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Tuesday, 15 October 2002
Page: 5184

Senator IAN MACDONALD (Minister for Forestry and Conservation) (6:30 PM) —Again, most of the issues that Senator Ridgeway has just raised are issues which are not relevant to this bill and which I do not want to comment upon. Suffice it to say, Senator Ridgeway—and I understand that there is a cultural and an ethnic difference—that you would have heard another senator in this debate question why the Torres Strait prawn entitlement holders were not on the authority as well. If it is going to be a representative authority of simply everybody, where do you stop?

Senator Ridgeway —The Torres Strait prawn entitlement holders do not have native title.

Senator McLucas —That is taking it a bit far.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —You say we are taking it too far. Senator McLucas, I thought you were suggesting that. I notice that you were careful not to actually advocate it; you were simply questioning me. It seems that you will be able to show our friends in the Torres Strait Prawn Entitlement Holders Association that you raised the matter in the Senate—good on you. They have raised the issue with me, as you know. I take it that you are not advocating the position. I think you well understand why, and I think they do as well. We want to try to involve them and we want to try to involve everyone in coming to the correct conclusion.

I repeat, if the government were persuaded that other amendments were needed in the future then, Senator Ridgeway, of course we would always look at proposals for amendment. I will not today give you a commitment to do anything except listen. I know the government will listen. If you have a proposal, you always have the opportunity to raise the issue by way of an amendment to the bill in the future. That is something that you obviously have the opportunity to do. I am happy to consider anything that is put to me. If I am persuaded that it is a good idea then I am very happy to take it to the government. If they can be persuaded that it is a good idea, we will join you in a possible amendment. But I do not want to give you any tacit approval or thought that the government might be prepared to support something like that. As it now stands, we would not. But we are prepared to listen to anything, we are prepared to look at anything that you may bring to us or which the meeting in November might come up with.