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Wednesday, 25 March 1998
Page: 1629


Ms WORTH (11:37 AM) —in reply—I have sat here and listened to a number of very wide ranging speeches, some of which really do not require comment. In his opening remarks, the member for Banks (Mr Melham) said that this legislation had the full support of the opposition and for that I thank the opposition.

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission Amendment Bill 1997 legislation is not contentious; it is technical. The bill allows ATSIC to attach conditions to its consent to the disposal of an interest in ATSIC funded property but I think we have perhaps heard very little of that this morning. Instead, we have heard a lot of politics being played. My staff during this debate have brought me everything I have said on Aboriginal affairs in the five years that I have been in this place. It is significant. A number of people in this chamber have also made significant contributions.

As I have said at other times, Aboriginal and other Australian reconciliation is far too important to be playing politics about, but that is what we have heard happen today. While the member for Banks and I would have some things to agree about, and have agreed in the past, I cannot support his remarks this morning when he made an attack on a very fine senator, Senator John Herron, Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs, who has done so much in the last two years.

I attended a seminar within Parliament House only a couple of months ago on reproductive health. There were people here from various parts of the world. There was an Aboriginal woman speaking at that seminar and she spoke about the fact that more had been done for Aboriginal health in recent times than in the preceding very many years. I think it has been poor form to refer to Senator Herron the way he has been referred to today and I staunchly defend him. He has said that there were rumours of this walkout and this resolution from the board of ATSIC in the preceding two weeks, timed impeccably to just precede debate on the Wik legislation. And unfortunately there has been far too much politics about this situation.

I say again and again and again—and cannot say more emphatically—that reconciliation is far too important to have politics played. Father Brennan's name has been mentioned this morning. That has been widely talked about in the main chamber. Father Brennan is somebody who cares a great deal about reconciliation and working with Aboriginal people but because he took a different view from the National Indigenous Working Group means that politics is once again being played there. I repudiate all of that but, at the same time, do thank those who have supported this legislation today because it certainly is important. I commend the bill to the House and look forward, in a moment, to moving another amendment.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.