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Thursday, 16 February 2017
Page: 1305


Mr BANDT (Melbourne) (11:50): There is one reason and one reason only why the government was trying to rush this legislation through this week and have it wound back by this House. There is one reason why the government came here and put a motion on the Notice Paper to try and gag this debate until this House stood up to them: Adani—Adani, Adani, Adani.

In their rush to build a coalmine, this government is prepared to ride roughshod over Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. When it comes to making laws, this government rolls out the red carpet for multinational coal companies but slams the door on our first Australians. Everyone knows that this government is prepared to defy the science and defy the will of the people of this country who do not want public money going to prop up an uneconomic coalmine that is going to be a climate bomb. So, to avoid that scrutiny, the government comes in here and says, 'We're going to rush legislation through, even if it means potentially taking away the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians.'

When you look at the approach the government have taken this morning and everything they have said this week during the Closing the Gap statements and at other times, you see that it is just words. It is outrageous that the government thought it was good enough to ask every member of parliament in this place to vote today on a bill that, as we have heard, deals with some incredibly complex matters and potentially takes away people's right to determine what happens on their land.

I was very pleased to support the opposition's motion to wind the government back, and I am sure that is part of the reason that the government have realised the error of their ways and are now saying that they are not going to rush it through. But the Labor opposition is paying ducks and drakes on this, because something happened in the Senate today that betrays everything that Labor did in here this morning as just sound and fury—sound and fury signifying nothing. What happened in the Senate today—and we have heard it from the shadow Attorney-General—is that the government and the opposition have agreed to a quick and dirty inquiry into a fundamentally important piece of legislation; a quick and dirty inquiry that will allow this bill to be rushed through potentially on the next sitting day. The Senate is sitting today? When is it next sitting so that it could debate this legislation? On 20 March. So the government and Labor have agreed, 'We'll give the Senate one sitting day to consider this, and we'll stitch it all up in between, we'll hope that the inquiry comes down with a recommendation and then we'll push it through the Senate'—a few weeks for an inquiry that affects the fundamental rights that people have to their land and their country.

We have heard from both the Labor opposition and the government about the complexities in negotiating this legislation in the first place. We know—because the court case was brought that has led us to this position—that there are many differing voices within the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities that need to be heard. Whilst there might be some issues about the technical drafting of the law that might need to be addressed—and everyone, including the Greens would look at that—we also know that something as important as dealing with native title should not be rushed through this parliament. The ABC rural and regional advocacy bill got a six-month inquiry in the Senate. The sports betting reform bill got a six-month inquiry in the Senate. If those issues are worthy of several months of deliberation by a very busy committee that has a number of inquiries on its plate, then surely this—given its potentially significant consequences that we have just heard from both sides—is deserving of consideration.

The member for Hasluck, the shadow minister—who I respect—got up and made some very kind comments about our Senator Rachel Siewert, who is responsible for this area and for this bill for the Greens. As the shadow minister said, Senator Siewert has a significant amount of respect amongst Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in this country. Senator Siewert got up this morning and asked the Senate to allow until 8 May for the Senate to look at this bill so that we could hear from all of the voices around this country—all the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander voices, not just the ones that the old parties want to hear from; so that we could hear from everyone—about the impact of this legislation. But Labor and government said, 'No; we are going to insist on a quick and dirty inquiry and push it through quickly,' which just shows that everything that happened here this morning was show for the press, show for the cameras, and, behind the scenes, they are on their way to doing a deal to ram this through.

Maybe this is good legislation—maybe it is. Maybe this is legislation that is worthy of being passed. Maybe it is legislation that requires being amended to satisfy concerns. Maybe it is legislation that deserves to be opposed. That is what a thorough examination of this would uncover. But, no, Labor and Liberal in the Senate today have nailed their colours to the mast and said, 'The most important thing is that the Adani coalmine go ahead and if that means we have to have a quick and dirty inquiry and ride roughshod over people's rights then we will do it'—and that is a disgrace. It cannot be justified to have a one-month inquiry into such an important matter, especially when the point has been made that it involves such complexity and it is going to fundamentally affect people's rights.

So why does the government, with Labor's support, want to make it this happen. We are talking about a coalmine in Queensland that is a carbon bomb. There have been reports that have suggested that the decision of the Federal Court might affect the ability of that carbon bomb to go ahead. That is why the government is coming in here. If all the coal in that coalmine in the broader Galilee Basin is dug up and burnt, it is going to produce as much pollution as the entire European Union countries all put together do in a year. We are talking countries' worth of pollution sitting under the ground in the Adani coalmine in the broader Galilee Basin. Faced with that, many, many people around the country are saying, 'This coal needs to stay in the ground.' People are saying that, once it is dug up and burnt, it may be too late, because we only have a very small carbon budget left. We can only burn a certain amount of the coal that is in the ground before it becomes too late.

But so keen are Liberal—and it seems Labor—to build it that they will throw people's rights to the wind. So keen is the government to build it, that they are prepared to put a billion dollars' worth of public money into it, when that could be spent on schools, hospitals or renewable energy. So keen are Labor and Liberal to do it that they will change Queensland laws to make sure that it goes ahead. And now it seems that so keen are Labor and Liberal to get the Adani coalmine happening that this bill will also be caught up in their mad rush to burn more coal.

If this bill were to be put to a vote today, I suspect there are many people who would not support it, because it is not right that people be asked to vote on something that they have only seen from yesterday. I hope that we are not going to see a truncation of the speaking list here so that the sound and fury happens but the bill actually goes through with a gag in all but name. But I hope the spirit of what we have heard here this morning translates also into the further scrutiny of this bill in the Senate and that the opposition reconsider their decision to side with the government for a quick and dirty inquiry and instead allow a full inquiry that will allow all voices to be heard.

As you go through this bill, and as you look at the court decision, you understand that there are many significant things that are covered by this bill. For example, this bill and the court decision deal with issues of what happens when native title claimants are deceased. One question that has been thrown up is: does the recent Federal Court ruling then throw into question agreements that have been struck if someone is deceased? Everyone would say that is a legitimate question that deserves a bit of examination.

But caught up in the government's drafting of this very short bill with very big implications is this fundamental point: what we are dealing with here is a full court decision that said, in a nutshell, that for certain agreements to be valid you need to have the agreement of all native title claimants. What the court decision turned on was what 'all' means. Does it mean everyone? What happens if there are claimants in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities who object to what is being done notionally on their behalf? That is a very serious question that we will need to grapple with. What happens if there is a difference of views?

The government's answer is to come in and say, 'We want you to very quickly sign up to something that says that if there is dissent it doesn't really matter, because we are going to effectively legislate away people's rights to have a different opinion.' That is what this bill will do, and that is why there are many people who are concerned about it. There will be some who say, 'Support it.' There will be some who say, 'Oppose it,' and there will be some who say, 'Support it with some changes.' But we owe it to everyone who is affected by this bill to have a good hard look at it.

This bill, of all the bills that we consider, should not be caught up in the government's new coal culture wars, but that is what is happening. This bill has been caught up in the government's push to build a coalmine, and that is disgraceful. What is also very upsetting is that the push to get this bill through quickly is potentially being aided and abetted by an opposition who also want that coalmine built. So I have a very simple proposition—let's separate this bill out from the push to build a coalmine. Let's consider this bill on its merits. Let's give this bill the kind of inquiry that the Senate usually gives for matters this important. Let's give it the kind of worth and merit review that you might give the sports betting reform bill.

We did not even propose six months in the Senate. We propose that it come back in May. But no, it is going to be rushed through, and that is very disappointing. But there is time for people to change their minds and I hope that some common sense prevails and that we do not see this bill rushed through. If it gets put to a vote here today, the Greens cannot support it, not because we think that it is necessarily legislation that we would oppose but because we should not be asked to vote on it today. So I hope that we are not going to see a truncation of the speaking list and we are not going to be forced to vote today.

But the fact that the government would even consider pushing this to a vote today should ring alarm bells for everyone. Why is this so urgent for the government? Adani, Adani, Adani. This bill should not be caught up in the government's coal culture wars. This bill should be considered on its own merit. It should not be pushed to a vote today. It should be allowed time for proper scrutiny so that all voices around this country can be heard about a matter that will be of fundamental importance to many of our fellow Australians.