Wednesday, 24 May 2017

"This is a contemptible intervention from a pro-mining government to deny the legal rights of Indigenous people"

“Our traditional lands are an interconnected and living whole; a vital cultural landscape. It is central to us as a People, and to the maintenance of our identity, laws and consequent rights. If the Carmichael mine were to proceed it would tear the heart out of the land. The scale of this mine means it would have devastating impacts on our native title, ancestral lands and waters, our totemic plants and animals, and our environmental and cultural heritage. It would pollute and drain billions of litres of groundwater, and obliterate important springs systems. It would potentially wipe out threatened and endangered species. It would literally leave a huge black hole, monumental in proportions, where there were once our homelands. These effects are irreversible. Our land will be “disappeared”.”  [Wangan & Jagalingou People, Our Fight]

BuzzFeed News, 18 May 2017:

Human rights lawyer and adjunct professor of law at Macquarie University, George Newhouse, said Brandis' intervention was using native title law against Indigenous Australians rather than assisting them.

"This is a contemptible intervention from a pro-mining government to deny the legal rights of Indigenous people under the Native Title Act 1993," he told BuzzFeed News.

"[The government's] power is being used to obstruct Indigenous land claimants. This discriminatory law only affects Indigenous Australians. The rights of Indigenous people continue to be stripped away for the benefit of big coal miners."

Greens Deputy Leader and Senator for Queensland, Larissa Waters, slammed the intervention, saying the government had sided with Adani over traditional owners.

"Brandis’ attempt to push a bill through the Senate that was designed to ram through the Adani coal mine against the wishes of the local Wangan & Jagalingou people failed, so now he is interfering in their court case," she told BuzzFeed News.

"This isn’t about good reform to Native Title it’s about making things as easy as possible for Adani at the expense of the land rights of First Australians".

Shadow attorney-general Mark Dreyfus said Labor supports the government's proposed amendments to the Native Title act, but declined to comment on Brandis' intervention.

Senator Brandis’ intervention follows his second failure to rush through changes to the Native Title Act. The Attorney General has asked the Court to not make a ruling, but wait for the political process around the Native Title Bill to conclude. The Bill has not passed the Senate because of a lack of consultation with Traditional Owners around the country, and concern about key provisions.

Senior spokesperson for the Wangan and Jagalingou (W&J) Traditional Owners Council, Adrian Burragubba, said, “The Attorney General has made an extraordinary and political intervention in matters before the court. Intervening in our case shows Brandis is working in billionaire Adani’s interests, not ensuring the proper administration of justice. Again, Brandis is making Native Title all about Adani’s mine instead of good law reform.

“Brandis should apply himself to good law reform, and let the court do its work. Instead he’s trying to influence the decisions of a judge in favour of a mining company.
“The Wangan and Jagalingou Council are seeking Federal Court orders to strike out the purported Indigenous Land Use Agreement [ILUA] filed by Adani Mining with the National Native Title Tribunal. The ILUA would authorise ‘extinguishment’ of our native title and allow the mine to proceed against our strong objections and our right to say ‘No’.

“The Federal Government has been attempting to push through amendments to the Native Title Act to overturn the ruling in McGlade and protect Adani’s interests. Along with other Traditional Owners, we  continue to demand proper consultations and the necessary time to achieve consent for Native Title amendments”, he said.

While on the other side of the country another opportunistic miner is using Native Title law for his own benefit

SYDNEY, May 18 (Reuters) - Mining magnate Andrew Forrest has used laws designed to protect indigenous land rights to stop prospectors searching for minerals on his West Australian cattle farms, angering both traditional Aboriginal landowners and mining community members.

While tensions between the competing interests of indigenous landholders, pastoral leaseholders and miners on government-controlled land are common, Forrest's approach represents one of the first known examples of a non-Aboriginal successfully using rights afforded to indigenous people to their own advantage.

Native title is a legal doctrine in Australia that recognises indigenous rights to certain parcels of land.

Forrest's use of it is not illegal, but it adds to the fractious relationship he has with some indigenous groups. Different groups have raised concerns over Forrest's cattle interests and have battled over land rights with the company he founded and chairs - Fortescue Metals Group, the world's fourth biggest iron ore miner……

But Matthew Slack, the head of the Buurabalayji Thalanyji Aboriginal Corp which oversees native title for the indigenous landowners, said it was "pretty rich" for Forrest to use rights designed to protect indigenous interests.

Thalanyji were also concerned about cattle numbers and water use at Forrest's 2,400 square km (927 sq mile) Minderoo pastoral lease in Western Australia's Pilbara district, he said.

"We are disgusted with Forrest and have been for some time. Slack said. "Our dreamtime creatures can't survive because the river is so low."

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