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Keep Indigenous land investigation ideology-free

Posted: Fri, February 20, 2015

THE Northern Territory’s two big land councils have called on the Abbott government to base its investigation into indigenous land use on facts rather than ideology.

“For the sake of the most disadvantaged indigenous Australians we call on the Abbott government to rise above its demonstrated dislike of evidence based policy development,” CLC Director, David Ross, and NLC CEO, Joe Morrison, said in a joint statement.

“We hope the indigenous working group announced today will challenge the myths being peddled by NT Country Liberal Party ideologues about hard-won Aboriginal land rights supposedly holding up development in remote communities. We are certainly keen to work constructively to develop solutions to real barriers to economic development.”

Mr Ross and Mr Morrison called for experts on the Aboriginal Land Rights Act to be added to the expert Indigenous working group.

“Much of this inquiry is about the land councils’ area of expertise: the Aboriginal Land Rights Act that applies only here in the Northern Territory. We are very disappointed that the government has not included anyone with technical knowledge of the legislation.”

Mr Ross and Mr Morrison said it was not encouraging that the terms of reference for the investigation were developed without Indigenous input

“While we’re hearing a lot about the new, more consultative Prime Minister for Indigenous Affairs the reality on the ground is more of the same old top-down approach.”

Both land councils took little comfort from Minister Scullion’s assurance today that he would not change the Land Rights Act without the consent of the land councils.

“What the Minister has been trying but failing to do is to hollow out our land rights with the help of Howard-era provisions in the Land Rights Act that are ideologically driven, unworkable and would greatly increase uncertainty for Traditional Owners, third parties and businesses.”