Abbott's Wild Rivers move historic - Pearson

By: Tony Koch

TONY Abbott's private member's bill to overturn controversial Wild Rivers legislation in Queensland was hailed yesterday as ``historic'' by Cape York indigenous leader Noel Pearson.
Mr Pearson, who has accused the Queensland government of riding roughshod over Aboriginal rights, said the Opposition Leader's initiative could build a bridge between the federal Coalition and indigenous people.
``The conservatives in the past did a lot of damage to the Mabo decision and then to native title with their 10-point plan introduced by then prime minister John Howard,'' Mr Pearson said yesterday.
``But here we have an opposition leader prepared to stand up for Aboriginal rights and give proper respect to Aboriginal people and their legal right to operate their properties in the way they decide.
``The Abbott legislation allows for agreements to be made between government and traditional owners and where traditional owners in a certain area decide they want legislative protection such as the Wild Rivers legislation, they can ask for it and negotiate the terms.''
Queensland opposition natural resources spokesman Jeff Seeney said yesterday Mr Abbott's draft laws would restore the rights of Cape communities to determine their economic future after the Queensland government last year declared major river systems in the Cape would come under the legislation. ``Ms Bligh's Wild Rivers laws were nothing more than a grubby election deal to secure green preferences,'' Mr Seeney said.
Queensland Natural Resources Minister Stephen Robertson said Mr Abbott's proposal was ``clearly a political stunt which demonstrates his inability to balance environmental needs and economic development''.