The Federal Government’s Native Title Payments Working Group Report focuses too much on the responsibilities of the minerals industry and should give more consideration to the private sector, the Minerals Council of Australia (MCA) said.
“The minerals industry considers that Government should be looking to engage industry more broadly in the Indigenous Economic Development Strategy, and be looking at the role of the private sector as a whole,” the MCA said in its Optimising Benefits from Native Title Agreements report.
“There is substantial scope for leading practice agreement making to be extended to industries more broadly who’s operations intersect with Indigenous communities, and to the activities of Governments at all levels.”
The MCA also disputes the discussion paper’s assertion that cash payments do not deliver long term benefit to Indigenous communities.
“While seeking to minimise unfettered cash payments to individuals, the minerals industry supports the use of limited cash payments to senior Traditional Owners centred on areas of need,” the MCA said.
The council believes that the best way to optimise benefits from native title agreements is through government investment.
“Industry believes that regulation or legislation of mining agreements is not the answer, but that there are real opportunities for governments to invest in building greater capacity in the Native Title system to ensure that negotiations are independent and begin from a ‘level playing field’,” the MCA said.
“The MCA continues to strongly advocate the need for a substantial increase in resourcing to Native Title Representative Bodies and Prescribed Bodies Corporate as part of the overall program of reforms to the Native Title system.”
The MCA ultimately recommends an amended taxation system for Native Title payments.
“The development of Aboriginal Community Development Corporations, a form of trust structure available on an opt-in basis with special tax treatment, such as full exemption on expenditure that is classed as capacity building in Indigenous communities,” the MCA said.
“The MCA would be eager to work with Government to develop a broad consultation process on the proposed model for further development and implementation.”