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Thursday, 7 December 2000
Page: 23651

Mr BEAZLEY (Leader of the Opposition) (2:49 PM) —My question is to the Prime Minister. Prime Minister, can you assure the House that the bipartisan approach to reconciliation reflected in the unanimous vote of the parliament to establish the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation will be continued by your government? Will you put this into practice by joining with the Labor Party in enacting recommendation 6 of the council's final report, which proposed that the Commonwealth enact legislation to put in place a process to consider some form of agreement through which unresolved issues of reconciliation can be resolved?

Mr HOWARD (Prime Minister) —I can certainly assure the Leader of the Opposition and all members of the House that the terms and conditions of the resolution that was passed by the parliament last year will be honoured and supported by the government. I have received on behalf of the government—as have the Leader of the Opposition on behalf of the opposition, the Deputy Prime Minister on behalf of the National Party, and the Leader of the Democrats on behalf of the Australian Democrats—the final report of the council. It contains a number of recommendations. We will consider all of those recommendations.

Without in any way wishing to walk away from the spirit that was displayed at this morning's breakfast, I think the Leader of the Opposition knows that the government has certain reservations about the concept of a treaty. What I had to say this morning was seen as a clear statement of very strong support for reconciliation. What I had to say this morning was said against the background of the views that we had previously expressed in relation to a treaty, and those views remain. But I think it is important in this whole area to do what I sensed was the desire of the members of the council this morning, and certainly of the chairman of the council, Dr Evelyn Scott, who has given dignified and very strong leadership to the reconciliation movement, and that is that we try to focus as much as we possibly can on those areas where all of us agree, and there are many areas of agreement in relation to reconciliation. It is true that there are some different views about the concept of a treaty, and I notice that the Leader of the Opposition has focused on something where we disagree but I think it is more important to focus on those things where we agree. Those things where we agree on reconciliation are much greater, more important, stronger and more enduring that those areas where we disagree.