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Thursday, 16 February 2017
Page: 1317


Mr SNOWDON (Lingiari) (12:46): Minister, you have no idea what consultation means: talking to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people around the country. The claims that have been made by the minister are patently false. Forty-two per cent of my electorate are Aboriginal people. I will guarantee that not one of them is aware that this bill is before the parliament today or what is in it. Yet we are expected to believe that somehow or other this decision is being made based on informed discussion with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Nothing could be further from the truth. Minister, you treat Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with absolute disrespect with the way in which you are trying to get us to go through this legislation today.

We understand that this court decision has made some issues for us. We appreciate that and we understand there is an issue about validating acts and agreements which have now been potentially invalidated as a result of the court decision. But that does not obviate the need for us to talk to people and consult properly.

I ask the government: you have a committee of this House which was actually meeting an hour ago, so why wouldn't you have charged it with the responsibility of doing some work and then coming back to this House before the next sitting? Why not? Is it because you think only the Senate does work around here? What do you think we do here? Do you think I should go back to my electorate and go around the community asking people what they think of this legislation and its importance, and getting the views of people who may want to express it to me?

We know that the native title rep body sees some significant issues around this, but we also know they have a responsibility, as we do, to talk with and represent the interests of native title holders wherever they might be around this country. We cannot be said to be doing that by rushing this legislation through this parliament today. We cannot be said to have done that.

As I have said in a previous contribution, I doubt that the Minister for Indigenous Affairs feels enlightened by what is going on here or, indeed, believes it is a great idea. I am sure he would believe—without wanting to put words in his mouth, of course—that there needs to be proper consultation before we hurry this legislation through any chamber of this parliament, let alone passing it through here. The minister has just admitted that there has been no consultation prior to this bill being put before the parliament. He is saying that the consultation is going to happen after the fact—that post the passage of this legislation in this House there will be consultation.

Mr Keenan: Further consultation!

Mr SNOWDON: Further consultation? There has been no consultation.

Mr Pyne: Rubbish!

Mr SNOWDON: The government Leader of the House says it is rubbish. Let me ask this question: who do you think has been consulted? You have had a media release from a person who represents a peak body for the native title rep bodies. Does that mean the native title rep bodies have talked to their native title claimants or the people who have been involved in the agreements?

Mr Keenan: They are the peak body for all the native title bodies.

Mr SNOWDON: Minister, you have no idea how this place operates or how they operate. Do you think native title holders say, 'Listen, we'll give the peak body the right to represent our interests on all things and they can talk on our behalf even though we don't know what they're talking about—we call that informed consent'? I don't think so!

In the years I have been in this place, every time we have had an issue around Aboriginal issues—I can refer to ATSIC. In getting rid of ATSIC there was no consultation. They say, 'We get in here and we want to amend this law without consultation.' Labor has a proud tradition of sitting with and listening and learning from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Let me say this: it might well be that we have cause to support elements of the government's legislation or indeed the whole piece of legislation. But until we have had the discussion with the people who may be affected by it, how can we make that decision, let alone have an opportunity to talk in caucus about these issues? It is time for us to take stock here in this place and to start treating people properly and not with the ignorance that is being done currently by this government. (Time expired)

The SPEAKER: The question is that the motion to suspend standing orders moved by the Leader of the House be agreed to.