Activists Exploiting Indigenous Communities to Further Their Own Agenda: Senator

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Radicals are fomenting ill will towards communities with their actions, warns Senator Jacinta Nampijinpa Price

A recent case in which a judge called the evidence produced by environmental lawyers so “lacking in integrity that no weight can be placed,” is just the latest example of Indigenous causes being exploited by others, according to Northern Territory Senator Jacinta Nampijinpa Price.

“Using Indigenous Australians and our history to push a particular agenda is nothing new; indeed, the whole country witnessed the practice on its biggest scale yet during the 2023 Voice referendum,” Ms. Price wrote in an opinion piece in The Australian newspaper.

The senator was a vocal opponent of changing the Constitution.

Justice Natalie Charlesworth of the Federal Court said the Environmental Defenders Office (EDO) was responsible for “distorting and misrepresenting” the words of traditional owners in the case brought by Indigenous Tiwi Islanders against energy company Santos, to halt the construction of a major pipeline.

“Organisations such as the EDO, and the individuals who run them, are only too happy to use the plight of some of our most marginalised Australians to further their own ideological or political agenda,” Ms. Price said, claiming this was by no means uncommon.

Environmental Activism Depriving Communities of Work

“The ’subtle coaching‘ of Indigenous Australians, and the attempts to ’encourage and hint’ to come to particular conclusions, are common examples of activists trying to manipulate and use [them] to pursue their own agendas, regardless of the best interests of those they are using,” the senator said.

She accused “activists, academics, and bureaucrats” of indifference to the “genuine challenges being faced by Indigenous Australians in remote and rural Australia.”

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Not only did such “environmental lawfare” cause legal damage and economic deprivation, it also furthered ill-feeling against Indigenous people and division amongst Australians, she said.

“We know the quickest and most effective way to permanently improve the lives of our most marginalised is to encourage and facilitate economic advancement.

“Indeed, far from wanting to help, activists attacking mining and energy companies—attempting to stymie new development and trying to revisit and change past decisions—are actually hurting investment and depriving Indigenous Australians of those economic opportunities.

“A recurring theme of the 2023 referendum was the amount of taxpayer money being spent, both directly and indirectly, on Indigenous issues, and its efficacy,” said the senator.

The EDO received $8 million in funding from the Albanese government—which the Coalition has pledged to end if it’s elected.

Senator Price was critical of the funding arrangement.

“We now find ourselves in the incredible situation where the federal government is actually funding organisations pursuing the deprivation of Indigenous economic participation, while simultaneously spending hundreds of millions of dollars trying to implement ill-conceived, silver-bullet policy solutions to Indigenous disadvantage,” she added.

She questioned whether federal funding of environmental groups opposed to development was a strategy to secure Labor votes in inner-city seats under threat from the Greens or Teal candidates.

“The EDO needs to be defunded not just because it is a proven bad actor, but also to send a clear message that the age of exploiting Indigenous Australians to achieve political goals is at an end,” Senator Price said.

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