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Thursday, 5 June 2008
Page: 4679

Mr MURPHY (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Trade) (12:26 PM) —I would like to thank all the members who have participated in this debate and particularly my parliamentary colleague sitting at the table, the member for Casey, for his cooperation in this. The Indigenous Affairs Legislation Amendment Bill 2008 amends legislation in relation to Aboriginal land in the Northern Territory in order to provide greater flexibility in dealings with land owned or controlled by Aboriginal people. The aim of these changes is to facilitate an improvement in housing and infrastructure, including through the provision of more options to provide security of tenure for government providers of facilities.

This bill allows traditional Aboriginal owners more flexibility under the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976 for dealing with township leases. Township leases will now be set at a minimum term of 40 years. There will also be provision for the renewal of township leases up to a total of 99 years. The legislative changes proposed will allow leases to be tailored for specific communities. In particular, it will allow for an agreed new township lease covering communities in the Groote Eylandt region.

Other provisions in this bill allow the Executive Director of Township Leasing to hold other types of leases or subleases over land primarily held for the benefit of Aboriginal people. The purpose of this change is to give Aboriginal landholders the option of entering into a lease with an independent statutory office holder, rather than directly with government. As proposed by this bill, changes to the Northern Territory National Emergency Response Act 2007 will provide a framework for negotiation of payments to landholders for five-year leases. This will encourage a negotiated approach which will diminish the likelihood of action through the courts.

Finally, the bill amends the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976 to allow for 13 further areas of Aboriginal land to be granted. Granting these parks and reserves will enable the government to finalise an agreement struck in September 2003 between the Northern Territory government and the traditional Aboriginal owners of the land. This is consistent with the government’s approach of resolving Indigenous land claims by agreement, wherever possible, and not through the courts. As a result of the agreement, the 13 parks and reserves will be operated as national parks to provide long lasting enjoyment for all Australians.

Bill agreed to.

Bill read a second time.

Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.