PHONE: 1300 TORRES (1300 867 737)
FAX: 1300 STRAIT (1300 787 248)
News & events of the Kaurareg homeland of Kaiwalagal, the Torres Strait homeland, and Cape York homelands of the Anggamuthi, Atambaya, Wuthathi, Yadhaykenu and Gudang Peoples
13 - 19 August 2012 • Thursday Island • www.torresnews.com.au • email@example.com • Edition No. 1027 • $2.00 inc. GST
TSIRC election fallout with three challenges
Eligibility law review for Torres Strait candidates Rangers get cracking on new fleet By MARK ROY ELIGIBILITY requirements for Torres Strait Islanders standing in local government elections will be reviewed after a court decision found Torres Strait Island Regional Councillor Jerry Stephen could no longer hold office in the division which encompasses his homeland of Ugar (Stephen Island). A section of the Local Government Act requires candidates in TSIRC elections to live on the islands in the division for which they are a candidate for two years prior to their nomination. The courts are yet to decide the fate of TSIRC Councillors Aven Noah, elected to the division covering Mer (Murray Island), and Cr Joel Gaiden, whose division takes in Dauan. Minister for Local Government David Crisafulli said he “struggled” to understand the need for a residential requirement in the legislation. “My initial reaction is that it does seem to be very, very proscriptive,” Mr Crisafulli told SBS journalist Stefan Armbruster last Wednesday. “If the act is truly representative of the views of the people of those communities, they wouldn’t have voted for those people.” The provisions are designed to ensure candidates live in and understand the cultural issues of the region. However, Mr Crisafulli said that was something electors could decide for themselves through the democratic process. “If people felt that those people were ‘blow-ins’, then they wouldn’t have vote for them,” he said. Indigenous rights advocate Maluwap Nona, present during the court proceedings against Mr Stephen, said the law was a “hangover from our colonialist past and an archaic remnant of racist laws of many years ago” and had to change. “We know our own people and we should always have the power to decide who we nominate, elect or recognise as having customary rights to the islands from which they come from,” Mr Nona said. After Mr Stephen won the election, with a 71 per cent majority, a civil court action was brought against him by the only other divisional candidate, his mother, Florianna Bero.
d e i r t u o y e v Ha u n e m w e n e th at the
Minister for Indigenous Affairs Jenny Macklin prepares to crack a coconut over the bow of the Urpi Urui, launched on Badu last week. The vessel is the first of a fleet of seven TSRA ranger boats to be rolled out across the islands of Badu, Mabuiag, Moa, Boigu, Mer, Iama and Masig in the coming months. Ms Macklin is being lent a hand to crack the coconut and officially launch the vessel by Mura Badhulgau Rangers supervisor Troy Stow, as Badu traditional owner Maluwap Nona and rangers from the TSRA Land and Sea Unit look on. See story, page 3, and more photos from the Badu celebrations on page 13. PHOTO: MARK ROY “I feel the democratic process “The legislation does not had been overturned by this piece of recognise the practical reality legislation,” Mr Stephen said. of the situation many Islander He said the law also prevented people face.” community leaders from acquirMr Crisafulli said he was ing the necessary experience and due to meet with TSIRC Mayor qualifications to hold office. Fred Gela within the next week, “Stephen Island is a small, isoand that was keen to talk with lated island with no services and him about the provisions of no airstrip,” Mr Stephen told the the act. Torres News. He said he understood Cr “It is one of the most-disadGela was in favour of the vantaged communities within the residential requirements for Jerry Stephen (left) and Maluwap Nona say legislation apply to candidates. Torres Strait.” People needed to travel off the TSIRC elections is ‘absurd’ and must be changed to reflect the But Mr Crisafulli said the act island to pursue work and education reality of Islanders’ way of life. had the unintended consequence said. of disqualifying prime candiopportunities, as well as for other “I’ve been travelling ever since I was dates from election. reasons such an accessing health services Contined Page 3.>> and for traditional cultural reasons, he brought up on the island,” he said.
? L A R E D FE
New Menu Good Food Good Prices • Daily Specials •
The Federal Hotel ...THE PUB ON THE BEACH! Ph: 4069 1569
Customs is ‘gambling with border security while shuffling the deck with staff’ By MARK ROY SHUFFLING the decks and shifting Customs staff around the north of Australia is not the solution to monitoring border security, according to Senator Ian Macdonald, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Northern and Remote Australia. He said shifting Customs staff from Cairns to patrol the Torres Strait would simply leave Cairns vulnerable. His comments came in the wake of the interception of a boat carrying suspected asylum seekers off Boigu and the recent announcement of cuts to Customs and Border Protection staff numbers on Thursday Island. “In the case of the Boigu interception, it would have been worse than useless to call for Customs officers from Cairns to perform it,” Mr Macdonald said. “The asylum seekers could have drowned while the Cairns officers were waiting to board their plane.” A Customs and Border Protection spokesperson said the service would maintain its presence in the Torres Strait by flying in officers. “Customs and Border Protection makes use of charter aircraft as required to bring
extra resources to Thursday Island, or any other location, if needed,” he said. “We are particularly alert to the risks which may present themselves in the Torres Strait region. “This area will also continue to be patrolled by Customs and Border Protection vessels and aircraft to ensure the border remains secure.” But Mr Macdonald said relying on staff in Cairns to patrol the Torres Strait did not solve the problem of border security. “Not only are they 1000 km away and can’t get there quickly, but who will be staffing the Cairns Customs area while they are making their way to Thursday Island? “The Gillard government couldn’t care less about the enormous challenges our customs officers face in trying to police this vast coastline in Northern Australia.” Mr Macdonald said Thursday Island had already suffered the loss of a Royal Australian Navy boat last year. “To be losing more than half of its Customs staff is another blow,” he said. “The Navy had to be deployed to the north west because of the Gillard government’s complete inability to stem the flood of asylum seekers there, leaving the Torres Strait to fend for itself. Which they cannot do without the
BARRIER AIR SERVICES
Single & Twin Aircraft Servicing Cairns, The Cape & The Torres Strait Phone our friendly staff at our
Horn Island Airport Ofﬁce for all your Air Charter Requirements
staff.” The Customs spokesperson said when talking about staff numbers, it was important to distinguish between positions and actual Customs and Border Protection officers who may be affected by staffing changes. “There were 14 positions allocated to the Thursday Island District Office,” he said. “We are reducing by six positions. Of those six positions, three are currently vacant. “This means only three officers’ positions have been affected by the change. “These officers are relocating to other Customs and Border Protection offices in Northern Australia. “Eight staff members will remain in the Thursday Island Office.” He said no Thursday Island officers faced redundancy as a result of the District Office reductions, and the reshuffle would have “no impact” on Indigenous staff in the Torres Strait. Mr Macdonald the job cuts would have a big impact. “Not just on the job of policing our waters and enforcing quarantine laws, but on the Thursday Island community as well,” he said. “They claim that operational capacity won’t be affected, but of course it will be.
Senator Ian Macdonald. “You can’t take more than half the staff of a small office and expect the remaining staff to do the same job. The public sector union has slammed the move, saying it could leave Australia vulnerable to importation of drugs and guns, and a host of illegal activities. The union is now calling on the Home Affairs Minister, Jason Clare, to reverse the decision. The national secretary Nadine Flood told the Sydney Morning Herald that frontline Customs officers were being cut from regions known for heavy illicit drug traffic and gun importation. “To make these cuts at a time when the volume of shipping is increasing can only compromise border protection and erode our ability to stop drugs and guns entering the country,” Ms Flood said.
Gab Titui Cultural Centre Ph: 4069 0888
Gab Titui Indigenous Art Award Native Title: Our Land and Sea Rights
Exhibition catalogue now available! Showcasing the artworks entered (44 artists from 14 communities) and spectacular opening night celebrations Purchase your copy today from the Gab Titui Gallery Shop
Exhibition Dates: 30 May - 30 August 2012
Entry into Gab Titui is FREE (Monday - Saturday only)
www.gabtitui.com.au Trading Hours: 9am-5pm, Monday-Saturday (paid entry on Sunday by appointment only) Office Hours: 9am - 5pm, Monday - Friday