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Saturday, 18 December 1993
Page: 5165


Senator GARETH EVANS (Minister for Foreign Affairs) (5.56 p.m.) —I think that overstates the problem of having native title around when there is a valid grant of an interest, whether it is a mining interest or some other kind of interest. People with valid grants can go off and do their thing pursuant to that grant, and the existence of native title is not going to have much to impact upon them. In the case of a mining interest, for example, a subsequent determination that there was in fact some native title simply means that that native title will revive in its force and effect and have full force and effect after the period of the grant in question.  As this provision and the related provisions are constructed, if the claimant wants to go down this path and put in the relevant application and after two months no-one comes forward to lodge a native title claim, then the act of the granting of the interest can take place and it will be valid. So there is that degree of certainty.

  True it is, as Senator Ellison says, that even after that initial two-month period a claimant might come along and in due course establish the existence of a native title, but it will be against the background of a valid act having occurred and an interest having been validly granted. So the native titleholder who comes along after the event will have to wait—presumably some considerable time—before the determination of the existence of the native title is of any utility.

  If the developer, or the miner, or whoever, wants absolute certainty that there is no native title impacting or likely to have any relevance at all to the area in question, he can wait for the completion of all the determination processes—a longer period than two months—but it is up to him whether he chooses to wait. Most people would be delighted to proceed on the basis of a guaranteed validity of the grant in question, which they are able to do after two months on the basis of no-one coming forward to lodge a claim. I think that is a pretty reasonable balance of the interests that are involved here.