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Friday, 5 December 1986
Page: 3492


Senator GRIMES (Minister for Community Services)(12.12) —I thank honourable senators for their contributions. I think it is a pity that the Opposition cannot support this legislation, for all the reasons given by Senator Macklin. The Government has decided to give freehold rather than leasehold title to this land. As Senator Macklin said, it has been a long time getting to this position with a lot of negotiations by governments of both political persuasions. Like Senator Macklin, I hope some lessons have been learned on both sides, but I think it is now appropriate that this Parliament should put the matter to rest by passing this legislation to give some form of justice and recompense to a community which has suffered considerably over the years. Senator Lewis raised the matter of public access and I would have thought that was covered pretty clearly particularly in clause 49 of the Bill which gives the Minister the capacity-that Minister will use that capacity-where he is satisfied that it is desirable that the public should continue to have access to a place which the public had access to before the place became Aboriginal land, to make a declaration that the public have access to such a place, excepting of course significant sites or land use for domestic purposes. It is my understanding that the public roads have in fact been excluded from the maps that were drawn up so that it becomes a matter of what happens in the parklands and areas of public use. That raises the matter raised by Senator Macklin about the liability of the community for things that may happen on public land which is in fact technically owned by it. I have been assured by the advisers here that the community will not be liable under such circumstances, but I am not clear that that is sufficient for Senator Macklin. If it is not, in the Committee stages I will get further information under those circumstances. I thank honourable senators for their support and urge the passage of the legislation.

Amendment negatived.

Original question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.