MEDIA RELEASE – 13 March 2017
Brandis’ changes support ‘divide and conquer’ tactics of unscrupulous companies like Adani
Brisbane. Wangan and Jagalingou (W&J) Traditional Owners fighting Adani’s Carmichael mine will today tell a Senate Inquiry into the Federal Native Title Bill that the kind of dubious tactics Adani has used to try secure a land use agreement with Traditional Owners will become even more prevalent if the Bill becomes law.
The Turnbull Government is attempting to rush the Native Title Amendment (Indigenous Land Use Agreements) Bill 2017 through Federal Parliament. The bill is designed to overturn the recent McGlade decision that 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 land use agreement with the WA government.
The delegation are calling for the Inquiry to be extended to allow proper negotiation with Aboriginal communities around Australia. They will tell the Inquiry that the the motives for the Bill are ill-founded, and that the mining lobby and the Attorney General have presented no evidence or argument for such hurried and destabilising changes.
Senior spokesperson for the Wangan and Jagalingou (W&J) Traditional Owners Council Mr Adrian Burragubba said, “The Government has manufactured a false urgency so it can slip legislation through to defeat Aboriginal peoples’ rights without the necessary public scrutiny or Indigenous participation.
“A key driver for the changes is pressure from the Queensland Resources Council and other pro-mining interests to protect Adani, which fears opposition from W&J to any land use agreement will topple the project.
“We have experienced first hand in our dealings with Adani Mining how the Native Title Act can allow reprehensible tactics from proponents. This Bill will ensure miners and other rich developers will have even better tools to divide and conquer us.
“There is a real risk that the unprincipled and possibly unlawful divide and conquer tactics deployed by some unscrupulous mining companies like Adani may become standard operating procedure”.
Youth spokesperson for the W&J Traditional Owners Council Ms Murrawah Johnson said, ““There is no doubt that what Adani is holding up as a land use agreement is invalid. Adani’s purported ILUA is the subject of an objection before the Native Title Tribunal, and is now proceeding to the Federal Court on various grounds.
“Adani exemplifies the way in which these Native Title Act ‘reforms’ would be exploited by unscrupulous, self-serving and wealthy proponents. Companies like Adani are already able to hijack Aboriginal decision making and divide us. They are using willing accomplices to get their way and present a veneer of consent for their project.
“The bill would alter the fundamentals of our traditional decision processes. The integrity of Traditional Owner decision making and rights to speak for country must be protected. The inalienability of our rights in land must be respected. It is the ground on which we seek to protect our country and heritage from the mass destruction that would ensue from the Carmichael mine.”
Mr Colin Hardie, Lawyer for the W&J native title claimants objecting to Adani’s purported ILUA said, “Adani continues to work with only those that provide the answers and support they require. These people are disenfranchising large parts of the W&J claim group and the Applicant.
“Senators need to understand how decision making in Traditional Owner groups work. Adani thinks they only need a majority of the Applicant group to sign agreements or do business. We are informed that right now Adani are meeting with a minority of the native title party to advance their agenda.
“Adani and the signatories to the ILUA have completely disregarded the rights and interests of the majority of the families and attempted to subvert the proper processes of the Applicant. The W&J put 12 applicants in place to represent all the families, and to make sure that the interest of all the group is recognised”.
Mr Burragubba said,“The Turnbull and Palaszczuk Governments are working hand in glove with this Indian company, which is actively trying to divide our community and trample our rights.
“The consequences of this bill will be profound, affecting not just us, but Aboriginal people around the country and our future generations. We have a right to say no”, he said.
Ms Johnson said, “We are calling on Senators to extend the Inquiry and its consultation period. One Brisbane hearing and a two week submission period is ridiculously inadequate to expose the real intent and failures of the bill, and to set about genuine Native Title Act reform.
“The integrity of our decision making, especially regarding our laws and customs, and our rights to self-determination and to withhold our consent to the destruction of our country and heritage, are at stake. The Senate needs to put the brakes on this move by the miners and their Government backers”, she said.
The Senate Committee is due to report on 17 March.
For background and to arrange interviews: Anthony Esposito, W&J Council advisor – 0418 152 743.
W&J Traditional Owners’ Council Senate Inquiry Submission here