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Tuesday, 5 September 1989
Page: 963


Senator PETER BAUME(4.20) —The Committee was considering Opposition amendments 11, 12 and 13 when we were interrupted by the adjournment last evening. These amendments are to clause 10 of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission Bill 1989 which occurs at pages 8 and 9 of the Bill. The discussion that has occurred and which was drawing towards a conclusion last evening related to section 96 grants. Following observations made by the Minister I looked at the Constitution. Clearly there are two areas where funding will come to Aboriginal organisations. The first is by virtue of placitum (xxvi) of section 51 of the Constitution-the famous placitum that was the subject of the 1967 referendum in which the words `other than Aboriginal race in any State' were removed from the Constitution thus enabling the Commonwealth to proceed conjointly with the States to do a number of things.

The other part of the Constitution with which we are concerned in these amendments is, of course, section 96. After some preamble, that section states that the Parliament may grant financial assistance to any State on such terms and conditions as the Parliament thinks fit. If I have followed the Hansard and the Minister's statement correctly, he has been saying, `The provisions in this Bill are an indication of what the Parliament thinks fit to do'. I think he is saying that by providing this mechanism this is the way the Parliament wishes to deal with section 96 grants in this area.

I want to be quite clear that we are not incorrect on this matter and that the three or four subclauses with which we are concerned give to the proposed Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC) the power to negotiate with the States, the power to enter into agreements with the States for the payment of a grant to the States. For `States' on each occasion I read `Territories' as well. We have read that statement to mean that the grants to which the provision refers would be grants made under section 96 of the Constitution. It would be helpful if the Minister could clarify that point because that forms part of the argument that we were discussing before the debate was adjourned last evening.