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Wednesday, 1 December 1976

Mr BRYANT (Wills) -One of the more interesting pieces of materialist philosophy is what might be called the transcendental rights of mining, the sovereign rights of rnining, which are superior- in the view of people such as the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns)- to any other right of any other person in this country.

Mr Kevin Cairns (LILLEY, QUEENSLAND) - That is a piece of absolute nonsense.

Mr BRYANT - The honourable member should listen to what I have to say. I listened with great courtesy to him, even though I thought he was preaching some materialist nonsense, as he might define it, which offended me greatly. The situation is that under this legislation we are transferring to the Aboriginal people of the Northern Territory the ownership, in a particular form, of the lands to which they have traditional rights, but we are not transferring the absolute rights. If over the years someone has acquired a mining right, that right is to continue untrammelled. My friend from Lilley points out that there must be no interference with the rights of renewal. I believe that that offends against the spirit of the legislation. It is not even anti-mining to say that we ought to do that. We are transferring the ownership of this land to the Aboriginal people in the same sense as we transferred the ownership of Papua New Guinea to the people of Papua New Guinea at independence. I suggest that the honourable member for Lilley would say: 'We should have retained control of the copper mine in Bougainville'. But he would not say that of course. We have to find a new formula for dealing with mining. I believe that the minerals on these lands should belong to the Aboriginal people and, therefore, that we have to find some formula by which the Aborigines can develop these lands if they wish to do so in their name, in their right and under their ownership. One of my objections to this Bill is in fact that it ought to be renamed. It is really not an Aboriginal land rights Bill. It deals with the mining rights on Aboriginal lands. That theme runs through the Bill and seems to be of greater authority than the actual Aboriginal lands themselves. I think we are only moving halfway.

It is one of those intriguing facts in our society that the right of the miner runs continuously whereas no other right does. One may have a home on land but it is no trouble for the Government to take a person's home and put a road through it. It is no trouble taking a person's farm and turning it into something else. Land can be acquired for any of these purposes and we do it all the time. If one pegs out land as a miner, one has a particular relationship to the land. In fact, one has almost all the land rights which we are now trying to obtain for Aboriginal people. What this Bill purported to do, one would hope, would be to transfer that ownership to the Aboriginal people. Later at the Committee stage we will discuss some particular instances. There is no suggestion at this stage that we should take from people their present rights. We are talking about renewals. Why should a person have an absolute right to renew a lease? That right does not exist anywhere else.

If one is leasing part of Canberra, there is no suggestion that one has an absolute right to continue with that lease after 99 years has elapsed. If one is leasing something from the honourable member for Lilley, when the lease is up and unless it is written into it in some particular way, one does not have the absolute right to continue. Many people in this country have acquired rights over land by simply occupying it in the past. The Aboriginal people, having occupied the land for 20 000 or 30 000 years, must almost have that right. I am saying that this is not antidevelopment, anti-mining or any of those things. If we are really genuine about transferring the rights, the proprietorship of this land to the Aboriginal people, we should not allow the renewal of leases to continue in the present sense.

I support my colleague the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson) in what he had to say about those other tilings which again put certain rights above the rights of Aboriginal people in towns and on Crown lands. I think we are discussing a very important principle.

Mr Katter - You should take your hand out of your pocket.

Mr BRYANT -It is not necessary. That is right. Members of the Country Party have an attitude to these matters but I am putting it seriously to the House that this is the very spirit of the legislation that we are debating. Therefore, if we have to decide a new formula, introduce subsidiary legislation or something of that nature to bring about a different deal in relation to mining rights, we should not allow the renewal of leases to continue in their present form because I believe it offends the spirit of the legislation and it will make absolutely certain that there are large parts of the Northern Territory on Aboriginal domain which will never belong to the Aboriginal in the strict sense.

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