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Adani Coal Mine

June 22, 2017

Ultimately, the future of this projects a commercial decision and the mining approved is a matter for the Queensland Government.

Conventional fuels will be an important part of our energy mix in the future, but we recognise that the growth in renewable energy, from reducing costs and improving technology, will continue to expand over the coming years.

However with regard to a $1 billion loan from the Northern Australia Infrastructure Fund (NAIF), Labor would be very concerned if the Federal Government was considering spending a fifth of the fund on one project. That would take money away from other vital job generating projects for Northern Australia.

I share the concerns over the impact of climate change on the Great Barrier Reef.

Labor’s climate policy is far superior to that of the Government’s and in conjunction with concerted global climate change action has the best chance of mitigating global warming impacts on the Reef.

Labor accepts the advice of scientists, and is committed to strong action on climate change, not only because it is good for the environment, but because it is good economics.

The Turnbull Government’s approach on climate change is being dictated by members of the Liberal Party who don’t think we need to act. Their policy is an expensive fig leaf and Mr Turnbull is too weak to stand up for what he knows is right. Australia deserves better.

 

Native Title Bill and Adani

native title and the proposed legislation to respond to the Full Federal Court’s decision in McGlade v Native Title Registrar (2017) (‘McGlade’).

The Native Title Act was passed by the Keating Government in 1993, giving legislative form to the historic decision of the High Court of Australia in Mabo. Since 1993, Labor has worked to ensure that the Native Title Act continues to facilitate the recognition and protection of indigenous land rights throughout our nation.

The decision of the Full Federal Court in McGlade on 2 February this year has the potential to invalidate over one hundred existing Indigenous Land Use Agreements, and has introduced a great deal of uncertainty into current negotiations for new Agreements of this kind.

Labor believes that it is incumbent upon the Parliament to give native title holders certainty, while also protecting the integrity of the native title system. While some have linked the current Bill to the Adani proposal, for Labor this is fundamentally a question of land rights, not mining rights.

The Government introduced its Native Title Amendment (Indigenous Land Use Agreement) Bill (the Bill) to the House of Representatives on Wednesday 15 February.  The Government then brought that Bill on for debate the very next day.  Labor opposed the Bill in the House on the basis that we were not given adequate notice or time to consult on the provisions of the Bill with affected parties.

In particular, it is of great concern to Labor that no meaningful consultation occurred with Indigenous Australians prior to the introduction of the legislation. Given the significance of the changes proposed to the rights and interests of Indigenous people, Labor believes that the Turnbull Government has behaved in breach of the basic standard of free, prior and informed consent when making changes to native title law.

Consequently, Labor insisted that the Bill be referred to the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee for inquiry, consultation and report. A wide range of views were expressed to the Committee, and there was a degree of support from a number of peak and representative Indigenous bodies in support of those parts of the Bill necessary to ensure the validity of existing Indigenous Land Use Agreements made pursuant to the previous legal standard, as well as for agreements that have been made but not yet registered and for future agreements.

However, during consultations specific concerns were raised by a number of Indigenous organisations and legal experts about aspects of the Bill, in particular those parts that went further than was necessary to resolve the uncertainty created by the McGlade decision. The Government took over a week to draft the required changes, and then introduced those amendments to the Parliament on Tuesday 28 March, with the intention of having them debated and passed before the Parliament rose at the end of that week.

Labor did not agree to this extremely rushed timetable for two key reasons. First, the amendments contained provisions that went beyond the agreed position of the Senate Inquiry to go no further than was necessary to resolve the uncertainty created by McGlade.  Second, Indigenous people, legal experts and the dozens of organisations that made submissions to the Senate Inquiry had not been consulted on the new amendments.  This meant that once again the Government was seeking to proceed with potentially far-reaching changes to native title law without the free, prior and informed consent of Indigenous Australians.  

Labor maintains our willingness to support legislative changes that are necessary to return certainty to the operation of the native title system. However, Labor remains deeply concerned by the Government’s attempt to rush the Bill through the Parliament before there was an opportunity to properly consider its implications, or to listen to the views of native title holders and relevant organisations. We have urged the Turnbull Government to consult on the latest amendments it has proposed to the Native Title Act, and to work with Labor on finalising changes that will enable certainty to be restored to the native title law and a suitable legislative solution agreed upon.

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