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Monday, 30 October 2000
Page: 21592


Mr HAASE (3:02 PM) —My question is addressed to the Attorney-General. Would the Attorney-General inform the House about the progress of state based alternative native title regimes. Is the Attorney aware of any alternative policies that would prevent these schemes coming into operation?


Mr WILLIAMS (Attorney-General) —I thank the member for Kalgoorlie for his question. I am very pleased to inform the House that last week I determined that two state based native title regimes complied with the federal Native Title Act: the first relates to New South Wales, the second to Western Australia. I note that both states have governments of different political persuasions. They are, incidentally, states where Labor has supported the concept of a state based native title regime. Indeed, the opposition leader in Western Australia, Dr Gallop, has described the WA regime as `balanced and fair'. The New South Wales regimes exempt the activities of low impact exploration for minerals and petroleum from the right to negotiate. This approach is designed to complement the Native Title Act, and it comes after extensive consultation. Mining is a major industry in New South Wales, employing more than 20,000 people, mostly in rural and non-metropolitan areas, and is a major export industry for the state. The determinations will assist the ongoing viability of mineral and petroleum exploration in New South Wales for the wellbeing of both indigenous and non-indigenous people.

The second determination, relating to Western Australia, introduces an alternative state provisions regime. If the determination successfully passes through the Senate, it will mean that certain mining tenements and compulsory acquisitions on pastoral leases and on reserved land will not be subject to the federal right to negotiate. Instead, they will be subject to special procedural requirements set down in the Western Australian legislation designed to suit Western Australian conditions. I made that determination after lengthy discussions with the WA government and after giving careful consideration to representations made on behalf of Aboriginal representative bodies. The determination provides certainty and efficiency for all Western Australians and provides proper recognition for those who hold native title. The resource sector is a key industry in Western Australia, and for Australia as well, earning large export dollars and providing jobs for indigenous and non-indigenous people. The determinations will be tabled in the parliament shortly and will be subject to the disallowance process.

Labor has already demonstrated that it has one native title policy for Labor states and another for the rest. Labor has allowed a piecemeal native title regime in Queensland to stand and a separate regime in New South Wales to pass the disallowance process, but Labor knocked back the Northern Territory coalition government's regime. Labor has indicated it will support the New South Wales determinations but not support the WA determination. I call on Labor to put politics aside and to allow the determinations to stand, so that we can have certainty in jobs in the mining industry Australia-wide, and not just in states with Labor governments.