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Friday, 17 December 1993
Page: 5062


Senator ALSTON (Deputy Leader of the Opposition) (10.16 p.m.) —Minister, I am intrigued that such a simple proposition, which one presumes has been put to the government constantly over recent months, has until now been rejected. I presume that is because the whole point of the government's reluctance was that there may well be unforeseen consequences. In other words, there may have been unintended breaches of the Racial Discrimination Act which were designed to allow for other actions after balancing competing interests, and the government did not want a situation where those acts in good faith were struck down.

  One example which springs to mind is validating titles which might have been granted contrary to the RDA or ensuring public access to beaches, even if native title was granted in respect of that area. Is the minister saying to us that he is now prepared to accept this amendment because of the political persuasiveness of its advocates, or was it because he has recently had legal advice that contradicts all of what presumably led to the government's reluctance to date?

  Perhaps, in answering, the minister will also indicate to the committee whether the acceptance of such an amendment would mean that the quite clear discrimination in the act in favour of assessors—`as far as practical' I think is the expression—who are either Aboriginals or Torres Strait Islanders would seem to be a clear discrimination in favour of that group. Is the government saying that that would not be affected?