Mr ENTSCH (Leichhardt) (11.50 am)-On Saturday I was taking some time to read the national papers, and I almost choked on my Weeties when I saw this full-page ad about wild rivers, taken out by the Queensland government in all of the national papers. It says ‘Traditional Owners support Wild Rivers’ and proudly shows the state government logos. The cost of this would have been quite significant. It was done at the same time that the Queensland government had just confirmed it had sold Queensland Rail for something like $4 billion. So now we are using our rail not only to pay our debts but also to peddle propaganda for the Wilderness Society.
I find it very, very disappointing, when we have a whole lot of other issues to deal with, particularly when the economy in my region, in Cairns, is struggling and we see the state of our hospitals, our roads and a whole raft of other things. Yet the state government can find what would have been literally hundreds of thousands of dollars to invest in a dishonest propaganda campaign to try and support an initiative that is being driven not by the state government but by the Wilderness Society. The government has been aiding and abetting it, but now it is obviously financing it.
I had a look at the names of some of the individuals that have been put there as traditional owner supporters of this. The one right at the top is David Claudie. David Claudie is said here to be a Chuulangun traditional owner.
You have to wonder. There is also Murandoo Yanner, representing the Carpentaria Land Council, and Jimmy Richards, who is a wild river ranger. They are three of the five who are there. These guys are obviously very committed to the wild rivers, but if you have a look a little bit behind that you start to question motives.
I refer first of all to David Claudie. I have here a cooperation agreement that was signed between the Chuulangun Aboriginal Corporation and the Wilderness Society in 2005 and committed, among other things, to assist in raising funds for that organisation.
I also have here a letter from the traditional owners of the group that David Claudie claims to represent. In that letter, which was sent to the Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts in Canberra, they say, among other things: Chuulangun Aboriginal Corporation has only 3 directors -David John Claudie, his partner Judith Pamela Eriksen-who is non-Indigenous-and his uncle Robert Nelson. It has only 6 members, being the 3 directors plus David Claudie’s sister Michelle Claudie, brother Robert Claudie and Robert Nelson’s daughter Joanne Nelson.
They ask questions about the $840,000 that was given to the corporation of six family members in the last financial year and suggest that there are some serious issues that need to be investigated. You have to ask the question about conflict of interest. You also have to ask the question about the legitimacy of such a claim and the concerns by a very significant number of legitimate traditional owners in that area. I think it is appalling that the state government hides behind the Wilderness Society and this type of thing to claim support for its initiative.
I was also concerned to hear on the ABC the other day that another proponent of wild rivers is the Steve Irwin Wildlife Reserve, through Australia Zoo. Let us not forget that the Australian government gifted them $6 million to purchase that property at Batavia Downs. Not only that; the state government last week announced that it is actually funding 27 wild river rangers to be trained by Australia Zoo. It is a significant amount of money. The Carpentaria Land Council have about 100 rangers that they are being funded to train-new Toyotas, new boats and that sort of stuff. Again you have to question the motives of these individuals in claiming this. The 10 elected mayors of the 10 Aboriginal communities all oppose this. They are elected mayors. I notice that the state government did not mention any of those people in its propaganda. The state government should be condemned for not having the courage to stand up against the Wilderness Society and for imposing wild rivers on the Cape York community when the majority of the traditional owners have serious issues with the imposition of wild rivers.