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Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Senator the Hon. Ian Campbell
Tuesday, 11 April 2006
I have had a number of requests for comments on the events surrounding the Aboriginal protest in the Kings Domain in Melbourne. This is something that should never have been allowed to occur; the Victorian Government have known about it for over a month. I think all Australians would respect that in such a great liberal democracy that we have here in Australia that there is a right to protest, they would equally agree that when a protest turns into a long term encampment then you're creating a situation that most Australians won't support. The Victorian Government should have taken action many days ago, they've allowed it to get into a highly complex legal situation. I myself think that all Australians believe in practical reconciliation, and reconciliation with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and the situation that the Victorian Government has allowed to occur at Kings Domain will work against the best interests of reconciliation in Australia.
Minister, are you concerned this could turn into another tent embassy scenario like we have here in Canberra?
Well I think we've got a good example of what can occur. The Victorian Government should have taken action, they're now handballing the issue to everyone who can possibly find to catch it. My own view is that it will set back the cause of practical reconciliation. It's simply something that should have been acted on by the Victorian Government many days ago.
Minister what action should they have taken?
Well they should have made sure that the laws that apply were applied; that these protestors were moved on, these protestors that were breaking the laws in Victoria were moved on. Not only did they fail to do that, the relevant Minister appointed - as I understand it - as an inspector one of the members of the tribe that are doing the protesting.
Under Commonwealth legislation is this tent, this camp legal? There is some doubt about the legality of it.
There are questions that are before the Supreme Court in Victoria, as I understand it, I don't think it's (…inaudible…) for me to give a commentary on the legal situation. What we do know is that the State Minister appointed as an inspector under the law a member of the same tribe that's conducting the protest. Had they acted any time up to yesterday they could have - under the Victorian laws and municipal laws - ensure that the protestors had moved on. I think all Australians would stand up for the right to protest but would stand against this farce that is developing in Kings Domain; a farce that I think will actually set back the cause of Aboriginal reconciliation in Australia.