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Friday, 1 September 1989
Page: 791

Senator PETER BAUME(10.29) —I would like to respond to Senator Coulter's remarks. Should the ATSIC Bill fail-and we will look at that in a moment-no further legislation will be necessary. It might be desirable, it might be a matter of government policy, but the existing legislation will then determine what happens within the portfolio. That is the reality. We have to look at this Bill which seeks to amend the Aboriginal Development Commission Act and assume that it is being proposed by the Government for some purpose. While it may be intended that it be a transitional Bill in the sense that Senator Coulter has described, we should remember some recent history. Let us not forget that the Government introduced an ATSIC Bill in about December 1987.

Senator Coulter —April 1988.

Senator PETER BAUME —Senator Coulter thinks that it was April 1988. Its course has been very long. The Bill is still some way from completion-it is still some way from royal assent-and we have to assume that the amended ADC Act will operate for some significant time. The word `transitional' has to be looked at in that sense. Should the ATSIC Bill fail to become law, this is the Bill under which the Aboriginal Development Commission will operate. That is the point being made by my colleague Senator Boswell.

Senator Coulter was well aware of the fact, when he agreed last night to certain amendments to the Bill for an Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies, that clause 2 of the Bill, which sets the commencement date, sets a slightly unusual commencement date because the commencement date for the Institute Bill is in fact the date of commencement of the ATSIC Bill. In other words, Senator Coulter would have known that they were tied together. We can agree to certain amendments to the Institute Bill but we know that they will not have effect until and unless the ATSIC legislation comes into effect.

Senator Coulter will also know that that is not the case with the Bill now before the Committee. The commencement date for this legislation is a standard commencement date-that is, it will commence on the day on which it receives royal assent. We have to assume that the ATSIC Bill still remains ahead of us. If the Government proceeds with its amendments, as I presume it will, at the very least the Bill will be amended to that extent. Should that happen the Bill will have to go back to another place, it will have to make its cycle through the Parliament again and it will then have to receive royal assent and be put into effect while all the time various other events are occurring around us, including our pilots strike. I cannot be certain that the amended Aboriginal Development Commission Act would not be the Act under which the ADC might be required to operate for some time.

Senator Coulter has said that were that the case he might find the clause as proposed in the Bill difficult to accept, but he does accept it because he thinks that it will apply for a brief time only. He might be right, but he might be wrong. If he is wrong the ADC will be tied in the ways which the Bill proposes. I put it to all honourable senators that the safe thing to do is accept our amendment. If at that stage ATSIC does not proceed, as Senator Coulter said, it is quite within the Government's powers to come back with an amendment to the Bill, if it wishes to persist with or press this clause. The Opposition believes that this is an important matter of principle, for the reasons set out by my colleague Senator Boswell. The Opposition will press for the amendment.

Question put:

That the amendment (Senator Peter Baume's) be agreed to.