On Wednesday, 7 August 2013 the High Court will deliver judgment in two outstanding cases.
The first is judgment in Leo Akiba (on behalf of the Torres Strait Regional Sea Claims Group) v Commonwealth of Australia. These proceedings arise out of a native title determination application filed on behalf of the Torres Strait Regional Seas Claim Group. The application was opposed by the Commonwealth, the State of Queensland, a large group of people and companies collectively described as “The Commercial Fishing Parties” and a small number of parties from Papua New Guinea. The application sought a determination of native title rights and interests in a large part of the sea area of the Torres Strait. The occupation of the region by the Seas Claim Group and their ancestors was of an essentially maritime character. The sea is an integral presence in the lives and livelihood of the Islander communities that comprise the Seas Claim Group. At issue is whether or not there is a single Torres Strait Island society for the purposes of the Native Title Act 1993, whether rights held under traditional laws and customs on the basis of a ‘reciprocal relationship’ with a holder of ‘occupation based rights’ are native title rights or interests for the purposes of the Act, and whether or not the laws of The Commonwealth and the State of Queensland governing fishing rights had extinguished such native title as the plaintiff’s might otherwise have held.
The second is judgment in Fortescue Metals Group Limited v Commonwealth of Australia, the challenge by Andrew Forrest to the Commonwealth’s Mineral Resources Rent Tax, more common known as the Mining Tax.