Brandis intervenes in W&J court action against Adani

Traditional Owners fighting Adani appalled at improper political interference

The Attorney General, George Brandis, has intervened in a Federal Court hearing in which the Traditional Owners fighting Adani’s proposed coal mine are seeking to strike out a fake agreement Adani claims to have for the mine to proceed.

Senator Brandis’ intervention follows his second failure to rush through changes to the Native Title Act. The Attorney General has asked the Court to not make a ruling, but wait for the political process around the Native Title Bill to conclude. The Bill has not passed the Senate because of a lack of consultation with Traditional Owners around the country, and concern about key provisions.

Senior spokesperson for the Wangan and Jagalingou (W&J) Traditional Owners Council, Adrian Burragubba, said, “The Attorney General has made an extraordinary and political intervention in matters before the court. Intervening in our case shows Brandis is working in billionaire Adani’s interests, not ensuring the proper administration of justice. Again, Brandis is making Native Title all about Adani’s mine instead of good law reform.

“Brandis should apply himself to good law reform, and let the court do its work. Instead he’s trying to influence the decisions of a judge in favour of a mining company.

“The Wangan and Jagalingou Council are seeking Federal Court orders to strike out the purported Indigenous Land Use Agreement [ILUA] filed by Adani Mining with the National Native Title Tribunal. The ILUA would authorise ‘extinguishment’ of our native title and allow the mine to proceed against our strong objections and our right to say ‘No’.

“The Federal Government has been attempting to push through amendments to the Native Title Act to overturn the ruling in McGlade and protect Adani’s interests. Along with other Traditional Owners, we  continue to demand proper consultations and the necessary time to achieve consent for Native Title amendments”, he said.

Youth spokesperson for the W&J Traditional Owners Council, Ms Murrawah Johnson, said, “Adani didn’t negotiate and achieve the free prior informed consent of the W&J people. The meeting, which Adani and its barrackers claim achieved consent, with a 294 to 1 vote, is as fake as its ILUA. It is not a true expression of the W&J Traditional Owners.

“Over 220 of the attendees at Adani’s meeting are people who have never been involved in the W&J claim or decision making, and who are identified with other nations and claims, or didn’t identify an apical descent line.

“Many people were bussed in and paid for at Adani’s considerable expense. The majority of the claim group, which have three times rejected an ILUA with Adani, refused to participate in this stitch up of a meeting. They stayed away.” she said.

Lawyer for the W&J Traditional Owners Council, Mr Colin Hardie, said, “My clients have four strong grounds against Adani’s purported ILUA. Since the law was confirmed in the recent Federal Court decision in McGlade, Adani do not even have a document that could be considered for registration.

“This is no mere technical hitch, but a fundamental failure of Adani to gain the consent of many of the families and primary Traditional Owners for their proposed mine. The absence of signatures on the document is because applicants were exercising their consciences and following the mandate to reject the deal, given to them by their families and the claim group on three occasions”.

For more information and to arrange interviews:

Anthony Esposito, W&J Council advisor – 0418 152 743.

 

BACKGROUND

The ILUA litigation

  • W&J are seeking Federal Court orders to strike out the purported Indigenous Land Use Agreement [ILUA] filed by Adani Mining with the National Native Title Tribunal. The ILUA would authorise ‘extinguishment’ of native title and allow the mine to proceed. This is one of four legal actions W&J have underway.
  • The ILUA litigation includes four grounds; one of which is that Adani does not have a valid ILUA capable of registration, since the law was confirmed in the recent Federal Court decision in McGlade. The Federal Government has been attempting to push through amendments to the Native Title Act to overturn the ruling in McGlade and protect Adani’s interests.
  • The Attorney-General intervened under s 84A(1) of the Native Title Act 1993 saying “the Court should not determine the issue raised by the Applicants’ primary argument until the fate of the Native Title Amendment (Indigenous Land Use Agreements) Bill 2017 is known”.
  • W&J claim group have three times rejected an Indigenous Land Use Agreement with Adani – in December 2012, October 2014 and March 2016. Adani does not have the consent of the Traditional Owners for its mine.
  • The W&J Council vow to do everything in their power to stop Adani’s proposed mega-coal mine proceeding, and will fight all the way to the High Court if necessary.
  • Adani’s planned Carmichael mine – the biggest in Australian history – would destroy a vast tract of W&J’s ancestral lands and waters in the Galilee Basin.

Native Title Amendment Bill & the McGlade decision:

The Native Title Amendment (Indigenous Land Use Agreements) Bill 2017 is designed to overturn the Federal Court Full Bench McGlade decision, which upheld the Native Title Act requirement that all applicants are needed to sign a land use agreement, after members of the Noongar peoples went to the Federal Court over failures in the process involving a $1.3B settlement agreement with the WA government.

Link to the Court documents of AG Brandis’ intervention here.
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