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Thursday, 16 February 2017
Page: 1315

Mr BURKE (WatsonManager of Opposition Business) (12:36): I suggest that the member for Melbourne leave it to Donald Trump to present alternative facts. What we just heard in that speech, and the characterisation of the Australian Labor Party, was extraordinary and without foundation at all. Labor could not have been clearer both during the conduct of this debate and in the argument we brought to the House this morning that we object completely to the way the government has handled this debate; we object completely to being put in a situation where we are expected to be able to make a case on a final position on this legislation without being able to conduct consultation. That puts us in a position where the speeches that you would want to make on this native title bill can only be made by a number of members who will present the problems that we face, but not one of us is able to speak on a final position.

When parliament comes back in a couple of weeks time we would have been in a position to do that, because the consultation would have occurred—and that consultation would have been real. But for the member for Melbourne to have looked at the predicament that we are in and say that somehow that means we are siding with the government is extraordinary. If he wants to do the 'full of sound and fury' quote from Macbeth, why not quote for himself the words that come before it—'a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more'—because that is exactly what we got from the member for Melbourne. Do not start quoting the wrong section of that soliloquy when it is you who is going to demonstrate the words that come before it—that is what the member for Melbourne just did.

The member for Melbourne, in the presentation he just gave, also sells short to the Australian people the frustration that is felt in this room today with the behaviour of the government of Australia, sells short to the Australian people just how many of us there are who are furious at the way this government is treating a serious issue on native title. Let us not forget: when the Native Title Act was introduced, the House of Representatives debated it for 17 hours. A few years later it was amended, and the House of Representatives had 14 hours of debate. Today, let us not pretend we have had even one hour of debate, because we have not. It is not debate when one side of the chamber has not yet been able to conduct the consultation required to arrive at a position at all. If the member for Melbourne or anyone else thinks that somehow we are having a proper debate in the course of proceedings in this chamber today, they are sorely mistaken.

Native title is a critically important issue for this nation—a critically important issue for this nation—and it should receive the opportunity for proper debate. It is an atrocity that we are in the circumstance now where that debate will be left only to people who have been elected to the Senate. We have been put in that situation because the government sought to bring this bill on for debate today, and from the moment that was clear the Labor Party was on its feet, at 9.30 this morning, calling on the government to not take that path. But it is not simply whether or not a vote happens today—there should not have been any debate on the issue today. That would have been the correct course. Make no mistake about the outcome of this being pushed through today. The outcome of this being pushed through today is that it will then go nowhere, because the next week that we sit Senate estimates is on anyway. So we could have debated this in the House of Representatives when the parliament returns and it would have made no difference at all to the timing of the bill—absolutely no difference at all.

I made clear in my speech—in fairness to the member for Melbourne I think he was moving to the chamber while I was on my feet—the challenge members of the opposition face in speaking on a bill when we have not had the chance to arrive at a final position. Of course that means that what has gone on in this chamber today has not been a debate on legislation—it has been a debate on process, because the government's process has been a disaster and on native title and consultation with the first Australians that process matters. We will be voting against the procedural motion and we trust that the government will think carefully about the appalling process that has been followed today. (Time expired)