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Queensland: Premier is pleased that second Native Title Bill is passed.



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PETER THOMPSON: It was a tumultuous night in Queensland politics last night with the passing of the State's second Native Title Bill.  The Government says the Bill will streamline approval processes for mining exploration and development.  But while the Parliament was divided along party lines over native title, it took the unusual step of unanimously supporting a motion calling for National Competition Policy to be drastically changed.

 

John Taylor reports.

 

JOHN TAYLOR: With the passing of the Queensland Government's second major Native Title Bill through Parliament last night, Premier Peter Beattie is claiming an Australian first.

 

PETER BEATTIE: We've led Australia in establishing laws which, while they have to be approved by the Federal Government and the Senate, set a clear standard which will not only drive the mining industry and jobs in this State, but are fair, they are principled and they are moral, that give a fair go to indigenous Queenslanders.

 

JOHN TAYLOR: The Bill gives Aborigines a limited right to negotiate over some mining projects in Queensland but not over mining exploration.  That didn't sit well with Labor's opposition.  The Nationals and One Nation claim the laws would give Aborigines more rights than other Australians.  The Independent, Liz Cunningham, in turn announced plans to give pastoralists a similar right to negotiate as Aborigines would have under the law.  Peter Beattie, for his part, isn't rushing to support such a move.

 

PETER BEATTIE: Well, I'd have to look at the detail.  But as you understand, the two pieces of legislation we have passed, we believe are fair and have established a workable model.  Now, I want to be clear.  When it comes to the issue of exploration, there is a consultation right, but there is no right to negotiate.

 

JOHN TAYLOR: But while the minority government's Native Title Bill was passed only with the support of two Independents, a motion getting stuck into National Competition Policy was passed with the unanimous support of all 89 Members.

 

In part it reads: 

 

The House condemns the views emanating from the National Competition Council and calls on the Federal Government to constrain the powers of this unelected body in order that it is not able to slash millions of dollars from State Governme nt budgets, with potentially devastating effects on employment and services, particularly in rural and regional areas.

 

Peter Beattie flies to Canberra today, armed with the motion and he is pulling no punches, claiming competition policy has destroyed job s throughout rural and regional Queensland.

 

PETER BEATTIE: National Competition Policy, and the ways it's being implemented in this State, is having an effect on jobs and job security, and we believe that the whole set of principles should be re-negotiated.

 

JOHN TAYLOR: Now, how much support do you think you'll get from the States and the Territories?

 

PETER BEATTIE: That remains to be seen.  I mean, clearly, we have the Coalition in Queensland backing me when I want to make these changes.  And one of the other changes that's worth mentioning is that we want the responsibility for the administration of National Competition Policy to be transferred, from the National Competition Council to the Council of Australian Governments.  I mean, it's rare to get all sides of politics agreeing.

 

JOHN TAYLOR: Has it ever happened before in Queensland political history?

 

PETER BEATTIE: Well, it may on minor matters but when it comes to significant matters like this, this is a first of such significance.  And that's why I think it's a clear message to the  Prime Minister, when it comes to rural water policy, when it comes to the implementation of National Competition Policy, particularly the payments, that all Queensland political parties want to revisit, want to review and want some changes to the policy and how it's implemented.

 

PETER THOMPSON: Queensland's Premier, Peter Beattie.