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Minister discusses the Aboriginal tent embassy.



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WTPC03/2003 04 February 2003

TRANSCRIPT OF WILSON TUCKEY - INTERVIEW WITH 2CC RE: ABORIGINAL TENT EMBASSY

Last year Wilson Tuckey described the Aboriginal Tent Embassy as "a camp for itinerants". He says that yesterday's Supreme Court decision concerning the removal of an A-frame 'gunyaH' has given the Government the opportunity to gain a more immediate response to the removal of further illegal structures. Mr Tuckey says that the situation at the Tent Embassy has been aided and abetted by the ACT Police Force. He says that the police should provide evidence about who was responsible for

the 'gunyaH' so that they could be pursued financially.

COMPERE:

The Federal Minister for Territories, Mr Wilson Tuckey, is on the line. Good morning, thanks for your time.

WILSON TUCKEY:

Good morning, Mike

COMPERE:

That so-called 'tent embassy' - I was actually going through my archives and I came across a conversation that you and I had back in July of last year, and you were saying that it had become a camp for itinerants. Well that's certainly true but now more than ever. It's a really big camp now for even more itinerants, isn't it?

WILSON TUCKEY:

Well yes it was although I think it related to an Australia Day ceremony that was approved - not the camping but the actual ceremony as it has in past years, and the NCA had allowed for the erection of a couple of marques and some associated stage and things and all of a sudden everybody pitched a tent as well. Now most of those tents on the site have been removed. People have moved on and

we are not at all happy about that situation but I think yesterday's dismissal of an injunction trying to defend a corrugated iron A frame that someone wanted to call a 'gunyah' has cleared the way to the effort that there won't be any more of those and I think it's given the opportunity after discussions I had yesterday with the Minister Allison, the Minister for Federal Police, amongst other things, and so that we can get a more immediate response for the removal of illegal structures there ...

COMPERE:

Well, you know, I went down there on Friday, had a bit of a look around - it may have changed over the weekend of course - but there were lots of cars, thee were mysterious things under tarpaulins - I don't quite know what they were - there were

plenty of tents, there were whole families. There seemed to be a couple of aborigines but they didn't seem to be in the majority as near as I could tell just by looking at them. The so-called 'gunyah' that's quite a gunyah. That's a big solid construction that and

may I say it doesn't appear to be made of traditional materials, so there's quite a lot happening there and it looks like a lovely spot to stay when you're in town?

WILSON TUCKEY:

Oh yeah, but not if you're a pensioner or any other legitimate traveller...

COMPERE:

You're not allowed to do that, no of course not.

WILSON TUCKEY:

... driving around Australia, any more than they are anywhere else. But look ...

COMPERE:

Just on that score, can I make the point, you know, we've had so many calls over however long it's been about - people are so angry with the fact that it seems like you can do anything you like in that spot out the front of old Commonwealth, of old Parliament House. Do you know what I mean? Like it's one rule for that particular place and another rule for everybody else in the ACT.

WILSON TUCKEY:

Well, look, that is exactly the situation and it's been aided and abetted by your own ACT Police Force. There is an Ordinance in place that identifies the ACT and the Federal Police as the appropriate law officers for that area, and for a week after the erection of that A-Frame, the NCA were dragged through for about the third time a

whole series of processes where the most senior people of the ACT Police were trying to find excuses not to go down there and remove it. Notwithstanding, we've been through them all before and had all the same outcomes.

Now ...

COMPERE:

So you lay the blame squarely at the feet of the AFP?

WILSON TUCKEY:

There is a series of emails or faxes on the record of the head of the NCA requesting the appropriate and legal assistance of the ACT Police. There's been nominated authority to remove it, including offers of providing the necessary contractors at the NCA's cost - in other words, the taxpayers' cost and there was just a process of prevarication and, you know, oh no, we think you should have your own police inspectors and all sorts of things. I hope I settled that yesterday through the Minister's office, but I mean the deal is this: We said to the ATSIC and the local Ngunnawal people and others, look, you can keep the couple of tents that are there. You can keep those old terrible transportable buildings or containers or whatever they are while we sort through what has been a lengthy process, but I understand the reasons of a consultation which is to conclude at the end of this month as to a permanent facility, as a one only facility to in some way recognise the past historical event...

COMPERE:

Okay, end of this month you say?

WILSON TUCKEY:

Yes, that was our side of it. They're supposed to keep the other side that there will be no more structures. Let me say they don't want the structures. The show's now being run by a woman from Redfern. No association whatsoever with the Ngunnawal people I think. The person who lodged the injunction the other day was pretty doubtful in terms of their relationship. The court has dismissed it. I think that's the first time that they've found that process won't work. I'm determined that at the end of the month we must have a resolution. We've, as I've said, stuck to our arrangements and they've been defied quite deliberately but not by the people we're dealing with.

COMPERE:

Okay, so when you say the woman from Redfern, are you talking about Wagilla Binna* or Isabel Coe.

WILSON TUCKEY:

Oh her name's Coe I think.

COMPERE:

Isabel Coe, yes.

WILSON TUCKEY:

Yes. She's not a local person, nor is the other fellow who lives there permanently and you know, commits acts of vandalism and assault and other things, and he's under charge, but again I mean, he was charged with obstructing the Police the last time on the Kangaroo event. There's been no proceedings in that regard. He was interviewed about an assault and there's been no proceedings about that. It's time you asked Mr Murray to explain himself - if you can get him on the program.

COMPERE:

Well, sure. Okay, well, the guy that speaks to me now is a new bloke named Bunga* Smith. Have you spoken to Bunga?

WILSON TUCKEY:

What's he another of her spokesman down there?

COMPERE:

Yes, he actually seems ...

WILSON TUCKEY:

Oh well he wasn't the bloke - I don't know all the names - but who was the person who claimed to be the local elder who was the person for this last injunction. Was that he?

COMPERE:

No, I don't believe so. But Bunga's come in to the picture. He, it won't surprise you, isn't too keen on Ngunnawals - no matter how you spell that name - I don't think he's too keen on the Ngarragu*, but I must say Bunga is a bit of a quantum leap forward in cleverness. He's a lot smarter than the people that I've heard from up until this point. So I think Bunga is behind the A-Frame.

WILSON TUCKEY:

Oh, look, one of the issues that we think would be appropriate for the Police is to give us evidence as to the people who actually put these various structures there because it is my intention that we should pursue them financially for the costs involved to the taxpayer ...

COMPERE:

Now that's an interesting idea.

WILSON TUCKEY:

... in their removal. But again, you know, we don't have people in the NCA who have the right to go out to acquire that evidence and when we make this request, as I said, it's just ignored. Now I don't know if those instructions come from higher up to the ACT Police or

whether it's their own judgement. But I'm most unhappy with that arrangement. As I said we sorted out - it took us a week to sort out the Kangaroo and get them on the job. Now they took us through all the same processes again and that took a week, and I mean the time to approach these illegal structures is while they're under construction, the time they put the first shovel in the dirt...

COMPERE:

Well I would agree, and apparently I'm told by Bunga it took twelve hours to put up the A-Frame so you would have thought somebody might have noticed.

WILSON TUCKEY:

Well you'd have thought, for instance, the building authorities of Canberra might have taken notice. I mean when we pointed out the unsafe characteristics of the Kangaroo WorkSafe went down there and tried to make excuses for it. I mean if you had a structure of that nature erected without approval on a building site you'd have every union in the country on your back and WorkSafe's there standing right behind. I mean there is so many of these issues that are just wrong and they're illegal and they're being supported for all the wrong reasons because the broader Aboriginal community is not supporting what's going on down there.

COMPERE:

Well that's absolutely true

WILSON TUCKEY:

It is.

COMPERE:

Look, I appreciate your comments and your time this morning, Mr Tuckey. We'll see what happens between now and the end of the month.

WILSON TUCKEY:

Well we promise that whatever - I don't know what the particular consultant will recommend, but they have consulted widely. I've had an interview with them. We have accepted that there are a lot of good people involved and people who have a great interest in the original historical event. We are prepared to cooperate with them and not have it as an illegal camping area or anything else of the nature we see today.

COMPERE:

Mr Tuckey, thanks for coming on the program today.

WILSON TUCKEY:

Thank you very much.

COMPERE:

Bye bye. That's Wilson Tuckey, the Federal Minister for Territories.

ENDS