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Thursday, 5 May 1994
Page: 316


Senator PANIZZA (12.45 p.m.) —The opposition does not oppose the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Amendment Bill 1994. It comes at the request of the Northern Territory government and with the support of both the Aboriginal community concerned and Gambamora Industries Pty Ltd, the adjoining land-holder. The bill relates to a parcel of land in the Wave Hill area which is to be granted to the relevant land trust.

  I understand that this land was part of a claim made for a much larger area of land but that claim was unsuccessful at the time. A claim was then made for the smaller area as in this legislation. The land has never been the subject of a pastoral lease; I can assure honourable senators of that. I was in that very vicinity only last week. It is dry; it is arid; it is vacant crown land. As part of the agreement amongst all parties concerning this claim, it was agreed that the Northern Territory government would request the Commonwealth to grant the claimed area to the traditional owners by scheduling the area under the principal act.

  The opposition is therefore happy to support the bill. It is a matter that has been settled by agreement and negotiation, and that included the Northern Territory government, which is sometimes attacked for its approach to these matters. The federal government should take note of the fact that cooperation and negotiation can have a positive outcome, as has happened in this case.

  Having put all this into place and the land being vested in that community we have spoken about, I am hoping that this federal government—in next week's budget or at some other time—can find the money to maintain and upgrade the road that runs from Halls Creek in Western Australia to Wave Hill in the Northern Territory. It is a distance of some 400 kilometres. It will be very important for this new land claim situation. At present, no-one seems to want to take responsibility for the road. It is not the responsibility of the main roads department of Western Australia, I might add. I believe it is a responsibility of the federal government. It is a disgrace. It has been used by a number of exploration people and by Aboriginal people travelling backwards and forwards. For safety and for commerce, I believe this federal government should find some money for it. On behalf of the opposition, the bill is not contentious and we support its passage.