July 31, 2009
Article from: Australian Associated Press
A QUEENSLAND "Labor mate" did a deal with the government to exempt a Chinese mining company from environmental laws on Cape York, an indigenous youth leader claims.
Former Young Australian of the Year Tania Major confronted Premier Anna Bligh over her government's controversial wild rivers laws on ABC TV's Q&A program on last night.
Ms Major claims the environmental laws restrict the capacity of indigenous communities on the Cape to expand businesses and create much-needed jobs.
She now says the Chalco bauxite and alumina mine proposed for Aurukun received exemption from the laws because it was represented by former deputy premier turned lobbyist for the Enhance group, Jim Elder.
Meanwhile, small sustainable businesses had to wrangle with the environmental laws, condemning indigenous people to the "miserable scrap heap of poverty and social misery", she said.
"Why is Chalco exempt, a Chinese-owned, multi-million dollar mining company, and yet the people on the ground, the local people who want to participate in the wider Australian economy being affected by the wild rivers legislation?" Ms Major said.
"Dodgy government backdoor deals ... I think that's the way business is being done in Queensland, it's been evident over the last couple of days."
Ms Major also rejected Ms Bligh's comparison of Cape York's rivers to the Murray Darling river system, which she claimed could have been saved from ruin with similar laws.
"Murray Darling has been stuffed up by white Australians, I'm going to make that clear, by white Australians," she said.
"Cape York is in pristine condition because people practised conservation methods that has been passed down in 40,000 years of history.
"Why should we sit back and let people in the ivory towers of Brisbane and West End ... here in Brisbane decide how we should conserve the environment when we're on the ground practising it?"
Ms Major, who spoke on behalf of indigenous youth group Give Us A Go, supported calls for a royal commission into corruption in Queensland and urged the government to amend the wild rivers legislation with a land use agreement for indigenous people.