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Thursday, 10 March 1977

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Giles (ANGAS, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) -I interrupt the honourable member for one moment to remind him that the House is dealing with a motion to set up a select committee. I ask him to stick fairly closely to that aspect rather than to broaden the issue, which the previous speaker, the honourable member for Hughes, bordered on doing but avoided very adroitly. I ask the honourable member to remember that we are debating the motion to set up a select committee.

Mr CALDER -Mr Deputy Speaker,I could not agree with you more. The honourable member for Hughes introduced this matter and I thought that someone should say something about it. I have a criticism of the wording of this motion and I have stated it on previous occasions. Clause ( 1 ) states:

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

(a)   The operation of provisions of the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976 relating to the identification of traditional owners of Aboriginal land and the means of establishing the views of such owners to the satisfaction of the relevant Land Council;

I am assured by various legal advisers, of which the Minister is one, that this refers to the Land Councils operating to the satisfaction of traditional owners, which is as it should be. But to me the wording makes it seem exactly the other way around. I know that the Minister will say that is not so but we are dealing with Aboriginal people and I would be surprised if the majority of them understood the wording. I am not insulting the few who do.

Mr James - What about Charles Perkins?

Mr CALDER - He is not an Aborigine.

Mr James - What is he?

Mr CALDER -According to the definition originally introduced by a former Minister for Aboriginal affairs, the honourable member for MacKellar, (Mr Wentworth), he is certainly not an Aborigine. He is not considered to be an Aborigine by the Aborigines in the Northern Territory. The honourable member should find out a thing or two about this matter. I would like to see some clarification of the clause which would make it apparent that the Land Councils are supposed to be responsible to the traditional owners and not vice versa. I think the word 'as' between the word 'owners' and 'owners to the satisfaction of the relevant Land Council' would probably make it a lot more clear. I turn to subclause 12 which states that the Select Committee has to present its report by 1 8 August. I note with regret that it is a Select Committee. It might seem an adequate time to report on some aspects of these matters before the Committee and the Government but I consider this should be an ongoing committee. I think everyone who has any real knowledge of the Aboriginal situation in the Northern Territory would agree. Not only could there be other legislation introduced by the Legislative Assembly but also there certainly will be legislation introduced by the Land Councils, whose actions and personnel are being questioned very strongly in some cases by the Aborigines in the areas. I refer to the traditional owners to which this Act applies. I think it is a great shame that this Committee is to be a Select Committee because as such it goes out of action when the report is brought down unless it gets a new term of office.

I would like to mention briefly that the leader of the Legislative Assembly has not betrayed anyone. He has not sabotaged or undermined anything. The Legislative Assembly provided draft legislation to the Federal Government. It was the Government's duty to consider that and to consult with the Legislative Assembly. For anyone to abuse any member of the Legislative Assembly, and the Majority Leader in particular, over this matter is complete and utter nonsense.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

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