We Suspect Silence

What you don't say and what you don't do will define you.

Tag: ORIC

ORIC to redo examination into Indigenous corporation involved in negotiations with Adani

When I make a call to an organisation seeking information about an issue I assume that organisation has a process to vet callers to ensure that the appropriate person deals with that individual (me). When I call I usually say my first name and ask for information. This is what I did today when I called the Office of the Registrar of Indigenous Corporations (ORIC). I was put through to a case manager who, at the end of the call when I asked for them to repeat their last name, refused saying they were concerned with my involvement with the media. I took lots of notes before the case manager twigged to my line of questioning and asked about my purpose and intentions. I told the case manager I was a blogger and was encouraging journalists to explore this story, I also told the case manager I was fighting for justice for Carol Prior, a complainant, native title holder, and member of  the Indigenous corporation under examination. I didn’t tell the case manager I was glad I’d taken lots of notes and quotes.

Some context: Samantha Healy reported in October last year in the Townsville Bulletin that at the time Carol Prior and her fellow complainants spoke to her about their initial complaint “the watchdog [ORIC] refused to confirm the existence of the complaint”. I cover the issue here:  https://wesuspectsilence.wordpress.com/2017/03/30/the-notice-of-examination-that-could-reveal-adanis-dirty-dealings-in-securing-the-ngbr-corridor/

Now we are witnessing the further delaying of the examination process with the appointment of a new examiner and a new examination. This is at a crucial time in the fight to #stopadani. In my previous phone call to ORIC I was told that the first examiner was delayed in their examination due to health issues and the holiday season. The case manager explained to me that because the first examination “wasn’t completed properly” due in part to instances when the examiner was “unable to access the [Indigenous] corporation” and unable to access “other” parties. The case manager also revealed “we had issues obtaining information”. 

I was told by the case manager that we would not see anything published by ORIC until at the earliest “the first week in June”, a full 10 months after the complaint was first lodged and over 8 months after the publication of the Notice of Examination. I asked if the complainants would be informed before publication of any outcomes by ORIC and if they would receive any more information than would be made available for the public in any publication. The case worker said Carol Prior “will have to watch the website” and indicated that the complainants will receive no more information than any member of the public.

I explained how the timing of this delay only favoured powerful interests. I pointed out that proposed native title system reforms relating to Indigenous Land Use Agreements could be impacted by the outcome of the ORIC examination and that the NAIF funding final approval could come through in the next few weeks. I explained that the 1 billion Adani loan for a rail link is likely to be for the North Galilee Basin Rail Project for which Adani have a signed Body Corporate Indigenous Land Use Agreement which is one of the subjects of the Kyburra Munda Yalga Aboriginal Corporation members complaint and therefore part of the ORIC examination.

This phone call raises so many questions. By “other” parties was the case manager referring to Adani? Why was “the corporation” unavailable? Why did ORIC, a regulator of corporate behaviour under the CATSI Act fail to ensure a prompt and accountable process? And why is a well resourced organisation like ORIC not prepared for calls from concerned citizens about a controversial coal complex on which their work could have a crucial impact?

 

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The National Native Title Tribunal: Arbiter or “record keeper”?

Today I spent 40 minutes on the phone with the case manager for the three Indigenous Land Use Agreements (ILUAs) registered with the National Native Title Tribunal (NNTT) relating to Adani’s North Galilee Basin Rail Project.
 
I was armed with the knowledge, passed on from an expert in this particular area, that the NNTT is not only a record keeper for native title agreements, it is also responsible for arbitration of many of the issues that might occur in negotiation processes such as those articulated by Carol Prior in 2 media stories from 2014 and 2016. There is at least one story currently somewhere in the NewsCorp pipeline in anticipation of the outcomes from the Office of the Registrar of Indigenous Corporations (ORIC) examination into Adani dealings with the Juru Indigenous corporation Kyburra Munda Yalga Aboriginal Corporation. Since my starting assumption is that high quality publicly available information is the last line of defence for black fellas who’ve been excluded from the negotiating and voting process, I was prepared to test the NNTT information giving culture. My lengthy conversation with the NNTT case manager involved an exchange of assertions about the role and function of the organisation. Each time the case manager asserted that the organisation was a “record keeper” I responded with the assertion that through the information architecture embedded in the digital records it provides along with it’s actual functions in arbitration it serves to limit access to information and justice to traditional owners.   
 
Between the NNTT and ORIC lies the responsibility for regulating the activity of Indigenous corporations, mining companies, and their representatives. There are difficult to interpret limits on how much information is made publicly available, and when it comes to information that can support an argument that a mining company has not negotiated in good faith, there’s scarce little published. We are expected to accept the word of the NNTT that the representatives of Indigenous corporations have satisfied all the requirements under the Native Title Act, Section 24 to ensure that traditional owners with an interest in a native title claim or determination are made aware of negotiations and meetings. 
 
In attempting to build a timeline to support my analysis of various Queensland government RTI documents I’ve discovered that I need to send a request letter to the NNTT to explain the purpose for my request for information regarding submission dates, and dates of meetings with native title holders and traditional owners. The NNTT will then give consideration to my request. The information I unsuccessfully requested today from the NNTT case manager, dates for submission of ILUA documents by 3 different Indigenous corporations, could not be categorised as either privileged or available for the public upon request. I don’t see how my purpose in seeking the information I am requesting should have any impact on how the NNTT interprets the Native Title Act with respect to particular pieces of information about the dates certain documents were created. The NNTT is an organisation that by virtue of it’s nature – both arbiter and record keeper – should be able to assess the status of a record it is keeping and make appropriate decisions accordingly. 
I was advised that I should speak with the legal firms listed each applicant or Indigenous corporation, or check the public record for notifications. The later option will likely require exhaustive research involving listings of events in local papers and specialist media.