Transparency in Resource Agreements with Indigenous People in Australia

Miranda Stewart, Maureen Tehan, Emille Boulot

    Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned report

    Abstract

    This working paper examines transparency requirements in agreement making with Indigenous People. In particular, this working paper examines resource payments provided to Indigenous entities or individuals, under a variety of types of agreementsmade by Indigenous peoples with resource companies, and/or governments. In general, these resource payments are made as part of obtaining a social licence to carry out resource activity on Indigenous lands, and in a process of a resource company gaining approval for exploration or production licenses.Benefits made under agreements can include monetary and non-monetary benefits such as training, education and employment benefits. Payments or other benefits are provided by resource companies to Indigenous peoples in relation to investment in oil, gas, mining exploration or production in Australia under various legal regimes and in a range of forms. We call the many diverse payments and benefits that may be provided to Indigenous people under these regimes resource payments for ease of reference in this working paper. Resource payments may be provided to Indigenous entities or individuals, under a variety of types of agreement made by Indigenous peoples with resource companies, and/or governments. In general,these resource payments are made as part of obtaining a social licence to carry out resource activity on Indigenous lands, and in a process of a resource company gaining approval for exploration or production licenses.Overall, there are minimal or no public disclosure requirements for most types of resource payments, in law and practice in Australia. There is also, in general, no legislative prohibition of disclosure or public reporting of resource payments. Most resource payments are made under contractual agreements between resource companies and Indigenous communities. Subject to normal contractual rules, the parties (resource companies and Indigenous communities) could agree to disclose or report resource payments. However, most do not. Australian lawdoes require some reporting of the existence of agreements under which resource payments are made and the parties to those agreements, and also requires some reporting by Indigenous entities of sources of income including resource payments that they receive. There is a spectrum of legal requirements for public disclosure and transparency of resource payments made to Indigenous people by governments and resource companies. Consequently, in this working paper, we organise the different entities and agreements under which resource payments are made, along a spectrum of transparency from those agreements or entities with the greatest amount of publicly available information, to those agreements which are least transparent.Part 1 of this working paper examines the level of transparency in resource payments. Part 2 examines the range of potential benefits that an Indigenous party to an agreement may receive, the potential value of such benefits and the regulatory requirements in relation to received agreement benefits. Part 3summarises reporting requirements for entities that receive resource paymentsand part 4summarises reporting requirements for agreements under which resource payments are made.
    Original languageEnglish
    Commissioning bodyAgreements, Treaties and Negotiated Settlements Project
    Publication statusPublished - 2015

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