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Friday, 1 May 1987
Page: 2437

Mr HOLDING (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs)(12.10) —in reply-I want to make some very brief comments in respect of this matter. Again I remind the House that the protection of Aboriginal heritage and culture in Victoria was very seriously addressed by the Victorian Government and the Aboriginal community in Victoria for well over four years. Neither I nor the Department of Aboriginal Affairs was privy to those conversations, although we certainly encouraged them.

The reason the Government is putting this legislation through this Parliament is that it was opposed in the Victorian Parliament by political colleagues of the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Connolly). We were then approached by the Victorian Government, which had the support of the Victorian Aboriginal community, which asked us to legislate in specific terms to give protection to the heritage and culture of the Victorian Aboriginal people. That is the reality. I have been assured by the Attorney-General of Victoria and its Minister for Aboriginal Affairs that this legislation has the support of the Victorian Aboriginal people and I have no reason to doubt that. The fact that one Aboriginal person in Victoria has particular problems with some aspects of the legislation does not alter the fact that it has the overwhelming support of Victoria's Aboriginal people.

Mr Connolly —He is an elder of the tribe; he is not just one Aborigine.

Mr HOLDING —I realise that.

Mr Connolly —He is a spokesman for the people.

Mr HOLDING —If I were to make the same sort of superficial judgment as has just been made by the shadow Minister in terms of the structure of the Opposition in Her Majesty's Parliament-in the Senate there is a former Minister for Aboriginal Affairs who was the spokesperson on women's affairs and who is making it perfectly clear that he does not agree with the position--

Mr Connolly —Mr Deputy Speaker, I raise a point of order. The matters now being raised by the Minister have absolutely nothing to do with this legislation by any stretch of the imagination, even his.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Ruddock) —I caution the Minister that I intend to uphold the ruling I made earlier. This is a cognate debate. The substantive questions, in general form, were canvassed in the first part of the debate. I require the debate to be confined to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage Protection Amendment Bill.

Mr HOLDING —I simply say that just because one person, no matter how significant that person may be or what particular position he may have, has raised one matter of concern, in what is a quite extensive package of legislation which has been the subject of negotiation and discussion for well over four years, it should not detract from either the veracity of the legislation or the commitment and support of the overwhelming majority of Aboriginal people in Victoria. For those reasons and reasons which have been covered in the cognate debate, I commend the Bill to the House.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.