Social Justice Matters – Aborigines Edition

This is a point I have been arguing in several posts: social justice is more incarnated in redistribution mechanisms (such as fishing rights) than in recognition of a particular identity or particular historical grievance. Having rights is not enough and can be meaningless in the absence of the opportunities to exercise these rights and corresponding resources.

In this case, the Aborigines gain control over the resources, which, of course, raises fear of loss of opportunities for other categories of the population: recreational fishermen. I would argue that there is a stronger case for control for people who depend upon a given resource for their livelihood, rather than those who exploit such resource for leisure (which, by itself, implies a power and wealth differential that social justice should balance). Similarly, the existing commercial fishing industry is likely to be hurt by this as they lose partial access to the resource. And as always, more powerful categories of the population get to have their concerns taken into consideration and heard:

"He sought to allay fears that the ruling would have an adverse effect on the non-indigenous fishing community. "A negotiated outcome will mean traditional owners around the Northern Territory’s coastline can jointly participate in the management and development of a sustainable fishing industry," he said. This would include the protection of fishing stocks as well as sacred sites, he said, rejecting suggestions that the ruling would endanger the Northern Territory’s billion-dollar fishing industry: "Traditional owners have developed a constructive relationship with commercial and recreational fishing representatives over the past year." Mr Wungungmurra said he looked forward to "obtaining a win-win outcome for all Territorians" in a negotiated settlement, with anglers and commercial fishing operators accorded temporary permits for at least a year."

It will be interesting to see how much redistribution actually gets done and whose interests (more or less vital) prevail.