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Century zinc - triumph for perserverance

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Resolution of the Century Zinc issue was a triumph for perseverance by the company and the local community, Federal Minister for Resources and Energy Senator Warwick Parer said today.

"That it took so long is another indictment of the previous Government's Native Title Act," he said. " The benefits of this project will flow to Aboriginal communities despite the Act, not because of it."

Two years of unnecessary delay has had a high cost, Senator Parer told the Senate today when answering a question from Senator Ferris (SA).

He said 3200 direct and indirect jobs available during the construction stage of this zinc mine had been denied for two years — in an area where there were few jobs. Another 4125 direct and indirect jobs in the production phase also had been delayed for two years.

"And at the end of the day the Aboriginal communities of the Gulf will receive the same $60 million package offered by the Company back in August 1995 - at a time, I might add, when it was thought that Native Title over the mine had been extinguished," Senator Parer said.

"For two years, local and regional economies, and that means thousands of small businesses, have been denied the jobs, the training and the financial benefits from this mine - all because the system failed.

"Australia lost badly needed export income - essential to pay off Labor's mammoth foreign debt."

Senator Parer said the now proven unworkability of the Native Title Act puts question marks over the vital investment Australia has to attract, domestically and from overseas, to get the bank of major proposed resource projects - $55 billion worth - underway.




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"Investors must have certainty," he told the Senate. " Century Zinc shows that cannot be guaranteed under the present system. Native title amendments must pass and operate as soon as possible. The confusion and uncertainty of WIK must be eliminated.

"The implementation of the Prime Minister's 10-point WIK plan will ensure that a farce like the Century Zinc issue will never be repeated.

"That plan leaves no doubt of the rights of all parties, and prevents fringe opportunists, interfering and virtually vetoing due process.

"That plan allows pastoralists to get on with their business, while allowing indigenous people to maintain traditional access to pastoral land.

"Just as important are the Government's existing amendments to the Native Tile act — amendments that remove the weaknesses of the Native Title Act — weaknesses that have led to abuses, confusion and delay.

"In future there will be one right of negotiation, eliminating the present system that has developed of picking off a proposed project piece by piece.

"It will make registration of a native title claim more responsible removing the multitude of ambit claims that have terrorised ordinary Australians and done enormous damage to the reconciliation process.

"More and more aboriginal communities are realising much more is to be gained by compromise then confrontation. They now know this Government will protect their interests while also protecting the interests of all Australians .

"If nothing else the Century Zinc saga has cleared the way for public acceptance of the changes that must be made.

"I congratulate the company officials, the leaders of the Gulf Aboriginal communities and the ATSIC members who have persevered in their commitment to this project.

"We can now get on with the job of establishing a mine that will bring enormous benefits to aborigines, small business, Queensland and Australia."

FURTHER INFORMATION..................... Bob B audino...... 0419 438818 INTERNET: