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Northern Territory

Jun 23, 2014

Muckaty opponents on dangerous ground: the NLC responds

Northern Land Council media officer Murray McLaughlin responds to claims made in Crikey last week by opponents of the shelved Muckaty Station nuclear dump.

In his Crikey story on Friday, Paddy Gibson writes: “Unfortunately, (Northern Land Council Chief Executive Officer Joe) Morrison has tried to blame the litigation itself for ‘divisions’ in the (Muckaty) community.”

If Gibson is seeking to deny that the case did serve to exacerbate divisions among the clans which comprise the Muckaty Land Trust, then he must have been deaf to the proceedings in the Federal Court at Melbourne, Muckaty Station and Tennant Creek over the two weeks beginning June 2.

In fact, the terms of settlement signed off by lawyers for the Commonwealth government, the Northern Land Council and the Aboriginal applicants said this:

“The respondents remain satisfied that the nomination was made with the consent of the traditional Aboriginal owners and after consultation with other Aboriginals interested in the land.  However, because of the divisions with the local Aboriginal community that have arisen since the nomination was made, and which have been worsened by the Court proceedings, the Respondents have formed the view that in the present circumstances it would be preferable if the nomination was not acted on.”

Elsewhere, Gibson has claimed that “the Warlmanpa people who opposed the dump had been subjected to fierce cross-examination by NLC barristers, who were trying to denigrate their cultural knowledge”.

Like Gibson, I sat through the Federal Court hearings at Tennant Creek. Aboriginal people were, indeed, cross-examined — but that process was quiet, patient and respectful. To characterise it as anything like fierce or denigrating is an appalling misrepresentation by someone who presents himself as a “senior researcher” at an indigenous-led university institution.

In fact, when Gibson complained to me at Tennant Creek about the cross-examination (a necessary consequence of the legal action brought against the Commonwealth and the NLC), I told him to ask the barrister for the applicants to record any misgivings to the judge. Nothing happened.

Also in his Friday piece, Gibson refers to “explosive allegations that will never be tested”. He is on dangerous ground here because he purports to cite “evidence”. In fact, contrary to his statement about evidence said to have been presented by “all” parties, neither the NLC nor the Commonwealth — at the time of settlement — had presented or adduced any evidence at all.

Gibson should stop trying to relitigate the matter and just accept that the Aboriginal applicants whom he champions have acknowledged in a legal document that the settlement was “without any admission as to the allegations and without any admission that the Nomination (by the NLC) or Approval (by the Commonwealth) involved error”.

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One thought on “Muckaty opponents on dangerous ground: the NLC responds

  1. Damien

    Hi Murray,

    If the NLC is so concerned about either party or their supporters referring to evidence which was adduced during the proceedings , but not subject to the full court process including determination by an independent Judge due to the settlment, then why did the very first paragrah of the NLC’s / Joe Morrison’s statement attempt to do so?

    We all know that the evidence of the Traditional Owners, both filed and heard in chief during the proceedings, was that the consultations were improper and did not satisfy the legal requirments of the Aboriginal Land Rights Act NT.

    If you attended the Court hearing as you claim, you would know this was never resiled from and alot of evidence was put on about this. You will also know that the judge made absolutely no findings as to any matters of evidence prior to the settlement.

    Yet, the NLC in the very first paragraph of its media release by Joe Morrison claims that the applicants “own evidence” agreed that the NLC’s consultations were “proper”.

    What absolute and utter horseshit, and you know it.

    You are also on “dangerous” grounds making such claims.

    I suggest you take some of your own advice and stop trying to relitigate the issue by way of the media, in some vain attempt to improve the image of the NLC in this matter.