The Hon. David Littleproud, Leader of The Nationals and Shadow Minister for Agriculture, Media Release, 11 December 2023
Leader of The Nationals and Shadow Agriculture Minister David Littleproud has warned farmers face greater costs, more complexities and lengthy delays, if Labor’s push to abolish Commonwealth-funded legal advice for landholders in native title claims is passed.
The Native Title Respondent Scheme provided financial support to pastoralists and other landowners for native title claims.
Established by the former Howard Government, the scheme ensured both the claimant and respondent had fair and equal assistance to legal representation.
While Labor axed the scheme in their previous Budget, cutting $6.4 million over four years and $1.8 million per year ongoing, it now also wants to remove the legislative basis for the scheme.
“Labor’s ideology doesn’t match with the practical reality and the need to assist farmers and pastoralists when it comes to native title claims,” Mr Littleproud said.
“The scheme allowed for legal costs to be reduced and proceedings streamlined, removing the need for numerous lawyers and parties involved, while also reducing the complexity of claims and time delays.
“To rip the scheme away will cost farmers money, time and effort. It will place an enormous burden on farmers and leave them very much alone in native title claims.”
Repealing section 213A of the Native Title Act will still allow Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to seek funding to support their involvement in native title matters under the Special Circumstances Scheme.
It means the claimant would be able to seek to have their costs covered, while the respondent would have to self-fund their argument.
“This sort of them versus us mentality is un-Australian and unfair. Australians voted ‘no’ in the Referendum this year for a Voice to Parliament because they rejected the notion of division. Labor continues to seek to divide us, rather than unite all Australians. I call on Labor to use common sense and fairness when it comes to native title.”