Tony Abbott’s  private member's bill to wind back the Queensland government's controversial Wild Rivers legislation is set to be defeated in the Senate following a last minute decision by Family First Senator Steve Fielding not to support the bill.



Indigenous leaders including chairman of the Cape York Land Council, Richie Ah Mat, and  Cape York Institute director Noel Pearson have reacted angrily to Fielding’s change of heart,  saying he did not visit or consult with the communities on the Lockhard, Stewart and Archer rivers who are most affected by the legislation.


In an article published in The Australian, Pearson said “It beggars belief that Fielding would side with the eco-religionist, anti-development crusaders of the inner cities against Aboriginal families desperately trying to build a future for their children in the hard scrabble of remote Australia”.


However, environmental groups including the Wilderness Society, have declared themselves to be pleasantly surprised by Fielding’s decision.


Dr Tim Seelig of the Wilderness Society said “He wasn't expected to put his neck out and put the environment over mining but that's very, very clearly what he's done."


The Queensland Government has published a full-page advertisement in the daily press, stating that native title will be protected under the  state‘s Wild Rivers Legislation  and that Wild Rivers is supported by traditional owners in five key areas of northern Queensland, including the Archer, Lockhart and Stewart rivers.


To date, four Cape York river basins are covered by the Wild Rivers laws and the Queensland Government is considering further declarations.