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Monday, 19 March 2012
Page: 3337

Ms SAFFIN (Page) (20:36): I am going to respond directly to what the honourable member for Wannon said in his contribution, on two points. He is talking about what happens in Queensland on Saturday. What happens in Queensland on Saturday is not the reason I am talking to this particular issue before the House tonight. But on that point I can say that the Leader of the Opposition and the Queensland LNP are all over the place when it comes to wild rivers. The Queensland LNP have said that they would overturn wild rivers declarations in Cape York but 'have no plans to repeal or replace any of the wild rivers declarations in western Queensland'. That was from 'LNP safeguards Wild Rivers', a statement from Andrew Powell MP, shadow minister for environment, 15 Feb 2012. So, before the honourable member for Wannon comes in here with wild accusations, it is better that some of the facts get put straight.

The other issue that I want to address was raised in the contribution by the honourable member for Bowman when he impugned me and my colleagues who were speaking here tonight for laying claim to righteousness in matters pertaining to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and issues. That is a big claim for anyone, and I would caution him to think very carefully before he makes such a claim. The honourable member for Bowman also impugned us by way of saying that we had not visited certain communities, as if that were somehow a test and that we lack understanding because we have not visited certain communities. Again, without going too far down that track, I would caution him about making such unsubstantiated claims. It really is a spurious accusation without substance. When you are reduced to arguing like that, you are not really addressing the issue at hand.

The other issue relates to the honourable member for Wannon and his statement that this bill has been referred five times. This bill is actually three bills, with one subject matter, in different forms. Yes, it has done the rounds of referrals and it has been referred to various committees, but it keeps changing. It is the third version of the wild rivers bill that the opposition has introduced. Between the House and the Senate, there have been five goes at the bill. There have been three different versions of the bill—each with different contents, each with different clauses and each with significant drafting and operational issues. A previous version of the bill has already been rejected by the Senate. Despite this, the Leader of the Opposition is pursuing his current version of the bill, and this latest version should be subject to higher scrutiny. It is a complex and significant area of law and it should not be dealt with in an ad hoc way.

There have been a lot of comments on both sides of the chamber tonight about politics. Yes, politics does feature in this place and sometimes we hurl it across at each other as though that is rather surprising. It is not surprising, because there are substantive issues to deal with here with wild rivers, but there is a whole lot of politics around this, and that is what is being played out here at the moment. That is why this bill requires careful consideration by a parliamentary committee.

The bill also goes to the nature and the heart of native title. That is something that took a lot of years to get a framework and laws around, which processes and issues were to be developed, and it is something that would be better dealt with other than by way of a private members' committee. However, it is our right as members of parliament to do that.

The bill, in its latest version, was referred by the parliament to the Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs for consideration. The committee has not yet reported on the bill, as I understand it. It is not appropriate at this stage to try to force the bill to a vote before the committee has reported—and, yes, that can happen in this place. To force the bill to a vote is not appropriate—it is unprecedented and shows some disregard for the processes in this place. The Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee considered this bill and its report identified a range of drafting and operational issues and recommended that it not be passed. (Time expired)