June 6, 2012
The National Farmers’ Federation is seeking “an immediate and full briefing” from Federal Attorney-General Nicola Roxon over proposed changes to Native Title legislation announced today.
In a speech delivered in Townsville, Ms Roxon announced a suite of changes to the legislation including reform for Indigenous Land Use Agreements, hardwiring criteria for what constitutes “good faith” negotiations and setting aside historical extinguishment in relation to parks and reserves where agreed between claimants and governments.
“Farmers have worked hard over many years to develop trust and cooperation in relation to the native title process and have always negotiated with claimants in good faith,” NFF Vice-President Duncan Fraser said.
“To ensure this goodwill is maintained, it is essential that we are afforded the same level of respect and trust by the government in further developing and implementing any changes.
“We are unsure as to how the announced changes will improve a process that we believe is working well, highlighted by the number of recent cases settled or close to settlement.
“Today, we are seeking guarantees from Government that the setting aside of historical extinguishment does not extend to pastoral leases.
“At this stage, it is impossible to respond in any further detail to today’s announcement.”
Meanwhile, AgForce fears the reforms could “waste 20 years of hard work dedicated to formulating a process in Queensland that already works well for all stakeholders”.
“For three months AgForce, via the NFF, has been trying to meet with Minister Roxon to discuss Native Title,” AgForce General President Brent Finlay said.
“Our concern is while we have spoken about issues including good faith negotiation and ILUAs with government in the past, at no point had it been indicated new legislation would be introduced.
“We are now uncertain how the detail of these legislative changes will impact on the Native Title claim process which is a process we believe is already working well in Queensland for all parties.
“Initially approval was a very, very slow process that took years to reach any real outcome for claimants and for landholders.
“However after many years of negotiation and consultation the process has been significantly improved and claims are now quickly reaching a resolution.
“It is essential the Federal Government now consults with all stakeholders, including the rural sector, on any new legislation that is introduced to be certain it meets the requirements of both landholders and claimants.”