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Nature Conservation and Other Legislation (Indigenous Joint Management—Moreton Island) Amendment Bill

May 13, 2021

Hon. MAJ SCANLON (Gaven—ALP) (Minister for the Environment and the Great Barrier Reef
and Minister for Science and Youth Affairs) (3.23 pm), in reply: Firstly, I thank all members for their
participation in the debate on the Nature Conservation and Other Legislation (Joint Management—
Moreton Island) Amendment Bill 2020. The amendments in this bill will allow the Palaszczuk
government to meet commitments made to representatives of the Quandamooka people as part of the
Federal Court native title consent determination. This bill will deliver a commitment to support the joint
management of prescribed protected areas on Mulgumpin between QYAC and the Queensland Parks
and Wildlife Service.

I am proud to be part of a government that delivers on land justice for the traditional owners of
Mulgumpin. I am saddened that Quandamooka people who are present here today to witness this
significant milestone have had to listen to the negativity and comments of those opposite when a
bipartisan approach could and should have been taken. Unlike those opposite who have used their time
in this House to undermine, divide and self-centre, this government is acting on native title and
delivering legislation to facilitate a partnership with the Quandamooka people that aims to provide a
framework for increased self-determination and the ability to meet their cultural obligations to care for
country and work with the wider community to improve the employment and business opportunities for
traditional owners on the country of which they are the rightful owners.

I will address some of the issues that have been raised during this debate. The members opposite
have continued to raise concerns about matters I already addressed in my second reading speech, but
I will respond to them again. The confidential nature of the Indigenous land use agreement and
Indigenous management agreement is prepared to support the Federal Court native title consent
determination for Mulgumpin. It is not unique. There are many hundreds of Indigenous land use
agreements across Australia and the content of those documents is often confidential between the
parties that were part of the negotiations for the resolution of the native title claim. The negotiation of
those agreements is an important tool to assist the successful resolution of Federal Court proceedings
for native title determinations and are a common legal document containing the settlement outcomes
reached between the state and First Nations people and their representatives.

Those opposite have been at pains to undermine the confidential nature of Indigenous land use
agreements. May I remind those opposite that the principle of confidentiality in ILUAs was in place when
the LNP were in government? Why the sudden outcry when for years under the Newman government
ILUAs were confidential? The hypocrisy is stark.

Ensuring negotiations can be conducted in good faith with confidentiality maintained is a key
principle that underpins our system of commercial dealings with traditional owners and they have every
right to that principle, as does any other entity. An example of a confidential agreement that is never
made public is a royalty agreement. That is a contractual agreement between the state, traditional owners and mining companies and they are always confidential. I reiterate that the practice of
maintaining confidentiality of ILUAs is not limited to this dealing. It has been made clear to me today
that those opposite simply do not understand native title or how ILUAs operate. I suppose that is
consistent with their opposition to the concept of native title since day one of the High Court ruling. Let
me explain in detail, for the benefit of those opposite.

The Quandamooka people have a native title determination under Australian law that recognises
and enshrines their rights. The purpose of this bill is to provide a state legislative framework over land
covered by that determination to facilitate joint management of Mulgumpin consistent with the outcomes
agreed and recorded in the legally binding Indigenous land use agreement between the state and the
Quandamooka peoples consistent with their rights and interest under Commonwealth law.
The amendments proposed by those opposite can have the effect of modifying the rights and
obligations under the ILUA, which has been developed under the Commonwealth Native Title Act 1993.
Modifying the bill as proposed can create inconsistencies between state law, the Indigenous land use
agreement and the Commonwealth Native Title Act 1993. State legislation must not be inconsistent
with Commonwealth legislation. If it is then the state legislation itself, and any actions taken under it,
may be invalid under the Constitution. Furthermore, the state has entered into these arrangements
following extensive good-faith negotiations with the Quandamooka people, with the Indigenous land
use agreement being the final result of this negotiated process.
Have those opposite genuinely consulted the Quandamooka people and secured their consent
for these amendments? We have learnt that they have not. Is this the way those opposite seek to
continue their form of colonialism; talk up their relationship with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
people until it becomes inconvenient and then legislate over the top of their aspirations?
The ILUA took decades of struggle, overcoming barrier after barrier and significant investment
by the state, the Quandamooka people and the Federal Court. It was genuine consultation, genuine
respect and genuine consent leading to a genuine partnership. Now, after all that work, those opposite
want to unpick it. Why and for what gain? What advantage do they gain from further undermining the
trust gained between the Quandamooka people and the state through this process? What advantage
can they gain from undermining the agreement reached through the Federal Court determination
process? This could put the whole agreement at risk and lead to years of court action and uncertainty.
How does it help better understanding in the community when fearmongering and inaccuracies pepper
their contribution to this debate?
Supporting legislative amendments that can have the effect of changing what has been agreed
between the state and the Quandamooka people through the ILUA process is not how this government
intends doing business. Such action would damage the state’s reputation with First Nations people in
Queensland, casting doubt on the security of existing and future agreements negotiated as part of
settling native title matters and potentially leading to an increase in litigated rather than negotiated
outcomes. Clearly, based on the comments made by those opposite, they have no regard for the native
title processes and no respect for traditional owners, and if it were up to them we would go back to the
old days of our colonial past. Thankfully, those days are past. We on this side of the House deliver on
our commitments to respect native title determinations as the law of the land.
I now turn to the matters raised regarding commercial tourism operations on Mulgumpin. Let me
be clear once more: the requirement to consult the registered native title body corporate on issuing
permits is not new. Similar requirements already exist under the Nature Conservation Act to consult
with the Indigenous landholders of Aboriginal land protected areas in the Cape York Peninsula region
and Indigenous joint management areas in recognition and respect of the land being Aboriginal land.
The bill will insert similar provisions into the Recreation Areas Management Act to ensure consistent
requirements apply across the legislative landscape, particularly where a recreation area under the
Recreation Areas Management Act is declared over a protected area under the Nature Conservation
Act, as is the case on Mulgumpin.

There are many archaeological sites on Mulgumpin and probably many more that are yet to be
discovered. These sites can be highly significant as elements of the Quandamooka people’s cultural
heritage. It is absolutely sensible and appropriate that QYAC be consulted on permit applications to
ensure any impacts of the proposed activities on both cultural and natural values can be minimised or
avoided and to assess the consistency of the activities with the recognised native title rights of the
Quandamooka people. If an application is not able to be approved, existing provisions under both the
Nature Conservation Act and the Recreation Areas Management Act provide internal and external
review processes to a person who is dissatisfied with a decision. In summary, the requirement to consult
the prescribed native title body corporate is not a new one and already occurs where existing joint
management arrangements take place, such as Minjerribah and Cape York.

This is a concerted fear campaign being run by members opposite. I was appalled to bear witness
to some of the speeches made by those opposite yesterday, particularly the member for Oodgeroo. It
was a particularly distasteful speech when the member represents a seat named in honour of a proud
and respected Quandamooka woman who made such a contribution to our understanding of Aboriginal
culture. As my colleague and proud Quandamooka woman the Hon. Leeanne Enoch said in her speech
to the House, the language employed by those opposite when referring to native title matters is, frankly,
shameful. We heard this proud Quandamooka woman describe this bill as a light on the hill in terms of
ensuring that First Nations people can have the hope that they will have their lands returned and that
they will be trusted to manage their country. Those opposite seek to use fear to diminish that light and
hope. The fear campaign being run is purposeful and an opportunistic attempt to undermine the very
confidence of those they are purporting to support. Mulgumpin townships will be unaffected. Native title
does not apply on freehold land. Members know that, but they are persistent with their fearmongering.
Tourism operators will flourish under this bill. A great opportunity exists for Queensland to
broaden its tourism product offerings through cultural tourism and involvement by First Nations
Queenslanders. It is the Year of Indigenous Tourism and the supposedly pro-business members
opposite are trying to discredit these opportunities.

I am perplexed that neither the member for South Brisbane nor the member for Maiwar chose to
contribute to this important debate. I thought the Greens political party were meant to stand up for our
First Nations people, to support conservation, to support national parks, to support land justice for First
Nations people and to stand up for people’s rights. We often hear their self-righteous lectures that
somehow they are not like other political parties, yet we know that they do preference deals with the
LNP and remain silent when the LNP undermine the Quandamooka people and, indeed, the whole
native title process and promote division in the community. I wonder how the Greens will vote on this
bill; I really do. There seems to be a natural coalition emerging between the Greens and the LNP, so
maybe they will endorse the comments of those opposite by voting the bill down. Their silence and their
actions speak volumes.

As I informed the House yesterday, over the last three years in excess of 23,000 camping and
vehicle permits have been issued each year to visitors accessing Mulgumpin. Existing commercial
activity permit holders on Mulgumpin have recently had their permits reissued and a new tourism
business has recently been approved by the department and QYAC to provide glamping based
overnight accommodation. Visitors will continue to enjoy the island and thrive. Despite the misleading
fearmongering of those opposite, all jointly managed national park campgrounds are open and, in peak
times, full. ‘Going gangbusters,’ one tourism expert said recently about the island. I look forward to
joining these visitors soon, enjoying and advocating for all the wonderful tourism opportunities that will
be provided through new and existing businesses working in partnership with the Quandamooka
people.

Let us not forget the purpose and intent of the bill before the House. It is to deliver land justice
for traditional owners on Mulgumpin. Those opposite have lost sight of the bigger picture and have
unfortunately focused on very narrow and distant hypotheticals instead of taking advantage of the
opportunity to set the rightful course of this state, a course that respectfully includes the interests of
First Nations people. Let us talk in realities instead of hypotheticals.
The member for Traeger, a member of the committee that inquired into this bill, said yesterday
that when he went and met with members of QYAC on Mulgumpin he found them to be engaging and
very reasonable and that they seemed intent on working effectively and participating in improving the
cultural experiences and environmental conditions on Mulgumpin.

The member for Surfers Paradise raised a number of issues with respect to closures of areas
and new fees in Cape York. The traditional owners on the cape own the land referred to as freehold.
You cannot just go onto a farmer’s land and decide that you are setting up camp. The member for
Surfers Paradise has raised issues that do not relate to any arrangements that Queensland Parks and
Wildlife Service has with partners for the joint management of protected areas. It is unrelated to the bill
before the House and, frankly, yet another example of fearmongering from a person who is supposed
to be the shadow minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander partnerships.

The opposition are always calling on government to dismantle red tape, except for when it relates
to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. We have seen a lot of virtue signalling from those
opposite in supposed support of First Nations people while in the exact same breath undermining native
title and the legal body corporate representing Quandamooka people.

Let me remind the House that the traditional owners of Mulgumpin have lived on country on a
permanent basis for thousands and thousands of years. Their connection with the land and sea has a
strong spiritual basis. That is what this bill is about. It is about delivering on commitments made during the native title determination process. The claims process under the Commonwealth Native Title Act recognises that the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples of Australia were the original
inhabitants of this land, of which they were subsequently dispossessed.

I would also like to remind all members of parliament that we have traditional owners of
Mulgumpin in the gallery today, as we did yesterday, during the debate. The rhetoric employed by those
opposite has been a profound misrepresentation of the significant opportunity to redress the many
injustices which occurred during the early colonisation of Mulgumpin. The fear campaigning by some
of the members of this House has ignored the very fact that the land of Quandamooka people was
stolen and massacres took place. Unlike those opposite, I want to tell the truth about our shared past
and remove fear as part of a process of truth telling. I want to tell a truth that acknowledges the frontier
wars, a truth that exposes the laws and policies of generations of stolen lands. We should be fearlessly
confronting our history and be a truth teller in genuine commitment to reconciliation.

This bill represents us working together in partnership for the future of Mulgumpin which resets
the Quandamooka people as the owners and keepers of the knowledge and stories of Mulgumpin. Joint
management is one mechanism through which the state can seek reconciliation with First Nations
people, in this case the Quandamooka people. Not only does the process provide for the return of
ownership of the land to the original owners prior to their dispossession; it also delivers a framework
through which QYAC and the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service can work together to ensure the
ongoing protection of the natural and cultural resources and ensure that the opportunities that make
Mulgumpin such a special place to visit continue.

Joint management will facilitate enhanced presentation of the cultural values of the island. I
encourage all Queenslanders to take an opportunity to visit Mulgumpin and enjoy the wonderful natural
environment. I will read a statement submitted by QYAC regarding the benefits of joint management to
the former State Development, Tourism, Innovation and Manufacturing Committee during its
consideration of the bill—

We believe joint management will benefit all residents and businesses and we confidently predict a similar outcome to Minjerribah
where Quandamooka People are empowered to play a critical role in progressing a sustainable and vibrant future.

It is my belief that gaining knowledge and experiences builds greater understanding, which, in
turn, I hope will facilitate a wider appreciation and respect for Aboriginal culture not only on Mulgumpin
but also more broadly within our society. Joint management can help achieve this outcome, which will
bring us closer together to a glad tomorrow.

I conclude by acknowledging and thanking all the staff from the Department of Environment and
Science and the Department of Resources for their collaboration and work in progressing this bill as
well as my own staff for their efforts. I would also like to acknowledge the work of the previous minister,
the Hon. Shannon Fentiman, who introduced this bill last year as well as the work of the current and
previous committees that examined the bill.

I would also like to particularly acknowledge the member for Algester, a Quandamooka woman
herself, who made a powerful contribution yesterday. I acknowledge Uncle Bob and Cathy Boyle, Aunty
Val, Darren Byrne, Daniel Crouch and all the Quandamooka people in the gallery today. I also
acknowledge you, Madam Deputy Speaker as the member for Cook, and the member for Bundamba. I
feel very privileged to serve alongside three First Nations people. I commend the bill to the House.