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Friday, 1 May 1987
Page: 2415

Mr IAN CAMERON(10.01) —It is my pleasure today to speak to the Aboriginal Land (Lake Condah and Framlingham Forest) Bill 1987 and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage Protection Amendment Bill 1987. As is pointed out in the legislation, the Victorian Government-a Labor Government at that-has provided for the vesting and control of two parcels of land to two Aboriginal corporations. There has been a great deal of opposition to this move, as one would expect, because this is the start, I guess, of the Aboriginal land rights movement in Victoria. Unfortunately, as these things go on and on we are seeing that the taxpayers of this country have to pay out $1.3m compensation to the existing landholders to purchase the land. So it is not government-controlled leasehold land that is involved; it is land for which taxpayers have to pay compensation.

Aboriginal Land Bill

Mr Tim Fischer —Money is not solving the Aboriginal problem.

Mr IAN CAMERON —As the honourable member for Farrer says, we are spending billions of dollars on Aborigines these days, but we are getting absolutely nowhere by doing it and the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Holding) knows it. The grants to the two Aboriginal corporations will mean that they will have full power of management over the land. I find it quite ridiculous that the communities that will control this land under the Victorian Crown Land (Reserves) Act have been exempted from paying land tax. It is high time that we started treating Aborigines as Australians and stopped treating them as being different. If the taxpayers of this country are to provide $1.3m to purchase the land, I cannot see why we have to continue to exempt these people from the payment of land taxes. That is a ridiculous situation.

The legislation provides for the setting up of a committee of elders from both corporations to determine membership and matters of cultural and religious significance to the area. It provides for regulation of mining activities. Minerals remain vested in the State of Victoria. At least that is sensible. It seems that the Aborigines will not have a veto over the mining rights on this land. Across Australia we are seeing that Aboriginal people are treated differently and separately and that they have the power of veto over much of their land, particularly in the Northern Territory. I think that is an anachronism to the rest of Australia, and I am quite sure it is an anachronism to most of them because, having got the land, they find that they have to do something with it. Mining is one of the things that is available to them on some of the vast tracts of land that they have under their control. Many of the more sensible Aborigines find it practically impossible to get the right to allow companies to search for minerals and mine their land to give people jobs and something to do other than sit around doing nothing, which most people on the land reserves that we have set up for them in the last 20-odd years seem to do.

Some expenditure is necessary for the establishment of the two trusts. An allocation from consolidated revenue will be made for the payment of an amount equivalent to the mining royalties. Of course, the same sort of thing is done in the Northern Territory. Again, the taxpayer is paying, and it is high time that we stopped that. If these people are going to be responsible at all, they have to make some sort of earning from the land and pay some sort of taxes. They get every other right, as Australians, and they are entitled to all the social security payments that are available. I believe that they ought to be paying taxes and have some sort of responsibility to the system. That is basically the problem with our social benefits system today, in that in many cases people are not paying any taxes on the sums that they receive; they have absolutely no responsibility to the system. We are breeding a race of people who are totally dependent on the welfare system, and that is why slowly, but surely, we are going bankrupt under this Labor socialist Government.

Mr Hodgman —There are no unemployment benefits in Papua New Guinea, you know.

Mr IAN CAMERON —There are no unemployment benefits in most parts of Asia; I can assure honourable members of that. If one travels right up as far as Japan, one finds that no unemployment benefits are paid in any part of Asia. Australia and New Zealand are the only two countries that are silly enough to pay them-and they are the only two countries in this part of the world that are bankrupt.

Dr Theophanous —Ha!

Mr IAN CAMERON —It is true.

Mr Hodgman —Moscow.

Mr IAN CAMERON —Yes. The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage Protection Amendment Bill limits the operation of any Victorian law for the preservation and protection of Aboriginal culture and property. As I have said, for a long time I have taken an interest in Aboriginal affairs that have been brought before Parliament. I have been a member of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs since I first entered this place in 1980. I have only just come from a meeting of that Committee, where we are setting up some terms of reference in relation to some of the continuing problems of communities throughout Australia. I have always had a genuine interest in this problem. The coalition has previously outlined some good policies in this area. On this occasion I believe that our shadow Minister, the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Connolly), has brought down a very good policy on Aboriginal affairs.

Dr Theophanous —He is not your shadow Minister any more, mate. You are a bit behind the times.

Mr IAN CAMERON —Well, I am not too sure what he is the shadow for. I also want to refer to the matter of our friend Mr Mansell, a so-called Aboriginal from Tasmania, whom I find rather repulsive as an Australian. I do not know who paid for his trip to Libya. I would like to know. Again, I would hazard a guess that it is the Australian taxpayer, it is we taxpayers in this House who have paid for this bloke's trip to Libya to talk with Gaddafi. Unfortunately, the definition of an Aborigine is apparently someone who associates with that group, but, obviously, from looking at this character on television, he is about as far removed from being an Aborigine as I am.

Mr Hand —Not quite.

Mr IAN CAMERON —Well, I have been brought up in the bush and I have a pretty good suntan; although I cannot make fire with two sticks, I can assure honourable members that I can do a lot of things that this bloke would not be able to do. He went across to Libya to stir up trouble. The payments for fares that are provided by this country for such people to travel overseas ought to be stopped immediately. Many of us forecast that this is the sort of situation that would develop. We were not believed at the time, but we are giving Aborigines more and more autonomy and they are not being brought under the rein of existing laws of Australia. They are able to travel around the world, to get up on the world stage and damn their own country and damn its government-even the Labor Government. They are able to swear all sorts of oaths against the Government on the world stage, and they have got to the ridiculous stage of talking about arming themselves for some sort of revolution. To my way of thinking, this bloke is a traitor to this country. The Minister has left the chamber, but it is time that he came back in here so I could say a few things to him. I see that he is now returning, so I can tell him, at least, that I support his speaking out against this character. But I would term Mr Mansell's actions as traitorous to this country and I believe that he ought to be taken to task.

Mr Hand —What about the legislation?

Mr IAN CAMERON —The legislation is to do with Aborigines. This fellow Mansell is meant to be one. That is why I am talking about him. Getting back to the legislation: The land in Victoria has been set aside to give a couple of groups of Australians there some extra privileges. They are getting some land at the expense-$1.3m-of the taxpayers. They will be exempt from paying land tax on it, which is a ridiculous state of affairs. They will be able to mine it. The royalty payments will go direct to them, as usual. That happens across the rest of Australia. That money does not go into Consolidated Revenue to be shared amongst the rest of the taxpayers of this country; it is paid straight back to the Aborigines. Again they are treated separately and differently.

I am a landholder with oil exploration going on across my land. Compensation is paid but we have to allow those companies to come on to our land and mine. We have no recourse to the law to stop the miners if we wished to. But if one is an Aborigine one can get a veto and stop them. That is the difference and that is the thing that we object to-and most Aborigines object to it, too. It is an absurd situation that we have developed. I am opposed to it. I do not believe that we should be establishing a separate race of people in this country, and most Aborigines feel the same way. While we are dealing with Aborigines, my good friend Sugar Ray Robinson from south-west of Charleville --

Mr Hand —Madam Speaker, I raise a point of order. I know the honourable member is from the National Party but, Madam Speaker, I make the point that he has yet to refer to the legislation before the House. I think it is important that we obtain from the National Party, through its spokesperson, what its attitude to the legislation is. He has touched on everything but the legislation.

Madam SPEAKER —The honourable member for Melbourne does not actually have a point of order. There has been a fairly wide-ranging debate on this Bill, but I do ask the honourable member for Maranoa not to stray too far away from the legislation before him.

Mr IAN CAMERON —Well, Charleville is not too far away from Victoria, Madam Speaker. There are many Aborigines in that part of the world whom I have to represent, and this debate gives me an opportunity to speak --

Mr Hand —Madam Speaker, I raise a point of order. Last night in this place the shadow Minister for Aboriginal Affairs was asked to move back to the legislation when at one stage he drifted away from it, and he did return to it. I was asked to do the same thing, if I remember rightly. It is only proper that the honourable member for Maranoa try to do the same. If he has not read the legislation, perhaps he ought to sit down and keep his bullets for another day. But he has not yet raised any point on the legislation, and there are two pieces of material he could address.

Madam SPEAKER —The honourable member for Melbourne would realise that the Chair is in a fairly difficult position. I did not occupy the chair for the early part of this debate. I was under the impression that there had been a fairly wide-ranging debate. However, I again say to the honourable member for Maranoa: Return to the Bill before you.

Mr IAN CAMERON —Madam Speaker, I understand your problem, and no doubt the honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Hand) also has a problem because he was not here when I spent the first 10 minutes of my speech covering the Aboriginal Land (Lake Condah and Framlingham Forest) Bill and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage Protection Amendment Bill. Honourable members can see that the Torres Strait Islands are included in one of these Bills. The Torres Strait Islands happen to be a part of the State of Queensland, and I would have thought that I could talk about Queensland and the problems of Aborigines in that State. More than half of the Aborigines in Australia happen to live in Queensland. I have to represent about 10,000 of those Aboriginal people. The Torres Strait Islander Heritage Protection Amendment Bill is part of this cognate debate. The honourable member for Melbourne does not know what he is talking about.

Mr Hodgman —He was over at the Russian Embassy.

Mr IAN CAMERON —He does not have a clue what he is on about. He is jumping up and down taking points of order.

Mr Hand —Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I ask that the interjection made by the honourable member for Denison be withdrawn.

Madam SPEAKER —I regret that I did not hear the interjection by the honourable member for Denison who, I might say, should not be interjecting when he is sitting at the table. If the honourable member made an offensive remark, he will withdraw it.

Mr Hodgman —Madam Speaker, I do not think it was. I certainly said he was over at the embassy, but I withdraw it. We all know where he has been.

Mr Hand —Madam Speaker, I take a point of order. I say again that I have never set foot in an embassy in this country and I object to the honourable member's tone and to what he continually throws at honourable members on this side of the House.

Madam SPEAKER —I suggest to the honourable member for Denison that, if he wishes to interject, he should be sitting in his own seat. Then, if he does interject, I will stop him. I call the honourable member for Maranoa.

Mr IAN CAMERON —Madam Speaker, I am pleased that I am getting a say in this debate. The Aboriginal Land (Lake Condah and Framlingham Forest) Bill and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage Protection Amendment Bill which I have been speaking about for the last 10 or 15 minutes cover Aborigines in Queensland. I would like to bring to the attention of the House the problems that Mr Ray Robinson from the Legal Aid Service in my area--

Mr Holding —Madam Speaker, I take a point of order. I do not want unnecessarily to restrict the ambit of the debate but there are close to 1,400 Aboriginal organisations around Australia. If this debate is to be used--

Mr Connolly —I thought it was 1,200.

Mr Holding —No, it is about 1,400. Those are the ones we fund. There are about another 200. To the extent that this debate is allowed to develop along the lines that it is used by honourable members as an occasion to raise some problems which can be canvassed either in the adjournment debate or in other ways - -

Mr Shack —Is this a speech or a point of order?

Mr Holding —It is a point of order but I have to explain it fairly carefully so that people who know nothing about it, such as the honourable member, might understand the issue.

Madam SPEAKER —The Minister will resume his seat. I point out to the honourable member for Maranoa that the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage Protection Amendment Bill is a significant step forward for the protection of Aboriginal cultural heritage in Victoria. It is an amendment to an existing Bill to extend protection to Victoria. It is not about Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders.

Mr Connolly —Madam Speaker, on a point of order: If you do not mind my reflecting on you, I think it would be contentious for you to use the words you just did, that this legislation was a significant step forward. I suggest that that is a political judgment and not necessarily an appropriate comment to come from the Chair.

Madam SPEAKER —I point out that I was reading from the Minister's second reading speech which I have in front of me. I might tell the honourable member that I have not read the Bill; so I must read the second reading speech.

Mr Connolly —Madam Speaker, with respect, that is the job of the Minister; it is not the job of the Speaker. I must make another point. I support the observation that you made earlier that this is a wide-ranging debate because it relates not only to that Bill which covers cultural heritage on an Australia-wide basis, although these amendments are specifically related to Victoria, but more importantly it also relates to the other legislation on land rights which again can be argued from the point of view of both the particular and the general.

Madam SPEAKER —I am sure the honourable member for Bradfield realises, as I have pointed out, that it is a wide-ranging debate. However, the honourable member for Maranoa tends to roam far and wide. I suggest that he should not roam so far.

Mr IAN CAMERON —Madam Speaker, the honourable member for Maranoa is a good member. I know that my time is running out. Everybody has had a go at speaking except me. I conclude my remarks on these Bills by pointing out the problems in the Goondiwindi area. Mr Robinson represents the Legal Aid Service in that area. We are looking for more housing and more money. I have spoken to the Minister, who is in the chamber, about this problem concerning the Aborigines in my area. I know that he is certainly looking at this problem with this person and others involved in the Legal Aid Service in south-west Queensland and my electorate of Maranoa. Madam Speaker, I thank you for your indulgence.