Koori History Newspaper Archive

Cold light of dawn dims Pearson's view

Australian - 3rd July 1998

THE rhetoric of Aboriginal leader Noel Pearson changed dramatically yesterday over the native title deal hammered out by the Government.

Shortly after details of the deal emerged on Wednesday night, Mr Pearson said: "It looks on the face of it, in this penalty shoot-out situation, Brian Harradine's won four-nil.

"Full credit to Senator Harradine for having promised us that he was going to hold the line . . . he's surely held the line, he's held out on a stubborn position,"

Mr Pearson said.

"It appears that Senator Harradine has substantially saved the position which will give Aboriginal people procedural rights on pastoral leases, which from one point of view at least looks like a right to negotiate under a different guise."

But Mr Pearson said Aboriginal people had not won 80 per cent of their initial demands.

"Good luck to the Prime Minister if he can convince the conservatives to support this," he said.

"I suspect when the farmers and miners and backbenchers look at the detail of what the Prime Minister has capitulated to, they might be a bit alarmed." However, yesterday morning he said an overnight examination of the proposal revealed it in a different light.

"On the four issues that Senator Harradine set out in his outline paper, the sunset clause, the registration test in relation to locked gates and the RDA (Racial Discrimination Act) clause, they seem very reasonable results for Aboriginal people," he said on ABC Radio.

"But taking a step back and looking at the totality of the whole amendment Bill, including 80 per cent of the issues that aren't covered in Senator Harradine's outline, Aboriginal people have taken a mighty fall, an horrific fall in relation to the Mabo decisions.

"Ninety per cent of Mabo is now gone."

It was understandable why the National Farmers Federal and the Minerals Council of Australia were happy with the outcome, Mr Pearson said.

"We looked at the thing overnight.

Initial euphoria about the sunset clause and so on.

"But 90 per cent of our position is gone," he said.