Sen Malcolm Roberts Native Title Inquiry Needed Now!

As a servant to the people of Queensland and Australia, I speak to Senator Hanson’s motion, which I’ll read for clarification. That the following matter be referred to the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee for inquiry and report by the 4th of June, 2024. Clause A, the establishment of a sunset date in relation to submission of claims of native title, after which no further claims of native title can be made. And B, the effectiveness of the operation of the native title system, options to improve economic development resulting from native title and options to improve certainty over the claim process. So you want an inquiry? That’s what we want.

Since the concept of native title was accepted by the High Court in the case of Mabo, there have been mixed views from indigenous and non-indigenous commentators as to the benefits that have flowed to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. The extent and nature of these was spelled out in in the now rather complex Native Title Act 1993, and some further decisions of the High Court, including the Wick case in 1996. The Act sets out a bundle of rights, some exclusive and some non-exclusive. Some exclusive rights relate to traditional activities, including the rights to fish, hunt, and gather within the determined claim area. And I note as an aside there that Minister Plebischek’s latest piece of legislation seeks to take that away from Aboriginals according to Aboriginals in Northern Australia. But those rights coming back cannot be transferred or onsold. Native title is extinguished by subsequent freehold and suppressed by leasehold, although that may revive at the expiry of the lease.

Recent figures from the Native Title Tribunal indicate that determinations comprise more than 50 % of Australian landmass, more than half our country. One of the features of the Native Title Act is the attempt to balance the rights of all parties. The use of indigenous land use agreements is a way of establishing possible land use, including mining leases and other means of gaining some commercial benefit registered for the traditional owners. These can be varied at some later time through the National Native Title Tribunal. When we were last in Cooktown, we met with a local community leader, an upstanding man who shared with us his views on native title and its impacts on his community and on many communities across Cape York. He said that native title was important from the aspect of recognition of the indigenous perspective of the relationship with the land and recognising that indigenous people were the first inhabitants of Australia and that they had inherent property rights in the land. His view was that the Native Title Act was NOT PROVIDING NOT PROVIDING indigenous people with something tangible because they could not use native title to advance any individual interests. Land under native title cannot be Mortgaged to Help build a home, or be used as collateral to support a business loan. The land is essentially LOCKED UP and not used to support small projects. It’s really about SEIZING THE LAND and holding it and not giving it to anyone to use. It’s no wonder that we see the words United Nations so frequently in the Native Title Act preamble. This is a land grab, and the Aboriginals are NOT BENEFITTING. Because the land is not freehold, nobody is able to work towards owning their own home because the property is now locked away out of reach. No one is getting this land. The Commonwealth government are able to reclaim Native Title land and convert it to freehold, and some compensation is then paid to the traditional owners, but this does not benefit any individuals.

People in the cities think that this was all fixed years ago.

They don’t realise that the number one complaint in remote communities, Aboriginal communities, across the North of Australia, is they can’t get access to land, to have their own houses, to have their own businesses. With land ownership prevented, there is little incentive to work towards beneficial goals. He said that he wished to own, my friend said that he wished to own his own place in this community. He cannot, he cannot own his own place in the community. He wishes to build up and expand his small business as a shop owner, but he cannot buy the premises. He must hope that he can lease the shop from the local traditional owners. From the local traditional owners. These comments were echoed right across the Cape from constituents and council mayors and council members, and in the territory, and we’ve heard also in Western Australia. It was universal. There was not one person to whom we spoke who has a good thing to say about native title other than it provides some recognition as first Australians. When asked about the government’s closing the gap policy, he made the telling comment that the government was not serious about closing the gap because that would be contrary to the white and black Aboriginal industry that thrives on keeping Aboriginals dependent. With the exception of two Aboriginal members of Parliament, Senator Nampa Jimpa Price and Senator Karen Little. The other nine aboriginal MPs don’t talk about the white and black Aboriginal industry that consists of lawyers, consultants, activists, academics, politicians, and bureaucrats who are parasitic, living parasitically off the money that is given to the Aboriginal communities and they’ve stolen it from the Aboriginal communities. The billions of dollars that are poured into solving the problem are siphoned off by those supposed to be assisting and little of the money and other handouts make it to those in real need.

That’s what’s going on in this country. It’s important for many people to keep the gap wide open. Listening to a councillor up in Badu Island in the Torres Strait, when we asked him about closing the gap, and we asked all the, I’ve been across the Cape two times than three times to some communities. When we asked every community, what about closing the gap? Some people said, what’s closing the gap? Others said, it’s useless. But this particular councillor in Badu Island said to me, Malcolm, the point about closing the gap is it’ll never be closed because there are people feeding off the maintenance of the gap. The parasitic white and black Aboriginal industry, feeding off closing the gap.

My friend goes on, he said that one of the biggest problems in the communities was the lack of decent community housing. There were 19 people living in one of the local houses and many people homeless. In his community, 70 % of the residents were receiving welfare. Many were not coping. Mental health issues were climbing. What my staff have seen on Mornington Island is just disgraceful. And it’s caused by the white and black Aboriginal industry. They perpetuate the misery so that they can get the funds. So as I said, this was a common comment across the Cape and up into the Torres Strait. Further north, the mayor told me that the problems also involved how grant monies were divided up between the various interest groups and again highlighted the housing and employment crises. There were no jobs and not enough housing.

Why will only two members of this Senate discuss, only two Aboriginal members of this Senate and discuss the white and black Aboriginal industry?

And I’ve got to commend Senator Nampatjimpa Price for doing so with vigour, because she points out that that white and black industry is destroying accountability. And it won’t change in the Aboriginal communities without accountability. And the people in the communities that I’ve listened to are hungry for autonomy and accountability. They want it. I understand that in 1998, John Howard attempted to amend the National Native Title Act as Prime Minister and moved an amendment to put in place a sunset clause. John Howard, I’m advised, moved to put in place a sunset clause. As Prime Minister, what advice did he get on the legality? Senator Cash would get some answer to clause A if there was some form of inquiry. What’s wrong with having an inquiry? Why do you keep blocking Senator Pauline Hanson wanting simple inquiries into basic fundamental questions. Torres Strait Islanders, and as I understand it, the Torres Strait Islands, before Cook arrived, had some form of property rights that handed down from generation to generation and were clearly recognised as being owned by the holder of the land. But the mainland not so, so I’m advised. The mainland not so. And then we were reminded by Senator Rennick that the High Court decision on Mabo was very close, 4-3. We need an inquiry to see how it’s working and to go back to fundamentals. 31 years, Senator Rennick said. We need an inquiry. We’re the House of Review. I concur with Senator Rennick. Senator Ayres raises the point about Aboriginal Warren Mundine possibly entering the Senate. I don’t know. But his Senator is not wanting Aboriginals in the Senate because of their views? So no one tonight has offered a solution to the native title problem of landlocking, although revisiting Indigenous land use agreements and considering leases for individual housing projects may deserve further consideration. We need an inquiry. Thank you, Senator Roberts.

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