The National Farmers Federation says it is “watching with caution” changes to native title legislation announced by federal Attorney General Nicola Roxon yesterday.
Ms Roxon said the Government will drive reforms to the Native Title Act 1993 to ensure a sustainable and fair native title system that creates economic and social opportunities for Indigenous Australians.
Speaking in Townsville, she said 20 years on from Mabo with native title well entrenched in Australian law, it is now time to look forward to shape the next 20 years.
“The Government will improve the flexibility and scope of Indigenous Land Use Agreements, create clear requirements for good faith in negotiations and allow parties to form agreements about historical extinguishment of native title in parks and reserves.
“Importantly, we will clarify that income tax and capital gains tax will not apply to payments from a native title agreement.
“I strongly believe that these reforms on top of the Native Title Tribunal reforms announced in the budget will improve the quality of negotiations, encourage positive relationships through flexible agreement-making and speed up the determination process. They will also help Indigenous people to unlock the economic benefits of their native title.”
Minister for Families, Communities and Indigenous Affairs Jenny Macklin also announced the terms of reference for a review of native title organisations, to ensure the system is delivering for Indigenous people and communities. The review will examine not only Native Title Representative Bodies and Native Title Service Providers, but also consider the role and impact of other service providers to native title groups.
NFF vice president Duncan Fraser said farmers had worked hard over many years to develop trust and cooperation in relation to the native title process and had always negotiated with claimants in good faith.
“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,” Mr Fraser said.
“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 and we call on the Attorney General to provide an immediate and full briefing to the NFF.”