Hindmarsh Island Bridge Controversy - Background - 1993 Election

1993 Election

Largely due to the financial disaster of the State Bank collapse leaving the state essentially bankrupt, Labor was routed in the December 1993 election and the Liberals came to power with Dean Brown as Premier. When in opposition the Liberals had campaigned against the Hindmarsh Island Bridge and stopping it was a campaign promise during the election. Further up the Murray, the local community in Berri was campaigning for a much-needed bridge to replace their ferry and the government had agreed to build it. Seeking a way out of the Hindmarsh Island contract, Premier Brown hired Samuel Jacobs QC, to carry out an investigation into the legal responsibilities of the contract.

Shortly before the 1993 elections the Labor government had instructed archaeologist, Dr Neil Draper, to survey Hindmarsh Island and the mainland foreshore for Aboriginal sites. Justice Jacobs, unaware of Draper’s survey, finished his report in early 1994, concluding there was no way out of building the bridge without significant financial liabilities. On 29 April 1994, Draper presented his report to the new Liberal government. The report mentioned that the area had spiritual significance to Aboriginal women, identified a number of significant sites and argued that they should be protected under the State Aboriginal Heritage Act. On 3 May the State Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Dr Michael Armitage, now used his powers under the act to authorise damage to the identified sites if required for the bridge to proceed. Work recommenced and a number of protestors were arrested. It has since been pointed out that Justice Jacobs and the government had missed an opportunity to cancel the bridge contract. They had overlooked that Aboriginal Heritage legislation overrides all contractual obligations.

Read more about this topic:  Hindmarsh Island Bridge Controversy, Background

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