Richard Court

Richard Court


    Premier says Labor's native title policy a sham

    22/01/2001 1:20 PM

    Premier Richard Court says the Labor Party’s so-called solution to native title in Western Australia is ‘half-baked’ and will only make matters worse for the State’s crucial mining and resources sector.

    Premier Richard Court said it was the height of hypocrisy for Labor to talk about fixing the native title backlog when they had spent nearly eight years deliberately frustrating the Coalition’s attempts to introduce a workable native title framework in WA.

    “Their remedy for the situation in WA is to copy failed measures adopted by Labor Governments in other States,” Mr Court said.

    “The ALP is promoting a model forced on the Queensland Government by Federal Labor headquarters in Canberra. This model entrenches the right to negotiate for nearly all prospecting and exploration - including activity on pastoral lease lands.

    “Under the plan, the expedited procedure processes which currently apply in WA will be scrapped. While not perfect, this process at least provides explorers with an opportunity to avoid the unworkable right to negotiate regime.

    “By heading down this path, the Labor Party has played into the hands of those who would wish to exploit the right to negotiate to extort money from prospectors and explorers who have already been devastated by native title.”

    Mr Court said the Queensland model that the ALP planned to adopt had devastated exploration in that State.

    Less than a month ago, the Chief Executive of the Queensland Mining Council said ‘The disaster we have in exploration overrides everything……three months after the Premier (Beattie) saying the native title package would work, we are not even half a step towards moving the backlog of exploration permits’.

    Mr Court said Labor also proposed to adopt a New South Wales model which it said would improve access for low impact exploration.

    “This proposal defies belief,” he said.

    “The New South Wales proposal, which has also been imposed on Queensland by the Federal Labor Party, actually further restricts exploration.

    “It ensures that any exploration that involves the removal of a tuft of grass must go through the right to negotiate process. Under that scenario, explorers in Western Australia will be forced to ‘close up shop’.

    “As for their proposal to double the number of case managers in the Department of Minerals and Energy to process titles, under their plans they would have to put 20 times the number of staff in those areas and they still wouldn’t scratch the surface.”

    Mr Court said the Coalition, on the other hand, was dedicated to resolving native title issues through the introduction of workable legislation which would replace the right to negotiate with a consultation process on pastoral lease lands.

    “We’ve also demonstrated our ability to negotiate agreements with Aboriginal people - including the Spinifex, Nganawongka and the proposed Noonkanbah agreements,” he said.

    “Finally, we are not afraid to litigate to protect the State’s ability to administer the grant of land and mining titles for the public benefit.

    “We have a commitment to achieving a workable native title framework for WA, Labor’s past actions and current policy show they are not.”

    Media reference: Casey Cahill 9222 9475