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Commonwealth Radioactive Waste Management (Repeal and Consequential Amendment) Bill 2008

CHAIR —I would like to welcome representatives of the Northern Land Council. The committee has received your submission as submission No. 96. Do you wish to make any amendments or alterations to your submission?

Mr Bush-Blanasi —No.

CHAIR —Thank you. Do you wish to make a brief opening statement before we go to questions?

Mr Bush-Blanasi —Before we go any further, I am acting chairman for two weeks while the chairman is on leave. I introduce you to Kim Hill, the Chief Executive Officer of the Northern Land Council; Ron Levy, the senior principal officer; and Graeme Smith, who is the senior project officer in Tennant Creek. He looks after the Borroloola-Barkly Region. I will hand over to our CEO to give you a statement.

CHAIR —Thank you, Mr Bush-Blanasi.

Mr Hill —Good afternoon, senators. I am not going to read through our submission—I just want to make the opening statement. The NLC will only support the repeal of the act if it is replaced by appropriate law which both preserves the Ngapa clan’s rights regarding existing nomination under the act and which enables traditional owners of other lands to facilitate development of their lands for a radioactive waste facility if they wish, provided that the environmental and sacred sites are protected. I will repeat that: provided that the environment and the sacred sites are protected. With that, we are open to questions in regard to our submission.

CHAIR —That you very much, Mr Hill.

Senator LUDLAM —Thanks for coming down and speaking with us today. I would like to get a sense of whether the Northern Land Council was consulted by the former government before the Commonwealth Radioactive Waste Management Act was passed through parliament. Did you have any advance notice or, like the CLC, did you find out about it afterwards?

Mr Hill —I will direct the question to the senior legal officer. I have only been in the position for 5½ months.

Mr Levy —The act was announced, I think, in July 2005. At that stage, it had not been drafted or at least the draft was not available. From recollection, it went through the Senate in December. I think there was a Senate committee hearing in around about November. I would have to check my file, to be honest, but I do not have any recollection of seeing drafting of that bill prior to it being published on the website. I do not have any recollection of that. In fact, I am pretty confident that that did not occur.

The bill, or at least the policy of the bill, was published some time around September or October. There was a full council meeting in the week of Friday, 21 October 2005 and the full council passed a resolution calling for amendments. So at that stage either the bill had been published or we knew what was in it. We did not know from any information other than what was public, in my recollection.

Senator LUDLAM —What action did the NLC take following the passage of that bill through federal parliament?

Mr Levy —Firstly, prior to that, between July 2005 and the full council meeting in October 2005, government representatives from the department of science and also from ANSTO had public consultations in the Northern Territory. They approached the Northern Land Council and I think they went to other Aboriginal groups. I think the Central Land Council were also approached. That led to an invitation to those scientific officers to give a presentation to the full council at Crab Claw Island in October 2005. As a result of consideration of matters raised during that presentation and otherwise, the full council passed a resolution calling for amendments. Those amendments, in part, were made to the bill, and because those amendments were made the NLC supported the bill.

Senator LUDLAM —What involvement did you have in the drafting of the amendments that we saw pass through parliament in 2006?

Mr Levy —In 2005 the NLC was approached by senior people in an Aboriginal group who expressed interest in the Commonwealth government’s proposal in light of the amendments which allowed Aboriginal land to be nominated. As a result of that, the NLC chairman I think initially met with that group on a preliminary basis and that led to other meetings into 2006 which included a number of visits to Lucas Heights. Those meetings were comprehensive. They were not only with that group but with adjacent groups and other people interested or affected in relation to the proposed facility.

It became clear in those meetings that there were a number of matters which required consideration by the federal government which meant, unless requirements were met, that there would not be agreement. The primary one of those was the wish to have the land returned after it ceased being used for a radioactive waste facility by the Commonwealth government. That led to an amendment to the act by an amendment bill which was proposed by the Northern Land Council and accepted by the Commonwealth government.

Senator LUDLAM —So the NLC was involved in the 2006 amendment act which was eventually passed?

Mr Levy —The NLC called for that amendment.

Senator LUDLAM —Just that amendment? I just wanted to particularly draw your attention to section 3C(6), which provides that, even in the absence of consultation and consent with traditional owners, the NLC—or presumably another land council—could propose a site. Was that something that was part of your requests of the government? How did you feel when you saw that that had actually been included in the amendment act?

Mr Levy —I think I have slightly lost your train of thought, I am sorry. Could you please say it again?

Senator LUDLAM —One of the provisions of the amendments that were made in 2006 to the act provided that site nominations from land councils would still be valid even in the absence of consultation with and consent from traditional owners. That is section 3C(6) of the amendment act. Did the Northern Land Council have a position on whether that was acceptable or not?

Mr Levy —The Northern Land Council had a position in the Senate committee hearing and it supported that amendment. The reason the amendment was supported was because the NLC regarded it as being consistent with the existing structure of the Lands Right Act. That was my legal advice to the NLC and that remains my legal advice.

As for your earlier question, which is the genesis of that amendment, I cannot recall where it came from. Again, I would have to check my file, but I suspect that it came from Commonwealth legal officers picking over the bill and seeing things which they wanted to fix. I do not recall its precise genesis.

Senator LUDLAM —But just to be clear, your advice to the NLC at that time was that it was appropriate for the provision to go into the amendment act that meant the NLC would not need to consult with or get consent from traditional owners in the area concerned?

Mr Levy —No, that is not my advice to the NLC.

Senator LUDLAM —I beg your pardon, sorry.

Mr Levy —I have misled you, I apologise. It is unlawful for a land council to nominate Aboriginal land to be a waste facility or for that matter to be a lease for a mine or a lease for a corner store or a lease for a buffalo licence—it is unlawful for a land council to do so without the consent of the traditional owners. The Land Rights Act, since its inception, has had a provision about the extent and the validity of a full council resolution directing a land trust to grant a lease or approving an exploration or mining agreement or now, because of this amendment, nominating land. My advice is simply that the amendment that was made in 2006 is consistent with the existing scheme of the act. But it remains unlawful for a land council to make a nomination which does not have the consent of the traditional owners.

Senator LUDLAM —As the law stands at the moment, it does not require consent of all the traditional owners of the area because of that particular provision which removes the land council from that obligation.

Mr Levy —That is a misconception, with respect; that is not the case.

Senator LUDLAM —Okay, that is very interesting. Can you just tell us how the land council came to the determination as to which traditional owners were appropriate to speak for the Muckaty site? No doubt you would be more than aware that there are a large number of people who claim custodial responsibilities for that area who are claiming that they have not been consulted at all and their consent was not given.

Mr Levy —The land council followed its usual procedures in relation to consultations. In particular when dealing with a major matter, whether it be a matter like this, a major mine or anything which has either an actual or potential physical effect regarding other people or where people are just interested in it because it is controversial, the land council always comprehensively consults. In relation to this matter, the land council did just that. Many of the people here today are people who the land council consulted with and/or was always aware of what their position was at various times. There is a range of other people who are not here that the land council consulted with. In that respect I am talking about people other than the traditional Aboriginal owners of the land. We obviously also consulted with them.

The Land Rights Act and the radioactive waste act require comprehensive consultations. It is the bread and butter of all land councils. All four land councils comprehensively consult. We consulted in relation to other land which was not Ngapa land and we were not satisfied in relation to that land that the relevant traditional owners were consenting or were likely to consent. In relation to those sorts of matters, we obviously did not pursue them. But, in relation to this particular land, we were satisfied there was overwhelming support for a nomination after doing the comprehensive consultations.

Audience members—Liar.

Senator LUDLAM —Mr Levy, I would just put to you that the support is greatly less than overwhelming in terms of the evidence that has already been put to us just so far this morning.

Mr Levy —I observed the evidence and that evidence does not change my view at all. The question is always a case of anthropological advice. We had advice from three very experienced anthropologists: the NLC’s then anthropology branch manager, Kim Barber, the NLC’s current anthropology branch manager, Robert Graham, and Dr Brendan Corrigan. Their advice was in relation to the relevant land and the identity of the traditional Aboriginal owners, and more importantly as to the identity of how that group, within the context of a larger group of groups, makes a decision about that country. Further, the advice was in relation to the decision in relation to that country under Aboriginal tradition when there are individuals in other groups, some of whom are consenting and some of whom are not, and whether the position of individuals in other groups affects the decision of the group with ultimate authority regarding that land under Aboriginal tradition. The NLC’s anthropological advice was and remains that there was overwhelming support from the group with ultimate authority under Aboriginal tradition to make decisions regarding that land.

CHAIR —Mr Levy, can you just clarify if that is still the view of the Northern Land Council, that there is still majority support for your proposed site?

Mr Levy —Not majority; overwhelming.

Audience members—Liar.

CHAIR —Order. Mr Levy?

Mr Levy —Our view in 2007 was that under Aboriginal tradition, the group with ultimate authority regarding that land overwhelmingly supported the nomination and that remains our view. I never had to give legal advice to the full council about this issue. They were quite satisfied about that and about the advice that was received. But, if I had been asked to give advice as to whether, in those circumstances, the full council could refuse pursuant to its functions to make the nomination, my advice would have been that it could not.

CHAIR —Thank you. Senator Birmingham.

Senator BIRMINGHAM —Thanks, Chair. Gentlemen, thank you for your time today. To continue on that line of questioning to be quite clear, in relation to the land on Muckaty of which we are speaking, do you see the Ngapa people as the only relevant custodians to have the authority to make a decision?

Mr Levy —The authority to ultimately make the decision is with that group but consultations must be broader and they must be real consultations, which they were. That occurred. When it came time to make the decision, we knew that there were individuals, including some people here today and some who are not, within other groups who were opposed, but it was not their country.

Audience members—Liar.

Mr Levy —We knew that within those other groups there were also individuals who had no view. We also knew that within those other groups there were individuals who in fact were in favour. But, the ultimate authority was within the Ngapa group and they overwhelmingly supported it. Accordingly, the NLC made the nomination. As I have said, there was never any doubt that the NLC full council would do that. If I had been asked, and I was not, to give legal advice about it, my legal advice would have been that the full council must make such a nomination.

Senator BIRMINGHAM —That legal advice would have been based on the premise that the full council has to respect the rights of those traditional owners who have particular authority over a particular piece of land; is that correct?

Mr Levy —That is right, and that is always the way full council approaches things.

Senator BIRMINGHAM —The anthropological advice to which you referred in response to questioning from Senator Ludlam, was that provided verbally or in writing?

Mr Levy —No, it was provided in the form of a comprehensive anthropological report required by the legislation which, under that legislation, has to be submitted to the minister in relation to the then minister’s decision as to whether or not to accept the nomination.

Senator BIRMINGHAM —Is that a public document?

Mr Levy —No, it is a private document.

Senator BIRMINGHAM —It is a private document. The minister in question in this instance is?

Mr Levy —The then minister Julie Bishop.

Senator BIRMINGHAM —Can I just turn to the genesis of the nomination of Muckaty. Was it the council’s idea to nominate the site and that idea put to the Ngapa people, or was it the idea of the Ngapa people to nominate the site and that put to the council, or did it come about through a totally means from those two scenarios?

Mr Levy —No, it was the second. The scientists were invited in the proper way to attend the full council meeting. They gave advice. The Ngapa people then approached the NLC chairman—

Senator BIRMINGHAM —The scientists were invited by whom?

Mr Levy —The Northern Land Council as part of the public consultation process, when the then CEO met with the scientific people in the second half of 2005, suggested that they may wish to attend a full council meeting and give a presentation. As result of that presentation, the senior representatives of the Ngapa group approached the NLC chairman who then privately, if I recall correctly, met with them a few weeks later down at Tennant Creek or Muckaty Station. After that, the chairman approached me and said that he wanted the matter looked into because there appeared to be people who were interested. It was their approach.

Senator BIRMINGHAM —The scientists to which you refer were representatives of—

Mr Levy —The Department of Education, Science and Training and also a representative of ANSTO.

Senator BIRMINGHAM —And they made a presentation to the full council—

Mr Levy —Yes.

Senator BIRMINGHAM —and that presentation identified one or numerous potential sites that would be or could be suitable?

Mr Levy —No, there were no sites identified. It was simply a presentation regarding what was then known about the bill, the Commonwealth policy. There were three Defence sites suggested. It contained information as to what a radioactive waste facility would look like—there was a video about that. There was some general information about radioactive matters. If I recall rightly, the presentation went for over half a day at the full council meeting. It was a reasonably comprehensive presentation but focused on the three Defence sites.

Senator BIRMINGHAM —How large is the full council?

Mr Levy —It has 83 members, which represent the seven regions of the NLC top end.

Senator BIRMINGHAM —Following that presentation by the scientists, was the Ngapa community the only one to express interest or did others at that stage express some initial interest?

Mr Levy —In 2005 one group in addition to the Ngapa group expressed interest and in 2006 a number of other groups also expressed interest.

Senator BIRMINGHAM —What was the reason for those other groups not proceeding?

Mr Levy —The federal government scientists indicated to us that the areas of land traditionally owned by the other groups appeared on the surface to be less suitable than the Ngapa group region and therefore requested that we focus on that region.

Senator BIRMINGHAM —It was put by some of the earlier witnesses that only part of the Ngapa traditional owners support this decision—I think that the words were roughly that it was one out of the three families or associated groups. Is that not the understanding of the land council and, if not, why not?

Mr Levy —The NLC’s position, as I have said, is that there is overwhelming support from the Ngapa people with ultimate authority to make decisions regarding that land. It is not accepted by the NLC that other persons connected with other Ngapa clans in any significant way oppose that ultimate decision.

Senator BIRMINGHAM —How have you determined that there is overwhelming support within that particular Ngapa claim?

Mr Levy —Through the consultations we have had, which were comprehensive. The anthropological report provided to the minister listed the dates of all those consultations and advice was provided as to attendees and of course government representatives attended many of those consultations.

Mr Bush-Blanasi —Madam Chair, Graeme Smith may be able to enlighten you a bit more regarding the consultations that happened in that area. Graeme is actually the project officer of that area. Some of the questions that you are referring to our senior project officer should be referred to Graeme Smith.

Senator BIRMINGHAM —If Mr Smith wishes to, yes.

Mr Smith —I agree with Ron Levy’s comments that we definitely had quite comprehensive and numerous consultations and included all groups that the Northern Land Council regard as holding an interest in Muckaty. All groups were at the numerous meetings we held. When it came time for a nomination, the Ngapa group agreed to the site nomination after lengthy consultations and a number of meetings. So Ngapa nominated their site and there was nobody within the Ngapa group at that meeting that disagreed or went against the nomination.

Senator BIRMINGHAM —How many people were involved in the consultation within the Ngapa group?

Mr Smith —Within the Ngapa group? I do not have those figures with me but people in this room were at the meetings, some Ngapa, some not. At those meetings we had upwards of 40 people in general made up of each of the five groups. I did not go through and pick out which person was with which particular group. I just noted that there were senior people from each group represented.

Mr Hill —As the senior principal legal officer I am more than happy to speak and say that we can provide the documentation that we provided to Julie Bishop in regards to the consultations we had.

Mr Levy —I may have misled you and my CEO. We can certainly provide information on notice about the dates of the meetings and the number of people who attended, if that is of any assistance to you.

CHAIR —I am sure it would be Mr Levy and Mr Hill, thank you.

Senator BIRMINGHAM —That would be helpful. I will just finish with one point. You make it clear in your submission, but it is worth getting on record as well, that traditional owners have a right to do business on their land. Would you care to elaborate on the importance the council places on that principle?

Mr Hill —Could you just say that question again?

Senator BIRMINGHAM —In your submission you make clear in a couple of different ways the principle of the importance of the right for traditional owners to do business on their land. I am just wondering whether you could, for the benefit of the record today, elaborate on what you see as the importance of that right.

Mr Hill —It is recognition of ownership of those countries, not just the recognition but the historical traditional affiliation people have for those areas in which people are seeking leases. We just had a full council meeting last week and the traditional owners or the full council members expressed frustration in regard to what is happening in the Northern Territory regarding the intervention, the shires and a number of other matters on which the land council is dealing day to day. All they are seeking is recognition of their rights as first peoples of this land. The consultation process is very important.

Senator BIRMINGHAM —Have there been other instances or similar instances with regard to major developments where there is a conflict between the people who have been defined as the relevant traditional owners, under your consideration, and other neighbouring communities and groups?

Mr Hill —We get that on a day-to-day basis; that is something that we live and breathe. There are various interpretations and definitions under various pieces of legislation which identify people. Earlier on, people were making references to communities, and within communities there are a number of clan groups. For example, in Darwin and in Katherine there are a number of clan groups. Within East Arnhem there are a number of people who live in Nhulunbuy who are not necessarily traditional owners of those areas. On a day-to-day basis we deal with people disputing areas and decisions of family members and we look at ways in which we can have dispute resolution. We also have training with regard to dispute resolution. There has been emphasis on governance training for a lot of our people in the Northern Territory particularly in the Northern Land Council area because there has been an increase in mining activities and other economic development and people need to understand the financial literacy of what moneys they are receiving and what possible investments they may want to pursue in the future for their children. So we live it day to day.

Senator BIRMINGHAM —That is obviously why you place such importance on the anthropological advice that you receive. I will make this the last question or the chair will seriously pull me up. Have you received requests from some of the other groups or communities for you to seek additional compensation or funding in regards to this proposal for their communities? Have there been arguments that have developed in response to the money that the Commonwealth has put on the table?

Mr Hill —Tomorrow we are having consultations in Galiwinku regarding the housing leases and township leases. There are dispute areas within Galiwinku in regards to traditional ownership and the custodians of those lands because people have introduced various ceremonies into that community with the placement of these people. We are also having consultations with people at Wadeye in regards to long-term housing leases and township leases. It is well documented in Wadeye that there are so many other clans residing in that community who feel as though they have obligations in regards to services of housing, yet the traditional owners have a different view in regards to being the owners of those lands. Whilst they are there to look after the visiting clan members who have resided on Wadeye for quite some time, other clans need to identify and recognise the traditional owners, who should have financial benefits streamed to them through the creation of new corporations and enterprises within their communities. We are having that tomorrow and next week, and there is another—

Senator BIRMINGHAM —Just specifically in regard to this proposal for the radioactive waste facility, have there been requests from other clans or communities for financial consideration?

Mr Levy —I can answer for the period before my CEO was a CEO, which is the last six months. There have not been requests from other groups for financial assistance in relation to this country because it is not their country. It was always contemplated, as I understood it, under the former government and no doubt it would be under the current government, that if anything proceeded there would be, firstly, public consultations, particularly as part of an environmental assessment process under the EPBC Act, and, secondly, there would be opportunities for the public generally in relation to what general benefits may be available from programs the government may consider as appropriate.

Senator PRATT —You assert that no-one except the Ngapa group have the right to consent to this particular nomination that has been made? I am confused about whether all the key Ngapa families and groups did or did not participate in that decision to nominate. Are there any people who said no that you are clear about?

Mr Levy —That may be three questions but perhaps I will reduce them to one. The NLC received anthropological advice that the process had been properly followed, that all relevant persons or representatives of other groups and interested people and so forth had been consulted, that there was overwhelming support by the ultimate decision makers, and that they had consented to it. That was our advice then and it remains our advice now.

Senator PRATT —I understand the advice that you have given just now, but I am a little bit unclear. It has been put to us that there was only one Ngapa group that consented. Are you arguing that those other groups were not part of that decision, that they are not in fact part of the relevant anthropological group, as you put it?

Mr Levy —All the Ngapa clans and other groups participated in the decision-making process. Ultimately, when a decision had to be made, it was made by those with ultimate decision-making authority under Aboriginal tradition and we received advice in relation to that. In relation to other groups, whether they be Ngapa groups or other groups, they would be the decision makers in relation to their country.

Senator PRATT —So you are saying that there are other Ngapa groups but that they were not relevant to this particular site?

Mr Levy —All the Ngapa groups and other groups were consulted. When it comes time to make a decision, anthropological advice is received as to who are the senior people who have the authority under Aboriginal tradition to make decisions regarding that particular country. That process was followed and the decision was made.

Senator PRATT —Further to that, you discount other Muckaty links to the groups as significant to the nominated site; is that correct?

Mr Levy —We do not discount other groups, especially sacred sites or dreaming tracks or interests which are less than traditional ownership. We do not discount any of those things; they are very important. In a matter like this, they should be included in the consultation—and they were.

Senator PRATT —What you are saying is they do not have a right of veto over the—

Mr Levy —Under the Land Rights Act and, we say, under Aboriginal tradition, it is the traditional Aboriginal owners as a group in accordance with their traditional decision-making process which have the veto.

Senator PRATT —You are also saying that all the evidence of those things is in a private report that is held by the previous government; is that right?

Mr Levy —It was provided to the previous minister, who relied on it in accepting the nomination.

Senator PRATT —My final question regards Labor’s policy. You have argued in your submission that should the current act be repealed and Labor’s policy implemented—that the current site should retain the right to nominate. Do you believe that the current nomination would withstand due process and oversight of a further future consultation in relation to these issues in terms of the mandate that you believe this particular site has?

Mr Levy —That is a good question. First, our proposal would not involve further consultations regarding the nomination that has occurred. However, if it was the case that procedural fairness had not been removed by the amendments made to the judicial review act, the Administrative Decisions (Judicial Review) Act 1977, and there had been a challenge, my legal advice would have been—and the full council undoubtedly was satisfied—that its nomination would have easily survived any legal challenge under that legislation.

Senator LUDLAM —I realise we are fairly short of time. Can I just come back to the people finally with the power of veto who actually make the decision, as you put it, one way or another after you have consulted broadly. How many people is that physically? Is that one person or a small group—how many?

Mr Levy —Just speaking generally, ordinarily in the NLC’s region, it is fairly small groups of Aboriginal people that make the decisions and particularly the senior people in it. That certainly is the case in relation to the traditional Aboriginal owners of this—

Senator LUDLAM —I am just after how many. Is it one person where your anthropologists have told you this is the person who can make that decision, or is it a small group?

Mr Levy —In this case the anthropological advice was that all members of the group with ultimate authority regarding that land were in favour it.

Senator LUDLAM —How many people is that?

Mr Levy —If you wish, I am happy to take that on notice to get the precise number of the group concerned. I do not want to mislead the committee but, from recollection, it was 40 or 50 people, if you include younger people. If I were to give a precise answer I would need to go back and get precise information.

Senator LUDLAM —But it is within the order of 40 or 50 and you can provide us with the exact number down the track. I would appreciate it if you would take that on notice. Within that group, that number of people, the consent was, as you would put it, overwhelming?

Mr Levy —That is right.

Senator LUDLAM —I know for example that Mrs Amy Lauder has been a spokesperson for that group. Is she amongst that number?

Mr Levy —She is a member of that group, but there are other senior people in that group.

Senator LUDLAM —Okay—but she was one of the ones in the consent group?

Mr Levy —Her statements speak for themselves.

Senator LUDLAM —Is it the case in fact that she is on the full council of the NLC?

Mr Levy —That is correct.

Senator LUDLAM —Is she also married to someone who is on the executive council of the NLC?

Mr Levy —That is correct.

Senator LUDLAM —Because evidence that has been placed before us shows that, of the five clan groups, only the Ngapa were the ones with the final decision-making power and, of the three groups of Ngapa, only one had given their consent, I am just wondering on what basis you are then able to say that of all the people concerned there is overwhelming support when clearly there is not?

Mr Levy —With respect, that is only the case if it is the case under Aboriginal tradition that a broader group of persons is responsible for making the decisions. But our anthropological advice was that that was not the case.

Senator LUDLAM —Are you able to table that advice for the committee?

Mr Levy —No, because it is private advice that was provided to the former minister.

Senator LUDLAM —I will leave it there.

CHAIR —Leaving aside the issue of whether or not there was overwhelming support for the Ngapa’s clan nomination, can you outline or do you have written down the reasons why the Ngapa clan supported the nomination?

Mr Levy —There may be opportunities in the future to ask those people directly but I think some reasons were given in the NLC submission. They were satisfied in relation to the environmental issues after visiting Lucas Heights and receiving scientific presentations. They were wishing to take advantage of the rare opportunity to cause development to happen in remote parts of the Northern Territory on their terms, so as to obtain benefits which they saw as being long-term benefits for their children and grandchildren in terms of education facilities and so forth on Muckaty Station. Also, they accepted the scientific advice that the Lucas Heights facility provides important benefits that all Australians use every day directly and indirectly.

CHAIR —Thank you, Mr Levy. Also in your submission, as has been previously pointed out, you say the NLC would only support repeal of the act if it is replaced with appropriate laws, and you suggested some components of what you would propose to be appropriate laws. Is there anything else you wish to add to that or can you give us a few dot points about what you believe would be appropriate?

Mr Levy —At the moment the act exists and the NLC supported it and continues to support it. If the Labor Party has a policy of repealing it, with some fine print about existing contracts—there is an existing contract between the Muckaty Land Trust, NLC and the Commonwealth—we would have thought it was consistent with Labor Party policy that that be preserved. Also, of course longstanding Labor Party and coalition policy for decades has required a remote site for the waste which currently is at Lucas Heights and in Woomera. So it is not really for us to say what government policy is. If government policy remains as it is, then we will work with it. If government policy changes, then we will endeavour to make a contribution to it at that time. The main thrust is that there has been a nomination made and there is a legitimate expectation by that group regarding those benefits. The view of the NLC full council is that if other groups—and there might not be any—wish to develop their country they ought to be able to as well.

CHAIR —If there are no further questions, thank you very much to the representatives of the Northern Land Council for appearing before the committee today and for your submission. We appreciate it very much.

Just before we break for afternoon tea, I should alert participants in this inquiry that a number of media organisations and others have been recording proceedings separately from Hansard. If you have any issues with having that recording used in public broadcast, please let the secretariat know. We will now suspend for afternoon tea.

Proceedings suspended from 3.06 pm to 3.33 pm