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Decision That Stalled Adani Deal Could Be Overturned

By Paige Miller

A court decision that froze 126 indigenous land-use agreements, including between Indian mining giant Adani and the Wangan and Jagalingou people, could be overturned next week.

Attorney-General George Brandis yesterday announced plans to introduce amendments to the Native Title Act, the legislation guiding Indigenous Land Use Agreements registrations.

The move comes after a ruling by the full bench of the Federal Court handed down in relation to a Western Australia ILUA agreement, rendering any agreement, without the signed approval of every person in the Native Title claim, invalid. Previously the majority signing had been accepted.

In Adani’s case, there were 12 formal native title applicants of the Wangan and Jagalingou. These were split, seven to five in support of Adani.

A formal “authorisation meeting” last year voted 294-1 to endorse the Adani agreement.

Mr Brandis said the court decision last week paved the way to allow the Federal Government to change legislation. In an interview yesterday, he told Sky News it had been believed that in order to get an Indigenous Land Use Agreement registered, it was not necessary that all members of the claimant group signed the ILUA.

Mr Brandis explained a government could not “legislate against the possibility that a higher court might overturn the decision of a lower court, which has settled the law”.

He said he had received approval from Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to proceed urgently with the amendments to the Act.

“I expect to have the legislation by the end of (Monday) and introduce it into the Parliament this week.”

Mr Brandis called for the Opposition to support the amendment to the Native Title Act when it goes through Parliament.

The Queensland Labor Government has called on the Federal Government to legislate the amendment.

“Now the magnitude of the problem is graphically clear, I call on all politicians from all sides of politics to raise up above politics and work to solve this problem that has the potential to affect hundreds of mining leases in Queensland and cost thousands of jobs,” he said.

“It’s imperative Canberra works together to solve this matter as soon as possible.”

‘Adani won’t be halted’

“I spoke to the Attorney-General George Brandis first thing (yesterday) morning to urge immediate action be taken on changing the Native Title Act, so that Adani will not be impacted as they work towards developing the Carmichael Mine, Rail and Port Project,” Federal Member for Dawson George Christensen said late Monday.

“The Attorney-General assured me that the process is already under way after he was given approval by the Prime Minister to proceed urgently. It’s certainly unfortunate that this issue, which had the potential to threaten Indigenous land use agreements has arisen, but I have full confidence that it will be dealt with immediately, and any hint of commercial uncertainty will be removed.

“There are still some court challenges facing Adani, which are taking time to resolve, but I have no doubt that they will be. I look forward to the start of construction on the $16.5 billion Carmichael project this year.”

PM ‘riding roughshod’

The spokesperson for W&J Traditional Owner Council, Adrian Burragubba, said the amendments were “fast-tracked” and “knee-jerk” and “an attempt to grease the wheels for the controversial Carmichael mine proposal, over our persistent objections and our rights”.

“It’s clear Turnbull is willing to ride roughshod over Indigenous land rights for the sake of Adani and this dirty project… There is no commercial uncertainty. There is no wholesale threat to Indigenous Land Use Agreements and business interests in the country.”

Information rejected

Negotiations surrounding the use of $1billion in public funds for Adani’s Carmichael Coal Mine and Rail project will be done in secret after a request for meeting dates was rejected.

A “concentration of media” and possible protests were listed as the main reasons the Freedom of Information request was denied, as the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility claimed both would have an “adverse effect” on the agency.

Submitted by environmental group Greenpeace on December 22, 2016, the FOI request asked for documents outlining dates and locations of NAIF board meetings this year.

In a response on January 20, 2017, NAIF CEO Laurie Walker said while a document did exist with that information, she would not be making it available.

She said board meetings were a “peak time” for the agency and as a “small team” they would be impacted by extra work.

“If the dates of board meetings were disclosed, there is a reasonable likelihood that this would lead to a concentration of media and other enquiries,” Ms Walker said.

“Large amounts of people and noise at the site of the board meeting is very likely to adversely affect the board’s ability to operate effectively.”

An Adani spokesman said FOI requests were out of their control.

Source: Whitsunday Times.

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