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The Government Has "Fixed" Native Title Law, Just Like It Promised Adani

Amendments to the Native Title Act passed with Labor's help, against the wishes of some traditional owners.

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Controversial amendments to the Native Title Act have passed the Senate with the support of Labor and the Coalition.

The vote passed the senate on Wednesday afternoon, with only the Greens opposed.

The amendments make it easier for companies such as Adani to secure Indigenous Land Use Agreements (ILUAs) from traditional owners, as they would only need agreement from a majority of traditional owners, not unanimous consent.

The amendments were made necessary by a Federal Court decision earlier this year that invalidated an ILUA in Western Australia as it did not have the support of all traditional owners.

The government had expected to pass the amendments in the May sitting of parliament but was unexpectedly delayed in the Senate when Labor refused to sign off on them.

Opponents of the bill have criticised the government for "rushing" the legislation through to appease Indian mining giant Adani, which wants to build Australia's largest coal mine in Queensland's Galilee Basin.

Adani's ILUA for the Carmichael mine project in Queensland's Galilee Basin is the subject of a Federal Court challenge by traditional owners, who say their case against the mining company is a "slam dunk" without these amendments.

The government has denied claims it is doing Adani's bidding, but at a meeting with the company's chief earlier this year, prime minister Malcolm Turnbull pledged to "fix" Native Title laws to help the controversial project move forward.

In a recent Senate debate on the issue, Coalition senator Ian Macdonald repeatedly referred to the amendments as "the Adani bill".

Speaking in the Senate on Tuesday, Greens senator Nick McKim dismissed the amendments as an “absolute crock” that ride roughshod over the W&J people.

“This has got nothing to do with Native Title, and everything to do with getting up a massively polluting mega coal mine… that is going to, over time, kill the Great Barrier Reef," he said.

“You can have one or the other - Adani or the Great Barrier Reef - but you cannot have both.”

The traditional owners of the Galilee Basin, the Wangan and Jagalingou (W&J) Family Council, says the amendments erode the legacy of legendary native title campaigner Eddie Mabo.

"It is clear from recent polling that Aboriginal people have not been informed about these changes or consented to them," senior W&J Traditional Owners Council spokesperson Adrian Burragubba said in a statement on Tuesday. "The majority do not support the passage of the bill.”

Youth spokesperson for the W&J council Murrawah Johnson said in the statement that the amendments were an abandonment of Indigenous rights in favour of a giant international mining corporation.

"Settling native title amendments has become synonymous with looking after Adani's interests, not about good lawmaking for Indigenous people," she said.

"Adani want the major parties to enable them to take away our rights to say no, to mount legal challenges and resist their destruction of our lands and waters."

The W&J council has pledged to keep fighting Adani's proposed Carmichael mine through the courts, saying it would destroy vast tracts of Indigenous lands and be ruinous for the environment.

The W&J Council currently has four separate legal actions against Adani underway in the Queensland Federal Court.

Rob Stott is a news editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in Sydney.

Contact Rob Stott at rob.stott@buzzfeed.com.

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