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Mt Allen Millions wasted in claim appeals

May 1989

Land Rights News Vol 2, No 14 May 1989

The Director of the Central Land Council has challenged the NT Government to open the books and reveal how much money it has spent fighting land claim decisions in court.

"I estimate more than $5 million dollars has been spent running to court trying to stop the return of land to Aboriginal people - and they haven't won yet," Mr Pat Dodson said.

Mr Dodson's challenge follows this month's Federal Court decision concerning Mt Allan station. Justice Lockhart dismissed the Territory's application and ordered the NT to pay costs.

"The Mt Allan case involved five barristers, including two QC's, spending four days in a Sydney court. Legal fees alone would be $40,000.

Then there's the cost of flying witnesses down from Mt Allan and Darwin and of course all the preparatory work," Mr Dodson said.

"All that in a failed attempt to have ten dirt tracks declared public roads and cut out of the land grant. "The Mt Allan case is only the latest, and compared with the litigation costs involved in the Kenbi and Warumungu land claims, it's chickenfeed.

"Ever since the Land Rights Act came into force the NT Government has shamelessly fought tooth and nail trying to deny Aboriginal people land rights. "Everyone has a right to their day in court, but the NT's rabid activity is bordering on the absurd.

"They've raced off to court thirty times against Aboriginal people and are yet to win a case. "Obviously the Government's political motivation is clouding their assessment of the legal issues, but of greater concern is the extravagant waste of public money.

"I challenge the NT Attorney General to reveal to taxpayers the full cost of the Government's continuing litigation."