The Guardian • Issue #2010


  • The Guardian
  • Issue #2010

On 3rd June 1992 the High Court of Australia recognised that a group of Torres Strait Islanders, led by Eddie Mabo, held ownership of Mer (Murray Island). In acknowledging the traditional rights of the Meriam people to their land, the court also held that native title existed for all Indigenous people. This landmark decision gave rise to important native title legislation the following year and rendered terra nullius (empty land) a legal fiction. We are marking the thirtieth year of that acknowledgement. In the 1996 elections the Coalition opposition ran a racist advertising campaign against native title, in cohoots with the National Farmers’ Federation, representing the big pastoralists. The adverts were a scare campaign, telling people their backyards were in peril. The backyard of stolen land in possession of Gina Rinehart, billionaire pastoralist and miner, is thanks to her father, mining magnate Lang Hancock. He, like big miners before and after him, set government agendas and are consulted in the drafting of legislation in Indigenous affairs. Hancock proposed a plan aimed at giving certainty to him and his fellow plunderers – a sterilisation program in Indigenous communities, so that, in his words, “they die out.”

As I write, the Albanese government has announced a meeting of state energy ministers to grapple with the question of higher energy bills and a gas shortage (see “Energy prices explode). The issue being talked up is the billions in profits for the likes of Santos from selling gas overseas while the consumer price here keeps climbing. The government asked Santos et al. to divert some of that gas into the local market and got a “no”; instead they demanded more access to gas fields on farming land. Not that gas is a solution: The exercise is a demonstration of the economic power of the fossil fuel churners. When the Rudd Labor government introduced a Resources Super Profits Tax in 2010, it was of course attacked by the big coal exporters Rio Tinto, BHP Billiton and Xstrata. Soon thereafter came a palace coup and new PM Julia Gillard made a beeline to the rewrite table and scrapped the Tax. Meanwhile, across the road at the Liberal Party, the party’s leader Malcolm Turnbull, who had supported the tax, was also overthrown and replaced by Tony “climate change is crap” Abbott.

PARASITE OF THE WEEK: The rule book for casinos is by necessity thick, their scope for criminal activities being so wide. But their connection to organised crime/big business is so tight and their tax revenue to government so big that no government has ever closed one. In that context the announcement by the Australian Federal Police that they’ve decided to target the Italian mafia in Australia causes pause for thought: Crown Casino – one in Sydney and one in Melbourne – are open for inspection day and night, trading in laundered black-market money from any of the most heinous crimes you can think of. It’s a you’re-standing-in-it kind of thing.

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