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Monday, 19 June 2006
Page: 121

Mr BROUGH (Minister for Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Indigenous Affairs) (8:30 PM) —I thank the honourable members who have contributed to today’s historic debate on the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Amendment Bill 2006. This legislation will allow Aboriginal Australians in parts of the Northern Territory who have been denied rights for many years to be able to own their own home. I think it almost defies belief that in 2006 we are at a stage where many Australians simply do not have the right to own their own property where they desire to live and where, in many cases, generations have lived before them. This proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that the enforcement of collective rights over individual rights has been an abject failure. As the Chief Minister of the Northern Territory, Clare Martin, recently said, self-determination was the biggest mistake. Unlike those who sit opposite, their colleagues in the Northern Territory agree with the thrust of this legislation. The Northern Territory’s Minister for Housing, Mr Elliott McAdam, who is of course of Indigenous descent, very much supports this and understands it is about—

Mr Snowdon —He is an Indigenous person.

Mr BROUGH —An Indigenous person—I stand corrected; you are right. He says it is all about choice and we agree with him. It defies belief that the opposition can think there is somehow a conspiracy and it is about denying people’s rights. It is simply not about that all.

As I said to the parliament earlier today, over the last two days, and last month, I met with the people of Wadeye, the people of the Tiwi Islands—Nguiu in particular—who have already signed a heads of agreement and also the people of Galiwinku. Many in those communities are excited about having for the first time the same rights as other Australians. This is something that we want to give them. It is something that we should not even be debating; it should just happen naturally. The reality is there has been nine years of debate on this issue—nine long years of talking to people. It is important that those who sit opposite recognise that this is not the end of the consultation. I say to the member for Canberra—

Mr McMullan —Fraser.

Mr BROUGH —Sorry—the member for Fraser. I say to him: this is not the end of the consultation. No-one is being forced to do this. What will happen from here is that those communities that wish to participate will have the right to do so and they will then negotiate.

Mr McMullan interjecting

Mr BROUGH —The member for Fraser raises the issue of services. You know what we asked them to do? We asked the Territory Labor government to provide Indigenous people with the most basic things that they deserve: decent policing, decent education and decent health. I am negotiating on behalf of those Territorian Aboriginal people who have been denied that right by the people who sit opposite—that is an absolute disgrace—and I will continue to do that.

We have a couple of amendments that we will move today. I will table amendments that provide an option for the Commonwealth entity to hold township leases and other minor amendments together with a supplementary explanatory memorandum and a minor correction to the explanatory memorandum.

I have listened to the people whom I spoke with at the Northern Land Council in the last couple of days. On the five per cent cap, I inform the House that it is my intention to move a further amendment in the Senate when this is finally debated removing that five per cent. So far be it from me not to listen. We do listen to people. The reality is that that was set upon because it was a realistic rental agreement that most real estate proprietors would expect as a return on their properties. We and the Northern Territory government will negotiate fair and equitable returns with people in return for their 99-year leases. Then there will of course be a negotiation between the leaseholder of the head lease and the people who want to own their property, in the same way as currently occurs in the electorate of the member for Fraser here in the ACT—because that is the only way that people can have property rights. It will be treated identically. I think that is what people have to understand.

It has been nine long years. We now have the Chief Minister of the Northern Territory, a member of the Labor Party, the housing minister of the Northern Territory, a member of the Labor Party, and the Indigenous President of the Labor Party, all agreeing that this is right. I simply ask—

Mr Snowdon —He doesn’t come from the Northern Territory. He knows nothing about this stuff.

Mr BROUGH —We now hear the member for Lingiari saying that his party president does not come from the Northern Territory and does not know anything about this. You know what he knows about? He knows about the rights of his people. He wants them to have the same choices that you and I have and so do I. I think it is an awfully sad day when a man who represents much of the Northern Territory does not believe that the Indigenous people there have the same rights that he and I have. I feel that is a disgrace. It is a sorry day for the Labor Party and a sorry day for the member for Lingiari but a positive day in that this bill will pass and that Australian Aboriginal people will finally have the same rights, which they so richly deserve, that other Australians take for granted. (Time expired)

Question put:

That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr Snowdon’s amendment) stand part of the question.