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CEO on Northern Development

Posted: Mon, June 30, 2014

The Northern Land Council’s Chief Executive Officer, Joe Morrison, has called for the creation of a sovereign wealth fund to benefit Indigenous people in northern Australia.

Speaking in Townsville at the Northern Development Summit, Mr Morrison said such a fund should not replace citizenship entitlements, but be available for long-term development of the development aspirations of Indigenous people. It would be drawn from wealth derived from development on Aboriginal lands.

“The people of northern Australia, particularly the most marginalised, are severely disadvantaged,” Mr Morrison said.

“This problem becomes exacerbated when impoverished traditional owners are pressured to agree to development proposals to secure benefits that should be provided as citizenship entitlements.

“The Northern Development Fund could be administered under a revenue formula and institutional arrangements that is negotiated between governments, statutory bodies and Indigenous people.

“It could provide enormous commercial grunt to existing property rights and those that are yet to be granted.

Referring to the NLC’s decision last week to settle the legal case about nuclear waste storage at Muckaty, Mr Morrison said good process must underlie future development.

“This nation must invest in good process that brings Indigenous people on board as partners in development with unambiguous informed consent through decision making,” he said.

“Leaving people out or cutting corners inevitably leads to resentment and opposition.

“Political alliances are formed between Indigenous people, environmentalists and human rights activists and suddenly there is conflict that manifests in legal action, direct action on the ground and national and international media campaigns.

“Global capital development will be deterred if there is a risk of serious conflict and unethical processes that further marginalise Australia’s first people.

(The full text of Mr Morrison’s Townsville speech is uploaded separately)