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Opposition fails to be constructive on Native Title.



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ATTORNEY-GENERAL THE HON PHILIP RUDDOCK MP

NEWS RELEASE

Parliament House, Canberra ACT 2600  Telephone (02) 6277 7300  Fax (02) 6273 4102 www.ag.gov.au/ag

12 January 2007 7/2006

OPPOSITION FAILS TO BE CONSTRUCTIVE ON NATIVE TITLE

Attorney-General Philip Ruddock today expressed his disappointment at the continued unwillingness of the Opposition to engage constructively on native title reform.

“Last week the Shadow Attorney-General claimed the system was a failure, but did not offer any meaningful suggestions for change, beyond throwing more money at native title representative bodies,’’ Mr Ruddock said.

“In fact, the Federal Opposition has not put forward any real proposals for reform since the last substantial amendments to the Native Title Act in 1998.”

The Attorney-General said the Government had recognised the need for improvements to the native title system and worked with all stakeholders to secure more efficient and effective outcomes.

In September 2005, Mr Ruddock announced practical reforms to improve the performance of the native title system. Last month, he introduced into Parliament the Native Title Amendment Bill 2006, which will advance four of the six elements of the reform package.

“This includes specific measures to encourage Native Title Representative Bodies to work more efficiently and effectively,” Mr Ruddock said.

“Mr Thomson’s State and Territory colleagues are prepared to support this process, as reflected in a communiqué agreed by Native Title Ministers on 15 December 2006.

“The Federal Opposition has been conspicuously silent on the reforms, and has chosen not to participate in the consultation process to date.

“I invite Mr Thomson to examine the Government’s website on the reform package, which is at www.ag.gov.au/nativetitlesystemreform.”

Mr Ruddock has previously expressed his concern at the amount of time taken to resolve native title claims, and his commitment to ensure Indigenous Australians are able to enjoy due recognition of their rights under law.

“If the Opposition want to dwell on statistics which lend weight to my concern, it is instructive to compare the performance of the native title system under the previous Government, ‘’ Mr Ruddock said.

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“The Keating Government enacted the original Native Title Act in 1993. In the subsequent period progress was painfully slow with only three native title determinations being made in Australia prior to the Howard Government’s amendments to the legislation in 1998.”

There have now been 95 determinations of native title. The majority of these have been reached with the consent of all parties.

Nearly 9 per cent of Australia’s land mass has been the subject of native title determinations, an area comprising more than 688,000 square kilometres.

There has been sharp growth in determinations, 264 registered Indigenous Land Use Agreements have been made under the Act and there have been thousands of native title-related agreements.

“I congratulate all stakeholders, including Indigenous claimants, pastoralists, miners, and the fishing industry on their efforts to secure enduring and meaningful agreements,’’ said Mr Ruddock.

“I would not insult such efforts by characterising the system as a failure, and I am pleased by the willingness of stakeholders to engage with the Government in consultation on the reform package to improve the system.

“I will be continuing to work with all stakeholders to secure the promise which native title can and should offer for a better Australia.

“I look forward to the support of the Federal Opposition in this process.”

Media Contact: Michael Pelly 0419 278 715