Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard   

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Thursday, 30 April 1987
Page: 2349

Mr HAWKER(9.43) —I have just listened to the honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Hand) grossly mislead this House. He claimed that legislation similar to the Aboriginal Land (Lake Condah and Framlingham Forest) was rejected in the Victorian upper House. That is not true. The Opposition parties proposed an amendment to the legislation and the Victorian Government refused to put that amendment to a vote. That is not rejecting the legislation and the amendment certainly would not have prevented land from being transferred to the respective corporations. The honourable member for Melbourne also mislead the House by quoting from a statement made by the spokesman of the Lake Condah Aboriginal Co-operative. The Co-operative is not at the mission; the Lake Condah mission people are a separate group.

Mr Hand —I know.

Mr HAWKER —The honourable member was quoting the co-operative's spokesman, not the spokesmen from the mission and that is quite different. He also said that the Warrnambool Standard had a slight misprint in an article about a visit to Lake Condah one day and Framlingham the next day. Unfortunately, the Warrnambool Standard got it wrong. I invited the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Connolly) to visit both places. Unfortunately, he did not have time to do more than he did, but I assure honourable members opposite that it was a very rushed day and we moved as fast as we could to spend as much time as we could in looking at those places. I think the shadow Minister did his best. He actually got there, which is more than I can say for the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Holding) who has not even been to Framlingham since he became Minister, so he is not all that interested in what is going on.

The Aboriginal Land (Lake Condah and Framlingham Forest) Bill relates to two pieces of land in my electorate, as has been pointed out already; 53 hectares at Lake Condah and 1,130 hectares at Framlingham Forest. Today the Minister is trying to cover up for the failure of the Victorian Labor Government. That Government had the opportunity to pass legislation. The State Labor Government was requested to pass it in an amended form by the upper House, but it refused to do this because it wanted to get maximum publicity and to try to squeeze out everything it could for a bit of a stunt. For the benefit of the honourable member for Melbourne I remind him of what one of his colleagues said back in 1984. The honourable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr Campbell) wrote an open letter to every member in the Federal Australian Labor Party. The honourable member for Kalgoorlie knows a fair bit about the Aboriginal problem; he claims that he has more Aboriginals in his electorate than anyone else, with the possible exception of the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Everingham). On the question of policy, about which the honourable member for Melbourne kept speaking, the honourable member for Kalgoorlie said:

We need a policy that addresses this need not a policy that seeks to salve the conscience of the guilt-ridden middle class.

I think that sums up the attitude of some honourable members opposite when they come into this House and try to make out that they have a mortgage on concern for the Aboriginal communities. Everyone in this chamber is concerned about them.

This legislation is wrong in principle and in practice. It is dangerous in precedent. Furthermore, in the preamble to this we find some rather offensive words which could be of great concern to many people. I will quote just one section. Paragraph (iii) states:

the traditional Aboriginal rights of ownership, occupation, use and enjoyment concerning that part of Condah land are deemed never to have been extinguished;

That is a very interesting statement; a statement that the State legislation also continued. Paragraph (iv) states:

that part of Condah land has been taken by force from the Kerrup-Jmara Clan without consideration as to compensation under common law or without regard to Kerrup-Jmara Law;

The Minister was quite happy to bring in that. These statements are also in the preamble for the Framlingham Forest section of the Bill. On the next page of the Bill we find that the Commonwealth Government wanted to have two bob each way. It was quite happy to put those paragraphs into the legislation because the State Government had it in its legislation, but the Commonwealth Government then added this rider:

And whereas the Commonwealth does not acknowledge the matters acknowledged by the Government of Victoria, but has agreed to the enactment of such an Act:

This is a very interesting piece of legislation which I think creates an extraordinary precedent. I often wonder how people can unravel what it really means. In other words, the State Government said this but the Commonwealth Government does not really acknowledge it. Why have it in the legislation in the first place? That the Minister even brought this Bill into the House highlights what one Aboriginal spokesman in my electorate said to me when we were talking about this legislation giving more power to the Minister whom, I believe, sees paternalism as his right. This Aboriginal leader said to me:

Holding is trying to set himself up as some sort of white Messiah.

That is quite an indictment on the Minister. Let us look at the Warrnambool Standard and see what an Aboriginal spokesman had to say about the Minister. On 26 March an article headed `Aborigines to fight land Bill' stated:

Community leader Mr Geoff Clark said yesterday that the federal Aboriginal Affairs Minister, Mr Holding, was sweeping aside matters which had taken eight years of negotiations between the community and the State Government.

The Minister could not even carry out what he said he would do for the State Government. He had to hop in and get that extra little bit for himself because he got a bit greedy and he wanted an extra bit of power. I will elaborate on that in a minute. The Minister is also acting as an apologist for the Cain Government because it failed to get the confidence of its own parliament.

I want to make it very clear at the outset that I am not questioning the right of the Kerrup-Jmara to have the land at Lake Condah, or the Kirrae Whurrong Aboriginals to have title to the Framlingham Forest. I am questioning very strongly the need for this Bill to be in front of this Parliament. Quite frankly, as the shadow Minister from the Liberal Party, the honourable member for Bradfield, has already pointed out, it is rightly a matter that belongs to the State Parliament and it should have been left there. It creates a precedent for the Commonwealth to pick up legislation from a State when that State fails to gain the confidence of its own parliament. We can see what will happen over the next few months as each State Government has more trouble getting its legislation through. It will hand it over to the Commonwealth and this Parliament will become increasingly clogged up with bits of legislation as the Federal Government tries to get its State counterparts off the hook because they cannot get the confidence of their own parliaments.

As I have said, this legislation is wrong in practice because it is a State matter and the State should handle land title. For these reasons, as has been pointed out by the honourable member for Bradfield, the Opposition will oppose this Bill because the principle and precedent are wrong. The matter should be sent back to the State Parliament where it rightly belongs, and no doubt the land will be transferred to the respective corporations so that the State can best look after its own problems.

The Minister used his second reading speech-one of the grubbiest little speeches I have seen in a long time-to make a remarkable attack on a State Opposition leader, Mr Kennett. The Minister spent a considerable part of his speech criticising Mr Kennett's lack of consultation. I have already pointed out that the Minister is not exactly a rose in this matter as he has not bothered to visit Framlingham since he became Minister. It is utter hypocrisy and the Minister should lift himself above the grubby practice of using a second reading speech to make an attack on somebody who is not even a member of this Parliament.

The Bill's preamble contains some misleading statements. I have already mentioned that fact, but I would like to compare the Bill with the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976. We find no such preamble in that Bill and obviously a preamble was not considered to be necessary. This Bill is being used by the Minister as an excuse to set a precedent for the benefit of the State Parliament-who knows what it will lead to.

Part I of the Bill makes clear that the Lake Condah-Framlingham Forest area is one of historic and archaeological interest. There is certainly a lot of archaeological interest in the area and in the case of Lake Condah some of the archaeological ruins are of the Anglican mission which was set up in 1868. Although the mission obviously was introduced by Europeans, one finds in speaking with local Aboriginal a clear feeling of attachment to this area. It must be reinforced from past associations with the mission. Also of historical and archaeological interest are the water races that have been built at Darlot Creek. Those water races were built there for fishing for eels. This was recognised a long time ago because in 1869 land along Darlot Creek was reserved to protect the fishing rights of Aboriginals in the area.

While everyone in the chamber would acknowledge the shortcomings of early European settlers in this area, we also recognise that in many cases there were good intentions, however ill-conceived they might have been. But I cannot say the same about the Cain Labor Government. It we look at more recent history and at the efforts of the Cain Labor Government, we find a shabby, grubby little effort. In 1983 the Cabinet Secretary, Dr Coghill, forced the then owners of the freehold title referred to in the Bill at Lake Condah to sell that land to the State Government. They were forced to do so as a result of various misapprehensions and threats.

The concern is not about the fact that the State may acquire the land because obviously it could, but again the State did not even have the gumption to admit the real motives for doing this. It was a sly little scheme, and the reason I am bringing this matter up for attention is that the State Government did nothing to help feelings between the local community and the Aboriginal community. Regrettably, it gave extremists a perfect opportunity to exploit the situation, and exploit it they did. Everyone in this chamber will remember what happened in that area around that time. It is an unfortunate incident of which no one could be proud. The State Government must accept the majority of the blame because it set up the situation. To prove it, Dr Coghill is on record as saying after the purchase of this bit of land:

We are not buying this land to hand it to the Aboriginals.

What could be clearer? No wonder these extremists had their opportunity. I suppose, as things turned out, Dr Coghill may be technically correct because it is this Parliament that has been asked to do the job. So much for the integrity of the Cain Government which could not even admit what it was trying to do. Not only did the State Government intend to hand over the land but, because it could not transfer the land in the exact form of title it wanted, it handed the matter over to the Commonwealth and even asked the Commonwealth to pay $1.3m to the State Government for the pleasure of handing over responsibility. That is a remarkable thing. I wonder when the next bit of State legislation comes to this Parliament, how much we will have to pay for the pleasure of debating it. Maybe the State Labor Government should thank the Victorian Legislative Council for this gift. This does not alter the fact that, following the poor record of the State Government on this matter, the Commonwealth is now creating a dangerous precedent. This is a shortsighted move by the State Parliament. To look at the matter another way, the Labor Party has never been very strong on State rights and maybe it sees this as another way of further reducing the influence and opportunities of States to make up their own minds.

As I said earlier, one of the worst aspects of the transfer of this land is the way in which both State and Federal governments have exploited it for the maximum publicity. It is a matter of which neither government should feel proud. I understand that the State Government could probably have handed over the land at Lake Condah by regulation. It would not even have had to refer the matter to the State Parliament. Instead it wanted to get maximum publicity to salve the conscience of the guilt-ridden middle classes, as Mr Campbell has put it. Frankly, it has done very little to help the community, and it could have done a great deal more if it had chosen the path of proceeding sensibly without trying to gain maximum publicity. What is being achieved is a backlash - a backlash which, as Mr Campbell pointed out in his letter, is well summed up by the phrase:

A continuation of the tokenism will simply engender a backlash that will be devastating for Aboriginal people. . .

Mr Campbell said earlier in the letter:

Overwhelmingly, Aboriginal people do not want to relish the opprobrium of the general public.

Most realise that the advancements long overdue to them must be obtained with the consent of the vast majority. I have mentioned the fact that the land at Lake Condah, could have been transferred by regulation, but I would also like to point to some of the more impressive parts of Lake Condah. There has recently been built there cabin accommodation for some 40 people. I would like to compliment the Kerrup-Jmara Aboriginal Corporation for the job it is doing there; it is a most impressive effort.

Mr Holding —Seventy-two people, I am told.

Mr HAWKER —It is now 72, I am told by the Minister. I would recommend to anyone who is passing through the area that he call in and see that accommodation. It is quite impressive and is a real tribute to the local community.

Mr Gayler —Under our policies.

Mr HAWKER —That does not alter the fact that the consultation by the Minister has been poor; he has not spoken to the local government authorities. In the case of Lake Condah, the Portland Shire has pointed to some of the problems. For example, if a road along the northern boundary of the piece of land were to be closed, it would stop access to that section of Darlot Creek. In respect of the Framlingham Forest, the Warrnambool Shire, which is the responsible local government authority, has also pointed out that the road that runs through the middle of the forest is presently being used by a milk tanker, has been used by a school bus, and if closed could again reduce access-access that could be significant if there were a fire in the area. The honourable member for Bradfield has already pointed out the problems of consultation at Framlingham Forest and this matter has been well reported in the Warrnambool Standard. I quote again Mr Geoff Clark's statement:

Mr Holding was sweeping aside matters which had taken eight years of negotiation between the community and the State Government.

In particular, Mr Clark said that the State proposal incorporated the community under the State Co-operatives Act or the Councils and Associations Act, but under this scheme the community could only be incorporated under the Councils and Associations Act. This means that the community's self-determination is being taken away with the Minister being able to stipulate who comprises the board of directors. So much for the utter hypocrisy of Minister Holding's criticism of the Leader of the Opposition in Victoria for failing to consult. It is also interesting that the Minister, in his second reading speech, referred to the fact that minerals will remain vested in the State. However, this is rather misleading because in practice the corporations have virtual right of veto. While it is acknowledged that minerals are unlikely to be in the area this legislation is being used, quite deliberately, to create a precedent for both the State and Federal Parliaments.

It is also interesting to look at the enormous powers of delegation that are being given under the Bill. I draw the attention of honourable members to the Scrutiny of Bills Alert Digest No. 5 of this year. The Senate Standing Committee for the Scrutiny of Bills highlighted some of the enormous power than can be delegated under sub-clause 5 (2). For the benefit of honourable members, I will read what the Scrutiny of Bills Alert Digest stated. It stated:

Sub-clause 5 (1) empowers the Minister to delegate to a Minister of the Crown of the State of Victoria all or any of the powers conferred on the Minister by the Act. Sub-clause 5 (2) enables a Victorian Minister to whom a power has been so delegated to authorise another person to exercise the power. It therefore enables the power to be delegated, in effect, to any person or the holder of any office whom the State Minister may nominate.

The Committee has been critical of such powers of delegation which impose no limitation, and give no guidance, as to the attributes of the person to whom a delegation may be made. The Committee therefore draws sub-clause 5 (2) to the attention of Senators in that it may be considered to make rights, liberties and/or obligations unduly dependent upon insufficiently defined administrative powers.

That is something at which the Minister ought to look very closely in this Bill, because if he cannot amend it the Senate might do it for him.

As has been pointed out by the honourable member for Bradfield, the Opposition will oppose this Bill as it is right and proper for the State Government to legislate on this matter. I repeat: The argument is not about the transfer of the land to the respective Aboriginal corporations; it is about the fact that this Parliament should not be dealing with land matters as they properly belong to the State.

I repeat that the other problem is the backlash which this legislation could create by the bad publicity which this Minister and the State Government have created by their bungling and poor handling of it. It has led to newspaper articles in which the Minister is accused of lack of consultation. Quite obviously, the matter had been very badly handled by the State Parliament.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Cowan) —Order! The honourable member's time has expired.