Territory Stories

Debates Day 5 - Wednesday 28 February 2001



Debates Day 5 - Wednesday 28 February 2001

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Parliamentary Record 27


Debates for 8th Assembly 1997 - 2001; ParliamentNT; Parliamentary Record; 8th Assembly 1997 - 2001




Made available by the Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory





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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory

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Attribution International 4.0 (CC BY 4.0)

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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory



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DEBATES - Wednesday 28 February 2001 has the potential to impact nationally. The form of advertisement used by the Northern Territory and its publication in the Koori Mail was styled on that used by the Western Australian government for a number of years, as they have sought to use the Native Title Act right-to-negotiate process for granting titles. So, any determination that invalidates the Territorys procedures and practices may have serious flow-on consequences for the practices and outcomes of other state jurisdictions, including the possible invalidation of titles aheady granted. It is pertinent to note that, despite complaints of being overwhelmed, the Northern Land Council has lodged native title claims for registration over virtually all the titles advertised to date. As a further step in their process, the Northern Land Council is now making the same claims about the Territorys published notices in the national Native Title Tribunal, seeking to delay the tribunals determination of the Northern Land Councils objections to the application of the expedited procedure to exploration licence applications. The Central Land Council, on the other hand, has not made any native title claims over exploration licence applications. Clearly the Central Land Council has been able to rationalise its management and resources and is focusing on key issues which will best benefit its Aboriginal stakeholders. They would be well aware that compensation for exploration is limited and also that by not formally claiming native title or objecting, they are not depriving the people they represent from seeking compensation at a later date if that is appropriate. They are generally focusing then resources on positives. The NLC, on the other hand, is stretching every legal avenue to impede development of the mining industry in the Territory. The equation is simple: No access to land leads to no grant of exploration title, leads to no exploration, leads to no mineral or petroleum discoveries, leads to no new mining developments, leads to no economic growth or infrastructure for Aboriginal people or anyone else. The land councils, particularly the NLC, must answer to then Aboriginal stakeholders and representatives for their actions. The land councils are not without resources. Between 1994 when the Native Title Act came into operation and 2000, the NLC has received more than $9.2m and the CLC has received more than $7.8m to meet their responsibilities as representative bodies. That is a total of over $17m. I table those figures taken from ATSIC annual reports. In 1999-2000, the NLC received almost $2.3m and the CLC $1.7m. Yet they complain of a lack of resources. The money is for them to do their job. Instead, they are continually in court fighting with the government and others in futile attempts to thwart the law. They are wasting their Aboriginal stakeholders funds, instead of using them to improve their lot and the lot of the Territory community as a whole. The land councils have had every opportunity to prepare for the Territorys use of the native title right-to-negotiate process. The Department of Mines and Energys application register, including maps, has been openly available for the whole time. Land council officers are registered users of the departments online titles information system. Land council officers dont have to get up from their desks to look at a map showing these applications. I table a copy of exploration licences on Aboriginal freehold land and land that may be subject to native title. It is available through that system. I have other copies - enough for every member in the House at the moment. Let me surmise why the land councils have not, until now, submitted native title claims over pastoral leases in the Northern Territory. Once a native title claim has been registered and accepted as a valid claim by the national Native Title Tribunal, any person wishing to do something on that land is required to notify the native title claimants. Under the act, the claimants would no longer be required to use the land councils as their representative bodies to submit objections or to facilitate negotiations. Could it be possible, could there be just a little chance, that the land councils may have delayed submitting native title claims over the years so that when land users need to negotiate, they are required to do so through the land council? This indeed would be a surreptitious way for the land councils to control the options available to their Aboriginal people who, let me tell you, under the Native Title Act have negligible capacity to control the actions of their representative bodies. Honourable members should now have the map I tabled. You will see that the Territory is the subject of intensive exploration interest. As members know, the government is putting considerable resources and effort into geological and geophysical programs, which have led to extensive title applications in recent months. The green-hatched areas on the tabled map are granted exploration licences, and the remainder are exploration licence applications. Members will note the huge number of exploration licence applications on both Aboriginal freehold land and pastoral leases. Let me now tum to Aboriginal land; that is, land granted under the Aboriginal Land Rights (NT) Act. In the 24 years of operation of the Aboriginal Land Rights Act, only about 300 exploration hcences have 7528

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