• A protester at an anti Adani rally. (SBS)Source: SBS
Changes to native title law clearing up legal uncertainties surrounding Adani's Carmichael mine have cleared the Senate.
By
Belinda Merhab

14 Jun 2017 - 2:00 PM  UPDATED 15 Jun 2017 - 9:50 AM

Indigenous groups have slammed a government bill that aims to resolve uncertainty around more than 120 Indigenous land use agreements relating to major projects, including the Queensland mine proposed by the Indian resources giant Adani.

The bill reverses the impact of a Federal Court ruling known as the McGlade case, which found an Indigenous land use agreement could not be registered unless all members of the "registered native title claimant" signed the agreement, including members of the group who may have died.

That ruling overturned an earlier decision, which found that an area land use agreement could be registered if it had been signed by at least one member of the registered native title claimant group.

Senior spokesperson for the W&J Traditional Owners Council, Adrian Burragubba, slammed the bill.

“Adani's problems with the Wangan and Jagalingou people are not solved this week," he said in a written statement.

“Our people are the last line of legal defence against this mine and its corrosive impact on our rights, and the destruction of country that would occur.

“Senator Brandis has been disingenuous in prosecuting his argument for these changes to native title laws, while the hands of native title bureaucrats and the mining lobby are all over the outcome."

Attorney-General George Brandis insisted the changes were widely supported by Traditional Owners.

"The people whose voices have been most loudly urging - indeed, beseeching - this parliament to get on with it and pass this bill are the Traditional Owners. That is what they have been saying," he told senators.

"They have been saying it unanimously through their representatives, the National Native Title Council, which, as I say, is the peak stakeholder body."

The amended bill passed the Senate, with Labor and crossbench support on Wednesday, and goes back to the lower house for approval.

The Greens opposed the changes, insisting they were being rushed through to appease Adani, without proper consultation with traditional land owners.

The trial to decide the fate of Adani's supposed deal with the Wangan and Jagalingou Traditional Owners is scheduled for the Federal Court in March 2018.

Members of the Wangan and Jagalingou registered native title claimant are in the Federal Court seeking to strike out Adani's Indigenous land use agreement.

They argue passage of the bill erodes the legacy of Eddie Mabo and puts the interests of miners ahead of Traditional Owner land rights.

"The major parties have jumped to the beat of the mining lobby and their backers in the native title services sector," said W&J Traditional Owners Council spokesperson Murrawah Johnson.

"Settling native title amendments has become synonymous with looking after Adani's interests, not about good lawmaking for Indigenous people."

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Western Australian Aboriginal Affairs Minister Ben Wyatt welcomed the passage of the amendment.

“The passing of this Bill has restored certainty to the ILUA process across Western Australia. Requiring unanimity is an unreasonable imposition on Aboriginal people striving to ensure that their native title rights can be used to develop economic opportunities," he said.

“The State Government looks forward to working with the South West Aboriginal Land and Sea Council to finalise the South West Native Title Settlement as soon as possible.”

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Indigenous Labor senator Pat Dodson said the changes would restore certainty to the native title system, insisting they were made after extensive consultation with Indigenous groups.

"Labor recognises that the Indigenous community is not united in its support for this bill," he said in a statement.

"But the overwhelming message Labor has received through its consultation is that the consensus is in favour of certainty being returned to the native title system."

With AAP