Native title to be extinguished for Carmichael coal

Plans to extinguish native title rights over land held by Adani for the Carmichael coal mine have been met with outrage from traditional landowners.

A document obtained by the ABC from the Queensland coordinator-general's office showed the intention to remove native title rights to Moray Downs so that Adani could begin construction of infrastructure such as and airport, power station and accommodation camp.

The document states: "The Moray Downs Land acquisition includes the take of native title rights and interests of the Wangan and Jagalingou People to allow for the leasehold land to be converted to freehold.”

"No objection to the acquisition of the native title rights and interests was received.

"When the acquisition of land at Moray Downs was proposed in July 2015, the approach was for the coordinator-general to acquire the land, agree an interim licence with Adani, then within a period of around two months, have the freehold land transferred to Adani."

Wangan and Jagalingou (W&J) Traditional Owners’ Council spokesperson Adrian Burragubba condemned the plans and vowed to fight the proposal “all the way to the High Court”.

“It is beyond comprehension that the Government would consider such a shameful and absurd proposal in an era when our rights are sanctioned under international law; and when we are already in the Federal Court contesting the State Government and Adani’s attempts to override our rights,” he said.

“Premier Palaszczuk needs to rule out this outrageous proposal immediately.

“I assure the Premier she will be bringing on one of the biggest human rights battles we’ve seen in Queensland in a long time. If destroying our rights and handing our lands to a foreign mining company is on her agenda, she better think again.”

With a court case currently underway against Adani over two previous rejections of the Indigenous Land Use Agreement, Burragubba said the government would be pre-empting the outcome of that case if they attempted to compulsorily acquire the native title over Moray Downs.

“The Government should face up to the justice system and argue its case properly; and not resort to a forcible takeover of our lands so they can be destroyed by a coal mining company,” he said.

“It would be a shocking precedent for a government in Australia to extinguish title over land against the express opposition of traditional owners, and to hand that land to a private business interest – in this case a massive foreign miner with a disgraceful record of destroying environments and disrupting traditional communities overseas.”

Burragubba said the mine would “annihilate the ancient, spiritual connection to Country that makes us who we are”.

University of Queensland Centre for International Minerals and Energy Law professor Jonathan Fulcher said the controversy of the government’s proposal to extinguish native title would relate to it being done without the consent of the traditional landowners.

"It's only ever used by the Government for very large projects for obvious reasons, because it's a fairly draconian power," Fulcher said.

Last week Judge John Reeves criticised the legal representation for W&J and Adrian Burragubba in the Federal Court appeal against Adani, saying their approach to the case was “shambolic” and confused due to alterations to submissions under questioning.

"(This was) a shambolic almost process we were engaging before lunch with you chopping and changing every question," Reeves said.

"Now you're doing it again."

Lawyers for Burragubba also changed the crux of their case, moving from claims that Adani committed fraud by apparently inflating anticipated job creation numbers, to claims their action was “conduct analogous to fraud”.

Earlier this year Adani completed negotiations with W&J representatives Patrick Malone and Irene White which ensured W&J would provide management of the Doongmabulla Springs area as well as a 30,000 hectare (300km2) offset protection area for the Carmichael mine site.

At the time, White was quoted by Adani as having said: “We welcome the opportunity to come together today to meet with the other Traditional Owners across the project who have already established ILUA agreements with Adani.

“We are committed to working together to achieve positive employment, training and business development outcomes that will be of benefit to our people.

“The Indigenous Participation Plan is about the power of opportunity for the Wangan and Jagalingou People- and helping deliver power to some of the hundreds of millions of people in India who lack access to it.”

Other indigenous groups including the Birriah, Kyburra Munda Yalga (Juru), and Bulganunna (Jangga) also reached ILUAs with Adani by June this year.

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