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Friday, 15 June 1984
Page: 3156

Senator BOSWELL(4.31) —Having listened to Senator Jones, I wish to make this observation: It is no wonder that the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) had to interfere to place Senator Reynolds, a relatively new girl, above Senator Jones on the Queensland Senate ticket. It is quite obvious from Senator Jones's contribution that he just did not have the faintest idea of what he was talking about.

I wish to say at the outset of my contribution to the debate on the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Heritage (Interim Protection) Bill that we on this side have no qualms about declaring sacred sites, sacred relics or sacred objects. We go along with it; we support it, but we differ from the Government in our attitude to the Bill. It is no good talking about the second reading speech of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Holding) or of what the Minister or the Government intends to do. The legislation is in the form of this Bill and it will be interpreted by some public servants.

We disagree with the Government because the Bill clearly takes away a number of rights from graziers and farmers. It is a very draconian piece of legislation. It has terrible implications for graziers, farmers, rural dwellers and miners. The mining industry provides many jobs for Australian people and the Government does not consider them at all. I am happy to say that in Queensland a number of miners support our side because they see that the Australian Labor Party puts barriers in the way of development and does not contribute anything to the growth of this nation by providing jobs. This legislation illustrates my point very well. I want to make a point quite clear because people might misunderstand , having listened to Senator Jones's speech. We have legislation in Queensland to deal with sacred sites and sacred relics-the Aboriginal Relics Preservation Act. It has been enacted for a number of years. I wish to illustrate how this Bill affects people's rights. It gives the Minister total power to interfere and to declare a sacred site. If the Minister does not do so he may nominate a person to do so, and the only qualification his nominee is required to have is a 30c or $2 plastic card with his photo on it. That is the only qualification that person needs.

Anyone can write to the Minister regarding the declaration of a sacred site. People do not even have to take the trouble to write to him; they can ring him up and make an application verbally. The Minister has total power to declare sacred sites on some person's property. he could declare a whole farm, a whole valley, a river, a waterhole or a creek as a sacred site and no one would then be allowed to use that site. That is what we are opposing. The Government should appoint a judge, a magistrate or some person who is not biased or politically motivated, someone of whom we can say: 'There is a person appointed by the Government who is unbiased'. Then we would probably be prepared to go somewhere down the track of this legislation with the Government. But the Government does not do that.

I take the case of a mining company that has gone through all the precautions, has got every permit and all the things that are needed. It gets out with great expensive machinery, stuck out there on a site 200 or 300 miles from anywhere. What does it do? Someone who might have some intention to hurt the mining company rings up the Minister and says that there is a sacred site there. The Minister can then hold up that mining company for up to 60 days. The Government may think that is fair play, but this side of the Senate does not. What does the mining company do? Sit around and twiddle its thumbs for 60 days, at great expense. If the Australian Labor Party thinks this type of legislation will encourage mining companies to develop the national resources of this country, it has another think coming. Of course they will not do that.

The Bill gives no rights to the farmer or grazier. The Minister does not even have to notify a grazier that a sacred site has been declared on his farm or a mining company that a sacred site has been found on its lease. Under the Bill-I am quoting from the Bill, unlike most honourable senators who have gone off on some emotional tangent-all the Minister or his deputy has to do is to publish in the local newspaper an announcement that the site has been declared sacred, stating the reasons. If people want to protect their land or their mining rights they have 14 days in which to make an objection-that is, if someone happens to tell them that their site or their farm has been declared a sacred site. No one even has to tell them. The Minister does not have to say so and his deputy does not have to say so. A site can just be declared a sacred site without anyone having to notify the owner or the lessee. What is wrong with putting in the legislation a provision that the Government has 30 days, 60 days, or something like that, in which to notify a person that a sacred site is being declared on his property? It is just ludicrous that someone can say: 'There is a sacred site on that farm; we do not even have to tell the owners that a sacred site has been declared on their land'. It is another example of what honourable senators opposite do to the rural dwellers of this country. I do not know why they hate them so much.

I ask the Senate: What constitutes a sacred site? Under this legislation, as far as I can see it, it is anything that the Minister or his card-carrying deputy thinks is a sacred site. There is no definition of a sacred site. Any person can phone, write or just talk to the Minister. It is no good saying that is not what the Minister intends and that we should look at his second reading speech and at the debate that took place in the other House. The fact is that the legislation is in the form of this Bill. The facts will be interpreted out of this Bill, not out of the Minister's second reading speech.

One of my basic objections is that the Minister's deputy or nominee can be heavily politicised. He can be biased. That is what this Bill brings down. The Attorney-General (Senator Gareth Evans) purports to support all sorts of human rights. I do not know how he can possibly put his name to this legislation. As the first law officer of this nation, he should have had a look at this Bill. It is a terrible travesty against human rights. I for one cannot understand how members of the Labor Party could put their names to it. I know their intentions. They are probably quite honourable, but the fact remains that the legislation completely overrides the human rights of the people in the rural areas of Australia.

Senator Chipp —What about Aboriginal rights? Have you thought about them?

Senator BOSWELL —Yes, I have. Senator Chipp just came into this chamber. Before I went into my speech I made the proposition that no one objects to sacred sites , objects or relics being declared. This side of the Parliament fully supports it, but we do not support doing it by taking other people's rights away.

We then have the question of States' rights. This Government has never concerned itself terribly much with States' rights. But it says in this Bill that there will be consultation. Consultation by this Government means: 'You do it my way or we'll do it for you'. The legislation states that, if the States have legislation, the Commonwealth will implement that legislation providing it is more draconian than the Commonwealth legislation, as is the situation in Victoria. But if the State governments have some sort of sacred sites legislation that will protect the rural dwellers of this nation this Government will completely override it with the Bill that I have in my hand.

A person can be fined up to $50,000 and can be gaoled, yet his case has to be heard in camera under the provisions of this legislation. What sort of star chamber attitude is that? These are the sorts of human rights this Government wants to take from the Australian people. No one is saying that the Aboriginals do not have rights. Of course they have rights. But the rights of the rest of the people of Australia should not also be taken away. Clause 24 of the Bill takes the onus of proof and completely reverses it. This is contrary to all the principles of our common law. It reverses the onus of proof for anyone charged with an offence.

The Bill reeks of human rights being taken away from one section of the community. The Bill tells me that we are guilty for what someone did to Aboriginals 200 years ago. I am not proud of the way our pioneers treated Aboriginals; I am not proud of the way they treated convicts either. But the fact remains that that happened. It is no good looking back in the past and saying: 'Because something happened 200 years ago we should have a guilt complex . We have to fix this up and we have to compensate people'. We did not treat our convicts terribly well either but let us not go down that track. There is one Australia and there is one Australian people. We all have to live as Australians . I believe that this legislation will promote racial discrimination. This will happen if we take away rights from one group of people and give them to another group of people. We will drive a wedge into the community. That is what this legislation does. It will promote racism. No one in this House wants to see this happen in Australia but that is what will happen if we take one person's human rights away and give them to another person.

I believe that this Bill is an embarrassment to the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke). I have asked myself: Why would people who obviously understand the law and obviously stand up for human rights bring in legislation such as this?' I have asked myself: 'Is it a sop to the left wing of the Australian Labor Party'? It could well be. I have asked myself: 'Is it because the Minister wants to get something up for the next election'? I cannot see why anyone would support this type of legislation.

I cannot support the Bill. I think it is a shocking piece of legislation. I cannot understand anyone wanting to vote in support of it. Senator Reynolds has just come into the chamber. I would be very interested to hear what she has to say about this legislation. She purports to stand up for the people of north Queensland. She will have to defend this legislation in north Queensland. I can tell her now that she will have to go out and sell what she says today to the rural people, the people who dwell outside the Townsville area and in the rural zones of north Queensland. I hope she can do that.

Senator Robert Ray —He has run out of puff.

Senator BOSWELL —I am going quite well, thank you. I cannot support the Bill; I think it is a shocking piece of legislation.