31/08/2009 - 11:26

State outraged at native title back-down

31/08/2009 - 11:26

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WA Attorney General Christian Porter says he is extremely disappointed at a federal government decision to withhold a new native title funding agreement that would have made way for speedier settlements.

State outraged at native title back-down

WA Attorney General Christian Porter says he is extremely disappointed at a federal government decision to withhold a new native title funding agreement that would have made way for speedier settlements.

Official confirmation of the Rudd government's decision was today given at a Native Title Ministers' meeting in Adelaide, however federal Attorney General Robert McClelland advised states and territories late last week.

Mr Porter today said the decision has come as a shock particularly as state governments had already committed to adopting the federal government's new native title agenda.

The agenda was on the basis that the Commonwealth government would fund native title settlements to up to 75 per cent.

"This was always going to be an expensive exercise and labour intensive; without Commonwealth funding the entire system of negotiated outcomes is in jeopardy," Mr Porter said in a statement.

"State and Territory government officials across the country have been working around the clock to find ways to reach speedy native title settlements and now we are told that there is no Commonwealth money to fund it.

"This is more than disappointing - it threatens to wind back all the advantages in native title settlements in WA that underpin our State's and Aboriginal peoples' economic development."

Mr Porter added that WA has been in negotiations with successive federal governments for more than a decade to develop a suitable financial assistance arrangement that was first promised by former Prime Minister Paul Keating.

Mr Keating had promised to provide funding to offset 75 per cent of the state's compensation liabilities for the extinguishment of native title and administrative costs, Mr Porter claims.

"Despite repeated attempts, nothing concrete has ever eventuated," Mr Porter said.

"Ministers embraced the Rudd Government's new approach, eagerly anticipating Commonwealth assistance to resolve native title matters in a way that would ensure the continuing economic development of WA and its Aboriginal people, while at the same time resolving their governments' compensation liabilities.

"With no funding available, I see no easy way forward, but this is not a matter that will go away.

"It is only a matter of time before compensation claims make their way through the courts and still there will be nothing in place to assist the States."

The ABC has previously reported that the federal government has promised to come up with alternative funding option by the end of October.

 

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