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Thursday, 10 March 1977

Mr Les Johnson (HUGHES, NEW SOUTH WALES) -The Opposition is not opposed to this motion because it re-constitutes a Committee which has been operating for some time now. But I want to say that during the period in which the Parliament has been prorogued there have been some disheartening developments in respect of the Aboriginal and Northern Territory land rights legislation. Contrary to the provisions of this legislation the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly has taken on board legislation which is contrary to the principles enunciated by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) in that legislation. The Committee, of course, has been operating under the impression that its principal task has been to reconcile the attitude of the Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory with the attitude of the Government, as expressed by that legislation. It is a very time consuming activity to belong to the Joint Select Committee on Aboriginal Land Rights in the Northern Territory, particularly because members of the House of Representatives who are involved also have responsibilities in regard to inquiries concerning Aboriginal health and alcoholism among Aborigines. It would be most frustrating if the purposes of the Committee were to be circumvented by the Legislative Assembly. In regard to certain matters affecting off-shore Aboriginal land areas some actions appear to have been taken which are contrary to the spirit of the legislation and the spirit contained in the Government's decision to establish this Committee in the first instance and to re-constitute it now.

I am certainly not disparaging of the Minister who, I believe, has been betrayed in this matter by the Majority Leader of the Legislative Assembly. I must say in fairness that the Majority Leader of the Legislative Assembly is not a member of the Liberal Party but a member of the National Country Party. I know that the Minister has expressed concern about this circumvention of the decision of this House to have these matters thoroughly investigated by both the House of Representatives and the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly. I congratulate him and I sincerely hope that if there is any further attempt to undermine, sabotage or avoid the objectivity of this Committee, which is spelt out in the motion before the House at the present time, the Minister will continue to effectively represent this Parliament in admonishing the Majority Leader in the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly.

Mr Hodgman - What a lot of rubbish.

Mr Les Johnson (HUGHES, NEW SOUTH WALES) -I do not think that the Minister would say that it is a lot of rubbish. I acknowledge the fact that the Minister has stood his ground on this matter in a high-principled way. If he had not, one would find that many members serving on this Committee would not be prepared to serve on it any longer. It would be most frustrating for that to occur. I express the hope that the Minister will continue to pursue high principles in this matter.

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