“Let Them Eat Cake”

 The rush by mining companies to stitch up the resources on Aboriginal land, is gaining momentum and is all part of their business model to exploit the riches of this country, pay as little in compensation and taxes, leave the country like a moonscape and at the same time send a message to the public, that they are good corporate citizens.

At the recent mining industry dinner at Parliament House, we were shown the spectacle of a gloating Chairman of Rio presenting a patronising and condescending speech where he spoke at length of the great relationship Rio had built up with the Aboriginal community.

“Well he would say that wouldn’t he” the mining industry could well afford to gloat. After winning the battle on Native Title, with the help of the Howard Government and a select group of Jacky Jacky Aboriginal people, who sold out hard fought for principles of the Aboriginal movement, to appease the government and the miners, so the exploitation of resources could carry on relentlessly.

 In a pan across the dinner tables there was not one black fella. I did not see anyone from a remote community there sitting in their suits and ties if they were there, they would have been down the back, and it is very unlikely that Kangaroo, Crocodile, or Emu was  on the menu.

 Broadcasting the speech live by the ABC news 24 was shameful, and a low point for the ABC, what enlightened neanderthal producer on News 24 decides to make ABC News 24 an advertiser for the mining industry. If the ABC wants to go into advertising then let’s just sell them off.

Sitting there in my lounge room watching it, turned my stomach. I thought of all the Aboriginal people, who had fought long and hard all of their lives, for land rights and human rights. From the tent embassy days, right back to the massacres at Waterloo Creek and I thought, you guys just dont get it do you.

What a cheek, with the plight of Aboriginal people, the mining and business establishment enjoying a lavish dinner, gloating and patting themselves on the back, over the theft of resources from Aboriginal land.  The industry are in effect sending the same message as Marie Antoinette  “let them eat cake”.  The ABC News 24  has opened up a pandoras box and are acting more like shock jock radio and tabloid newspapers. It puts a new meaning to the slogan our “Our ABC”  what a joke .  Can I now expect news 24 to cross in prime time to the Pan National Aboriginal Congress conference dinner.

The mining industry, would like the shareholders and the rest of the population to think, that they are doing the right thing by engaging and doing deals with specific groups of Native Title claimants. They throw money around like a drunken sailor to specific Native Title Claimants and clan groups, while others outside the claims, languish landless in the creek beds and rubbish dumps on the edges of town.  

This is because, under the Native Title law as it now stands, Aboriginal people are prevented from sharing in claims by the Native Title rule, of having to prove continuous connection to land.

There is a two speed economy, also among Aboriginal people running alongside the mainstream economy the “Native Title Two Speed Economy” created largely by the mining companies exploitation of Native Title. They are only required to deal with people, where the mine lease is located. If an Aboriginal clan group is off the lease claim, by a boundary defined by an anthropologist, as a tree or a hill, they are not eligible; even though they may be part of the bigger language group of traditional owners, they receive nothing.

Native Title representative groups, have also exploited the act and have largely caused the “Native Title Two Speed economy”, building exclusive oligarchies and dynasties like the ones that operates in Central and Northern Australia. By bending the rules of continuous connection to land, they can exclude people that they don’t want.  (sorry bruz your family not part of the claim) Members themselves in most Native Title groups,  may not be able to prove continuous occupation to country. They may come from another area 200 kilometers  away, but by some manipulation of connection by family line, are on the claim or part of the Native Title oligarchy.

As Keating says the act is onerous. Because if you put other historic peoples on to the claim, it diminishes the funds. So it is in the interest of the Native Title groups to practise exclusion on their own relations.

One of these Native Title Groups, in Central Australia sells grog, from a supermarket enterprise they have established in several locations. Aboriginal people now have a one stop shop to buy groceries and grog. The question needs to be asked of them.

Why are you selling grog, from a business built up out of Native Title funds?. Should the fund be used to benefit Aboriginal people in Central Australia and not just a few beneficiaries,  riding roughshod over Aboriginal people who drift into town, selling them grog and acting like lords of the soil, while their people go hungry.

Rio and the other miners can afford to gloat and patronise Aboriginal people, hoping to put their previous racist campaigns and activities of the past aside, hoping that a fist full of dollars, would encourage people to forget the past. They expect Aboriginal people to forget their fierce anti Native Title campaign. Who can forget that racist campaign?  

 Who can forget that the leading spokespeople for continuing dispossession have been pillars of the business and mining community like Sir Arvi Parbo, Hugh Morgan and Henry Bosch.

Who can forget the racist fear campaign the Myths that went far beyond common decency?

  • ·         The Mabo decision means my backyard isn’t safe from an Aboriginal land claim.
  • ·         The Mabo decision allows Aboriginal people to gain ownership of Australia’s farming and grazing land.
  • ·         Mabo will mean huge compensation payouts to Aboriginal people for the historical dispossession of all Aboriginal   people from their land.
  • ·         The Mabo decision means that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people will “lock up” Australia’s mineral wealth causing disaster for the economy. This is confirmed by government moves to confirm mining leases at McArthur River and elsewhere.

Remember, Hugh Morgan, who, as a senior executive of mining company WMC, savaged Aboriginal spirituality in the 1980s and in the 1990s claimed that Native Title threatened Australia’s very sovereignty

Remember, Rob Davies, a mining analyst from Lehman Brothers International, speaking at a London financiers’ conference attacked the Mabo decision in this way: “If this decision stands, Australia could go back to being a Stone Age culture of 200,000 people living on witchetty grubs”  

The Native Title deal unveiled this week by Rio Tinto, falls a long way short of what Aboriginal people will receive, from the wealth generated by Rio from the mineral on their land, it has been touted as the best thing since the “coming of the light”.

Any deal short of the Aboriginal people, being genuine share holder partners is no deal. Rio knows time is running out. The Aboriginal people disenfranchised now under the Native Title act, having to prove connection to country, is now under serious challenge.

Paul Keating said at his Redfern speech on the 10th of December 1992 that the problem starts with non-Aboriginal Australians. We did the dispossessing. We took the traditional lands and smashed the traditional way of life. We brought the disasters. The alcohol. We committed the murders. We took the children from their mothers. We practiced discrimination and exclusion.

Now the mining industry expects us to move on from our history. It is like asking all Australians to forget the atrocities of the Japanese on the Burma Road? How do we forget the atrocities of the concentration camps? the Court in the Haig  hasn’t forgotten Bosnia.

Former Prime Minister Keating introduced the Native Title Act almost two decades ago, but the act has undergone amendments since then. Recently he said the requirement to prove a continuous connection to land is too onerous. The Howard Government’s 1998 amendments to the act diminish its value, he says. Central to his concerns was the legal requirement for Aboriginal people to prove a continuous connection to their country.

“This onerous burden of proof has placed an unjust burden on those native title claimants who have suffered the most severe dispossession and social disruption,” he said.

 As novelist Xavier Herbert said in his book Poor Fellow My Country:

“Until we give back to the black man just a bit of the land which was his, and give it back without provisos … we shall remain what we have always been so far: a people without integrity, not a nation but a community of thieves.”

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2 responses

  1. Pingback: Aboriginal Land Rights Acts: An overview of Federal and State Laws in Australia « Jeinrev

  2. S(r)ambo

    Aboriginals were not protected or counted as people under white law until recently, then how can english common law apply to them, hypocrisy at the highest level. It will be Australias biggest shame in our short history, so called modern people still denying basic rights to the traditional owners, Im going to make sure my family name wont be associated with this immoral time in Australia’s history

    January 17, 2012 at 1:10 am

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