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Wednesday, 25 November 1998
Page: 569


Mr RUDDOCK (Immigration and Multicultural Affairs; Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Reconciliation) (9:44 AM) —I move:

That the bill be now read a second time.

This bill reflects the continuing commitment of this government to securing legitimate title to traditional lands on behalf of the Aboriginal people of the Northern Territory. The Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976 provides a mechanism whereby traditional Aboriginal land in the Northern Territory referred to in schedule 1 of that act may be granted to Aboriginal land trusts to hold title on behalf of Aboriginal people. Since the act came into operation in 1977, a total of 59 separate parcels of land have been scheduled under the act. This amendment will bring the total to 61.

The effect of this bill would be to bring within the schedule to the land rights act those areas of land which are subject to the Innesvale Land Claim and the Urrpantyenye (Repeat) Land Claim. The Northern Territory government, the Northern Land Council and the claimants have entered into an agreement which settles the Innesvale Land Claim. A similar agreement which settles the Urrpantyenye Land Claim was entered into between the Northern Territory government, the Central Land Council, the Todd River Pastoral Company and the claimants.

As part of both agreements, the Northern Territory government requested the Commonwealth to exercise its powers under the land rights act to grant the claim areas to the traditional owners by scheduling the respective areas under the land rights act. In the case of both land claims, the result of such scheduling would be that no further hearing or report by the Aboriginal Land Commissioner would then be necessary in order for the Aboriginal people concerned to be able to have the full rights of enjoyment of their traditional lands in fee simple.

The government has the assurance of all parties to the negotiations that representative views of all Aboriginal people concerned have been obtained and their wishes taken into account. The bill will also correct the anomaly which presently requires Aboriginal land commissioners, who are required to be judges under the act, to retire at age 65. They will now be able to perform the duties of office until the age of 70, as are all Supreme Court and Federal Court judges. There are no financial implications arising from this bill. I commend the bill to the House and present the explanatory memorandum.

Debate (on motion by Mr Horne) adjourned.