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Monday, 19 March 2012
Page: 3334


Mr LAMING (Bowman) (20:21): In this sorry debate tonight, we see a government giving appalling explanations for their delay on the wild rivers legislation. We see these four Labor members representing their entire side of government—the members for Chifley, Shortland, Page and Fowler—and I do not even know if these four members have been to Aurukun. These four members would only turn up in an Aboriginal community if their plane ran out of fuel—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The member will return to the motion or he will sit down.

Mr LAMING: They are four MPs who would only turn up in Aurukun, an area critically affected by this appalling legislation, if their plane ran out of fuel or there was a plaque to be unveiled—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The member for Bowman can stop reflecting on individuals and talk to the motion. I am over people using this time as a rant.

Mr LAMING: That is the only time you would see them turn up to understand the implications of this bill.

We are talking about the use of river catchments. We are talking about the economic impacts upon Aboriginal Australia and Cape York and, as was so eloquently put in Balkanu's submission to this very inquiry, the notion that this is wilderness and wild simply betrays the lack of understanding that this government has of the economic desire of the people of Cape York to have a real chance at a job and a real chance at joining the global economy.

But this is a government determined to back up their Queensland counterparts who, for the last five years, have lamented the lack of consultation around the Northern Territory intervention. But what consultation was there for this Wild Rivers Act in 2005? In January they came up with a parliamentary paper, in February an explanatory memorandum and by 24 May had rammed this through the Queensland Parliament, which has no upper house of review. That is that government's record of consultation. It is appalling. And, then—given just one chance by this opposition to remedy these errors, to take, as Pearson has said, the foot off the throat of people living in Cape York—we had this appalling diversion of this legislation, and, whatever the procedural excuses made by the speaker before me, an appalling delay of years and years.

Is this a government that cares about economic development? Do they care about the complex interplay between economic development, the environment and generational equity? Of course not. These are the principles of sustainable economic development, the principles developed by the world conservation union. We have seen them used in COAG. But no. This bill goes so much further, to rip away from Cape York residents, Aboriginal traditional owners—who are considered as nothing other than unrelated third parties under this legislation—the chance to join the real economy. Within a kilometre of a major waterway there is not even a chance to engage in aquaculture; not even a chance to build anything more than a fence, a track, a road or a fire break without justifying that that piece of infrastructure is both absolutely necessary and can be put in no other location. I mean, what chance is there of having tourism in Cape York under those circumstances?

We have vegetation management acts, through which this legislation is read, that virtually prevent a weed from being pulled, for Aboriginal Australians to have a chance of joining the real economy, generating real jobs and real enterprise. This flies in the face of all of the work done in the reforms to welfare, where we here in Canberra have reached out a hand and said, 'Join the real economy through positive social norms, through paying your rent, through building and owning your own home, sending your children to school and then having a chance to take your own traditional lands and generate some form of employment and economic activity.'

To have the last 8½ minutes of that 10-minute speech devoted to pallid excuses only reminds me that this Saturday, as Churchill said, the era of procrastination will come to an end. Your half measures, your baffling expedients—it is all going to come to an end this Saturday. We will have a new Queensland government. And if this side of the parliament does not have the heart to act on behalf of Aboriginal Australians then the new Queensland government will do that and they will unravel this grave injustice.

I do not care how many green groups say that the economy is not hurt by this legislation. The Aboriginal people are telling us that, and all we ask is that Aboriginal elders, through the bill moved by the Leader of the Opposition, can have a say in this dialogue; through the principle of subsidiary, give them a chance to have a say about their own land. But no. Thanks to this collaboration between Canberra and the soon-to-be-departed ALP government in Queensland, what we have is: standing up for green preferences, for the things that work in Ashgrove over the things that work in Cape York. And to leave Cape York exposed like that is a dreadful shame that this Labor government will bear. (Time expired)