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Wednesday, 8 December 1976

Mr BRYANT (Wills) -I second the amendment. I will be relatively brief in my remarks.

Mr Martyr - You can 't.

Mr BRYANT -Yes I can. It would not take me more than half a minute to describe the honourable member's inadequacies or adequacies. I support my colleague the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson) in this matter. Whilst it is true that the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) may by reference expand the proposed committee's work, I think that the amendment moved by the honourable member for Hughes gives the committee's terms of reference more precision and more direction and therefore we ought to act upon it. I will not go over the ground which we canvassed during the debate on the land rights legislation. I will not repeat our lack of faith in the capacity of the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly to carry out the duties that we think were imposed upon us by the people of Australia in 1967 and in following years.

I think the suggestion to expand the membership of the present Committee to include members of the Senate is a good one. The original suggestion was that a separate committee be appointed. However, I think that the re-creation of the Standing Committee in the form of a special land rights scrutiny committee is a good step towards strengthening the parliamentary committees. I also think it is an interesting step in the role which this Parliament plays. My belief is that the Parliament spends too much of its time considering legislation upon which it has no effect and too little time upon its proper function of scrutiny of the results of that legislation. The new committee will be involved in the scrutiny of legislation which has been passed by the Parliament. I think that is an important step. It may be that the Parliament could turn its attention to other areas as well. The present Committee, with the addition of the senators, will be a fairly powerful one. I think it will have on it at least 4 people who have been Ministers responsible for the general area of Aboriginal affairs. Mr Deputy Speaker, you will agree that the present Committee has some very distinguished and effective back benchers on it. The chairmanship is pretty sound, as long as it is given proper direction.

I note the Minister's statement that we will get full support from his Department. I hope we will be able to get support from a large number of areas of government, particularly from the House committee staff and so on. Over the last 6 months a number of us have become very deeply involved in the committee side of Aboriginal affairs. I know it has been a very strenuous exercise physically. It has been very demanding intellectually. I am convinced that committees will not be able to work as effectively as we wish unless we expand the servicing of them. The staff travels all over Australia continually. They do their work with great dedication. I am certain that this House is still rather miserly in its approach to the staffing and servicing of committees.

There is one other matter to which I think we ought to turn our attention in regard to the work of committees. I think it is time that we allowed committees to appoint one of their members to investigate a particular aspect of a subject. In any other area of government we are likely to appoint one person to carry out an investigation and report. Sometimes it is a waste of resources to have a number of people- five or six- listening to one lot of evidence or even investigating one area of activity. This is a question for the Standing Orders Committee or perhaps for a special resolution of this Parliament. I know that the activities of the present Committee would have been expanded enormously and would have been carried out with a greater economy of human resources if individual members could have done some of the work that sub-committees do on occasions.

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