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Friday, 1 May 1987
Page: 2429

Mr CONNOLLY(11.25) —In his closing remarks on this Bill, the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Holding) attempted, rather unsuccessfully, to draw a distinction between the Federal policy of the Liberal Party, the official Opposition in this Parliament, and the Liberal Party in Victoria. In so doing, however, the Minister deliberately omitted some very important factors. For example, he drew attention to the fact that the Bolte Government had given what he described as a similar title to the Lake Tyers community. The question of similarity, of course, may be subject to legal interpretation. However, there is one fundamental difference between the title offered then and the title that has been offered now, and this relates to the whole question of land rights apropos mining on Aboriginal land. The Bolte legislation did not refer to such provisions as contained in this Bill. In Victoria, there is quite justifiable concern that if legislation which contains elements of the question of mining on Aboriginal lands is implemented, the same principle can be applied to other legislation in Victoria. This issue has been brought to our attention; it is a matter which was discussed in the Victorian Parliament. I merely raise it to emphasise yet again the inaccuracies of the Minister in trying to draw the type of distinction which he has. It is a dangerous precedent as far as many people in Victoria are concerned. The legitimate interests of the people of Victoria, as expressed in the Parliament of Victoria, were completely correct at that time.

I again refer to the other point that the Minister had tended to ignore. The Minister claims that he agrees with what I have said on behalf of the Opposition-that this legislation should never had been introduced into this Parliament in the first place.

Mr Holding —Is that an aspersion?

Mr CONNOLLY —It should never have been introduced. It is not a case of its not having to be; it never should have been introduced into this Parliament. I said in this chamber last night, I mentioned it to the Minister privately, and I repeat it publicly: If the Victorian--

Mr Hand —On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker: The shadow Minister, the honourable member for Bradfield, is saying that something should never have been introduced into this Parliament. The Parliament is entitled to discuss this legislation--

Madam DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mrs Darling) —There is no point of order there.

Mr Hand —The reason it is here is that his people in Victoria lost it, and the honourable member knows that. So, it is a shallow argument that he is putting to the Parliament. Why can he not be fair dinkum?

Madam DEPUTY SPEAKER —Order! The honourable member for Melbourne will be seated. There is no point of order.

Mr CONNOLLY —I will not waste my time or that of the House responding to such a ludicrous proposition. I said, and I repeat: If the Victorian Government was serious about granting title, it did not have to do it through legislation, firstly, and, secondly, if it had the problems, as claimed in the Upper House, it could just as easily have reached the same conclusion by executive means. The Minister is well aware that, under Victorian law, Crown land can be transferred. A specific Act of Parliament does not have to be involved every time someone wants to give a playing field to a local council. The truth of the matter is that the Cain Government has a record of gross negligence in this area since its election. Year after year it has seen other States, both National Party and Labor Party States, going forward and giving land rights to Aboriginal communities. The State of Victoria has the worst record of all. At the eleventh hour, after four, five and in some cases, according to Mr Clark, eight years of negotiation, it has finally decided to make a virtue out of necessity and pass legislation through Parliament. When members of the Victorian Government found that the legislation could not be passed, instead of being men of honour and people of integrity, referred to so often by the Minister and his cohorts on the other side, they did not even bother to take the issue through the upper House. They did not bother to debate seriously the amendments put forward by the Opposition. They dropped their bags and baggage and ran off to Mother Holding for support. I said that last night, and I repeat it for the record: Had they been serious about this matter they could have solved their problems domestically, but they refused to do that.

Mr Hand —On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker: The shadow Minister is reflecting on this House. We have just taken a vote in Committee and have reported to the House, but the honourable member is now suggesting that this Parliament does not have the right to consider the matter, when in fact the Parliament has considered it-and that is a reflection on the Parliament. We have the right to consider anything we so desire.

Madam DEPUTY SPEAKER —I warn the honourable member for Bradfield that, when he makes comments such as those which he has made, he must not reflect on the House by making such comments in the context that this House is not able or authorised to consider such legislation.

Mr CONNOLLY —Madam Deputy Speaker, had you been here last night for my speech on the second reading, you would have noted that I referred specifically to the fact that we are not questioning the authority of the Federal Parliament to legislate concurrently with the States in relation to Aboriginal matters. That is a constitutional requirement placed on us by the referendum of 1967, and I have said nothing this morning which disputes that. All I have said-and I will repeat it as it happens to be a strongly held view of the Opposition parties-is that this particular set of problems, involving some 12 square kilometres of land, could have been solved in Victoria, through the normal procedures of the Victorian Parliament, without the Federal Parliament having to spend time on the matter. It is not a question of jurisdiction, as we have that jurisdiction. It is a question of judgment, a question of principle, as to who should do what.

Madam DEPUTY SPEAKER —The honourable member is in order in making comments regarding judgment, but not on jurisdiction. His speech last night was before the vote, and the point that he made does not apply to anything that we are discussing this morning. I ask the honourable member to keep along the line that we do have the authority and jurisdiction.

Mr CONNOLLY —The Minister has made a major issue of the question of freehold title in perpetuity. The question which people ask, and which the Minister did not attempt to answer in his response to the second reading debate, is whether or not the present generation has the right to tie up the opportunities for change which will affect future generations. The question of law is what we are trying to determine. We are talking about laws which are to be applied to Aboriginals and non-Aboriginals alike across Australia. We in the Opposition stand on the belief that the form of title should be arrived at by the State governments in consultation with Aboriginal communities. If they wish to take it to the Parliament they have to argue their case in the normal way. One can only conclude that they could not get it through the Victorian Parliament because they failed to argue their case satisfactorily and because they simply did not have the support of the House-a House elected by the people of Victoria. That is what it is all about.

Dr Theophanous —Madam Deputy Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The honourable member is reflecting on the representative nature of the Victorian Government. The Victorian Government was elected to represent the people and the legislation should have been able to go through the House.

Madam DEPUTY SPEAKER —There is no point of order. The honourable member for Calwell will be seated, but I would--

Mr CONNOLLY —The honourable member for Calwell (Dr Theophanous) is well known for his Marxist tendencies. All I can say is that he is not a democrat if he believes what he just said.

Madam DEPUTY SPEAKER —Order! On another point, I wish to draw to the attention of the honourable member for Bradfield that in the third reading debate he may not rehash the points which have been raised in the second reading debate. He may address himself only to that matter which has been referred back to the House from the Committee. Would the honourable member please adhere to that course?

Mr CONNOLLY —The Government has made the point that it is meeting the requirements and wishes of the Aboriginal community. One would hope that that is the case. However, I would like to table, and address myself to, a document which was sent to me by Mr Greg Clark, who is the leader of the Framlingham community. He makes a number of points.

Mr Hand —Madam Deputy Speaker, I raise a point of order. I suggest that the person's name is probably Geoff Clark, and if the honourable member is going to quote someone he should try to get his name right; it might help him.

Madam DEPUTY SPEAKER —There is no point of order.

Mr CONNOLLY —Mr Geoff Clark said:

It has never been agreed by this Community (Framlingham) nor Kerrup Jmara-Condah that the two Bills be enacted as one.

He went on to say:

This is clearly Clyde Holding's/Jim Kennan's doing.

He took exception to the fact that in a Commonwealth Bill the word `Aboriginal' is used when in fact he believes it should be `Aborigine'-despite the fact that it is Commonwealth policy to do so. He resents that change in wording and feels insulted by it. He said:

The reason for electing to have Commonwealth legislation other than State was so that the Framlingham Bill would not be further watered down . . . in the Upper House--

Nevertheless, he makes the point that this proved to be wrong because of `Clyde Holding's gutter approach'. He said further:

A position of trust in dealing with State Labor government over an 8-year period, and a similar amount of redraft on the choice of words, clauses, and provisions in the current State Framlingham Forest Aboriginal Land Act 1987. This position of trust has now been broken by Holding's and Jim Kennan's secret dealings with each other.

He then said:

Major points and changes outlined here are the result of closed meetings of the two Ministers mentioned. The Framlingham community has been excluded from this process to the extent that the community has only just received . . .

He refers to Friday, the 20th--

Madam DEPUTY SPEAKER —Order! Would the honourable member for Bradfield cease that line of discussion for the moment. He is out of order, having gone beyond the clauses as amended. I have just asked the Clerk to show me those clauses. The letter and the matter the honourable member is now debating are out of order.

Mr CONNOLLY —If I am out of order, Madam Deputy Speaker, I seek leave of the House to have incorporated in Hansard this document from Mr Clark which points out the difficulties he has had in negotiations with both the Victorian Government and, obviously, the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, and the objections which his community, the Framlingham community, have to the proposals contained in this legislation.

Madam DEPUTY SPEAKER —Would the honourable member allow me and the Clerk to see the document? If it is in tabulation form it may be tabled. The honourable member may not table a letter.

Mr CONNOLLY —It is not a letter.

Madam DEPUTY SPEAKER —Now that I have seen this document I rule that it may be tabled but not incorporated. Is leave granted to table the document?

Leave granted.

Mr CONNOLLY —Madam Deputy Speaker, I regret that you would not let me have the document incorporated in Hansard, although I would be quite happy to read it into Hansard. The point it makes is that there is less than unanimity on various aspects of this legislation which the Government is trying to claim is somehow a trail-blazing operation of intercommunal support. All I am simply stating is that it does not have the support of at least one major elder of one of the communities covered by this Bill. In addition to that, the Government did not have the support of the Parliament of Victoria.

Dr Theophanous —Why don't you argue on the principles?

Mr CONNOLLY —While the honourable member for Calwell, who is at the back of the chamber-the spokesman for Moscow corner, as my colleague has called him on previous occasions-seems to have some difficulty with the democratic process, the fact of the matter is that the Victorian Parliament does not control the upper House.

Madam DEPUTY SPEAKER —Order! The honourable member for Bradfield is entirely out of order. The first point is that it was not the Chair-or me personally-who would not have the document incorporated; it was the rules of the House. Also, I once again draw to the honourable member's attention that at the time of the third reading debate he may comment only on the clauses as amended. I do not wish to call the honourable member to order again. Will he please adhere to that ruling?

Dr Theophanous —I raise a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. This is the second time that the honourable member for Bradfield, who has no argument, has tried to reflect on me and throw out various titles, including--

Madam DEPUTY SPEAKER —Order! What is the point of order?

Dr Theophanous —He just made a remark to which I take exception.

Mr Hawker —What was it?

Dr Theophanous —He suggested that in some sense I am some kind of stooge of the Soviet Union. If he knew anything about my record in relation to the Soviet Union, he would not make such a stupid comment. But I can say this to him--

Madam DEPUTY SPEAKER —Order! The honourable member for Calwell will be seated. He may not debate the point of order. I ask the honourable member for Bradfield to withdraw the words which reflected on a member of this House.

Mr CONNOLLY —May I comment, please, Madam Deputy Speaker?

Madam DEPUTY SPEAKER —No, I just ask you to withdraw any words that reflected on a member of this House.

Mr CONNOLLY —Madam Deputy Speaker, of course, in deference to your ruling, I will withdraw any words which reflected on a member of this House. May I say, however, that the honourable member, coming as he does from the State of Victoria, is well aware that members of the upper House vote on behalf of and represent the people of Victoria--

Madam DEPUTY SPEAKER —No, you may not. Would the honourable member either debate the clauses as amended or take his seat?

Mr CONNOLLY —I wish to conclude my remarks in this third reading debate by just emphasising the fact that the Opposition objects to this legislation.

Madam DEPUTY SPEAKER —Order! The honourable member's time has elapsed.