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Thursday, 27 November 1986
Page: 3840


Mr CONNOLLY(11.48) —The Opposition opposes the contents of clause 21 relating to the application of money of land councils, specifically because of the time elements which are contained within the proposed clause. The moneys provided to land councils by mining companies, for example, have to be in the context of a very tight schedule set down in the clause. We believe that considerably more thought needs to be given to it. For example, sub-section 35 (1) provides that, where a land council does not require all the moneys it receives from the Aboriginals Benefit Trust Account for its administrative costs, those moneys shall be paid, within six months of their receipt, to one or more of the specified types of Aboriginal bodies.

I would like clarification from the Minister as to why he has chosen the six-month period. Again, I think it places the land councils in a very strong position relative to traditional owners. The Opposition believes that where traditional owners or land trusts have a bona fide right to the transfer of funds that transfer should take place as soon as possible. We do not see why there needs to be a delay; nor is it absolutely clear in terms of the future. I have emphasised throughout this debate that we see the role of the land trusts and land councils as one that should evolve over time.

While we are dealing with conservative bodies, it does not necessarily mean that the evolution has to take place over hundreds of years. A case needs to be made for strengthening the role of land trusts in the context of their responsibilities to their members and to the local community, who hold the title to the land. We are not all sure that one has to continue to have a role for land councils in the transfer of funds in that way. It is worth noting that in terms of the ABTA the land councils are receivers of very large royalties transferred from the Commonwealth for mining on Aboriginal land in the Northern Territory. If the Opposition's amendments, which I shall be moving in due course, are accepted, there is not the slightest doubt that the funds which will flow to Aboriginal communities from mining in the Northern Territory will be substantially greater in future than they are currently. In that context a strong case is to be made for strengthening the role of land trusts, which must be the ultimate receivers of these funds, and therefore a specific diminution of the responsibilities of land councils.

Clause agreed to.

Clauses 22 to 24-by leave-taken together, and agreed to.

Proposed new clause 24a.