Both of Australia’s major political parties practise radioactive radism

legal rights and protections are repeatedly stripped away whenever they get in the way of nuclear or mining interests. Thus the Olympic Dam mine is largely exempt from the SA Aboriginal Heritage Act. Sub-section 40(6) of the Commonwealth’s Aboriginal Land Rights Act exempts the Ranger uranium mine in the NT from the Act and thus removed the right of veto that Mirarr Traditional Owners would otherwise have enjoyed. NSW legislationexempts uranium mines from provisions of the NSW Aboriginal Land Rights Act. Native Title rights were extinguished with the stroke of a pen to seize land for a radioactive waste dump in SA, and Aboriginal heritage laws and land rights were repeatedly overridden with the push to dump nuclear waste in the NT

TweedleDum-&-DeeThe bipartisan nuclear war against Aboriginal people, Dr Jim Green, Online opinion 11 July 14 The nuclear industry has been responsible for some of the crudest racism in Australia’s history. This radioactive racism dates from the British bomb tests in the 1950s and it has been evident in more recent debates over nuclear waste.

Since 2006 successive federal governments have been attempting to establish a nuclear waste dump at Muckaty, 110 kms north of Tennant Creek in the Northern Territory. A toxic trade-off of basic services for a radioactive waste dump has been part of this story from the start. The nomination of the Muckaty site was made with the promise of $12 million compensation package comprising roads, houses and scholarships. Muckaty Traditional Owner Kylie Sambo objected to this radioactive ransom: “I think that is a very, very stupid idea for us to sell our land to get better education and scholarships. As an Australian we should be already entitled to that.”

While a small group of Traditional Owners supported the dump, a large majority were opposed and some initiated legal action in the Federal Court challenging the nomination of the Muckaty site by the federal government and the Northern Land Council (NLC).

The Howard government passed legislation − the Commonwealth Radioactive Waste Management Act − overriding the Aboriginal Heritage Act, undermining the Aboriginal Land Rights Act, and allowing the imposition of a nuclear dump with no Aboriginal consultation or consent. ‘Practical reconciliation’ was the Howard government’s mantra.

Labor voted against the Commonwealth Radioactive Waste Management Act, with Labor parliamentarians describing it as “extreme”, “arrogant”, “draconian”, “sorry”, “sordid”, and “profoundly shameful”. At its 2007 national conference, Labor voted unanimously to repeal the legislation. Yet after the 2007 election, the Labor government passed legislation − the National Radioactive Waste Management Act (NRWMA) − which was almost as draconian and still permitted the imposition of a nuclear dump with no Aboriginal consultation or consent. Hooray for hypocrisy.

Then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd highlighted the life-story of Lorna Fejo (a.k.a. Nanna Nungala Fejo) during the National Apology in February 2008. At the same time, the Rudd government was stealing her land for a nuclear dump. Fejo said: “I’m very, very disappointed and downhearted about that [Muckaty legislation]. I’m really sad. The thing is − when are we going to have a fair go? Australia is supposed to be the land of the fair go. When are we going to have fair go? I’ve been stolen from my mother and now they’re stealing my land off me.”

Shamefully, the NLC supported legislation disempowering the people it is meant to represent. (The NLC is also facing alegal challenge from Traditional Owners in relation to the bauxite mine in north-east Arnhem Land.)

Labor’s Resources Minister Martin Ferguson drove the disgraceful NRWMA through parliament. He refused countless requests to meet with Traditional Owners opposed to the dump. Muckaty Traditional Owner Dianne Stokes said: “All along we have said we don’t want this dump on our land but we have been ignored. Martin Ferguson has avoided us and ignored our letters but he knows very well how we feel. He has been arrogant and secretive and he thinks he has gotten away with his plan but in fact he has a big fight on his hands.”

Dianne Stokes has not been alone. Many Traditional Owners were determined to stop the dump and they have been supported by the Beyond Nuclear Initiative, a pro bono legal team led by legal firm Maurice Blackburn, the Australian Nuclear Free Alliance, key trade unions including the Australian Council of Trade Unions, church groups, medical and public health organisations, local councils, the Australian Greens, and environmental groups such as Friends of the Earth, the Australian Conservation Foundation and the Environment Centre NT.

The Federal Court trial finally began in June 2014. After two weeks of evidence, the NLC gave up and agreed to recommend to the federal government the withdrawal of the nomination of Muckaty for a nuclear dump. The Abbott government accepted the recommendation (Tony Abbott himself might have been called to appear at the trial had it proceeded).

As a result of their surrender, the NLC and the Commonwealth did not have to face cross-examination in relation to numerous serious accusations raised in the first two weeks of the trial − including claims that the NLC rewrote an anthropologists’ report. Kylie Sambo said: “I believe [the NLC] didn’t want to go through that humiliation of what they really done. But it’s better now that they actually backed off. It’s good for us.”……….

After the celebrations, one immediate challenge for Muckaty Traditional Owners is to continue their campaign to have land council boundaries shifted so they can be represented by the Central Land Council instead of the NLC. Kylie Sambo said: “Hopefully we can continue to try and push the boundary for the NLC back up north a bit. We had a good trust there but then they broke it. It’s going to be tough, we stood and fought for eight long years and I think we can take on anything now.”

What did self-styled Aboriginal leaders such as Warren Mundine and Noel Pearson have to say about the Muckaty dispute? Nothing. In eight years they never once spoke up in support of Muckaty Traditional Owners. Likewise, Australia’s self-styled ‘pro-nuclear environmentalists’ − Adelaide University’s Barry Brook, uranium industry consultant Ben Heard, and others − never once voiced concern about the imposition of a nuclear dump on an unwilling Aboriginal community and their silence suggests they couldn’t care less about the racism of the industry they so stridently support…….

Nuclear War

Muckaty Traditional Owners have won a significant battle for country and culture, but the problems and patterns ofradioactive racism persist. Racism in the uranium mining industry involves ignoring the concerns of Traditional Owners; divide-and-rule tactics; radioactive ransom; ‘humbugging’ Traditional Owners (exerting persistent, unwanted pressure); providing Traditional Owners with false information; and threats, including legal threats.

One example concerns the 1982 South Australian Roxby Downs Indenture Act, which sets the legal framework for the operation of BHP Billiton’s Olympic Dam uranium mine in SA. The Act was amended in 2011 but it retains exemptions from the SA Aboriginal Heritage Act. Traditional Owners were not even consulted. The SA government’s spokesperson in Parliament said: “BHP were satisfied with the current arrangements and insisted on the continuation of these arrangements, and the government did not consult further than that.”

That disgraceful performance illustrates a broader pattern. Aboriginal land rights and heritage protections are feeble at the best of times. But the legal rights and protections are repeatedly stripped away whenever they get in the way of nuclear or mining interests. Thus the Olympic Dam mine is largely exempt from the SA Aboriginal Heritage Act. Sub-section 40(6) of the Commonwealth’s Aboriginal Land Rights Act exempts the Ranger uranium mine in the NT from the Act and thus removed the right of veto that Mirarr Traditional Owners would otherwise have enjoyed. NSW legislationexempts uranium mines from provisions of the NSW Aboriginal Land Rights Act. Native Title rights were extinguished with the stroke of a pen to seize land for a radioactive waste dump in SA, and Aboriginal heritage laws and land rights were repeatedly overridden with the push to dump nuclear waste in the NT.http://www.onlineopinion.com.au/view.asp?article=16489&page=3

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