Native Title changes on Parliament's table today
A BILL that is the first step to amending the Native Title Act is expected to be introduced in the House of Representatives today.
The 'relatively short bill' has been presented to the Attorney General George Brandis who requested his department prepare it after a decision handed down recently by the full Federal Court rendered over 100 Indigenous land use agreements invalid.
The court decision impacts the $22 billion Adani Carmichael Coal Mine and Rail project along with 108 others in Queensland and 126 in total across Australia.
On February 1, the Federal Court in Western Australia rejected a $1.3 billion native title deal with the local Indigenous people because some representatives did not sign off on it.
The Central Queensland project had seen 12 formal native title applicants of the Wangan and Jagalingou split seven to five over an agreement with Adani. A formal "authorisation meeting" last year voted 294-1 to endorse the agreement.
Mr Brandis had expected to be handed the bill by his department on Monday afternoon.
"The legislation is being prepared and it's in a position to be introduced into the Parliament this week," he said.
The Morning Bulletin understands the bill has been approved by Liberal National Party members and will be put parliament today.
"Whether it can be passed through the Parliament quickly or whether there's delay is now entirely in the hands of the Federal Labor Party," Mr Brandis said.
"The Queensland Government, where most of these projects are at risk of being held up, has called upon the Federal Labor Party to work with the Government to pass this bill. They haven't ruled it out, but they haven't committed to it either. So once again I'm calling on Mr Shorten and Mr Dreyfus, the Shadow Attorney-General, to cooperate with the Government and to pass the bill swiftly."
Shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus said Labor recognised the concerns expressed by indigenous groups, industry and different levels of government over this court ruling, which has the potential to impact not only resource projects but also the designation of new national parks.
"Labor has received a briefing from the Attorney-General's Department and will wait to see the details of any proposed legislation before commenting further."
Queensland Resources Council chief executive Ian Macfarlane, during a visit to Rockhampton yesterday, outlined the options available in relation to the matter, including a High Court appeal that could delay the Adani project by up to three years or the Queensland Government compulsory acquisition of the land, which the Shoalwater Bay defence land expansion had proven to not be a popular option.
"If we don't get the legislative reform that I'm currently negotiating with the Federal Government and with the Labor Opposition through the parliament as quickly as possible, then quite frankly, it's impossible to predict when that project might proceed," he said.
"An appeal to the High Court is the other alternative and that can take anything up to three years, but certainly 12 months minimum.
"The Queensland Government does have the right to take possession of the land but as we've seen recently with the Federal defence department's attempts to compulsorily acquire land, that is not a popular way to do things, ... its more like using a sledge hammer to crack a nut.
"So the best solution is for the Federal Government to amend the Native Title Act to uphold the decision the Federal Court made in 2010 where a majority of indigenous landholders does have the ability to make the final decision, not an absolute majority.
"I mean, imagine if parliament had to vote on everything 150/0. That would never happen and we shouldn't expect it to happen on land use agreements either."