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Wednesday, 21 August 1985
Page: 76


Senator COONEY(12.40) —I wish first to refer to the Opposition's amendment to the second reading motion. One difficulty that faces Opposition members is that their arguments do not support their amendment. The amendment seeks to:

Leave out all words after `That', insert: `the Bills be withdrawn and redrafted to provide for-

(a) ownership of the Uluru National Park to be vested in the Northern Territory, subject to:

(i) an agreement ensuring effective Aboriginal involvement in management of the Park, and

(ii) adequate and appropriate portions of the Park being vested by freehold title in Aboriginals for the purposes of living areas;

(b) a right of entry to all persons subject to protection of sacred sites and the Park; and

(c) the Agreement to be entered into between the Director of National Parks and Wildlife and the Land Council not to come into effect until approved by the Parliament.'.

I believe that Opposition speakers will find difficulties in supporting those provisions. Let me take the first proposition that ownership of the Uluru National Park be vested in the Northern Territory. Both Senator Peter Baume and Senator Puplick have said again and again that Ayers Rock, Uluru, the Olgas and Katatjuta are national monuments owned by all Australians. Yet the Opposition's first proposition would put ownership of the rock in the hands of 130,000 people in the Northern Territory. In other words, Opposition members argue strongly that this should be a national area, but then propose that it should be given to a State-in fact, to an area that is not yet a State. Why, on the basis of the Opposition's argument, should the Northern Territory get the rock? If it is to be confined to the Northern Territory, why not confine it to the Aboriginal community?

Opposition spokesmen then say that the reason the Aboriginal community should play no part in this operation is that the Aboriginal community has no right to the rock. There have been investigations into this area and it is said that the sorts of Aborigines who are there now are not the sorts of Aborigines who were there before. Indeed, it is said that they have been there for only a generation and have no entitlement to this area. If that is so, why does the Opposition then propose an agreement ensuring effective Aboriginal involvement in the management of the park? Why include that provision? On that argument, why should the Aborigines have any right at all to manage this park if they have no right to the rock? If, on the other hand, they have some rights to the rock, what is wrong with the legislation that is now before the House-legislation introduced by the Government and supported by the Australian Democrats? Bearing in mind that the Opposition's view is that no Aborigines have any right to the rock or to the surrounding area, which is the proposition put forward by Senator Peter Baume and Senator Puplick, the Opposition's amendment continues:

subject to . . .

(ii) adequate and appropriate portions of the Park being vested by freehold title in Aboriginals for the purposes of living areas.

Why should the Aborigines get freehold title to live in the area if they have no right to this rock, and if, according to the Opposition argument, the rock has no significance? Freehold title to the rock would be a stronger title than that proposed by the present legislation. Why give the Aborigines freehold title if they are not entitled to the rock at all?

The Opposition's amendment also proposed a right of entry to all persons subject to protection of sacred sites. Why should the sacred sites have any significance if there is nobody around to give then significance? If there are people around, as the amendment seems to propose, to give the sites sacred significance, what is wrong with the present legislation which is proposed by the Government and supported by the Australian Democrats? What is wrong with this legislation if there are sacred sites to be protected and if there are Aborigines with an attachment to the land, as this amendment suggests? The Opposition cannot have it both ways. Opposition members cannot say in this debate that the Aborigines have no attachment to this land and yet propose to this Parliament that legislation be enacted to give protection to people whom they allege, in the next breath, have no right to this land. Paragraph (c) of the Opposition amendment suggests:

the Agreement to be entered into between the Director of National Parks and Wildlife and the Land Council not to come into effect until approved by the Parliament.

The fact is that Parliament always has rights; it has the ability and power to legislate over areas in which it has jurisdiction. No matter what has been enacted in previous years, of course Parliament later can intervene. Therefore, I do not see the point of the Opposition putting forward that proposal in its amendment. Perhaps later in the debate Opposition speakers will enlighten us on that topic. The Opposition has got itself into difficulty in this matter. The Opposition seems to suggest that there is a religious significance for Aborigines in this area, yet for some reason it does not want to go ahead to allow the Aborigines to possess that land right.

Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2 p.m.