Date: Sat, 3 Jan 98 22:15:25 CST
From: rich@pencil (Rich Winkel)
Subject: Australia Facing New "apartheid", Aborigine Says
/** headlines: 154.0 **/
** Topic: Australia Facing New "apartheid", Aborigine Says **
** Written 10:57 AM Jan 1, 1998 by newsdesk in cdp:headlines **
/* Written 12:35 AM Jan 1, 1998 by DEBRA@OLN.comlink.apc.org in hrnet.racism+xenophobia */
/* ---------- "AUS: Warning of Apartheid" ---------- */
Edited/Distributed by HURINet - The Human Rights Information Network
## author : ancdip@wn.APC.ORG
## date : 31.12.97
Australia facing new "Apartheid," aborigine says
Agence France-Presse (AFP)
30 December 1997
PARIS, Dec 30 Sapa-AFP - Australia is at a crossroads that could lead it "back into
apartheid" if the government plays into the hands of the
nation's wealthy landowners against its indigenous people, a
leading aboriginal spokeswoman said here Tuesday.
Marcia Langton, an academic and aboriginal rights'
campaigner, said conservative Prime Minister John Howard was
attempting to push through controversial landrights
legislation which would further fatten the pockets of the
likes of the Sultan of Brunei and media magnates Rupert
Murdoch and Kerry Packer.
"Australia faces the choice of going to an apartheid regime
or continuing to work towards a multicultural society," she
told a news conference.
Howard, who has been in office for under two years, has
threatened to call an early election if the Senate next
March refuses for the second time to back his landrights
package, which would scrap rights already given to the
aborigine people by the country's High Court.
"He wants a race-based election," said Langton, who holds
the chair of Aboriginal Studies at Darwin's Northern
Territory University. "He wants to win to have a mandate to
destroy our rights.
At stake is a December, 1996 ruling by the High Court, known
as the Wik decision, allowing the country's 300,000-odd
aborigines to claim their native rights over land currently
under pastoral or mining leases.
"The pastoralists went ballistic" after the ruling, Langton
said. "Now they're threatening to shoot us all again."
Langton said the farmers now were lobbying to convert the
land under such leases into freehold with exclusive
possession, and waging a "racist, scare campaign" in the
media to convince urban Australians to beware of native
The conversion of the leases into titles would affect
between 40 percent and 70 percent of the Australian land
mass, she said, saying that a big owner such as the Sultan
of Brunei currently possessed eight million hectares of land
through Desai Pty Ltd.
Howard's government this year pushed through legislation in
the lower house largely reversing the High Court ruling, but
then saw it rejected in the Senate. A new rejection by the
upper house would allow him to call a double dissolution.
Langton said the aboriginal people did not want to take over
land under pastoral leases, which are temporary and first
were granted by the Crown during the frontier days of the
The aboriginals simply wanted a right to claim sacred sites
or visiting rights to safeguard their culture, while also
demanding better social and economic benefits for clans
living on such land.
"The court said cattle always prevail" over the aborigines,
she said. "The aborigine people won't interfere with that
Langton, who was in Paris for an exhibition of aboriginal
art, accused the Howard government of breaching both the
Australian constitution and international agreements against
An offer by South African President Nelson Mandela to
mediate between her people and the government had been
turned down by Howard, she said.
Officials for the indigenous Australian people would be
taking their case to the European Union, Asia and the United
Nations in the coming months. The aborigines were still
discussing what action to take in regard to the 2000
Olympics in Sydney, she added.
The fight over Aboriginal land rights escalated Monday with
reports that indigenous groups had laid claim to vast tracts
of sea, including rich fishing grounds and the Barrier Reef.
The Native Title Tribunal said Monday that 124 sea rights
claims had been lodged over the past three years.