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Saturday 15th February 1997

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Issues - The banking system under the spotlight.


Yesterday we expressed outrage about the disruptive role of Murrandoo Yanner in the Century Zinc negotiations.

Today we can give you a bit more background to "why he changed his mind".

We mentioned how the chairman of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC) Gatjil Djerruka was able to get him to change his mind after Yanner had influenced or should we say intimidated the Aboriginal leaders to change the compensation package that had originally been negotiated with Century Zinc (the mine developers) in December last year. Let us remember that the meeting on Thursday was to be a mere formality with the Aboriginal leaders signing the Au$60 million compensation package with the mining company to secure the deal.

It now appears that Djerruka offered to "call off the dogs" or remove the administrators who were running Yanner's Carpentaria Land Council (CLC) after a scathing auditor's report about the manner in which the council was administered.

Yanner wanted ATSIC to "back off" from the CLC in return for his support and had made it clear to them in the past that his agenda and the future of Century Zinc was linked. His influence amongst the Gulf Aborigines was enough to get them to agree to see him at the eleventh hour and then to change the compensation package which they had already agreed on. Let us remember that Yanner was not one of the negotiators involved in the process, he was in fact an interfering outsider.

After Yanner had finished his "fireside chat" with Djerruka at about 7pm he disappeared with a group of the native title claimants - never to be seen again. Leaving the compensation package unsigned and the Au$1.1 billion Century Zinc mine project on the ropes.

Century Zinc managing director Ian Williams remained confident that a mine would proceed but correctly pointed out that the negotiation process highlighted the problems with the Native Title Act.

"While I believe negotiation is the way to go, clearly what has happened here has highlighted the sorts of problems with the Native Title Act by way of a lack of threshold; by way of multiple claims by people; the ability for individuals to lodge claims.

"They are issues that are being talked about, but it really has highlighted the problems.

"Ultimately, an individual can hold out under the process," he said adding that as of yesterday the company had obtained six of the required twelve signatures of Aboriginal representatives.

"We have the signatures of three of the four groups over the mine site itself," he said.

"You can see the point. You can satisfy the overwhelming majority of the people who are claiming native title rights and it takes just a small group or an individual under the Act to hold up the process."

Century's offer to the Aborigines has now lapsed and the company's next move is to go to arbitration.

Let us remember that in June last year 11 out of the 12 Gulf leaders voted to proceed with the mine but Yanner and the CLC disputed the green light and the whole process became a farce.

The day after the vote Queensland ATSIC Commissioner, Terry O'Shane, delivered a savage attack on Yanner saying, "What need to be understood is that this fella's reputation is not intact, and he has no credibility to be speaking on behalf of his people."

About a week later Queensland Premier Rob Borbidge said that legislation would be introduced in Parliament no later than July 23 to waive the rights of Aborigines to participate in the project but a public outcry about the legislative solution resulted in Borbidge backing down.

Former governor-general Bill Hayden was appointed to lead a team to negotiate with the native title claimants and after six months of secrecy with all parties agreeing not to speak to the media the package was finalised, without any influence from Yanner.

Yanner was facing his own problems with the CLC accounts under query by auditors Lindsay Roberts who were appointed administrators.

When the native title claimants arrived in Mt Isa last Wednesday they spent most of the day locked in consultation with lawyers who convinced them to proceed with the package as their view was that if they did not sign and the matter went to arbitration they would not get such a rewarding compensation outcome.

That's when Mr Yanner appeared on the scene and disrupted six months of negotiations and consultations in the space of a few hours. The "new" compensation package was given to the Queensland Government and Century Zinc on D-Day, Thursday, with the Aborigines demanding that they respond by midday.

After three hours of discussions the Government and Century Zinc management emerged from their hotel and said that the original agreement was final and that the new agreement was "not on".

The outcome is that Century Zinc has now lodged an application for arbitration and indications are that a hearing will take place within the next two weeks.

See the letter below on a reader's point of view, and please feel free to add any comments that you might have on this issue.


The Prime Minister plans to adopt a hardline on foreign affairs and trade policy based on a more pragmatic assessment of the national interest as set out in Australia's White paper on foreign policy.

The White paper sets a framework for foreign and trade policy over a 15-year time span. A 16 member panel charged with advising the Australian Government on the drafting of the White Paper has endorsed the strategic shift in the framework of foreign and trade policy.

You say:

Subject: Century.

hello again.

So sad to see Queensland go the way of South Australia in land rights issues. Land rights, and the ensuing deadlock on new mining ventures was part of the reason for SA's stagnation and bankruptcy for the past fifteen years. My father was the Chamber of Mines representative in the original Maralinga Land Rights Bill negotiations in SA. He could foresee 40% plus of the state reverting to 2% of the population.

This has happened. Not only that, but the aboriginal owners of that land have more rights than any other Australian citizen with their land title. Their title includes the mineral rights to their land.

We are one nation - Australia. There was a war which the European colonists won against the aboriginal inhabitants, and the new settlers won. This is the latest in a series of colonisations which likely stretch back over 100,000 years in this country. Nothing to feel feel sorry about, nothing to feel guilty about, just a fact.

The labour agenda for the past thirty or so years has been to create a Nation within a Nation for black people. This is a sure fire recipe for future poverty and corruption. Australia can only grow by being one nation, not a divided nation. Mining developments on traditional lands is the only way many remote communities can hope to achieve the aspirations ordinary people have.

I fervently hope the remote aboriginal communities in Australia can show the strength of character to throw off the angry divisiveness of supposed leaders like the Yanner brothers, and work things out themselves.

I thought the aboriginal community would have the good sense to cut off the Yanners as spokesmen for the aboriginal people. I have heard that Murundoo was cautioned by elders, who threatened to "point the bone" if he did not stop his extremist nonsense. The Yanners - would be guerillas (gorillas)- fairly openly espouse a "blackfella revolution" against the white oppressors. This is not the way forward. Sorry, Murundoo and co, you are one hundred years too late.

It is time for the remote communities, such as Doomadgee, to trust their own wise counsel, and look to their future. One thing is for certain, the future will not be like the past, and this generation is the one which makes the choice.

There is only so much the big companies can take in terms of delay and interference, before they walk away. Look at Bougainville. It is obscene that one standover merchant can hold not only his own people, but the entire country to ransome in this way.

Brian White.

Subject: Your "news" service

Vacuous diatribe written by illiterate, racist rednecks. If you don't have anything original or sensible to write about just shaddup and go away!!

Ben Cardillo

Subject: Newspapers

Dear Sir,

I note that your news summary often refers to a form of self-censorship practiced by the major media outlets. The censorship appears to be - not unsurprisingly - selfserving.

There have been many examples of this over recent times. Sometimes the self-service is obvious..after all it would be a pretty stupid editor who would broadcast in some depth the fact that his proprietor is being investigated for tax irregularities ...and sometimes the self-service is not.

In the latter category I note that in the matter of Christopher Skase (who would dearly love to come back to face charges but his doctors forbid... etc) the newspapers are still full of brim, firestone, ire and righteous indignation at every opportunity that his name is mentioned. In fact they remind me of those old plays where, whenever the villain comes on stage, the whole audience hisses. On the other hand your old friend and current guest of Her Majesty, Alan Bond appears to rate only passing and factual commentary. Pictures are shown of him looking sad and drawn while his poor sad loyal family gather outside the court, if his mother was still alive she would no doubt be shown weeping - all very sympathetic. Photos of Christopher on the other hand show the unfortunate bankrupts mansion, his tennis court and healthy smiling face sitting in exclusive restaurants.

There appears to be almost no editorial comment about the lightness of the sentence for Mr Bond nor are there comments about the effects his $6Billion shortfall has had upon the Australian economy or the facts that he and his family somehow don't seem to have been financially affected... Whatever happened to that lovely Swiss gentleman who was paying Bondy's family bills and renting houses for his daughter - all out of the goodness of his heart?

I only comment on the above because it is hard to fathom where the self-service of what appears to be censorship comes in in this particular instance. Could he still have some power that even the Global News does not know about?



Arnott's Biscuits are beseiged after a written threat by someone to poison their biscuits. The biscuit maker has removed all their biscuits from shop shelves in a move which has cost the company about Au$35 million.

The threat to poison Arnott's biscuits was made if a series of demands that police involved in a murder case in New South Wales several years ago were not questioned while undergoing a lie detector test. The police department in New South Wales has refused to budge and said that such a move would be illegal.


Australian Rugby League (ARL) sources have denied the plans by Kerry Packer to cut the Queensland Crushers financially adrift as the club plans its fightback from debt.

However, ARL chief executive Neil Whittaker has told the Crusher players that there is no guarantee beyond 1997 while implying that some sort of merger with Super League might be on the cards next season.

Wow, how money changes things - and no matter the carcasses of human victims that result out of the financial fortunes of those who already have it all!

Personal trivia, from the global office:

Beautiful day following good rains overnight.

Yesterday we had Celia Barnes from Woman's Day magazine here. They are running a story on Young Alex and his Koala trouble business success in the next couple of weeks. If you are in Australia, watch the news agents!

Baldy the (now very bald) cockatoo is sitting outside my office peering in while he feasts on the tattered plastic bag on parrot seed which was supposed to remain intact until added to the feedtray. Even Baldy has got a very sharp beak so it would appear.

Tomorrow we find out in the Doll Show how well "Gumnut and Willie Willie" have done in the competition. Queen of Sheba will be there as well... of course.

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