A Crushing Blow to Civil Rights in Australia
UPDATE: On 3/12/2009 Hansard records research performed by Ms. Chapman had revealed NIL statistical evidence existed to justify this new legislation. In my and other’s opinion it was only successful because of party numbers.
The APY-Mintabie Amendment bill now needs to signed off by S.A. Governor Scarce. It is now his job to make sure this bill is constitutionally and legally valid and does not double up on existing laws.
Faxes outlining objections have been sent to the SA Governor’s office – 08 82039899, asking him to give careful thought prior to signing off this Wednesday.
PRECEDENT, INTERVENTION STYLE LEGISLATION FOR OUTBACK TOWN
South Australians may be interested to know about recent events relating to the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Land Rights (Mintabie) Amendment Bill 2009. View here
The APY-Mintabie Amendment Bill has been passed through the Lower House of Assembly. Will this Bill be repealed if it is found to have nil effect?
It was illuminating to see the true colours of some South Australian politicians emerge when reading the record of debate in Hansard, 1/12/2009.
It appears most of the politicians who spoke, refuse to acknowledge that existing powers were already in place to remove unwanted persons from APY Lands. And they ignored the very simple suggestion of placing a police station in Mintabie. There are police stations situated at other APY communities, and if they are operated on a rotational basis, why not add Mintabie to the list?
The following speakers also failed to publicise the other changes afoot. Such as when purchasing a normal SA Precious Stones Permit, that permit will no longer allow the holder automatic access to the Mintabie Precious Stones Field.
And what is Ms. Breuer, Member for Giles doing for her constituents these days? An excerpt from Hansard (1/12/2009) during debate on the APY-Mintabie Legislative Amendments gives us an insight.
Ms. Breuer, Member for Giles not only disparaged residents of the remote Far North of SA with: “I have said and will continue to say that one of the biggest problems which occurred in the past and which will continue into the future is that many people who go onto the lands—and I am not saying all of them because some fantastic people work there in different departments, for the Aboriginal council, etc.—fit into the category of missionary, mercenary or misfit, and they have created a lot of problems in those communities.
People go in with the wrong motives, or with ulterior motives, or they are total misfits who cannot get a job anywhere else so they go up there.”
Then Ms. Breuer went on to say “I cannot understand why the opposition feels so passionately about this because we are not talking about a big community. We are not talking about a community of 5,000, 10,000 or 20,000 people who are being affected by this measure. Mintabie is a very small community. I think that something like 93 voters are on the electoral roll, so probably about 150 or 160 people live there, as I am sure the many may not be on the roll. We are not talking about a huge community of people who are being affected by this legislation.”
Is Ms. Breuer saying principles and ethics don’t count if the number of people affected is small?
Bearing in mind constituents equates to voters, Ms. Breuer then further stated proudly “I fully support this legislation. I think it is very important. Yes, I am going against the wishes of my constituents—and I know I am because I have had many emails and contact from the people in Mintabie who feel very strongly about this—but I do not care.”
Ms. Breuer also reassured South Australians that she does not grow dope at her new flat in Fullerton as “it is not her property”. Not because it is, in fact, wrong in the eyes of the law.
Then Mr. Weatherill states “I think the argument really comes down to two fundamental issues.
The first is: whose land is this? The contributions that have been made seem to proceed from the misapprehension that somehow the title that was restored to Aboriginal people through the historic APY lands legislation was when their rights to ownership commenced.
The truth is that it was simply restoring an historical wrong. It was simply recognising that it was always their land. “
Mr. Weatherill I eagerly look forward to you and your Labor party righting further wrongs, by restoring and signing over Adelaide and the whole of South Australia (indeed the whole of Australia), to the rightful Indigenous owners.
But there are people living there, you say? People have built houses and resided there for a long period of time? No matter. Using the example you have made of Mintabie Precious Stones Field and town in the Far North of the State, that small detail should have no utter consequence at all.
I quote the righteous Mr. Graeme Gunn from the same edition of Hansard 1/12/2009 “ I do not normally take a lot of time in the house, but can I say to the house and the minister that I am the only person left here who was involved at the time when the Pitjantjatjara land rights legislation was introduced and debated and went to a select committee, and I think I know all the major players who were involved in it. For example, there was Punch Thompson, Donald Fraser, Ivan Baker, Danny Colson and Yami Lester. I knew them all, and I have sat down and seen this whole process take place.
In relation to this legislation, let me make it very clear that I believe the people at Mintabie are just as entitled as anyone else to have a place in the sun. They were legally there before the AP lands legislation came into effect. It was a part of the Walatina pastoral lease. I have been there many times, and they provided services and facilities and acted legally.
What is the purpose of this legislation? Will it be the panacea: will it solve the problems of the people in the AP lands? If that was the case, I would vote for it. I want to see the people in the AP lands improve their status in life. I want their children to have a chance, and I want to see them gainfully employed and lead healthy and productive lives and go about their business. This measure will have no effect with respect to improving them. If you shut down Mintabie are you going to shut down Marla and Curtin Springs? Are you going to go across to Western Australia and shut down the place just over the border?”
Mr. Gunn went on to further emphasise the key importance of jobs and education and not allowing isolated, closed communities. “At the end of the day, what do we really want for the people in the AP lands? Well, I think we want to give them an opportunity to go about their business in a productive, well-organised way, so that their children will get a decent education. No matter what we do, if those young people on the AP lands do not get a decent education there will always be problems.
A closed society has the potential to be a bad society. We have to open up the roads and make them the same as the roads anywhere else in South Australia. We have to encourage the community to allow enterprises there.”
Poverty, ill-health and homelessness are to be totally deplored, whether on APY Lands or in cities and towns. A big bravo to Mr. Graeme Gunn, Member for Stuart! Sincere good wishes for your well-earned retirement.
Also via 1/12/2009 Hansard record Ms Chapman, Member for Bragg advised the South Australian voters:
“On 2 October 1980, Mr Pantju Thompson on behalf of the Pitjantjatjara council and the Hon. David Tonkin (the then premier of South Australia) on behalf of the South Australian government signed a document indicating that a Pitjantjatjara land rights bill had been agreed between the parties and subsequently (that month) legislation was introduced.
When it came to consideration of the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Land Rights (Mintabie) Amendment Bill 2009, I looked back to that legislation, which is now known as the APY Land Rights Act 1981 as a result of the title being amended during the course of the debate.
For the purposes of this exercise, there was acknowledgment of the Mintabie opal field and the development of a proposed township on a Granite Downs property, part of which is the lease which is under consideration in this legislation. That is, an existing settlement and enterprise needed to be taken into account.”
Ms. Chapman then stated how “I turned then to the notes that I had made in relation to the claim that the police were concerned about this; and that seems to be frustrated, I suppose, by the fact that no information has ever been provided to us to confirm that.
However, I did note, in more recent times, that there are a lot of statements about what is happening, including from the minister, but not a lot to go with them.
I read a number of reports in this parliament (including by the minister) in respect of the success in the reduction of petrol sniffing in the APY area and, indeed, in other facilities of a similar governance. The minister reported to the parliament (in response to estimates questions on 26 June 2009) about the APY task force program. He reported that the rate of seizure of illegal substances, including alcohol, coming on the lands has increased dramatically since 2006.
That is interesting, and I note that statement, but we have not had one scintilla of information to support it.” Ms. Chapman also accessed the UnitingCare Wesley’s on-line Paper Tracker but “Regrettably, we did not find the evidence that we were looking for in that regard, “
“I do not doubt it is true, and I will tell members why. It is totally fanciful to me that the APY should be different from any other Aboriginal community on the lands where cannabis use is rife.
So I went to the Nganampa Health Council which, of course, is the body responsible up there. They do not have anything in their annual reports: they just do not report anything any more. I think they spend half a million dollars every year on alcohol and substance abuse matters but they do not tell us anything about cannabis abuse in their report. I think they included one sentence this year.
I rang the people in Alice Springs to see whether I could get any further information, because they did not even publish their financial reports in the actual reports, so we had to go through and get those checked off.
However, leaving that aside, there is nothing to tell us that, yet you would think, with what we are hearing anecdotally, that there would be a number of things. First, we would have something from the police—who are not permanently on the lands—and the women’s council, I hasten to add, make it very clear in their submission that it is not really going to make much difference making any of these rules unless you have a permanent presence in the Mintabie township to supervise whatever the rules are going to be.
So, let us have some of that. Let us have some answers from the government about:
- the placement of someone at the Mintabie township for the supervision of these matters;
- why we have not had arrests and/or prosecutions of people in this area;
- why we are being asked to make a decision on matters without the evidence to support them in respect of this particular location; and
- what the government is going to do in respect of making provision for that. We must have that information to be able to isolate this matter. “
“In 2006 (over three years ago), we debated some of the concerns at length and we said to the government, ‘We are not happy with what is going on up there, but we accept for the moment that there is a trafficking in petrol and illicit substances on the APY lands.’ We supported the government in increasing penalties for these people to a $50,000 fine or imprisonment of up to 10 years, the confiscation of their car, which could be sold off in the event that it was to be forfeited under the rules and that the proceeds of those vehicles could go back to the APY lands.
However, three years later, we have had no report back to this parliament about what action has occurred with respect to that legislation.
It is important that we deal with this issue. Those groups have been waiting out there in the wilderness for seven years without any clear information. There has been no attempt to give us that information and, until we have it, this (legislation) will not have my support.”
A heart-felt thank you Ms. Chapman, for actually trying to determine the valid statistics in regard to this issue. Ms. Chapman is a shining example to her fellow politicians. She does not follow old goat trails of unfounded anecdotes and innuendo, instead takes the time to search out hard facts, for or against.
And then we come to the Opposition Shadow Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, who essentially argued the case FOR the government, while spouting the Liberal party will not be voting for this legislation. Mr. McFetridge, who would like us to “dob in” likely suspects without evidence or training, and return Mintabie to the good old days of Communist East Germany with it’s Stasis inspired dread and fear atmosphere of informants.
While I applaud Mr. McFetridge’s humanitarianism, crushing Mintabie is not the answer, as the future will show. Ms. Chapman noted other indigenous communities were having a tough time with addicts of all natures, as are urban cities and towns. Education, rehabilitation and jobs are the answer.
Again it should be asked. If ultimately passed by SA’s Upper House, will this Bill, and the associated changes to the Opal Mining Act, be repealed if it the statistics show it is not working?
As a rather curious aside, at the same time SA politicians were debating whether to enforce the permit system on Mintabie, the APY executive were issuing a press release that seemed to indicate they would like to lift permits from some APY roads. Go figure!
I would like to both thank and applaud the efforts of he Mr. Lawson as shown from this excerpt from the SA Legislative Council Hansard on 3/12/2009.
He is a man who will not be easily swayed by the majority of less informed others. To paraphrase a saying “Just because the majority say a thing is true and right, does not transform the thing into something true and right”.
Existing powers are in place to deal with issues. The principle of the presumption of innocence should never be compromised, neither for large numbers of voters nor small.
The Hon. R.D. LAWSON -
“We understand that many of the provisions we find unacceptable in this legislation are supported by the APY executive and, therefore, we do not demur without considerable hesitation. The trouble with this legislation, as we see it, is that it goes a step too far.
Legislation of this kind has to strike a balance between the interests of those people who have lived at Mintabie for a very long time, have not broken laws, who want to continue to live and have businesses in Mintabie, and they have legitimate expectations which ought be met. At the same time, we acknowledge that the people on the lands and their elected executive also have interests which must be respected, and striking the appropriate balance is important.
However, this legislation, in a couple of minor respects, does not strike the balance correctly. We regret to say that, in our belief, this legislation is relying on a paternalistic view of Aboriginal affairs which we thought, in the current climate, had been abandoned.
We see that the Northern Territory government, the commonwealth government and our own state government are making considerable changes in the way things are done on the APY lands and in Aboriginal communities across the country, yet here we have a return to the philosophy—which is best characterised as a sort of East German philosophy—of putting a wall around the problem and that will solve it.
The experience is that putting a wall around problems of this kind does not solve them: it leads to displacement of problems. The road to hell is paved with good intentions. We understand that there are good intentions on the APY executive in relation to this legislation but we are sure that their solutions will not have the desired effect of improving conditions on the lands. It will simply displace problems which exist already.
If it be the case that Mintabie is the source of so much of the evil on the lands, why has the police presence, which has been put on the lands, not been focused on Mintabie, with all the resources of government being devoted to stamping out this noxious place—if you can believe the detractors of Mintabie?
If people in Mintabie are doing the wrong thing, not only legal things but ripping off Anangu with illegal or unfair trade practices, then there are solutions other than simply seeking to move them on to another corner, moving them on down to Coober Pedy, up to Marla or Alice Springs, Curtin Springs or across the border to Western Australia.
Petrol sniffing, substance abuse generally and cannabis supply to the lands is an ongoing issue. It is interesting to note that in September 2002 the then South Australian coroner published the results of inquests into the death of a number of persons who had been affected by protracted petrol sniffing. In a series of recommendations, the then coroner—a magistrate who was very experienced in affairs on the lands—suggested a number of things, some of which have been adopted.
However, the principal one, the establishment of a secure facility on the lands to address petrol sniffing and other substance abuse, was not adopted. We also note that the one recommendation of the Mullighan commission of inquiry in relation to abuse on the lands—that there be a secure facility on the lands for criminal justice purposes—has not been adopted by this government.
The issue that means that this legislation is a bridge too far for us is that it imposes undue restrictions on those existing residents of Marla who will no longer be able to enjoy a right enjoyed by every other South Australian, even where dry zones apply, to consume alcohol in their own house. We believe that is unfair.
We believe that the proposal to restrict businesses at Mintabie is wrong, improper and unfair—for example, to ban the sale of a second-hand car in Mintabie because there are some dodgy dealers there. There are dodgy dealers all around metropolitan Adelaide. What you do is close them down by exercising the powers that already exist in relation to the sale of second-hand vehicles. Having a blanket ban on the sale of dodgy cars in Mintabie is not going to make any difference at all: it will simply move the dealers off to Coober Pedy or some other location.
Many Anangu buy vehicles in metropolitan Adelaide. There is one particular dealer who specialises in selling dodgy vehicles to Aboriginal people. The way to address that is not to simply say, ‘Well, you can’t have one of those people operating in Mintabie’, and banning the sale of all second-hand vehicles there.
It is also proposed, by the lease conditions, to limit the way in which businesses can operate in Mintabie. It is true that one of the problems on the lands for years has been the fact that key cards, issued to social service recipients, are held by businesses for credit to be extended. That has been going on for years on the lands. Many of the stores operated by communities were engaged in this particular practice. It simply meets a need of Aboriginal people. They want their money. They want to borrow money like anybody else in the community but here it is decided that will not happen in Mintabie; you will have to go further to hock your key card to get credit. We simply do not believe that will work.
We do not believe that these measures will have the desired effect of improving conditions: they will simply move the problem elsewhere. These provisions, well-intentioned as they are, will ultimately be ineffective. Yet another measure that the APY executive and many people are trying to encourage is that the stores only stock nutritious food rather than the fast food that Aboriginal people actually like buying. This highly paternalistic view that you can prevent people buying Coke and chips and get them to—
The Hon. A. Bressington interjecting:
The Hon. R.D. LAWSON: Indeed. The Hon. Ann Bressington says that that leads to obesity and diabetes—sure, and the way to overcome that is by better education and better facilities; it is not simply by banning people from running a business. We know that Aboriginal people go to the road houses along the Stuart Highway and buy these goods if that is what they want to do. It is for all those reasons that we think this package of measures should not be supported. We note that the Mintabie Miners Progress Association has made representations and that it has been involved in the negotiations, as the Hon. Robert Brokenshire said, and made its position clear.
The final restriction we regard as over the top is the one that relates to criminal history checks for Mintabie residents if they are Anangu, so it is a discriminatory provision. Provisions of this kind do not apply in other places, and we think it is unnecessary and, ultimately, counterproductive.
So, it is for these reasons—and with great reluctance, I might say—that we are unable to support the passage of this bill. We note that it will be supported by the government and by crossbenchers and other members, so it will undoubtedly pass, and that is not a matter for great teeth-gnashing on our part. However, we think it is important to make statements of principle and to take a principled position.
E. Hooper, MINTABIE