In December 1996, the High Court of Australia handed down its judgment in the Wik case finding, by a 4:3 majority, that pastoral leases did not necessarily extinguish native title. An intense political campaign by both pastoral and indigenous interests, and their political representatives, was aimed, in the case of the former, at legislative extinguishment of native title on pastoral leases and, in the case of the latter, at defending property rights which the High Court found had never been extinguished. In this article it argued that an efficient re-allocation of property rights is unlikely to result from extinguishment, but requires Coasian-type bargains between pastoral and indigenous interests.


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