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Tuesday, 28 February 2012
Page: 1006

Senator CHRIS EVANS (Western AustraliaMinister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Science and Research and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (13:40): I am not sure I can add much to the answer I gave yesterday. I understand the minister has not met with the litigants, but I can seek some further advice. I am not able to help you in the sense of who the minister has met with more specifically. I made it clear about the visit yesterday and I think the advice is that he has not met with the litigants. I am quite upfront about that.

In responding to the amendment which I think you are moving, the answer is that we agree with you but do not think putting it in the bill is appropriate because of the duplication argument. But I am going to get some further advice on that. The proposed amendment suggests that the land council can potentially make a fraudulent nomination. We believe that the rules of nomination under clause 5 already expressly state that a land council must comply with the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976 when it nominates a site. They are consistent with the functions of land councils and land dealings under the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act, so we say what you are seeking to do already applies and to place it in this bill can cause potential confusion because it is already contained in other legislation.

I have asked for further advice on whether there is a strong reason why we should not include it, because we do not have a policy difference. It is just a technical question. The early advice was that they thought it was not wise to put it in both bills. But, if you like, when we get to this we might defer that particular one. We are not arguing about the principle, as far as I understand it; it is just a question about whether or not it makes sense and whether our legal advice about duplication is that it does not make sense. I will come back to the chamber on that. If our legal advice is that it is going to cause us difficulty, we will vote against your amendment. If it is that there is no difficulty, we are happy to support it in broad terms. I think Senator Scullion will also make up his own mind about the opposition. Our argument is that the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act covers the concerns you have already.