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Tuesday, 3 May 1994
Page: 16

Senator ELLISON (3.10 p.m.) —I rise to support Senator Campbell's comments in this instance. It is indeed a great shame that this committee is not yet in place. I attended the opening of the National Native Title Tribunal on 28 April in Perth. Already decisions are being made as to how evidence will be taken and how the various applications will be handled.

  It is a great shame that the committee was not in place as its members could have attended the opening. There could have been meaningful discussion with some of the personnel at the tribunal, in particular Mr Justice French—whom, I might add, is a very good appointment. I know Mr Justice French and he is a fine judge. I might say that, unfortunately, in this case the government has let down those people it says it sought to support with this legislation by not having this committee in place.

  Recently I travelled throughout the Kimberleys in Western Australia and saw at first hand some of the problems that will be experienced in the implementation of this act. The Native Title Act was passed at the end of December last year. It is now 3 May, but this committee is still not in place. I can recall the emotional debate that went on in this chamber and the fact that the press gallery, and other people, stood and cheered the passing of this legislation in the chamber. It is all very well to get excited at the emotion and the social content of the legislation, but it is another thing to get down to the nuts and bolts, to put one's money where one's mouth is, and deal with the implementation of it.

  I entirely support Senator Campbell's comments on this matter. I most vehemently question the government's motives. This committee should have been in place several months ago. We should not be discussing it on 3 May—over four months after the passing of this legislation. There is much work to be done in this area. It is complicated legislation that we are looking at and, if it is to be implemented in any reasonable fashion at all, this committee will have to have a great deal of input. It was a great shame that committee members were not present the other day at the opening—

Senator Campbell —I wasn't invited.

Senator ELLISON —As Senator Campbell says, he was not invited. I would have thought it was essential that, on such an auspicious occasion, the members of this committee should have been present to talk to tribunal personnel and the tribunal president, Mr Justice French. Therefore, I condemn the government for not having set this committee in place. I note Senator Evans's comments that steps will be taken in the next few days. I can assure the chamber that I will be following this matter closely. Hopefully this committee will be able to get to work within the week.