Tomorrow, the proposed amendments to the Aboriginal Land
Rights Act in the Northern Territory
will re-enter the federal parliament.

In a nutshell, the changes are designed to wipe out the land
councils in the Northern Territory
and with it the power of traditional owners to determine what happens to their
own land. Or, in the words of the Coalition’s explanatory memorandum that
accompanied the proposed bill to parliament, “improve access to Aboriginal
land for development, especially mining”.

When the amendments first hit parliament earlier this year ­
at the height of media reporting of violence in Aboriginal communities – the
ALP and the minor parties demanded a Senate Inquiry. The government agreed,
knowing it was a fruitless, pointless exercise with a pre-determined outcome.

A “Clayton’s consultation” later saw the Senate
Inquiry wrapped up in a single day, with a draft report handed down two days
later, and the final report adopted the following week. That’s remarkable speed
from a federal government which promised not to abuse its majority in the
Senate.

The Senate Inquiry saw overwhelming opposition from the
stakeholders ­ – ie Aboriginal people. Regardless, the federal government will
push the changes through the Senate tomorrow. The nett result will be the
wiping out of a piece of land rights legislation that is widely regarded as the
best of its type anywhere on the planet.

We will, of course, go through the motions of a democracy.
Labor will try and split the bill in the Senate and take out the more
controversial elements of the amendments. When that fails, Labor will put up a
suite of amendments. When that fails, Labor will oppose the bill.

And when that fails, Aboriginal people will get screwed.
Again.

The rush to wipe out land rights in the NT was proudly
brought to you by a political party with more malice than a crocodile and a
hand-picked federal government advisory body, the National Indigenous Council.

And let’s not forget the role of the affable president of
the ALP, Warren Mundine. In his former role on the NIC, he’s the guy who claims
to have thought of the NT land rights changes in the first place.

His silence today is deafening.

Peter Fray

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Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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