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Monday, 4 September 1989
Page: 903

Senator COULTER(8.59) —I must say that I enjoy listening to Senator Peter Baume. He has a very nice, logical mind and I like listening to his arguments. However, in relation to clause 7 (1) (b), I would reflect on a term which he uses quite often, that is, the Latin term, reductio ad absurdum. Using the reductio ad absurdum argument, the argument Senator Baume used was that a court later on could look at the words which were deleted and observe that, having deleted them, there must have been some intention in our deleting them and therefore would not look behind those words. Suppose we were minded to delete 7 (1) (b) altogether in committee. We would have the quite absurd situation in which the Commission could not even monitor the effectiveness of its own programs, which of course would be ridiculous.

Senator Peter Baume —So we have not moved that way.

Senator COULTER —No, but I would suggest to Senator Baume that his reasoning is simply not right on that. The only sensible interpretation one could give to the words `The Commission has the following functions . . . (b) to monitor the effectiveness of programs for Aboriginal persons and Torres Strait Islanders' would be that it could indeed monitor programs in addition to those programs which it conducted itself-in other words, programs conducted by bodies other than the Commission. That is why I said in my initial remarks in speaking to this amendment that I do not think the deletion of those words achieves what the Opposition intends them to achieve. On the other hand, the inclusion of the words does make clear that the Commission can monitor-and `monitor' is the term that is used-the effectiveness of programs conducted by other bodies, and I think that is appropriate.

Turning quickly to the 7 (1) (h) proposed alternative amendment, which I certainly would support, it seems to me absolutely appropriate to keep 7 (1) (h) in there, as I indicated earlier, because I see it as an adjunct to the function of the Institute. Contrary to the example Senator Baume has given in which he talked about sacred material which may be of a sensitive nature and information which should not be generally divulged or talked about, I would see this clause coming into operation in situations such as the one which has developed in relation to Aboriginal material kept in museums. Aboriginal people have said that much of this material was scavenged in the early days by anthropologists against the wishes or without even considering the wishes of Aboriginal people. There is a claim now by Aboriginal people that that material should be returned to them-in some cases for burial or in the case of sacred objects just simply returned.

The argument over whether or not that material should be returned is a legitimate function of the Commission and I would see that as a function which the Commission could more properly take on, rather than the Institute, because it is a more political-type body to take on that function. I totally accept Senator Baume's argument that, if we give the Commission that function, then if it does stray into this more sensitive area the sensitivity of that material needs to be protected and therefore I would support the alternative amendment which he has presaged.