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Wednesday, 11 March 1998
Page: 927


Mr TUCKEY (9:51 AM) —That was another speech of promises. Isn't it amazing how quickly the Labor Party is able to rewrite the history of last year? The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Beazley) promises Australia certainty by negotiation. When one considers the promises that he and his cohort, Keating, made in 1993 on tax and when one considers the advice he gave Australians in the last election about our fiscal situation, one might first ask: why would you believe one word of what he has just said? Let us test his guarantee of certainty through negotiation with the very things they did to this legislation in the Senate.

The Leader of the Opposition wants to stand up and tell us we got 90 per cent of what we wanted—not with their goodwill. We got some of those things with the goodwill of Senator Harradine but, if the Australian people want to know what sort of a Native Title Act they would get after this apparent miraculous capacity of negotiation—and the Leader of the Opposition might think it a good idea to ring up a man whom I think he admired and supported, a retired Governor-General and leader of the Labor Party, called Bill Hayden and find out how all his great negotiating skills worked when he tried to mediate the Century Zinc proposal—let us look at the Labor Party's position, not the outcome of the Native Title Amendment Bill 1997 [No. 2] as it left the Senate.

When we look at the voting, we find the Labor Party opposed schedule 4. Yet, of course, the Leader of the Opposition tells us that, if we got the legislation as they delivered it back to us, all those property owners who are mentioned in schedule 4—grossly neglected by the original perpetrators of the Native Title Act—should, as far as the Labor Party is concerned, go back to court. He tells us to avoid common law solutions, but his party refuses to endorse a schedule that instructs the courts as to what the parliament, the people's representatives, say about what is exclusive possession. Then, of course, he makes a plea for certainty, but it is their amendment that says the whole process should be second- guessed by reference to the Racial Discrimination Act—something that occurs in no other legislation and which their own parliamentary committee recommended against.

That is the hypocrisy of that speech. He is going to be a pretty busy fellow. He is going to lock himself in a room until such time as he resolves this issue—and the country, when he is Prime Minister, will run itself. He does not have too many problems, I suppose. He has yet been unable to tell Australia of one thing they are going to do. So the reality is that he probably will have time to sit locked in a room for five or six weeks because he does not have a policy to do anything else—no tax policy or anything else. Every time we do something to try to bring the financial circumstances of Australia—


Mr Adams —Where's yours, Wilson?


Mr TUCKEY —Get in your seat if you want to talk to me.


Mr Adams —Where's your GST? Put it on the table.


Mr SPEAKER —I think it would be a good idea if the member for Lyons returned to his seat if he persists with his interjections.


Mr TUCKEY —The reality is that they are in a position to tell Australians what they might do about all those other issues that certainly will be part of the next election, but what do they do? Every time this government tries to do something of this nature to put the affairs of Australia in proper order, they run around and oppose it and then say, `We've got a solution: we'll borrow and spend some more money.'

A recent report in the Sunday Times in Western Australia listed the sort of money their inadequacies have cost the Australian people already. For instance, native title has cost the Australian taxpayers more than $170 million over four years, but no claim has been fully resolved. Nationally, the Keating and Howard federal governments have spent at least $150 million on native title. The state government has spent $21.38 million, and a huge amount of that has been in advertising, which this law, as it exists, obliges them to spend. Departments such as the Department of Land Administration and the Planning Commission have needed to budget $12 million to comply with the Native Title Act requirements. The Federal Court has allocated $21.5 million for native title issues.

I noted the Leader of the Opposition telling us that every lawyer in the country is telling us not to do it. That is not surprising. They all should sign a statement of pecuniary interests before they open their mouths. It is the legal profession that has been running this outfit. It is the legal profession that has taken most of the money. We are surprised that they do not want it fixed up, that they do not want the parliament to assert how things will go and, of course, give them a set of rules which means they do not have to debate every full stop and comma at $5,000 a day!

The article says the Federal Court has budgeted $8.1 million this year, $6.75 million and so on. But this is the real downside: the effect on ordinary people. They talk about the effect on land prices where, of course, native title non-procedures, if you like, under the present Native Title Act are affecting the ability of local authorities and other people to provide working people, the Labor Party's voters, with land.

Karratha, an industrial centre, is contributing hugely to Australia's economic performance and creating jobs for ordinary working people. Karratha real estate agent Roderick Cross says that the shortage of land means a housing block which a year ago sold for $25,000 now costs as much as $110,000. Why? Because the processes in your Native Title Act are non-existent and do not allow local authorities to subdivide land so working people can buy it at a fair price. Industrial land has risen from $45,000 for a 3,000-square metre block to $80,000. That is a real help to the development of our country! This is the sort of thing they stick their chests out and say they have a solution for. You had your chance. You prepared the original act and, of course, it is that act of parliament, not the rulings of the High Court, that is the problem.

The problem to be addressed by this legislation arises not from a decision of the High Court but from the efforts of the Keating-Beazley Labor government to provide a suitable legal framework to administer this new and, unfortunately, obscure title right. Instead of filling the gaps of uncertainty, the Keating-Beazley Native Title Act has increased the uncertainty. It failed to identify property titles that the High Court said extinguished native title, as our amendments do and which they opposed. It is all right for them to say now that the Senate gave it to us, but it was not with the assistance of one vote from the Labor Party.

Worse, it sought to create a form of freehold now called crown freehold which, through section 229 of the act, does not extinguish native title over all forms of freehold. This action has created grave uncertainty over a variety of property rights based simply upon any recent involvement of the crown or its statutory authorities such as state housing commissions or state housing authorities—whatever they are called today.

Whilst the Keating-Beazley Native Title Act survives in its present form, all tenants of and/or purchasers of state housing are subject to native title claim. Any suggestion that that is altered by this 90 per cent gift from the Senate is put down by the amendment that we got at the last hour one night when the Leader of the Opposition sat up before the TV camera with Noel Pearson and someone else and said, `I have a solution to this.' What did he give us? He gave us an amendment that stated:

11A Extinguishment of native title on freehold land

. . . . . . . . .

(2) The non-extinguishment principle applies to freehold land in the following cases—

this is what the Labor Party was putting up in the Senate—

(a) where a grant of land registered as freehold title is made by the Crown in any capacity to the Crown, or to a statutory authority of the Crown, in any capacity . . .

You are starting to redefine freehold. What is more, both in section 229 of the act and by a printed amendment provided personally by the Leader of the Opposition, state housing land is subject to native title claim. Worse still, where, as is a frequent occurrence today, that land has been sold to ordinary citizens of Australia they too can be subject to native title claims unless they get the full balance of the amendments in this legislation we are returning to the Senate today.

The Keating-Beazley Native Title Act became a recipe for confusion and corruption when it granted Aboriginal people the right to negotiate over third party property development simply by the act of lodging a claim for the land or for the native title rights associated with the land. That is another issue that has not been properly resolved. The reality is that the High Court said that native title is not an estate in land. Absolutely no other Australian has such a right. The justification presented to the parliament, when the original Native Title Bill was debated, for such a proposal for this right to negotiate was to give Aboriginal people an early opportunity to ensure the protection of areas of significance while they achieved formal native title. There is not too much wrong with that argument, but what is the reality?

The reality is that the process has not been used in that fashion. Typically Aboriginal claimants have not appeared at subsequent mediation meetings—and I want to give the House clear evidence of that today which is two days old—they have not identified areas of significance and consequently the remaining areas available for developing Australia's resources, and they have not progressed their claims to the Federal Court notwithstanding that the opportunities have been there and formal native title rights might have been granted. They have resisted the attempts by developers to progress them to the court. They do not want to be there. They do not want to be in the Federal Court. They do not want to be granted native title; they just want to stick with the right to negotiate. These are matters of fact, these are matters of history—not the sort of rabbit talk that we just heard from the Leader of the Opposition about what he is going to do. With his history and his form who would believe anything he said about the future. When you get to putting things into l-a-w and then scrap them you have no credibility.

Aboriginal people have simply used the right to negotiate process created by the Keating-Beazley Native Title Act, and the requirement upon respondents but not Aboriginal claimants to negotiate in good faith, to create unacceptable delays in the development process which they know will eventually be settled with money—and not with all the protection of the things they and Labor spokesmen tell us in the media they are concerned about. They have all taken the money. Do not tell me they have not, because they have. But, worse than that, most of them have demanded confidentiality agreements.

If you have made an application in your name on behalf of the Namadgi people or the Nygina people, why do you need a confidentiality agreement? I can tell you why—so we cannot find out how much they got. The reality is that when they see you driving the new Toyota they think it is a pretty good trick and go through the same process. The company that thought they had settled the matter with the proper representative of the Aboriginal tribe or language group finds, as they did at Murrin Murrin, it has to deal with 18 or 20 individual claims—and I want to come back to that.

Although concern has been expressed about several things, nothing has happened. They just want the money. The others who have been sharing in that are the lawyers who are in fact initiating and progressing the process with limited or no involvement from the Aboriginal claimant. I seek leave, according to the rules of the parliament, to have a photograph incorporated in Hansard.


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Jenkins) —Leave is granted subject to technical requirements.

The photograph has not been reproduced as it is not of the technical quality required for printing.


Mr TUCKEY —I want to draw the attention of the parliament to this photo to simply point out that what is on the back of that truck cost $20 million. It is quite an amazing transport feat in itself. It was not made in Kalgoorlie; it was not made on the goldfields of Western Australia. It was made in Adelaide—a city we all know is very desperate for economic development. It was not a one-off. I think there were four, but there could have been six.

The administration of Anaconda Nickel, having settled 18 Aboriginal land claims, has said enough is enough. They have discontinued their exploratory drilling program to establish further reserves with which they might have been able to justify the expenditure of another $40 million in Adelaide because they have had enough. They have enough to get going. The losses extend well beyond the goldfields and the remote areas of Australia. Workers in Adelaide have missed out on building more of those $20 million behemoths.

I now want to touch on a matter of grave concern to me. It relates to some proceedings in the National Native Title Tribunal on 9 March. I was contacted last night by Max Edwards who, with his wife Rosemary, is a farmer in the West Beverley-Talbot Brook area in my electorate. Their property is subject to a native title registered claim WC 95/86 lodged by Christopher (Corrie) Robert Bodney and the Ballaruks, which I presume is the tribal name. The property title is either conditional purchase or perpetual lease, which is covered in my view by the High Court's exclusive possession description and is certainly included in schedule 4 of this act and would be given the appropriate protection.

Mr Edwards was called to a mediation session at the National Native Title Tribunal on 9 March 1998 under the chairmanship of Justice French. Max took his wife and two daughters along to witness justice in this particular venue. The first thing he discovered was the claimant, Corrie Bodney, was not present. However, a lawyer, Alan Camp appeared to represent Corrie Bodney, which Justice French ruled was okay notwithstanding Mr Camp had no knowledge of the significance of Mr Edwards's property to presumably the Ballaruks culture. If there were certain secrets involved one would ask why he might do it, but Bodney, the claimant, was not even there, and this is common place. During the proceedings, Mr Edwards made the following remarks:

I am speaking as one of four land owners in the West Beverley/Talbot Brook area affected by your native title claim.

He said this to the lawyer because the judge said that he could address him as though he were Mr Bodney. He went on:

Your claim is making it very difficult for us to continue our farming businesses. It has stopped the sale of one of my colleagues properties and our farm financing is affected by the uncertainty over OUR title security.

Given the facts that our leasehold title grants exclusive possession and can be freeholded at any time (subject to a payment fee) and to my knowledge there has never been any aboriginal interest in this land.

WILL YOU REMOVE YOUR CLAIM FROM OUR FARMS?

What was the reaction to those remarks? The result was that he was verbally abused by a spectator, by one Robert Broffo, who is well known in Western Australia as an Aboriginal activist. But he was not the claimant. Then another unknown Aboriginal walked around behind Mr Edwards and, to quote Mr Edwards, was so threatening in his approach that he felt obliged to stand up and found himself in an eyeball to eyeball confrontation with this person and, to use his words, he thought he was going to be decked.

That is the sort of mediation apparently the Leader of the Opposition says he can work through. But this is in a tribunal, the next best thing to a court, under Justice French, who knew this second individual because he referred to him by name. His response was to say to Mr Edwards that he should back off—back off from making a statement like that; a plea for certainty in his own property rights! And these people tell us what this issue is going to be about! I can tell you what it is about; it is certainty. (Time expired)