Article – COAG puts focus on land rights to get Territory moving on jobs

by 16 October 2014

11 October 2014
Sid Maher
The Australian

NORTHERN Territory indigenous land rights legislation will be reviewed in Tony Abbott’s northern Australia white paper after a meeting of state and national leaders was told it was holding back development.

The Prime Minister announced the review as the Council of Australian Governments meeting in Canberra also agreed to establish a federal agency to help with overseas adoptions.

Mr Abbott said adoptions would remain within state jurisdictions but either a federal agency or non-governmental ­organisation would be established, probably by the first quarter of next year, to help couples seeking to adopt overseas negotiate the bureaucracy.

Northern Territory Chief Minister Adam Giles called for changes to indigenous land administration and land use to enable traditional owners to ­attract private-sector investment and finance for development.

He said all the operating mines in the Northern Territory had been approved before the current land rights laws were implemented in the 1970s. “The protracted and complicated processes for ­approving development projects on Aboriginal land are prohibiting indigenous Territorians from pulling themselves out of poverty through economic development,” Mr Giles said.

Mr Abbott said he wanted to ensure that rights were respected.

“But one of the things that was coming through to me loud and clear from my recent visit to East Arnhem Land is that the vast ­majority of indigenous people, at least in East Arnhem Land, and I would say in Cape York as well … they want land to be an economic asset as well as a spiritual and cultural and environmental asset,’’ he said.

“This is something that certainly does need to be addressed as part of the northern Australia process.’’

COAG also agreed to more regular reporting of school ­attendance and measures to stop truancy, such as penalising parents whose children fail to attend school.

The meeting was dominated by national security issues as the premiers were briefed on the decision to raise the terror alert and recent counter-terrorism raids.

The states also agreed to introduce legislative amendments to mirror federal laws “to safeguard the national laws underpinning our ability to arrest, monitor, investigate and prosecute domestic extremists and returning foreign fighters’’.

With premiers still fuming after cuts to education and health in the May budget, Mr Abbott also promised a consultative approach on federal funding in the tax and federation white papers.

The move appeared to appease premiers after the budget cut long-term Labor funding commitments on health and education beyond the four-years of budget forward estimates.

However, Victorian Premier Denis Napthine said he believed the state had signed a six-year agreement on school funding and he would continue to pursue years five and six.

Courtesy of The Australian

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