Thursday, 3 December 2020
Native Title Amendment (Infrastructure and Public Facilities) Bill 2020; In Committee
I seek to speak on the Native Title Amendment (Infrastructure and Public Facilities) Bill 2020. Labor does not support the amendment being proposed. When Labor introduced these measures back in 2010, we did so with great care, following extensive consultations with First Nations communities. While the provisions have been used sparingly over the decade, they have been in force. They have been a useful means to help facilitate the building of necessary facilities on land subject to native title. We support their extension for a further ten years.
That being said, we in Labor share some of the concerns raised about the way in which facilities built on Indigenous lands are managed. These were outlined by the shadow assistant minister for reconciliation in his speech in the second reading debate on the bill. In particular, it is essential that proper good-faith consultations take place with affected communities. The legal framework contains a number of safeguards outlined to ensure this occurs. This includes requiring consultation to take place at the request of affected parties. It also includes granting the Attorney-General the ability to prescribe how consultations with native title parties should occur and put in place specific requirements that can be tailored to a particular community. These provisions for consultation are an essential part of Labor's original design for subdivision JA. It's important that this subdivision continues to be used only when strictly necessary to facilitate urgent construction.
I take this opportunity to reiterate our calls for the government to ensure that, at all times, it deals with First Nations communities in a consultative manner so as to ensure that any facilities built under subdivision JA of the Native Title Act are managed in a manner that is appropriate and respectful to those communities before, during and after construction.
The government won't be supporting the amendment proposed by Senator Thorpe because it has the effect of extending this particular provision for only a further year instead of the 10 years proposed by the government. The reason the government don't support the one-year extension is that we don't believe it will provide certainty to communities or to state governments and it has the risk of delaying critical public infrastructure on Indigenous lands for the benefit of Indigenous Australians. We think that the bill still does retain the temporary status of the provision, but it does so for a time period that allows certainty and continued support through infrastructure for the benefit of Indigenous Australians.
To Senator Thorpe's question and further to the comments made by Senator Farrell in his contribution on this amendment, fundamental to any actions and activities that occur on lands of Indigenous Australians is the consultation to make sure that the infrastructure and the activities that are being undertaken on those lands reflect the wants of the people.
Can you outline in detail where traditional owners have been so unreasonable and where Indigenous land use agreements have not been possible such that this section of the Native Title Act must be relied upon to construct infrastructure on country against the wishes of traditional owners?
Senator Thorpe, I can inform you that this particular section has been used 127 times on approximately 1,000 residential lots since 2011, so over the last 10 years—53 times in Queensland and 74 times in Western Australia. This includes at least 778 public houses and other facilities in Queensland and 312 public houses and 73 other facilities in Western Australia. These figures are as at 8 October 2020. That's been the overwhelming purpose for using it—for residential properties and public housing. But you can be assured that the measure is used only sparingly.
My understanding is that it's being used at the request of the state or territory governments and also of the Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander councils. It's solely for the purpose of delivering public assets and infrastructure, but it has been at the request of the state and territory governments within whose jurisdictions the infrastructure is to be built.
Minister, can you explain the rationale for not funding prescribed bodies corporate to operate and develop strategic plans and land use plans, instead of expecting them, as underresourced organisations, to respond to proposals drawn up by government agencies under the threat that if they don't agree to infrastructure on country that it will be built anyway without their consent?
The question is that the amendment on sheet 1102 be agreed to.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendments; report adopted.