Senate debates

Tuesday, 13 June 2017


Native Title Amendment (Indigenous Land Use Agreements) Bill 2017; Second Reading

6:23 pm

Photo of Peter Whish-WilsonPeter Whish-Wilson (Tasmania, Australian Greens) Share this | Hansard source

I was saying in my previous contribution before question time that this is a very clear example of big business and big politics getting into bed with each other. This legislation we have here today is being rushed through the Senate because of one project, a large coal operation in Queensland—the Adani or Carmichael coalmine. What is crystal clear to those who understand the detail around this legislation and the impact of the project on local Indigenous communities is that it does not have local Indigenous consent.

I have a couple of articles here written by the Wangan and Jagalingou people in northern Queensland—I will just call them 'WJ'; that is what they call themselves in their articles. They are seeking Federal Court orders to strike out the reported Indigenous Land Use Agreements, the ILUAs, filed by Adani mine with the National Native Title Tribunal.

This ILUA would authorise extinguishment of native title and allow the mine to proceed against the wishes of the local Indigenous people. One of the grounds is that Adani does not have a valid ILUA capable of registration since the law was confirmed in the recent Federal Court decision in McGlade. We have heard a lot about McGlade already so far in this debate. The federal government has been attempting to push through amendments to the Native Title Act, which is what we are looking at in front of us today, to overturn the ruling in McGlade and to protect Adani's interests. The W&J council has vowed to do everything in its power to stop Adani's mega coalmine proceeding and will fight all the way to the High Court if necessary.

Senator Canavan has publicly said that Adani has local Indigenous support. He claimed that Westpac:

… have also turned their back on the indigenous peoples of Queensland by this decision, because this mine in the Galilee Basin is supported by the Wangan and Jagalingou peoples.

He said:

They met last year and voted on the mine, they voted on the mine 294 to one in support of it, yet that’s not good enough for Westpac.

That is a direct quote from the 'minister for coal', Senator Canavan. What he did not say was the detail about that meeting. Firstly, Westpac did not make a decision based on Aboriginal rights one way or the other. W&J believe it was the last thing on Westpac's mind. For the record, the W&J council has put out a media release and written a blog to say:

Adani didn’t ‘negotiate’ and achieve the free prior informed consent of the W&J people. The meeting, that all these barrackers for Adani’s mine cite, that seemingly voting 294 to 1, is only ‘a vote for the mine’ if it’s a true expression of the W&J traditional owners. But it’s not.

Over 220 of that meeting’s attendees are people who have never been involved in the W&J claim or decision making, and who are identified with other nations and claims, or didn’t identify an apical decent line.

They were bussed in and paid for at Adani’s considerable expense. The ‘natural majority’ of the claim group, who have three times rejected an ILUA with Adani, refused to participate in this stitch up of a meeting. They stayed away.

They were their own words. This is part of the evidence that the W&J people are presenting in their objection to Adani's attempt to register a land-use deal for the Carmichael mine and is included in their current case before the Federal Court to invalidate the application for registration of this 'sham' deal—once again in their own words—as an ILUA.

This is an example, as I said earlier, of big business and big politics not only riding roughshod over environmental concerns around developing the biggest coalmine in the world that will have a material impact on emissions and climate change but, if you believe the local Aboriginal community, riding roughshod over the Indigenous people of this area. Why the rush?

I would like to read a quote from a claimant in the Wangan and Jagalingou native claim. He is a traditional owner of the lands on which the Adani mine is proposed to be built, along with his family and many other families who are opposed to the mine. He says:

The amendment of the Native Title Act requires a detailed and nuanced approach that protects rather than undermines the property rights of the various clans and families that make up each native title claim area. This must be done with care as the failure to get it right will permit the property rights and interests of particular families and clans to be extinguished or impaired without their consent.

I encourage the members of federal parliament to take a deep breath, and come to terms with the fact that the property rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people all over Australia will be affected by the proposed amendment to s 24CD of the Native Title Act. This amendment should not be rushed in order to appease some other agenda.

I think we have firmly established what that agenda is, and that agenda is to get the Adani coalmine built. That was Tony McAvoy. I would like to acknowledge in the chamber today the attendance of some of the W and J people. Thank you for being here today.

Let us be clear. We are rushing this legislation. The Greens pointed this out in our dissenting report to the legislation committee. We felt the reporting date needed to be set back, as more time needed to be spent on getting this right, taking into account the unintended consequences of this kind of legislation on what is a very complex and very sensitive issue and has been an incredibly critical issue to this country.

We have heard from the opposition that this is about getting balance. I sat through the first debate a couple of weeks ago. This is about getting a balance between business interests and local Indigenous rights. At least some of the Liberal-National Party are admitting that this is about business interests, although they are saying this is about getting balance. This is not about getting balance; this is about giving business what they want and it is about a particularly aggressive proposal by a multinational company, Adani, to build one of the biggest coalmines in the world at a time in history, on our watch, when the Great Barrier Reef has suffered back-to-back mass coral-bleaching events.

In the committee I am chairing I spoke to a scientist who has been studying water temperatures on coral reefs for 25 years and he said that they would never have predicted back-to-back bleaching events on the coral reefs in the Great Barrier Reef. In my home state of Tasmania the waters off the coast are at again record high temperatures. Our giant kelp forests have now disappeared. For 10,000 years they used to span the state. They are gone. They are nurseries for crayfish, shellfish and a whole series of marine life. They are gone because of warming waters and severe storms. Just this weekend I found thousands more dead fish washed up on a beach on the east coast of Tasmania. The baby leather jacket, which is a subtropical species from Papua New Guinea, are washing up on the beaches of Tasmania because of climate change and warming waters.

This is a time when we should be acting on global warming and climate change, not building a coalmine because short-term political interests in this place are trying to prevent leakage of votes to One Nation in marginal coal seats in Queensland and New South Wales. That is what this is about—the short-term political gain for political parties by supporting a project, giving a project a free loan—$1 billion of concessional finance, which I finally got the Productivity Commission to admit during Senate estimates was a taxpayer subsidy—and potentially a royalties holiday. Why? Why are we going to such lengths to build one of the biggest coalmines in the world and screw the Indigenous people who do not want this mine built?


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