The majority of Indigenous Australians are being thwarted in their efforts to build better lives by green groups that hijack debates and lobby against projects that would provide an economic return to communities, according to Marcia Langton.
In a hard-hitting speech to the Australian mining industry, the Indigenous academic said green lobbyists were using deception in campaigns to undermine the hopes of most Indigenous people.
Professor Langton was delivering the AMI’s annual lecture in Melbourne last week.
Her comments were later backed by one of the Prime Minister’s former key Indigenous advisors, Warren Mundine.
“Let me be clear for those who are not aware of the problems we face: cashed-up green groups, some funded by wealthy overseas interests, oppose mining projects with often flimsy evidence and misrepresent the evidence to the public,” Professor Langton said.
“They deliberately thwart the aspirations and Native Title achievements of the majority of Indigenous people by deception, by persuading the media and the public that a small handful of Indigenous campaigners who oppose the legitimate interests of the majority of their own people are the truth-tellers and heroes.
“In a series of very sophisticated and well-funded manoeuvres, they disguise their campaign strategies to end mining as pro-Indigenous campaigns.”
Professor Langton said the controversial Adani mine in Queensland was an example.
The $16.5 billion Carmichael coal mine project stalled after the freezing of a key land-use agreement that is being challenged by the Wangan and Jagalingou Family Council.
“The thousands of Indigenous people whose livelihoods depend on the validity of the agreements have been completely ignored,” Professor Langton said.
“These Indigenous people are being treated as collateral damage by the anti-Adani campaigners.
“Their brand of green law fair operates best in such conditions of uncertainty and complexity where their misrepresentations and outright lies go unnoticed by a lay media, lay politicians and an uninformed public.”
Professor Langton’s comments were reportedly rejected by Tony McAvoy SC, Australia’s first Indigenous legal silk. He was quoted on The Guardian news site as saying the fight to stop the Adani mine was driven by “proud and independent people” and that they had not been hijacked by environmental lobbyists.
Mr McAvoy told NIT this week: “I don’t wish to add anything further at this point.”
Professor Langton said emergency legislation to overcome a Federal Court ruling in February that has thrown more than 120 land use agreements across Australia into a state of “paralysis” is set to come before Parliament again this month.
But she said “there is no guarantee that the Coalition and the Labor party will vote to pass the necessary technical amendments”.
“The good news is highly conditional on fixing the McGlade case problem,” she said.
The McGlade ruling was made in relation to a challenge by four Noongar people who were named applicants but did not sign on to an ILUA over a large area of south-west Western Australia.
“If our Parliament can deliver the necessary amendments, there are large-scale innovations being developed by Native Title groups to make the system more efficient.”
Writing in The Daily Telegraph, Mr Mundine said Professor Langton was correct that cashed-up green groups were thwarting Aboriginal efforts.
Meanwhile, the Acting Native Title registrar Rob Powrie said Land Use Agreements were continuing to be registered post-McGlade. He said there was not a freeze on the testing of ILUAs for registration.
“In February 2017 immediately after the decision in McGlade was handed down, the Registrar stated that he would place a ‘moratorium on the registration of all area ILUAs currently in the registration/notification stage that may be affected by the McGlade decision’ ,” Mr Powrie said.
“The Registrar continues to assess all Area Agreement ILUAs that meet the criteria set under McGlade.
“Any Area Agreement ILUA currently pending registration testing, if compliant, will proceed to registration on the Register of Indigenous Land Use Agreements.
“Since the McGlade decision, 10 Area Agreement ILUAs have been registered nationally.”