Debates Day 5 - Wednesday 28 February 2001
Parliamentary Record 27
Debates for 8th Assembly 1997 - 2001; ParliamentNT; Parliamentary Record; 8th Assembly 1997 - 2001
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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory
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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory
DEBATES - Wednesday 28 February 2001 When native title was first found through the Mabo case as being a valid title and an underlying title, then Chief Minister Marshall Perron made it clear that we accepted the concept of native title. The member for Stuart totally and utterly misrepresented two facts today, and it is something that he continually misrepresents to his constituents. One of these days his constituents, or the majority of them, will realise that the things he and other members opposite tell them are not true, and that will be the beginning of the end for them. I will move on to some of the other things that were said in here; it will take a while to go through them. The member for Amhem made much of claiming it was a political decision not to proceed with exploration licences. It has previously been explained what the government has done, but I think I need to repeat the basics, not the detail. The Native Title Act originally didnt cover pastoral leases and we did grant ELs across the range of all our pastoral land until the law-making High Court Wik decision at the end of 1996, when we were prevented from continuing to do it. There was confusion within the Labor government at the time about what that meant. You will all remember that we had the debacle of a Prime Minister saying pastoral leases cancelled native title. Under those circumstances, it was impossible, and illegal, for us to be taking steps to deal with land that we may not have had ownership of. Thats why we stopped issuing the titles. And then came the amendments to the Native Title Act. The Howard government took steps to resolve the process. That amended law actually allowed state jurisdictions and territory jurisdictions to put together alternative procedures that suited their regimes. We went ahead and did that. I have been through the detail of the argy-bargy involved, and our particular amendments, that were agreed to by all members in this parliament including the Labor Party, and that were thwarted by Labor in the federal parliament. That was the end of that. Because Labor had sunk what this parliament decided were the appropriate measures for the Territory, measures which were agreed to by members opposite, we decided to try and proceed under the processes allowed by the amended Native Title Act. And thats what we went ahead to do. We were proceeding through that process in a slow and orderly manner. We were releasing about 20 ELAs a fortnight. That is when the land councils took legal steps to prevent us following that specific legislation. It was the land councils that were working to stop the process; it was certainly not the government, which was another utterly dishonest and incorrect claim by the member for Stuart. We would like to see the process continue in an orderly way, but we are being thwarted by legal action. We have made it very clear that we would rather talk about these issues. We would rather sit down and negotiate these issues The door is open in these matters. The Chief Minister has made it very, very clear that this government would rather resolve these issues with discussion. However, there are some people in the organisation called the Northern Land Council - not all, but some - who dont want to have any sort of discussion with this government. They are deliberately trying to thwart a process that may lead to some sort of successful conclusion. I dont know why they are doing that, but their influence carries weight. But I know that not all in the NLC agree with those directions. The member for Amhem was quite correct when he said that new exploration licence applications are coming in at about the same rate as outstanding applications are being advertised. The map I tabled attests to the fact that miners want to explore the Territory and they are trying to access land. Clearly, we will not be able to clear those outstanding title applications in 12 months, which is what the member for Amhem claimed - again, totally and utterly dishonest. If we look at the record to date, the numbers of applications being released are about 20 a fortnight, which is about the rate they come in, normally. We are not doing them any faster or any slower. We are trying to do it at a pace which has been the standard pace for applications over the years. There is no loading-up of the system. We are working to try to make it the same as it has always been; at the pace that the companies are moving with their applications. We have done that deliberately so there would be no problem with the land councils being snowed under. I have also made it clear that there are resources being put aside - $17m, in fact. The member for Amhem says the land councils havent spent that money on any other things. Well, thats fine. They must have $ 17m in the kitty, and hopefully they will be able to draw that out and continue the processes that the member for Amhem says they have still to undertake. The land council, I reiterate, has had over four years to prepare for this. The information regarding those applications has been available. It has been in their faces, it has been available to them, and they have known about it. There is no doubt about that, because we know they have accessed the databases. The databases record who has been into them. We know they have been into those pubhc databases to 7539
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