The Guardian September 19, 2001

Anger over Native Title Act

Queensland Aboriginal groups have reacted angrily to attempts by the 
Howard Government to force through amendments to the Native Title Act.

Federal Attorney-General Darryl Williams has drafted amendments to the 
Native Title Act, without any consultation with Aboriginal leaders. The 
Howard Government previously amended the Act in an attempt to protect 
pastoral and mining interests in the event of land claims under the Act.

However, the result was a contradictory piece of legislation that was 
described by the chairperson of the Queensland Indigenous working Group, 
Terry O'Shane, as "virtually unworkable".

The current attempts to amend the legislation have been prompted by severe 
criticism of the Act and by the imminent federal elections. Aboriginal 
leaders have expressed the view that the proposed amendments do not 
seriously address the issues involved and constitute only "tinkering at the 
edges" because of pressure from commercial interests.

"These amendments are too little, too late, and have been developed with no 
input from native title representative bodies", commented Mr O'Shane.

"When we met with Daryl Williams (on Tuesday 11) we made it absolutely 
clear that Indigenous Queenslanders will not be supporting this Bill and 
that we want a full and comprehensive review of the whole Native Title 
Act", said Mr O'Shane.

"For some years now we have been suggesting a variety of changes to make 
the Act work more efficiently and yet less than three months out of a 
federal election Darryl Williams introduces these amendments with no 
negotiations with Indigenous people. ...

"The Howard Government should be reminded that they have certain 
obligations under international conventions to ensure informed Indigenous 
consent to legislative changes to our rights.

"We all want an Act that will work, but the only way to achieve this is for 
a comprehensive review of the Act that takes into account Aboriginal and 
Torres Strait Islander opinions, not just those from Howard's friends at 
the big end of town."

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