The Western Australian Government response to Mabo
The Western Australian State Government was likely to be particularly affected by the recognition of native title for a number of reasons. There are large areas of resource rich lands where Indigenous peoples continue to live. This land has never been granted by the Crown, except in the form of pastoral and mining leases and licenses. More importantly, the Western Australian Government has never recognised a system for the recognition of land rights.
The mining industry's access to those lands had come at little cost or hindrance. The Western Australian Government and economy is also highly dependent upon the mining industry.
The Western Australian Government introduced its own legislation in response to the Mabo decision to pre-empt the federal governments planned national response. The Premier introduced the Land (Titles and Traditional Usages) Act 1993 (WA), commenting on the two fundamental assumptions underlying the legislation:
The first is that on the acquisition of sovereignty over Western Australia, the Crown acquired the absolute ownership of all land within the state. The Crown became the sole source of title to such land, and held the exclusive power to grant title to all land. The second principle is that no title to land in Western Australia has existed other than title granted by or under the Crown(refer second reading speech).
The aim of the Land (Titles and Traditional Usages) Act was to confirm all existing titles and to extinguish native title in the whole of the state, to be replaced by statutory rights of 'traditional usage'. These statutory rights would not be registered and could be freely extinguished or impaired by the Crown. The legislation commenced operation on 2 December 1993 but was immediately under a cloud due to its potential inconsistency with the Federal Government's response, which was already before the Federal Parliament.
Keywords: Court, Richard, mining, political reaction, recognition, The Land Titles and Traditional Usages Act, Western Australia, 1993
Author: Strelein, Lisa