fella farmer, mate. You know, we look after our land, too.

CHAIR —Senator Heffernan, I am not going to entertain you interjecting and interrupting witnesses while they are trying to answer a question.

Mr Claudie —Yes, to answer your question, like Mr Heffernan said there in the early part, in terms of our medicinal stuff, we can use that. We can use our bush tucker. We can get that up. We have to consider ourselves, not in terms of making a short buck; we are there for the long run. We need to look into the future for the long run.

0Senator Heffernan interjecting

CHAIR —No, Senator Heffernan. You cannot continue to interrupt in this way.

0Senator Heffernan interjecting

CHAIR —Senator Heffernan!

Senator HEFFERNAN —I would like to know whether Mr Claudie and his organisation is in favour of outside companies taking up—

CHAIR —Mr Claudie, we have come to the time we have allocated you for your evidence. I thank you, Mr Claudie, Mr De Busch and Mr Andy for your submissions and your time at our committee hearing today. Thank you very much.

Mr Claudie —Can I say one thing here. You down there and all of you politicians down there, come up and see our homelands.

Senator HEFFERNAN —I have been there.

Mr Claudie —You have never been there. You’ve been into Weipa.

CHAIR —Senator Heffernan! If you are going to continue to interrupt we will need to disconnect you, I think.

Mr Claudie —I think you’ve been in your own outhouse.

CHAIR —I now call representatives from the Cape York Land Council.

[11.55 am]