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Wednesday, 8 December 1976
Page: 3500


Mr Kevin Cairns (LILLEY, QUEENSLAND) -I am impelled to say a few words about the amendment because I think the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson) seriously misunderstands the purport of the motion. Nothing proposed in the amendment is not already contained in the motion which, when passed, will cause this committee to be set up. I fear that when the honourable member for Hughes moved his amendment he included 2 extra subparagraphs, (v) and (vi), in sub-paragraph 1 (b), under the impression that the 2 new subparagraphs are not already included in those matters which may be investigated under the original motion. Therefore I ask him to turn his mind to the terms of the motion. Paragraph ( 1 ) states:

That a Joint Select Committee be appointed to examine and report on-

(a)   . . .

(b)   . . .

(c)   any other matters referred by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs.

They could quite clearly and quite easily embrace the points made by the honourable member for Hughes. I fear that out of goodwill he failed to understand that. The more he spoke the more I was certain that he misunderstood it. The Committee should be seen as a testament of good faith. It is a testament of good faith. Should there be any doubt about that, there are 2 points on which I wish to comment. The first is the innate generosity manifested by the House of Representatives in respect of any joint committee. Paragraph (2) of the motion of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) makes it clear that there will be 8 members of the House of Representatives and 6 senators. Already the Senate is over-represented. I hope that members of the committee from the House of Representatives do their best to see that the chairmanship authority remains where it ought to remain. If there were any residual doubt beyond that as to the good faith of those who propose the Committee, I refer to paragraph (3) of the Minister's motion.


Mr McLean - Are you on the present Commitee?


Mr Kevin Cairns (LILLEY, QUEENSLAND) -I am not on the Committee. I suggest that members opposite and members on this side of the House look at paragraph (3) of the Minister's motion. Paragraph (12) states:

That the committee report by 31 May 1977 and that any member of the committee have power to add a protest or dissent to any report.

If there were any doubt as to the purpose of setting up this committee, that doubt ought to be removed immediately by the paragraph. Members of the committee retain their freedom to come to what they feel are legitimate judgments and to report those judgments. So the committee would not operate in a complete vacuum and do nothing while another legislature passes legislation. It is emboldened and requested to report by 31 May. It may not necessarily be a final report. That merely indicates that the effluxion of time will not become a weapon which would be used to make the activities of the committee null and void and inappropriate to the examination of this legislation and its operation in the Northern Territory. That report has to be in within 6 months. That is not a long period. So I think that the Opposition has, with the greatest of goodwill, misunderstood those paragraphs of the motion which propose to set up the committee and which embrace all those propositions. They embrace an attitude of sincerity and an attitude of goodwill. They retain freedom for members of the committee.

There is one other aspect in the whole attitude of the Opposition to this legislation which worries me. I feel that it has not yet comprehended that the Northern Territory is to be given statehood within 5 years. This is a simple fact. We will not build up the greatest of goodwill or sense with respect to Aboriginal affairs if we seek continually from here to create a barrier between Aborigines and those who are exercising legitimate authority. I hope the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant), the honourable member for Hughes and the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren), if and when he speaks from his position of great authority, will comprehend all those things and will seek to look at them, having in mind goodwill for the Aboriginal people.

Two other aspects of the statements which have been made ought to be borne in mind. I refer to the proposition contained in the amendment moved by the Opposition that the operation of the laws in the Northern Territory should be investigated insofar as they affect Aboriginal land, in particular laws relating to roads upon Aboriginal land and the right of entry upon pastoral property. From the way in which Opposition members have made their statements concerning these matters, one would think that they were not aware of what the legislation here and in the Northern Territory now encompasses. I suggest that they have one or two hangups with respect to these matters which flow from their 1975 legislation. I ask honourable members opposite to look at the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Bill, in particular to clauses 70 ( 1) and 70 (3), which relate to the entry of people onto Aboriginal land. These clauses are worth while examining. Clause 70 ( 1 ) states:

Except in the performance of functions under this Act or otherwise in accordance with this Act or a law of the Northern Territory, a person shall not enter or remain on Aboriginal land. Penalty: $1,000.

Clause 70 (3) states:

In proceedings for an offence against sub-section ( 1 ), it is a defence if the person charged proves that his entry or remaining on the land was due to necessity.

Under the 1975 legislation there were many roads in the Northern Territory on which an effective toll bar could have been imposed at will. I believe that that is the hangup which still remains when this proposal is criticised. I refer to clause 73 of the Bill, which makes it quite clear that ordinances of the Northern Territory have to coincide with and not differ from, nor contradict, what can be enacted here and those laws which this Parliament retains the right to enact. The honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) appreciates these things immediately. At the end of clause 73 (1) the following saving provision states: but any such Ordinance has effect to the extent only that it is capable of operating currently with the laws of the Commonwealth, and, in particular, with this Act . . .

So in each of those cases there is a manifestation of goodwill. I would hope that the Opposition would not use this merely to set up bargaining positions, political or otherwise, with respect to Aboriginal land rights. I have a prevailing feeling that the principal aim of Opposition members is to do so, and that would be to the detriment both of this Parliament and of those people on behalf of whom this legislation is being introduced.

Motion (by Mr Donald Cameron) agreed to:

That the question be now put

Amendment negatived.

Original question resolved in the affirmative.







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