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UN Committee welcomes assistance by Australian Government - Issues considered by CERD already addressed in Australia - Labor insulting Australians with political stunt -



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NEWS RELEASE

 

ATTORNEY- GENERAL

THE HON DARYL WILLIAMS AM QC MP

 

16 March 1999

 

UN COMMITTEE WELCOMES ASSISTANCE BY AUSTRALIAN GOVERNMENT

 

- Issues considered by CERD already addressed in Australia-

 

- Labor insulting Australians with political stunt -

 

 

The issues again raised in recent days by critics of Australia’s native title legislation are a revival of the debate we underwent in 1997 and 1998.

 

Australia’s native title legislation has been developed through consultation with all relevant parties. This consultation is continuing as the law on native title is refined and evolves.

 

The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) has welcomed Australia’s detailed reply to its request for information from Australia about native title.

 

The Committee has also expressed its appreciation for the assistance and co-operation it has received from the Australian Government.

 

The Government has informed the Committee of the extensive process of consultation and public debate undertaken by the Government on the amendments to the Native Title Act.

 

The Committee was advised that the amendments to the Native Title Act were only passed after lengthy and vigorous debate on the legislation by the Australian Parliament.

 

Prior to the amendments being passed, consultations with indigenous groups and other interests took place from early 1997.

 

There were meetings with indigenous interests, including several involving the Prime Minister.

 

Further discussions took place between Government officials and advisers to indigenous groups.

 

Evidence was given by ATSIC and by other organisations representing indigenous interests to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Native Title.

 

The amendments to the Native Title Act included amendments proposed, or generally supported by, indigenous interests.

 

The Australian Government representatives in Geneva have provided information to the CERD) Committee about changes to the Native Title Act and the role of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner.

 

Australia has a balanced and comprehensive approach to native title.

 

The Australian Government’s view, as advised to the Committee, is that the Government has not breached the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of

Racial Discrimination.

 

Additionally, it is ultimately a matter for the Australian Courts to determine the validity of the Government’s native title legislation.

 

The committee sought information on, and is examining, Australia’s native title legislation.

 

It is not necessary to leave Geneva to examine legislation.

 

It is also the case that a range of Aboriginal leaders as well as the Deputy General Counsel from my Department and the Acting Head of the Australian Mission in Geneva attended the committee to assist them in their deliberations.

 

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission, Australians for Native Title and Reconciliation and others provided information and were present to discuss the legislation with the committee.

 

Calls by Labor for CERD committee members to visit Australia while considering this issue only highlights that Labor cares more about political point scoring than solving problems.

 

This is an insult to all Australians.

 

Labor should assist in promoting the use of the new legislation to deal effectively with native title claims rather than resorting to cheap political stunts.

 

Australia’s well deserved reputation for protecting and promoting the human rights of all people is enhanced by working domestically and internationally and our response to the Committee’s request is further testament of fulfilling our responsibilities.

 

The Committee’s request for information from the Australian Government was generated by indigenous and non-indigenous organisations and individuals who participated in the vigorous domestic debate leading to the amendments to Native Title Act.

 

The submissions which these organisations and individuals have made to Committee raise the same issues that have been extensively considered by the Government during the many months of debate on the amendments.

 

Media contact:  Nicholas Harford (02) 6277 7300 or 0419 423 965

 

 

 

Press statement from New Fork 16 March 1999

 

On track for International Court of Justice:

 

A single Treaty for all Aboriginals in Australia cannot and should not be entertained To pursue a single treaty will seriously compromise the rights of distinct Aboriginal Peoples. To pursue a single treaty con only lead to major conflicts between Aboriginal Peoples and the imposed 'artificial leadership’. This situation will become inevitable if the government's chosen elite continue on this path.

 

Aboriginal activist, Michael Anderson, said he will promote a campaign to have the UN General Assembly consider a proposal by his People to have the issue of their Sovereignty and Australia's legitimacy as a nation dealt with in the International Court of Justice. He said: “If the United Nations was truly respectful of Human Rights issues it is incumbent upon them to resolve the issue of Aboriginal Sovereignty in the International Court of Justice. Anything short of this makes a mockery of the system and seriously compromises the objectives of Human Rights and challenges the foundations upon which the United Nations is built."

 

He added: "It is well and good for the United Nations to develop a Declaration on Rights of Indigenous Peoples but, if its only purpose is to act as an international directive and guide for countries to follow, then its powers in domestic situations will have little to no effect upon how States deal with Indigenous Peoples in Australia. Aboriginal Peoples have always resolved that for Australia to have credible standing in the international community as a nation, then this is an issue that must be dealt with."

 

Michael Anderson said: "The resumption of discussions on a Treaty by different Aboriginal groups makes serious compromises to the individual rights of Aboriginal Peoples throughout Australia to deal with our own Sovereign Rights as Peoples. A single Treaty," he said, "for all Aboriginals in Australia cannot and should not be entertained. To pursue a single treaty will seriously compromise the rights of distinct Aboriginal Peoples. To pursue a single treaty con only lead to major conflicts between Aboriginal Peoples and the imposed 'artificial leadership. This situation will become inevitable if the government's chosen elite continue on this path.

 

Mr Anderson said: "The campaign we are promoting in the United Nations has a sound foundation in international law. It can be achieved if we commit ourselves to the objectives started in 1972 by the Aboriginal Tent Embassy."

 

Michael Anderson has just left Geneva where he actively lobbied the CERD committee, highlighting how the Native Title Acts are statutory guarantees for multinationals to have carte blanc access to mineral wealth on A boriginaland He is lawman and clan leader of Nyoongah Ghurradjong Murri of the Euahlayi nation, Lightning Ridge, NW NSW He also has a western legal background and is a qualified oral historian and political scientist. He has been instrumental in the Australian black power movement since 1969. Michael is co-founder of the 1972 Aboriginal Tent Embassy and has assisted the bringing about of legal, medical and other community based infrastructure programmes. For many years he has actively taken the struggle of his people to the rest of the world. The National Farmers Federation, backed by Howard and Fischer, used his People's Lightning Ridge claim as a test case, but he successfully argued that the Native Title legislation had taken away the States rights to control land The NSW Supreme Court agreed and disqualified itself from being able to decide the matter. Douglas Wilson v. Michael Anderson & Ors [1999] NSWSC 8 (20 January 1999).

 

CONTACT: MICHAEL ANDERSON 0407 469 512

 

 

 

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