W&J resist mining industry push to amend Native Title Act to secure Carmichael mine proposal

MEDIA RELEASE – 12 February 2017

Traditional Owners resist industry push for amended Native Title Act to secure Carmichael mine proposal
Seek court order Monday to ‘strike out’ Adani’s fake land use agreement

Members of the Wangan and Jagalingou (W&J) Traditional Owners Council will on Monday ask the Federal Court to knock out Adani’s claim that it has the consent of the W&J Traditional Owners for its proposed Carmichael mine, calling it is a sham agreement which Adani engineered through rent-a-crowds, dishonest tactics and attempts to exclude their voices.

The W&J Council say any attempt by the Federal government to do the bidding of Adani and the mining industry to engineer an amendment to Native Title laws, will be vigorously challenged by them and other Traditional Owner groups and supporters.

Spokesperson for W&J Traditional Owner Council, Mr. Adrian Burragubba, says, “The document Adani is trying to pass off as an Indigenous Land Use Agreement with our people is illegitimate. We launched action last year to defeat this dodgy deal and  we are now taking decisive action in the Federal Court to have this fake agreement struck out”. [Details of the legal action are set out below.]

“We have already put evidence before the National Native Title Tribunal to prove that Adani does not have an agreement with the W&J Traditional Owners for its mine of mass destruction, which will destroy our ancestral homelands and waters, the cultural landscape and our heritage.

“Adani’s proposed land use agreement has always been a sham. Three times we have rejected any deal with the Indian mining conglomerate. Now Adani are on the back foot and have run crying to the Queensland Resources Council and the Federal Attorney General, asking them to do their bidding by pushing through an ‘Adani amendment’ to the Native Title Act.

“New chief of the Queensland Resources Council, former Federal Resources Minister Ian MacFarlane, boasted at a Townsville business breakfast last week that he has spoken to his ‘good mates in Canberra’ about amending native title laws, in the wake of the Noongar decision in the Federal Court. This is just additional proof that the Turnbull government is in bed with the Indian billionaire Gautam Adani and the Queensland mining industry.

“Any move by the Federal Attorney General to introduce an ‘Adani amendment’ to the Act, to hand the tools to the mining sector to further divide and conquer Aboriginal people, will be actively resisted.

“Adani and the Federal and Queensland Governments will never get our consent to this mine on our country. No means no, and we will fight this proposal until it is defeated. There will be no surrender of our land rights,” Mr Burragubba said.

W&J youth leader and Council spokesperson, Ms. Murrawah Johnson, says, “In April last year, there was a meeting organised and paid for by Adani, at a cost estimated to be in excess of half a million dollars. Adani paid for Aboriginal people to attend who had never claimed native title on Wangan and Jagalingou traditional country. There were hundreds of people who aren’t direct descendents of our W&J ancestors in attendance, to sign up to an ILUA. This meeting was a sham, stacked with a rent a crowd.

The Traditional Owners have spoken decisively on three occasions since 2012 to reject a deal with Adani, and the majority of our people did not show up to Adani’s meeting to participate in their fraud. Adani claim they have overwhelming support for their deal, but they are lying. Should Adani’s ILUA ever see the light of day, we stand ready to take further action to prove our case”, she said.

Lawyer for the ILUA objection and other matters, Mr. Colin Hardie, says, “Adani and the mining industry are trying to manufacture a sense of crisis around the Federal Court Noongar decision, and appear desperate to force the Federal government to rush through changes to the Native Title Act to suit their interests.

“The Turnbull Government should make it clear to the Australian community that there is no crisis or urgency, and leave the National Native Title Tribunal to do its job of assessing the ramifications of the Federal Court decision, which appear to be minimal.

“The native title system already works in favour of the interests of mining companies and governments bent on enabling resource projects over Traditional Owners who who value their traditional relationship with the land and oppose its destruction in return for cash and promises of future jobs. If the Native Title Act is to be reformed it should occur in a considered manner after careful consultation with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples whose land rights could be adversely impacted.

“It would be manifestly unjust to change the rules just because Adani could not attain the free prior informed consent of the Traditional Owners it needs to get its mine financed and built,” Mr Hardie said.  

For information & to arrange interviews: Anthony Esposito, W&J Council advisor –  0418 152 743

W&J website:  http://wanganjagalingou.com.au/

Background to ILUA action

Last Tuesday 7 February 2017, lawyers for the W&J Council wrote to Adani demanding it withdraw its purported agreement for its proposed Carmichael mine, and put the company on notice that should they refuse, a declaration would be sought in the Federal Court to have the Indigenous Land Use Agreement (ILUA) struck out. Letter here.  

On Friday 10 February, lawyers for Adani advised the W&J council that they would not withdraw their application. The NNTT also confirmed that any decision to register the agreement was on hold as a result of the Federal Court decision in McGlade v Native Title Registrar. See NNTT notice of a moratorium.

Members of the W&J Council lodged a formal objection last year to the purported ILUA, on several grounds —

  • That the meeting called by Adani to authorise an ILUA was not a proper meeting for the purpose
  • That over two hundred of those in attendance were people not previously identified as Wangan and Jagalingou people
  • That 5 members of the Registered Native Title Claimant (the RNTC) had refused to sign the purported ILUA – and that a decision should not be made to register any ILUA “until all the persons who constitute the RNTC have signed the ILUA or the challenge to ratio decidendi of Bygrave No2 is dismissed”.

The five Applicants, in conformity with the Claim group authorisation meeting of 19th March 2016, and previous authorisation meetings of W&J which rejected an ILUA, continue to refuse to sign.

The Federal Court confirmed that the Native Title Act requires the signatures of all RNTCs and overturned a previous Judgement by Reeves J.

The declaration the W&J Applicants are seeking is that Adani was not entitled to lodge an application to register its purported Indigenous Land Use Agreement (ILUA), and that the National Native Title Tribunal (NNTT) is not entitled to register the document on the Register of Indigenous Land Use Agreements.

The NNTT’s moratorium does not affect the ability of the the W&J RNTCs to take this action in the Federal Courts. The NNTT will now be joined to the application.  

In seeking Adani’s withdrawal, W&J Council has not removed its objection to the registration of the Adani ILUA by the NNTT.

Background to the other W&J legal actions

  1. The first case is a Federal Court Judicial Review of the decision of the NNTT (National Native Title Tribunal) to allow the Queensland Government to issue the mining leases on the application of Adani over the rejection of the W&J claim group in October 2014. The case is taken by Adrian Burragubba with the endorsement of the majority of the W&J Family Representative Group (and now W&J Traditional Owners Council). The decision from Reeves J went against Mr Burragubba. The matter has been appealed and a Full Bench of the Federal Court is set for hearings in late February 2017. Instructing solicitor: Benedict Coyne, Anderson Fredericks Turner.
  2. The second case is a Qld Supreme Court Judicial Review of the decision of Minister Lynham to issue the mining leases to Adani (before the Federal Court Judicial Review decision and before any purported ILUA). This was taken by five members of the current W&J Native Title Applicant. The decision went against them. The matter is now appealed to Queensland Court of Appeal and is awaiting a hearing date. Instructing solicitor: Colin Hardie, Justus Lawyers.
  3. The third case is the Native Title Act s66B Application to the Federal Court, to have the W&J Native Title Applicant recomposed based on the decision of the March 2016 W&J claim group meeting, which saw four families remove their applicants because of their dealings with Adani, including receiving payments, and loss of trust and confidence. It is taken by nine members of the W&J Interlocutory Applicant.  This matter was heard on the 29th November 2016 and is awaiting a decision. W&J interlocutory applicants are seeking to reopen the matter to make additional in light of the McGlade decision. Instructing solicitor: Colin Hardie, Justus Lawyers.

NOTE: All cases are supported by contributions from independent lawyers. Some legal costs are paid for, but are capped. Funds for this and all other actions by the W&J Traditional Owners Council are raised through the donations of many thousands of supporters.

ENDS

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