Double standards have never been so obvious.
A can of worms. That’s what you get when you take the same politico-social argument from two ethnically diverse communities and come to a different conclusion. It’s called racism.
I thought that Australia’s political leaders had determined that our resources were the economic saviour of this country, but it seems there’s a rift – coal seam gas (CSG). State laws have certainly been set in favour of the miners, allowing them access to explore without the consent of the title holders of the land and the ability to apply for mining leases regardless of community discontent. Yet, it seems that if you are white and live on farming land, the politicians as well as mainstream Australian media pay more attention than if you are black and living in the outback. Labor should just shut up on this one; Tony Abbott has dug himself a nice deep trench and all the focus is on what now appears to be a double standard on the part of the Liberal Party. (Anyone noticed how silent Turnbull has gone?)
On the western side of the country, Australia has copious – but not limitless – mineral resources. In the Eastern states, coal is the primary geological resource. Technically coal is not a mineral, as it is composed of organic matter, unlike true minerals. Coal is however, treated as a mineral when discussed in terms of mining and taxes. How convenient for the taxman and my argument!
It just so happens that the populations living in the east are predominantly of non-Indigenous heritage. Many of these people have resided and earned a living off the land for generations. The ‘Lock the Gate’ campaign of farmers at risk of losing their land to CSG miners has received considerable publicity in the past week in all forms of media.
Conversely, in the west the Indigenous Native Title holders own much of the land desired by the big miners. Tony Abbott, declared an ‘economic vandal’ and derided by Federal Resources and Energy Minister Martin Ferguson, believes that the rights of land owners in the Eastern States (to use a Western Australian term) to refuse entry to their land by miners is more important than those in the west:
‘Tony Abbott has backed the right of farmers to deny miners access to their land, intensifying pressure on the states to rein in mining that encroaches on communities and food production.‘ (Tony Abbot wedged over mines, The Australian, 13 August 2011)
Senator Barnaby Joyce hasn’t helped the argument, by suggesting the farmers ‘… should have more opportunities to negotiate and consult with the miners than they’re currently being given, that there has been a cavalier attitude apparently from some of the miners and some of the explorers, particularly in New South Wales, and there needs to be a proper balance.’ Isn’t that precisely what the Yindjibarndi have been crying foul about in their dealings with Fortescue Mining? The apparent disregard for culture, generations of families living and growing up on the land, ancestors buried nearby and the potential loss of history, leaving little or nothing to pass onto the next generation are a common theme in the arguments posed by both the Yindjibarndi and the farmers in New South Wales and Queensland.
Then of course we have The Greens leader Bob Brown, championing Abbott’s faux-pas, saying he’ll introduce legislation to give farmers the ability to refuse access to miners. Bob, why won’t you do the same for those in the west, for the Indigenous? Ok, so that plan appears to have fallen flat on it’s face, but you are afterall, the leader of a party that has purported to support Indigenous progress and equality. Now that’s an example of why I’m a cynical swinging voter, Bob (listen up the rest of you). If I don’t see the goods, I vote for someone else and The Greens lost my vote in 2011. Don’t feel too bad; Labor lost my vote to you in 2007 (and the Lib’s before that – Children Overboard stank to high heaven!).
Last month Four Corners aired a program about the true value of Native Title and the Yindjibarndi’s battle to hold onto their land and way of life, or at least be paid a fair price. After that program, I had an interesting exchange on Twitter with another non-Indigenous person about the rights of Australia’s Indigenous. Having argued that the Indigenous people waste their land rather than improving it or using the resources and querying what a fair price would be, the tweeter commented that:
‘the land is for all Australians to take advantage of not just one race & hold the rest to ransom.’
I suggested we strip him of his backyard, turf him off his land and give him a price without negotiation. His reply?
‘as long as I get welfare for the rest if my life & my families life, my education paid for, my dental & health bills No probs’
I so hope that Tweeter has a farm with a coal seam and a manipulative mining advocate nearby.
The hubris inherent in this sort of attitude is the reflected in the last few comments, most notably:
‘what the English did to the indigenous was appalling, but it has nothing to do with the current Australian people.’
If ever there was a blatant case for proving the double standards applied to Indigenous and non-Indigenous titleholders that continue 220 years after the arrival of the First Fleet, this can of worms is it. The fact that the issue of CSG and fracking is now encroaching upon Sydney’s outskirts, making the suburban families and urban environmentalists edgy about the quality of their drinking water makes this all of a sudden a priority in the eyes of the average Australian. Meanwhile, the Yindjibarndi are still battling for the same support. At least they can take solace in the gift of Tony Abbott. I’m sure they are thanking him right now. Keep up the good work mate!