ABORIGINAL activists Geoff Clark and Michael Mansell are proposing to set up a trade deal with Russia in defiance of Australian sanctions.
Mr Clark said he and Mr Mansell would travel to Cape York and Gulf of Carpentaria communities in late September to discuss plans to export beef to Russia.
“Aborigines have no beef with Russia,” Mr Clark said. “We believe Aboriginal people are not bound to follow sanctions imposed by the Australian government. We are more than happy to deal with Russia.
“We are not part of any group that (Foreign Minister) Julie Bishop may represent with sanctions against Russia,” he said.
Contravening sanctions is a serious criminal offence with penalties of up to 10 years in prison and substantial fines, but Mr Clark was defiant on challenging the legality of Aboriginal people defying sanctions. “I’m not aware of this having been tested before — I want to test it,” he said.
“These sanctions have nothing to do with our people and they have been imposed by people who do not represent us.”
Australia has specific commercial and travel sanctions against Russia, while Russia has imposed trade sanctions on Australia, including beef.
Australia’s sanctions don’t ban the sale of beef to Russia — it’s Russia that’s blocking the trade. The Standard understands the proposed beef trade would not break or test the law, even if Russia agreed to trade with Aboriginal people.
Mr Clark said he was taking the action to further the self-determination of Aborigines.
“Instead of developing welfare cards and systems, we Aboriginal people need to be exporting our resources to the world. Aborigines living on cattle properties need not be destined to being on welfare cards or schemes.
“We should be encouraged to do this, not hindered. I call on the government to support us.”
In March, the Australian government imposed targeted financial sanctions and travel bans against individuals instrumental in the Russian threat to the sovereignty of Ukraine. They were widened in May and now apply to 50 individuals and 11 entities.
Russia imposed widespread 12-month trade sanctions against Western countries last week in retaliation to criticism over its actions in Ukraine.
Australian laws implement both United Nations Security Council (UNSC) sanctions and autonomous Australian sanctions.
Mr Clark said he had led successful Aboriginal trade delegations with the former Soviet Union in the late 1980s.
“I intend to reactivate my contacts via the Russian Embassy next week,” he said.