Date: Mon, 22 Dec 1997 12:50:53 -0500
Sender: The African Global Experience <AGE-L@UGA.CC.UGA.EDU>
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From: Marpessa Kupendua <nattyreb@IX.NETCOM.COM>
Subject: !*Aboriginal land rights attacked by Aussie miners, ranchers,
BOYCOTT RACIST AUSTRALIA!
Date: Sun, 21 Dec 1997 15:43:35 -0600
From: Michael Novick <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Aboriginal land rights attacked by Aussie miners, ranchers, millionaires
Aborigine Land Claims Under Fire
From the Associated Press
20 December 1997
CANBERRA, Australia (AP) -- Michael Turner wants to build dams and fences
on the 50,000-acre sheep ranch he leases from the government, but says he
can't because of possible Aboriginal land claims.
If he can't be sure the changes will last, he and lenders will not risk the
investment, he says.
That's why ranchers and miners are pushing Australia's conservative
government to pass a law eliminating Aborigine claims on such lands. The
fight has deadlocked in Parliament, and that could bring early elections --
along with a racially charged campaign.
Supporters of the proposed legislation are unbending in their insistence
that any chance of an Aborigine making a claim on government land should be
extinguished by law. Without that, they say, they will not have the
"certainty" needed to develop leased lands.
The campaign is being pushed hard by ranchers like Turner even though
Australia's highest court has ruled that Aboriginal claims are subordinate
to ranchers' rights in case of any conflict.
Turner is not, by any stretch, a rich or powerful man. By Australian
standards, his ranch at Quilpie in southwestern Queensland is quite small.
There are some very rich and powerful people who stand to benefit if the
government's land bill passes -- and some are not Australian.
The Sultan of Brunei, the world's richest man, owns five cattle ranches in
the Northern Territory covering land slightly larger than Brunei itself,
almost 1.5 million acres.
The Australian-born media baron Rupert Murdoch, now a U.S. citizen, is also
a major landowner.
So is the nation's biggest life insurance company, the Australian Mutual
Provident Society, and its rival, National Mutual, which is now owned by
the French company AXA.
A subsidiary of DKP Sabah Malaysia owns four properties stretching over 2.2
million acres. Indonesia's Bakrie family owns eight properties covering 4.6
million acres, an area almost as large as Israel.
But it is the local barons of the bush, like Don McDonald, who are the real
powers pushing for the law.
The McDonald family runs some 110,000 head of cattle on nine ranches in
northern Queensland that sprawl over almost 7.5 million acres.
McDonald, a hard-liner in the debate, also is president of the rural-based
National Party, the junior partner in the ruling coalition of Prime
Minister John Howard.
Most of the ancestors of Australia's 353,000 Aborigines and Torres Strait
Islanders were driven off their tribal lands after white settlement began
Their forced removal worried British colonial authorities, as one of
Australia's High Court judges, Justice John Toohey, noted in the land
Toohey recalled that in 1848, British Secretary of State Earl Grey declared
that the original leases for Australia's first ranchers offered them no
more than the right to run cattle or sheep.
"These leases are not intended to deprive the natives of their former right
to hunt over these districts or to wander over them in search of
subsistence," Grey said.
But his words were ignored by land-hungry white settlers.
Last May, ranchers confronted the prime minister in the Queensland cattle
town of Longreach, demanding that he legislate away any native title rights
that might be revived by the High Court ruling.
A year ago, the High Court ruled that Aboriginal titles can coexist with
the leases on which Australia's ranchers hold their often vast properties.
However, it also said that if there was a conflict, the ranchers' rights
Howard responded by introducing what he said was a balanced compromise that
would limit Aboriginal claims and assure ranchers' rights.
Aborigines rejected it, describing the plan as racist and discriminatory
because it would restrict their rights and no one else's.
The opposition Labor Party, the Australian Democrats and independent Sen.
Brian Harradine, who holds the balance of power in the closely divided
Senate, all largely accepted the Aborigines' argument. The Senate gutted
Howard's plan in early December.
Howard is now demanding that the Senate back down, a request that is
unlikely to be met.
If the impasse persists, new parliamentary elections might be held,
probably in the second half of 1998.
Howard insists he wants the compromise that he originally proposed, not an
But Labor's deputy leader, Gareth Evans, has accused Howard of deliberately
releasing the "demons" of racism for political advantage.
One of Howard's senior lieutenants, National Party Sen. Ron Boswell,
concedes that if an early election is called, racial issues will top the
campaign agenda, even if the major parties try to talk about other matters,
such as tax reform and the economy.
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