Lawyers will be excited and busy this week. Government lawyers will be reading the decision closely and working out how to proceed. Often where States or Territories have granted tenure for specific projects (such as a mine) there is a contractual agreement between the State or Territory and the project proponent that passes compensation liabilities through to the proponent, so there will also be some company lawyers busy assessing potential liabilities. Lawyers who represent indigenous groups will be carefully considering where to go next.
Graeme Lewis was part éminence grise, part bagman and part trouble-maker—as often within as without—for the NT's Country Liberal Party for more than forty years. Lewis passed away in early April while speaking from the floor of the 2018 annual conference of his beloved CLP. For all his apparent successes and failings—I'll leave the hagiography and excoriation for others—Graeme Lewis never held publicly elected office but nonetheless deserves respect as the Northern Territory's long-term political player par excellence. Lewis was also a prominent player in the Darwin Shuffle, the avoidance scheme that operated in the NT from at least the early 1970s through to the 1980s.
In the Northern Territory in 1973 there was an organisation called The Environment Council of the Northern Territory. It was a forum for discussion among organisations with an interest in ecology and nature conservation matters. Member bodies included the Chamber of Commerce and the National Trust as well as the Darwin Conservation Society. Membership was not open to individuals. Secretariat services were provided to the Council by the Keep Australia Beautiful Council, which had a paid Executive Officer and an office in the Town Hall.
And so to the here and now. In 2014 we again have a coalition government in Canberra. The self-proclaimed ‘Prime Minister for Indigenous Affairs’ has emphasised his commitment to fixing up the constitution so that Indigenous people have a proper place in it, and in the nation. I’m not a constitutional lawyer, and there are aspects of the recent constitutional reform debate which have struck me as somewhat arcane.
“I’m not sitting here and reflecting on the morality,” said Justice Anthony North of the Federal Court. “If it was so, I would have an easy answer.”
The bloody-minded focus upon a possible assertion of a possible anti-doping case against Essendon players, staff or even Stephen Dank, may well be found to be lacking if and when it comes to be tested in the proper forum and at the proper standard of proof.