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Senator Stott-Despoja - "fact fudger extraordinaire"

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MEDIA RELEASE SENATOR THE HON NICK MINCHIN Special Minister of State_____________ _____

14 December 1997

Senator Stott-Despoia — “fact fudqer extraordinaire”

Senator Stott-Despoja must be the “fact fudger extraordinaire” following her latest foray into the native title debate.

The Senator’s press release issued yesterday “Fischer’s Wik brochure fudges facts - Democrats” clearly demonstrates her own ignorance of the native title debate.

Her assertion that 21% of Australia is freehold land is incorrect and shows she does not understand the system of land tenure in this country, or the problems posed by native title.

Only about 13% of Australia is freehold land. Almost another 8% consists of around 60,000 exclusive possession grants. These are not freehold grants, and include residential, commercial and some agricultural leases.

Six hundred types of exclusive possession grants are listed in the Native Title Amendment Bill’s schedule of exclusive tenures. In line with the Mabo and Wik decisions the schedule confirms that, like freehold, grants of exclusive possession extinguish native title.

Presumably, Senator Stott-Despoja’s preparedness to argue that 21% of Australia is freehold means that the Democrats have decided to drop their opposition to the schedule.

Senator Stott-Despoja is also incorrect in her claim that it is highly unlikely that native title would be claimed on land that is Aboriginal owned or controlled, and that therefore “only” 65% of Australia is claimable.

Native Title claims can and are being made over land already owned by Aboriginal people: there is no guarantee that those occupying such land are the native title holders. Many ambit and overlapping claims are being made by indigenous people over land occupied by other indigenous people.

This is why it took several years to resolve the native title status of the Hopevale area on Cape York - an area held under Deed of Grant in Trust (DOGIT) for the benefit of Aboriginal people. This was only the second native title matter to be determined under the current Native Title Act.

Before Senator Stott-Despoja accuses anyone else of misrepresenting or fudging the facts on native title she should correct her own “facts” first.

For further information contact Kate Schulze (02) 6277 7600

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