Media Release by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

House of Representatives Economics Committee to examine Wild Rivers

Joint Media Release with:

  • The Hon Tony Burke MP, Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities

The Gillard Government today announced that it will refer the issues surrounding the Queensland Government’s Wild Rivers Act to the House of Representatives Economics Committee for inquiry.

The Government’s priority is to deliver on our commitment to economic development and jobs for Indigenous people, while honouring our environmental and heritage responsibilities.

The Committee will be asked to examine the impact of the Wild Rivers Act.

The inquiry will also look closely at the full range of issues affecting Indigenous economic development in Queensland, the operation of environmental and industry regulation and the native title system. The Committee will also review Tony Abbott’s proposal to overturn Queensland’s Wild Rivers law.

We respect the differing views of Aboriginal leaders in Cape York, and are committed to working across the Parliament and with all stakeholders to achieve a lasting arrangement that delivers real outcomes for both Indigenous people and the environment.

We expect the Economics Committee to report no later than March 2011, dependent on the Committee’s ability to hold hearings in Cape York during the wet season.

Proposed Terms of Reference

The Committee should examine the scope for increasing sustainable Indigenous economic development in Queensland and including in the Cape York region having regard to the aspirations of Indigenous people and the social and cultural context surrounding their participation in the economy.

The Committee should consider:

  1. existing environmental regulation, legislation in relation to mining and other relevant legislation including the Wild Rivers Act (Qld) 2005 and the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999;
  2. the impact which legislation in the form of the Wild Rivers (Environmental Management) Bill 2010 would have, if passed; and
  3. options for facilitating economic development for the benefit of Indigenous people and the protection of the environmental values of undisturbed river systems.

The inquiry will pay particular attention to the following:

  • The nature and extent of current barriers to economic development and land use by people, whether Indigenous or non-Indigenous, including those involved in the mining, pastoral, tourism, cultural heritage and environmental management;
  • Options for overcoming or reducing those barriers and better facilitating sustainable economic development, especially where that development involves Indigenous people;
  • The potential for industries which promote preservation of the environment to provide economic development and employment for Indigenous people;
  • The effectiveness of current State and Commonwealth mechanisms for appropriate preservation of free-flowing river systems which have much of their natural values intact, including the preserving of biodiversity;
  • Options for improving environmental regulation for such systems;
  • The impact of existing environmental regulation, legislation in relation to mining and other relevant legislation on the exercise of native title rights and on the national operation of the native title regime and the impact which legislation in the form of the Wild Rivers (Environmental Management) Bill 2010 would have on these matters.

The Committee should also make recommendations as to what initiatives might be pursued in order to promote economic development while preserving environmental and cultural values.

The Committee should make all efforts to ensure that a broad range of views are communicated to the Committee, especially those of Indigenous people. In seeking those views, the Committee should have regard to the practical issues which Indigenous people may have in putting those views before the Committee.