Senate debates

Thursday, 11 May 2017


Competition and Consumer Legislation Amendment (Small Business Access to Justice) Bill 2017; Second Reading

11:17 am

Photo of Christopher BackChristopher Back (WA, Liberal Party) Share this | Hansard source

Before addressing myself to the Competition and Consumer Legislation Amendment (Small Business Access to Justice) Bill 2017, I propose to spend some moments on the importance of the Native Title Amendment (Indigenous Land Use Agreements) Bill 2017. Also, I foreshadow that I will be responding to what I believe to have been a highly inaccurate and cowardly statement by Senator Dastyari about Chevron and its now managing director, Mr Hearne. I think it is a disgrace that a person under parliamentary privilege would come in and make the statements that he has made. But I will get onto that in a few moments, because he is wrong. This chamber and those listening need to know just how wrong and how dastardly Senator Dastyari has been in that attack on Chevron.

Let me go, if I may, because it is directly relevant to the opportunities in small business access, to that associated with the native title amendment bill that is before us. I have to urge everybody in this chamber that, before we rise and return to our home states and territories, we have to address this anomaly. It comes about as a result of the fact of a decision of a justice in McGlade in the Federal Court in Perth recently in which he overturned what had been the decision of a justice in Bygrave previously in relation to native title claims, particularly the percentage of native title claimants associated with them. In Bygrave, the justice had the view that so long as there was greater than 51 per cent of native title claimants then it was possible to proceed with what is known as an Indigenous Land Use Agreement. Where the McGlade case has caused the change and has caused the ruction, is McGlade has effectively required 100 per cent of claimants to be in agreement before anything can proceed.

Yes, it has something to do with Adani mine. But, by Jove, that is one of the very few. I learned from my very good colleague Senator Scullion that there are some 126 agreements around Australia associated with native title that are affected by this decision. They are going to affect the benefits to native title claimants associated with those Indigenous Land Use Agreements. These land use agreements are themselves, of course, voluntary. They are providing an opportunity for native title groups to use those rights in beneficial ways, particularly in relation to economic development to provide certainty for all parties doing business on native title land. And if Senator Dastyari and his colleagues, and indeed everyone in this chamber, is genuinely interested in ensuring the continued benefit to native title recipients under those ILUAs then it will be in their greatest interests to make sure we do not rise from this place until we deal with it.

There is a bill before the chamber. It will address the concerns that McGlade has raised, and it is incumbent on all of us. If we fail to, each one of us must go back to those native title groups, including those in the Indigenous areas as well as the companies with whom they deal, and explain to them why there is now no certainty. I know on a personal basis a colleague who, only this week and next week, is associated with some negotiations on native title. This particular person is in the eastern states this week representing the interests of Aboriginal people, and next week in the North of Australia he will be representing the interests of a mining company. He is an absolutely eminent man of great integrity, but I know that this negotiation is now on hold whilst we deal with this issue.

It is the case that a grant that is made under an invalid Indigenous Land Use Agreement will itself be invalid against native title—that is in my state with the Noongar people for whom this particular judgment was made in the Federal Court by Justice McGlade. It will have application right around Australia and, I dare say, the islands adjacent to us. This is of critical importance and, if people really want to do something in the small business space to continue to encourage Aboriginal people under these ILUAs, to continue to encourage other companies to deal with, to participate in and to work for the improvement of people in those communities, it is essential that we deal with this native title amendment Indigenous land act.

I appreciate the fact that Senator Dastyari has remained in the chamber—I thank you for that. Senator Dastyari made the comment a few moments ago—and, if Hansard proves I am wrong, I am willing to be corrected—through you, Acting Deputy President, that Chevron had paid no corporate tax in the last couple of years. I can tell you that—perhaps wrongly—I used a mobile phone in the chamber to check only in the last few minutes with the senior executive of Chevron of Australia, who assured me that in the last four to five years that company has paid no less than $4 billion of tax. If you listen to Senator Dastyari, you would be invited to draw the conclusion that company had paid no tax. Those were the words that were used: no corporate tax paid. They were your words—through you, Acting Deputy President. Senator Dastyari should know about the petroleum resource rent tax. It is a super profits tax after you have met and have reimbursed certain costs. He is making the comment that, in the projects with which Chevron is associated, they have paid no PRRT. For heavens' sake, the project at Gorgon on Barrow Island has only got two of three new LNG trains up and running. The project at Wheatstone has not yet commissioned its first one. How in heavens' name would a person who pretends to have the economic knowledge that Senator Dastyari pretends to understand and believe and stand up in this place and draw the inference that this company has paid no PRRT when indeed they have not yet got to the stage of making a profit? What Senator Dastyari failed to say was that this company, Chevron, which he is so keen to run down, has invested no less than—


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