Queensland Resources Council chief Ian Macfarlane addresses the media outside the Brisbane Supreme Court.
Queensland Resources Council chief Ian Macfarlane addresses the media outside the Brisbane Supreme Court. Geoff Egan

Brandis says WA case paved way for Native Title Act changes

ATTORNEY General George Brandis says the court decision last week has paved the way to allow the Federal Government to change legislation.

Mr Brandis, during his interview with Sky News today, said that prior to this, it was believed that in order to get an Indigenous Land Use Agreements registered, it was not necessary that all members of the claimant group had to sign the ILUA.

"That had been the case - that had been settled in law since at least 2010, settled by a case called Bygrave's case,” he said.

"However the law changed by a decision of the Full Court of the Federal Court, which is one further step up in the judicial hierarchy, so that court, a week before last, overruled the previous 2010 decision and held that all members of the relevant claimant group had to agree as a condition precedent for the registration of an ILUA.”

Mr Brandis explained a government could not "legislate against the possibility that a higher court might overturn the decision of a lower court which has settled the law”.

"As a result of that, last week, I got a briefing from my Department,” he said.

"I instructed them to prepare legislation to overcome the effect, to reverse the legislative, to reverse the effect of the Full Court's decision to change what the previous understanding of the law had been.

"And I received policy approval from the Prime Minister to proceed urgently with that and that legislation is in the process of being prepared.

"I expect to have the legislation by the end of today and introduce it into the Parliament this week.”

Mr Brandis called for the Opposition to support this amendment to the Native Title Act when it goes through parliament after the the Queensland state Labor Government called on the Federal Government to legislate this.

"I don't want to be political party about this,” he said.

1.38pm: ATTORNEY General George Brandis has announced this morning he will introduce amendments to Native Title legislation that will impact arrangements between mining companies and indigenous groups over land use.

Mr Brandis made the announcement during an interview with Sky News.

The Australian reports Mr Brandis said the amendments would be introduced to remove the "commercial uncertainty” created by the "McGlade” decision of the full bench of the Federal Court.

He said Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull had given him approval to "proceed urgently” with the changes.

12.38pm: A RESOURCES organisation has welcomed news the Federal Government plans to introduce legislation that will amend the Native Title Act and assist Adani.

On Friday an Indigenous Land Use Agreement between Adani and the Wangan and Jagalingou people was set to be registered at the National Native Title Tribunal but this was cancelled due to the precedent set by a shock Federal Court decision last week.

The decision rendered any agreement that doesn't have the signed approval of every person in the Native Title claim invalid, even though for years the majority was accepted.

As every person involved in the Native Title claim for the Adani ILUA had not signed off, the decision left both Adani and the traditional owners, who would be compensated, in limbo.

The Queensland Resources Council today welcomed the Federal Attorney-General George Brandis' announcement that the Federal Government will this week present legislation amending the Native Title Act as it related to Indigenous Land Use Agreements (ILUAs).

QRC chief executive Ian Macfarlane says future ILUAs could be at risk, which created a massive strain on the country's sovereign risk profile and makes foreign investors extremely nervous.

On February 1, the Federal Court in Western Australia rejected a $1.3 billion native title deal with local Indigenous people because some representatives did not sign off on it.

"This ruling will affect new projects and has the very real possibility of halting a significant number of projects in Queensland, including those commences since 2012. In addition, it also affects infrastructure, national parks, ports and railways,” Mr Macfarlane said.

The QRC last week called on the Federal Government to expedite legislation to ensure that ILUAs could be approved with a majority decision, and for the opposition to support the amendments, which are in line with the Federal court decision of 2010.

"Senator Brandis has managed the native title issue as best as he could up to this point,” Mr Macfarlane said.

"When he received a letter from the National Native Title Council last year, warning of the need for possible changes, there was no certainty at the time as to which way the Federal Court decision would come out.

"In fact at the time, the court proceedings were ongoing and it was unclear whether or not there would be a need for legislative change. A premature move by Senator Brandis could have been seen as prejudicing the outcome of the Federal Court and he was wise to refrain from inflaming the issue.

"Now the magnitude of the problem is graphically clear, I call on all politicians from all sides of politics to raise up above politics and work to solve this problem that has the potential to affect hundreds of mining leases in Queensland and cost thousands of jobs.

"It's imperative Canberra works together to solve this matter as soon as possible.”

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