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Wednesday, 1 December 1976
Page: 3047

Mr BRYANT (Wills) -Mr Chairman,I cannot understand why the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) wants to hold up passage of clause 70. This clause has to do with entry on to land. The honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) has said that everybody is in agreement that this land ought to be under control of the Aboriginal people. Yet we find that the Government proposes to suspend clause 70 so that the proclamation enacting this legislation may go forward. I think that, in a way, this action will emasculate the Bill. Why is it that we must wait now after 13 years or more since the first shots were fired on land rights in this Parliament? The honourable member for the Northern Territory will forgive us if, on this side of the Committee, we have a reasonable suspicion that the National Country Party is not all that dedicated to the principle of land rights for Aboriginal people. The honourable member may forgive us, then, if we think that the Legislative of the Northern Territory is not a reliable protector of those interests.

Mr Katter - That is not true. The honourable member knows that.

Mr BRYANT -One of the reasons why I say that emphatically is the behaviour in the past of people like the honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter) on these matters. He has always acted as though the land rights of Aboriginal people could be transcended, for instance, by miners. I think the real issue here is the timing of the legislation. What is the point of legislation being brought forward here in relation to matters which have been under consideration for so long and which have been before the Parliament for so long, when the proposal now is to leave out what is an important part of that legislation? Even if for the time being there is to be no consideration of malfeasance- if that is the appropriate word- on the part of the Minister and his minions in the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly, that does not do the legislation any good. I wish to see the Opposition 's amendment agreed to and written into the Act so that this legislation will be proclaimed as a whole. If that happens, we will be able to get on with the job.

A further point arises. The responsibility for the carriage and implementation of this legislation lies fairly and squarely on this Parliament.

This is a national question to be resolved by the national Parliament. I believe that the entry of the Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory into this arena is an aberration of some magnitude. I hope that the Minister will take the bit between his teeth and ensure that all of the contents of the Bill are proclaimed as an Act at the same time.

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