Traditional Owners say Native Title Bill needs more time, proper negotiation

 

MEDIA RELEASE – 2 March 2017

CANBERRA. Traditional owners fighting Indian miner Adani’s mine are demanding the Government act fairly and allow more time for proper consideration by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people around Australia who will be affected by the Government’s proposed changes to native title laws.

Spokespeople for the Wangan and Jagalingou (W&J) are currently in Canberra meeting with Labor, the Greens and the Crossbench – key to the Bill’s future.

The recent WA McGlade court decision upheld the Native Title Act requirement that all Applicants sign a land use agreement. The Government’s bill to overturn the decision was rushed through the House of Representatives on 16 February and is now before a truncated Senate Inquiry.

Senior spokesperson for the W&J Traditional Owners Council, Mr Adrian Burragubba, says, “The Federal government moved to amend the Native Title Act as if there was a state of emergency, but without any evidence of a real problem or justification for the rush. The Bill appears to be rammed through to meet the calls of the mining lobby, and in particular Adani and its backers from the Queensland Resources Council.

“The Senate Committee inquiring into the Bill set a ridiculously short period for submissions and is holding just one public hearing in Brisbane. This very truncated inquiry should be extended so real and meaningful input from Traditional Owners around the country can be gathered to inform the Senate on the Bill.

“We have experienced first hand in our dealings with Adani how the Native Title Act can allow underhand and dishonest tactics from proponents. Brandis’ amendments will ensure miners and other rich developers have even better tools to divide and conquer us.

“Former Resources Minister and now CEO of the Queensland Resources Council Ian MacFarlane has openly boasted about having the ear of his Canberra mates to make the changes to protect Adani.

“The Senate must take care with any changes to the Native Title Act and not be railroaded by the Government into amendments that will create more uncertainty and injustice.

“We have been meeting with members of Parliament to explain how the native title regime fails to support Traditional Owners’ rights to self-determination, and undermines the integrity of our decision making. Amendments in 1998 failed to honour the spirit of the Mabo and Wik decisions, and eroded our land rights. These changes would further strip back Indigenous rights,” Mr Burragubba said.

Murrawah Johnson, youth spokesperson for the W&J Traditional Owners Council says, “Fundamental changes to native title laws, which impact every Indigenous person in Australia, should not be rushed and deserve our full and proper consideration. The process is entirely inadequate and disrespectful to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people affected by the changes, many of whom have not been notified about the amendments, let alone consulted.

“Talking to some hand-picked peak bodies is not real consultation, and denies our people the right to determine for ourselves our view on these changes.

“The Government has massively failed if it thinks this rush job is a just response to the Federal Court decision in McGlade. The Bill should not be passed in its current form,” Ms Johnson said.

The Senate Committee is due to report on 17 March. Submissions close tomorrow, Friday 3 March.

The Native Title Amendment (Indigenous Land Use Agreements) Bill 2017 is designed to overturn the recent Federal Court decision in McGlade v Native Title Register that upheld the Native Title Act requirement that all applicants are needed to sign a land use agreement, after members of the Noongar peoples took the Native Title Registrar to the Federal Court over a $1.3B land use agreement with the Western Australian government.

For more information:  Anthony Esposito, W&J Council advisor – 0418 152 743. Website Videos: No Means No +  No Surrender

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