PM Transcripts

Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 10350


Photo of Howard, John

Howard, John

Period of Service: 11/03/1996 to 03/12/2007

More information about Howard, John on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 17/05/1997

Release Type: Speech

Transcript ID: 10350

Fax from~ 17/ 05/ 97 13: 48 Pg:
MA~ Y 17 ' 97 13: 43 P. 7
Well thank you very much Tim Fischer. To Larry Acton and the Mayor, Mrs
Maloney, and to my fellow Australians.
Can I say that I welcome very much the opportunity for the first time to talk directly
and frankly and openly to a large number of my fellow Australians who I knowv are
deeply concerned, deeply worried and feel that their situation has been made needlessly
vulnerable by a highly impractical court decision. Can I also say to you ladies and
gentlemen that although I was born in Sydney and I have lived-al[ of my life in the
urban parts of Australia, I have always had an immense affection for the outback and
for the bush. I say that at the outset because in all of my political life no charge I
would reject more emphatically, and no charge would offend me more, than the
suggestion that what I've done and what I've believed in has not taken proper account
of the concerns of the Australian bush. And I want to spend, in the limited time
available to me, to tell you where some of the misapprehensions are wrong, to explain
to you that the plan the Federal Government has will deliver the security, and the
guarantees to which the pastoralists of Australia are entitled, without at the same time
producing many of the disadvantages, the instability, the expense and the years of
Constitutional challenge which would result if the simplistic alternative of blanket
extinguishment were adopted.
Now I know there are people in this audience who don't agree with that. I respect that
and I want this morning to have the opportunity to explain why I believe what we have
in mind delivers the guarantees you want without the downsides. But in doing that can
I again remind you as Tim did, that the present Native Title Act was the product of the
combined votes of the Australian Labor Party, the Australian Democrats and
Independents in the Senate. Every man and woman who was a member of the Liberal

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MAY 17 ' 97 13: 43 P. 8
4 Party and the National Party in 1993 voted against the Native Title Act. And all of the
claims, the bogus claimis, the ridiculous ambit claims that have now been put over y'our
properties are the result of legislation that was opposed tooth and nail by all of my
colleagues. And I want that understood because we are often accused of going back
on 1993. We didn't want 1993, we voted against it. And I think it's very important
that the outset that that be understood.
Now ladies and gentlemen could I say a number of very direct things to the pastoralists
who are here, and through this meeting to the pastoralists throughout Australia. That
under our 10 point plan, no pastoral leaseholder can lose anything at all under their
pastoral lease, nothing at all. I've had people say to me over the past few weeks that
they are frightened that as a result of native title claims that they can be thrown off
their property. I see signs here saying that people bought their land, of course they
bought their land. Can I say to you, you can't lose your land, and people who are
quoted around this country saying that native title claimants could have you thrown off
your land, could have you dispossessed, could take away from you what you have paid
for, that is absolutely 100% wrong. And the legislation that we are going to introduce
into the Federal Parliament will confirm that situation, and put beyond any legal doubt
that those sorts of fears are completely unfounded.
The second guarantee, and I use that word carefully, and I use that word deliberately.
The second guarantee I give you is that no pastoral leaseholder can have their title
affected by, or diminished, by a native title claim. None at all. Not affected by it or
not diminished by it.
The third very important guarantee I give you my friends is that no pastoral leaseholder
can have their conduct or their activities in any way connected with the carrying out of
a pastoral or a primary production activity interfered with by a native title claim.
We've had all this talk over the last few months that you'll need the permission of
native title claimants to put in a fence, to sink a dam, or to do anything that is
incidental to the carrying on of your business. Could I say no, no, no that cannot
happen. Because under the guarantees that wvill be contained in this legislation the
right to negotiate, that stupid property rightta a ie ontv il liat
alone, unlike other title holders in Australia, that native title right wfi be completely
abolished and removed for all time in relation to the activities of pastoralists carrying
on not only strictly defined pastoral activities, but also the fbl extent of primary
production activities which you can possibly imagine and which are contained in the
definition under the Taxation Act and as we all know unfortunately, definitions in the
Taxation Act are very widely couched indeed.
So ladies and gentlemen they are the first three guarantees that I want to give you and
can I just repeat them. That you can't have your title in any way diminished or
affected by a native title claim. You can't be put off your property. You can't be
stopped from carrying on your pastoral activities on your property. Your right to do
that will be fully confirmed. No pastoral titleholder can have their title in any way
affected or diminished, but most importantly of all, you can go away from this meeting
safe in the knowledge that when this legisation is passed in the national Parliament.
you will, have the fulal and unfettered capacity to run your property. You will not only
be able to carry on pastoral activity, but you wrill be able to diversify' into all aspects of

Fax from : 17/ 05/ 97 13: 48 Pg: 3
MAY~ 17 ' 97 13: 44 P9
primary production. You will even be able to carry on an incidental tourist business, a
farm-stay business, if that is what you want. And while ever the dominant purpose of
the use of the land remains one relating to pastoral or primary industry activity, you
will be able to do that without getting the say-so, the permission, the beg-your-pardon
or whatever of anybody else. You will be subject like anv other Australian citizen to
the operations of the ordinary laws of the States of Australia and the ordinary laws of
the Commonwealth of Australia. but please don't believe this fear-mongering that says
native title claimants can throw you off your property. They can't. We will never ever
allow that to happen.
Now ladies and gentlemen, tile other guarantees that I want to give you are these.
That if there are any compensation payments ordered to be made in relation to the
compulsory acquisition or compulsory resumption of any established native title rights
anywhere in Australia, that compensation wi~ ll not be borne by tile pastoralists of
Australia, it will be borne by the general body of the Australian taxpayer on the ratio of
to be paid by the Commonwealth Government, and 25% to be paid by the State
governments. And if anybody here before me thinks that compensation payable for
native title is going to come out of the pockets of the individual pastoralists, in relation
to whom property claims have been made, can I promise you that that is 100%
inaccurate and 100% wrong. We are not going to ask the individuals who may be
related to these claims in anyway to pay the costs of compensation. Can I also say to
you that in relation to the issue of compensation, that no matter what route is chosen
by the government, if we were to go down the blanket extinguishment route there
would still be compensation payable in relation to any established native title rights.
Because there is a clause in the Commonwealth Constitution that effectively says, that
if any property right is extinguished or taken away, it can only be done on just terms.
And whether you like that or not, whether I like it or not, whether people in other
parts of Australia like it or not, it is the law of this country, it is in the Constitution.
and please don't anybody go away from this meeting imagining that the blanket
extinguishment over pastoral leases of any possible native title of that blanket
extinguishment is something that can be done and thereby escaping thle liability and thle
possibility of compensation. But can I emphasise with you again that wve have worked
out a compensation arrangement which I understand to be acceptable to all of the State
governments of Australia whereby if there is compensation as a result of a compulsory
acquisition procedures of the State then that compensation wvill be borne not by you,
alone, it will be borne by the general body of the Australian taxpayer. And the people
in the cities arnd the people who have got another view on this, a view different from
you, they will have to contribute, along with the rest of the Australian community and
the general body of the Australian community. Could I also promise you, as I have
already, that there will be a far more generous approach provided and afforded in
relation to legal assistance and legal aid for pastoralists who may be involved in any
kind of action.
The other thing that I want to emphasise to you my firiends is that the existing Native
Title Act as both Tim Fischer and I said at the outset, the existing Native Title Act is
nothing more than an administrative nightmare. The existing Native Title Act was
opposed by me, and it was opposed by the Liberal and National Parties in 1993
because we knew what has now happened would happen. We were divided by the
press at the time. I will never forget when the Native Title Act was passed in 1993.

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MAY 17 ' 97 13: 45 .0
the entire federal parliamentary press gallery ( inaudible) out of boredom and Gareth
Evans and Cheryl Kernot danced and embraced arnd hugged each other in the Senate
chamber. When John Hewson criticised it, as the then leader of the opposition, he was
howled down, he was abused and he was criticised by the politically correct press of
the federal parliamentary press gallery. We were the people who opposed it. And I
want to drive that point home again and again, because we knew what has now
happened would occur. We knew people would have bogus claims put on their
properties. We knew the right to negotiate was a licence for people to come from
nowhere and make a claim on your property and then say until you pay me out. we're
not going to allow you to do anything with your property. Well let me say I regard
that as repugnant, and I regard that as un-Australian and unacceptable and that is going
to be removed by the amendments that are already in the Federal Parliament, You
won't have to put up with that anymore. And under the procedures that wve have in
place ladies and gentlemen, bogus claims will not succeed. Under the procedures that
we have in place, all of the claims that have already been lodged will have to go
through the far more stringent procedure which we are legislating for. Under the
procedure that we have in place the capacity of people to come from nowhere and to
try and interfere with the conduct of your pastoral business wvill be taken away
completely. Can I say two other things about the detail of the plan. One of those relates to ( fhe
question of access. I can understand the fear in the community that people who have
no connection at all with your land can come from a distant part of Australia and say,
well years and years ago my relatives, or my ancestors, or my friends, or the other
members of my tribe had a connection with this property, and therefore I've got some
right to come onto your property and to exercise my traditional access rights. Well
under the amendments that we are framing that can't happen. Unless somebody has a
current physical connection with the land, I repeat that, unless somebody has a current
physical connection with the land, than access rights cannot be obtained. Now they
cannot. And that if any of those rights are to exist, those rights must be exercised at all
times with complete respect for, and in complete deference to. the rights of the
pastoralists who own and operate the property.
Ladies and gentlemen, can I say to you this is a difficult issue. It is an issue which goes
to the heart of your right to survive in a very difficult physical and economic and social
environment. Some of you may have thought that my comment about my concern for
the outback of Australia was the sort of thing that politicians say at the beginning of
speeches. Can I assure you it's not. Can I assure you that I am happy to spend as
much time as you can and I can today to listen to your questions, to answer them as
openly as! I can, and then afterwards to meet as many of you as I can to listen to what
you have to say. I believe that we need to move forward. I believe that we need to
take action as a nation to put the doubt and the confusion created by the very
impractical decision of the High Court in the Wik case, to put that behind us. We have
two choices. We can go down the path that I've endeavoured to explain to you today.
A path that will guarantee you the untrammelled right to run your properties. It will
guarantee you the right to retain your leaseholds. It will guarantee you the right not to
have your ownership and occupation of your properties in any way disturbed. It will
guarantee your Tight not only to carry on pastoral activities, but also primary
production activities in the widest possible sense of that term. It will guarantee you

Fax from 17/ 05/ 97 13: 48 Pg:
MAY 17 ' 97 13: 46 P. 11
against any liability personally for the payment of compensation. It will guarantee you
access to any legal aid assistance if you want yourself, although you don't have to
make that choice, be involved in any claims to establish native title which will primarily
be ones conducted between the claimants and the State governments of Australia. It
will provide all of those guarantees. But it does not have the downside of the
alternative.. The alternative is attractive on the surface, I understand that. The alternative of
blanket extinguishment is attractive on the surface. But there are three weaknesses
with that approach. The first is. not necessarily the most important, the first is that the
potential compensation bill for the nation would be much greater. The second is that
there is a strong possibility of a Constitutional challenge to such legislation and if that
legislation of blanket extinguishment were found to be unconstitutional, then it would
necessitate the carniage of a referendum of the Australian people in order to overturn
that particular finding because it would be a finding of unconstitutionality under the
Federal Constitution. And thirdly, and most importantly, I believe that the prospects
of securing passage of the plan that I have put forward through the Senate. and the
prospects of ( inaudible) a sense of security and a sense of stability within a relatively
short period of time are much greater than in relation to the blanket extinguishment
option which would certainly be rejected by the Senate and would then inevitably
require, if it were to be carried, its re-presentation and then passage of an ultimate
double dissolution and joint sitting of the Federal Parliament following another
election. Now ladies and gentlemen, well can I say to you that the way t , o go is to get
what you want quickly, to get what you want without the risks involved in the
alternative way. You can take the risky way and in two years time you would be no
further ahead. In two years time there would be a similar meeting. In two years time
you'd be asking me to remember 1997. In two years time you'd be back arguing this
thing again. I mean the great virtue of what I'm arguing for ladies and gentlemen is
that it does deliver the guarantees that I outlined, it does give you security, it does give
you stability, but it doesn't have the disabilities and the downsides which are inherent
in the alternative proposal. It is a proposal that delivers on our commitment to give
security and stability to pastoral leaseholders and it is in my view an outcome that will
be seen by the entire Australian community as a fair and just solution to a very very
difficult national problem,
Thank you.

Transcript 10350