BY AMY MCQUIRE, NOVEMBER 16, 2011
Originally published in Tracker Magazine.
Cape York lawyer Noel Pearson has been labelled a “fly-in, fly-out” leader by a Labor MP.
QUEENSLAND: A Queensland Labor MP has savaged Cape York lawyer Noel Pearson, labeling him a “fly-in, fly-out” leader who has the interests of miners, rather than Aboriginal people at heart.
Carolyn Male is the Member for Pine Rivers and yesterday used parliamentary privilege to delivering a stinging rebuke to Pearson, while attacking the Liberal-National Party’s decision to overturn the controversial Wild Rivers legislation.
The Bligh government passed the laws in 2005, and since then 10 Wild Rivers have been declared. The legislation is designed to protect the state’s pristine waterways by placing restrictions on certain types of development.
But it’s been opposed by Mr Pearson and his allies, including the Cape York Land Council and the Balkanu Cape York Development Corporation, along with some traditional owners who claim it stifles economic development.
They are also concerned that some declarations have been placed on rivers without appropriate free, prior and informed consent of traditional owners.
But the legislation also enjoys strong support amongst many traditional owners who already have Wild Rivers declarations on their land, and the Wilderness Society claims that it does not inhibit Aboriginal economic development opportunities.
Federally, the Opposition also opposes the legislation, and has twice tried to destroy it in Parliament. On both occasions, the anti-wild rivers bills were voted down in the Upper House, through Labor and the Greens.
Now state LNP leader Campbell Newman has vowed to overturn the legislation in Queensland Parliament if he wins government next year.
Ms Male says that Mr Newman has only consulted with Mr Pearson at the expense of other traditional owners.
“It is common ground that Newman has travelled many times already, making decisions based on the last person he spoke to,” Ms Male said.
“Unfortunately for the environment, that last person was Noel Pearson.
“As the Premier aptly pointed out, Noel Pearson is not a Traditional Owner in this case but he does have a vested interest in the result just like the mining companies.
“Like the mining companies, Noel Pearson has adopted similar policies.”
Ms Male compared Mr Pearson to the LNP leader, and branded him a “fly in fly out” leader.
“Rather than being a traditional owner or an Aboriginal leader looking out for the best interests of all Aboriginal peoples, he has become a fly in, fly out leader — a bit like Campbell Newman: someone more interested in what he can extract for his family and friends and someone who does not care about the long-term effects of this grab-and-run policy.”
Ms Male called on Mr Campbell to travel the Cape and talk to a range of traditional owners “who truly represent the people of the area”.
“These are our wild rivers. They are pristine areas that we are saving and those opposite want to destroy the lot,” she said.
Mr Pearson earlier this month welcomed the LNP’s stance, stating that the laws were “concocted by green groups in Brisbane in return for green preferences”.
“We believe that there is a way forward for conservation, development and Aboriginal land rights,” he told The Australian newspaper.
“I want to see whitefellas, blackfellas and greenfellas all working for a balanced future.”
But Ms Male’s concerns are similar to those raised recently by Carpentaria Land Council head Murrandoo Yanner.
Earlier this month, he slammed Mr Newman for listening only to Mr Pearson and his allies.
“Mr Pearson does not have support in Aboriginal Queensland, particularly in the Gulf, the northwest and his own region, in the Cape,” Mr Yanner told The Australian.