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Thursday, 16 February 2017
Page: 1316


Mr KEENAN (StirlingMinister for Justice and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Counter-Terrorism) (12:42): We are not keen to delay the process of the Native Title Amendment (Indigenous Land Use Agreements) Bill through the House, but I think it is important that the government respond to some of the things that have been said in this debate and explain why we do need to deal with this bill in an urgent way. This bill does nothing more than restore the status quo that was understood before the decision that was handed down by the Federal Court. Importantly, it is important to note that this decision was only handed down by the Federal Court on 2 February. The government clearly saw the decision, and realised that we needed to respond and respond in an orderly and also timely way—and we need to do that because we are required, when dealing with such fundamental issues as land title, to provide certainty both for the claimants and for industry and others who will be affected by this.

It is also very important to note that, as far as I am aware, there is no significant stakeholder that has concerns with what is being proposed here. The National Native Title Tribunal—

Mr Burke: How do you know?

Mr KEENAN: How do I know? Because they have been putting out statements asking the government to deal with this bill in an orderly and timely fashion. Let me read the media statement of the National Native Title Council, representing all claimants around the country, to enlighten you: 'The National Native Title Council is urging the parliament to support the passage of the Native Title Amendment (Indigenous Land Use Agreement) Bill 2017.' That was issued today, 16 February, and they represent all of the claimants around the country. They are urging this parliament to act, urging this parliament to provide the certainty that they require. This bill does nothing more than restore the status quo as it was understood.

The opposition is concerned about the consultation process that has taken place. We have moved as quickly as possible to inform the opposition about what the government is proposing here. A briefing was provided to the shadow Attorney-General and also to Mr Clare and Senator Dodson last week, and we provided the bill to the opposition as soon as we could, on Tuesday morning. We drafted this bill as expeditiously as possible, noting the fact that we needed to deal with this matter as quickly as possible, and once the government received the bill we consulted with the opposition and the most timely way possible. We have acted in good faith here. I think that everyone should understand that there is a requirement to deal with this bill in a timely manner.

There is a rationale for what the government is doing here. Yes, it is an unusual process, but sometimes the parliament needs to act. Once this bill passes the House it will go before a Senate committee, which will have a month to consider it. They will be able to have appropriate consultation with affected parties. That will allow the opposition, the crossbenchers and the government to do the consultation that is of course important when we are making important to the native title arrangements.

I would again remind the House that we need certainty in relation to land title in Australia. When that certainty is called into question the parliament needs to act decisively and it needs to act to restore that certainty. All parties in this debate are calling on the government to do that—including Labor premiers, by the way. I would urge the parliament to pass the bill.