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Wednesday, 1 December 1976


Mr Les Johnson (HUGHES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I move:

Omit the clause, substitute the following clause: "2. This Act shall come into operation on a date to be fixed by proclamation.".

The reason for adopting this course is that whereas the Act is to come into operation on a date fixed by proclamation, as is mentioned in clause 2, clause 70 is to operate subsequently; not concurrently, but on a later date which is to be fixed for the purpose of sub-clause 1. Clause 70 relates to entry onto Aboriginal lands. This matter gives great concern to the Opposition and to Aboriginal communities all over Australia. Substantially it provides that a person shall not enter or remain on Aboriginal land except in accordance with the law of the Northern Territory. That is the essence of clause 70. When will the regulation be introduced in the Northern Territory? The position that will follow the passing of legislation is that Aboriginal people themselves will not be able to determine the question of entry onto Aboriginal land but at some time in the future the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly will be determining it. Mr Justice Woodward made recommendations on this matter. In paragraph 109 of the second report of the Aboriginal Land Rights Commission, under the heading 'Control of access to Aboriginal land', he stated:

One of the most important proofs of genuine Aboriginal ownership of land will be the right to exclude from it those who are not welcome. The Land Councils believe that this principle should be supported by a permit system and I agree with them. I accept the Northern Land Council's view that the system should be administered by the officers of the Land Councils, who would, where necessary, consult with the local community and clan leaders before issuing a permit.

But His Honour Mr Justice Woodward is not on his own in expressing enthusiasm for this concept. In fact in the debate that occurred in November 1975 after the introduction by the Labor Government of the Aboriginal Councils and Associations Bill the then spokesman for Aboriginal affairs, the present Attorney-General (Mr Ellicott) had quite a bit to say on this matter. He said, as reported on page 2752 of Hansard of 4 November 1975: . . Aboriginal groups to which I spoke . . . were emphatic that they wanted to say who came on to their land. They did not want a remote land council telling them what to do and who was to enter their land. As far as I can understand the matter, they also wanted the right to say whether a person should come on, whether that person was an Aboriginal or not.

Here we have a situation embellished by the support of His Honour Mr Justice Woodward and the former spokesman on Aboriginal affairs for the Liberal-National Country Party coalition. Yet in this legislation there has been a departure from that concept. Although it was intended that the function be administered by land councils and through them delegated to community councils, we will be substituting a situation which will have the effect that instead of the remote land councils making decisions, remote Darwin-based bureaucrats will be making them.

We regard this matter with very grave concern. I know that the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) in his second reading speech indicated that guidelines are to be provided for the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly in respect to the laws it is to make on Aboriginal lands. In his statement on 17 November 1976 he said that traditional Aboriginal rights to enter Aboriginal lands must be provided for. He then went on to say:

The leader of the Legislative Assembly and the Minister for the Northern Territory (Mr Adermann) have assured me that the Territory legislation will be worked out in consultation with Aboriginals and with my involvement and agreement.

It seems to me that to hoist the whole future of entry into Aboriginal land on such a vague assurance is a most unsatisfactory and even contemptuous way of treating this Parliament and this issue. One would go so far as to say that it represents an abrogation of responsibility on the part of this Government and the Parliament as well.

Perhaps there will be no law at all. The possibility is that the Legislative Assembly might initiate some action about this matter. On the other hand, there is a possibility that no action at all will be instituted. The situation perhaps will be that anyone will be able to enter Aboriginal land. That situation could easily eventuate if the Assembly failed to take action. In terms of the referendum decision that was taken and which clothed this Parliament with power on this subject it is not good enough to bail out on a matter so important for Aboriginal people. As the former Opposition spokesman, the present Attorney-General (Mr Ellicott), has said, wherever he sat people felt very strongly about this matter. Those members of the Parliament who are active in Aboriginal affairs would take an identical view. So it seems to me that this is an indication of the Government's intention to hand over the prerogative in this matter to the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly. If that does not represent white paternalism- in fact, if the whole proposition is for white people to determine who goes on Aboriginal land and if that also does not represent white paternalism- I doubt whether there is a meaningful definition of that phrase. For those reasons, the Opposition has moved its amendment.







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