February 1998

Land Rights Battle Should Include Freehold: Foley

By David Liddle

VICTORIAN Aboriginal community spokesman, Gary Foley says the Mabo decision and the Native Title Act that followed are "the greatest single act of dispossession since 1788. The Native Title legislation is as fraudulent an instrument of colonialism as what the Treaty of Waitangi was for 150 years for New Zealand's Maori people. "

Mr Foley said. "I believe the Mabo decision was the opposite to what everybody reckons it is. "I therefore believe the Native Title legislation is the greatest leap backwards in the Aboriginal land rights struggle in the last 50 years. What's going on today is one of the biggest frauds in the history of Indigenous people all over the world."

...... Mr Foley was active during the 70s and early 80s but is now studying history at Melbourne University.

...... "I've been going to uni for the last two years. It took me 40 years to get to uni. I was the first Koori director of the Aboriginal Arts Board in '83. I had a big brawl with the then Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Clyde Holding and I just walked away from the whole game."

...... Mr Foley is absolutely scathing of the Aboriginal leaders negotiating with governments today. He said too many of them had aligned themselves with the Labor Party. "I believe that the Government-paid stooges who negotiated the Native Title Act should all be lined up against the wall and shot because they are traitors to the Aboriginal cause. They should start behaving like leaders instead of members of the Labor Party, that's for a start."

...... "Most of the people who go around masquerading as the leadership are essentially government employees. That includes any person who is a member of ATSIC. ATSIC is simply the old Department of Aboriginal Affairs, the old notorious, much-hated DAA, tarted up, given a new name and there's a bunch of mugs who think they've got some sort of say on the exercise. Even the Commissioners don't run ATSIC. We all know who runs ATSIC, the same bastards who used to run the Department of Aboriginal Affairs.

...... "I believe 13 years of the Hawke/Keating Government did more damage to the Koori scene than any government in my lifetime, including Howard's. People get on their high horses and say Howard's the most racist Prime Minister since whoop whoop.It's my experience that there were more bona fide racists in the Hawke and Keating Cabinets than there are in John Howard's Cabinet or there were in Malcolm Fraser's Cabinet. The people who were responsible for some of the most racist, discriminatory legislation in the history of this country was the ALP. They were the people who created the White Australia Policy for crying out loud.

...... "Yet too many of our current leadership seem to be beholden to them.

...... "It's really interesting if you look at a lot of the leaders who whinge the most about John Howard are people who were treated very nicely by the Labor Government. They're probably missing the nice VIP treatment that they used to get. They're probably whingeing about that as much as anything else."

...... Foley believes those people who negotiated with the Keating Government to design the Native Title Act 1993 after the High Court's Mabo decision sold out Indigenous interests. What people have got to do is read the High Court decision on Mabo," he said. "The first thing that it did was decide that Terra Nullius was no longer a viable, feasible proposition on which to base the entire Australian legal system. The whole of the Australian Parliament, its laws, its legal system, was based on the foundation stone of terra nullius.

...... "If terra nullius didn't exist, then the whole authority and validity of the High Court itself and the Australian Parliament ceases to exist. Mr Foley said in 1788 there were three legal methods under British law and international conventions at the time that a powerful nation could use to colonise another:

  • Cessation - where the colonised country gives up its land to the colonising country and is entitled to just compensation;
  • Conquest - where the colonised country's lands are taken by force and is entitled to just compensation;
  • terra nullius - where the land claimed is empty of inhabitants, therefore no need for compensation or treaties.

...... "If they had said it was by conquest, which is the truth of Australian history, then in that instance, they would have had to negotiate for all lands alienated, and not some Mickey Mouse f...ing Native Title.

...... "Native Title is the most inferior form of land tenure under British law. What they were talking about in the 30s and what we were talking about in the 70s when we talked about land rights was inalienable, freehold title. So these people who've negotiated and are going around the country saying we've got to defend Native Title, what they're agreeing to is that if Native Title exists, then it's been extinguished in most parts of Australia."

...... Mr Foley said he had no desire to become vocal again on Aboriginal affairs. I'm so completely, absolutely disillusioned with the bullshit the game has become. I have absolutely no desire to be part of that game again.

...... "When I was in the game, it wasn't a game, it was serious. We didn't have a black bourgeois then. We didn't have black middle class, highly-paid, jet-setting, pinstripe-suited, mobile-phoned, big flash car type Aboriginal bureaucrats about.

...... "The sting has been taken out of the tail of the Koori movement."

...... Mr Foley agreed with Member for Oxley, Pauline Hanson that there was an Aboriginal industry wasting taxpayers' money. But while Ms Hanson blames Aboriginal people, Mr Foley blames non-Aboriginal people.

...... "There's too many white experts in Australia," he said. "Since Whitlam in 1973 started money flowing into Aboriginal affairs, governments have spent in the region of $35 billion."

...... "But it's not blackfellas who are getting that sort of money. If you go to any community in Australia you will not see that level of expenditure in Koori communities, you won't see it, it's just not there. The black underclass is still in the same essential shit that it was in 30 years ago before all this money started to flow. If every blackfella in Australia dropped dead tonight, there'd be a million whitefellas on the dole queue tomorrow.

...... "Too many of the jobs that are around in Aboriginal affairs that have got whitefellas sitting in the seats are jobs that can be done by blackfellas and yet we've got the highest unemployment rates in Australia. The Government could cut half of Aboriginal affairs expenditure in Australia today and not affect one blackfella," he said.