...Abandonment of the Sea Claims...
In mid 1989, the plaintiffs made the decision to abandon the claims to the areas of sea beyond three miles from land. Queensland's jurisdiction terminated at the three mile limit and thus these areas were the concern of the Commonwealth. It was primarily a strategic decision which the plaintiffs arrived at after considerable discussion with their legal advisers: the abandonment of these areas would avoid hostile opposition to the claim from the Commonwealth but would not detract from the plaintiffs' central claim regarding the continuation of their native title.
Greg McIntyre has written of the factors which lay behind the decision to abandon the sea claim:
'There was some amendment to the nature of the claim to the seas and sea bed in the Great Barrier Reef during the course of the hearing... A further development in relation to that claim arose from strategic negotiations with the Commonwealth as Second Defendant in the action. The Commonwealth was concerned about the claims to waters beyond the three mile limit from land and was suggesting that their generally benevolent approach to the action on behalf of the plaintiffs would be less benevolent if a claim was pursued beyond the three-mile limit. The plaintiffs adopted the strategic position that, as this was essentially a test case seeking to establish the concept of common law title, that it would be sufficient to establish that in relation to land and that it would be desirable to avoid any seriously antagonistic position being adopted by the Commonwealth in the action which would divert resources from the focus on the central issue. It was for that reason that, in 1989, the plaintiffs agreed to adjourn any further hearing in relation to their claims to seas beyond the three-mile limit.'
Keywords: aboriginal law, claim, Federal Government, Australia, Great Barrier Reef, McIntyre, Greg, plaintiffs, Queensland, sea, sea rights, 1989
McIntyre, Greg 'Mabo and Sea Rights: Public Rights, Property Rights or Pragmatism?' in 'Turning the Tide: Conference on Indigenous People and Sea Rights', Northern Territory University, 1993.
Author: Kenna, Jonathan