A member of the Prime Minister's National Indigenous Council is
cautioning against sweeping changes to Australia's land rights legislation.
Prime Minister John Howard yesterday indicated a debate about private
ownership is necessary to address the issue.
The council's Warren Mundine says the primary battle by Indigenous
people to get land through lands rights and native title law has been
won, and it is only natural that energy is now being turned towards
Aboriginal Australians owing their own homes and businesses.
He says it is a plank in the fight against welfare dependency.
But Mr Mundine says only slight changes need to be made to enable
private land ownership.
"Under most of the acts now that are happening around Australia on
Aboriginal land, there is opportunities to do that within the New South
Wales legislation and the Northern Territory land rights legislation and
under the Native Title Act," he said.
"For Indigenous land use agreements you have an opportunity to have
leasehold arrangements similar to what, you know, Canberra's built on -
the 99-year lease or the 50-year lease or something where people can
have private ownership."
Mr Mundine says he is trying to encourage a "salt and pepper approach"
"Of communal and private ownership for enterprise development and for
asset building, as well as having government there which provides the
infrastructure such as schools, medical centres, etc," he said.
Mr Mundine is appealing for Mr Howard to clarify his rethink on land rights.
"I think he needs to be a bit more clear about what he intends to do and
what he's up to," he said.
"I think at the same time we need to have Aboriginal people being part
of the consultation process at all stages."
Labor's Kim Carr says the debate about Indigenous home ownership is a
"It's aimed at trying to encourage people to accept the compulsory
acquisition of Aboriginal land," he said.
"Very few people will be able to rush into the land market.
"There is no asset increases in prices through housing in remote
"This is a proposal which goes to taking Aboriginal land for other
economic purposes by people other than Aboriginals."
Mr Mundine, who is the incoming ALP president, rejects any idea that
there is a split in his party on the issue.
"You only have to look at Clare Martin," he said.
"Clare Martin is the chief minister of the Northern Territory, the
Northern Territory Government is a Labor government, they're very
strongly behind the idea of economic development.
"But the underlying title still remains within the hands of Aboriginal
people, it's above that title that we're talking about where we have a
leasehold approach where people... the land remains within Aboriginal
hands, but at the same time we can encourage economic development and
home ownership on land."