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Friday, 17 December 1993
Page: 5069

Senator VANSTONE (10.49 p.m.) —I speak in support of Senator Alston's motion. Those people who were listening earlier, when this matter was first raised, will remember the somewhat flippant way in which Senator Evans chose to deal with it as though it really were not a problem at all. As the night has gone on, we have been told that that problem has been spotted and something is being done about it.

  The questions that Senator Alston is putting to the minister do not go to the amendments that the minister says he is providing, which we are going to see later. As I understand it, the minister is saying, `Don't worry about amendment 6A because it is all going to be okay and, in any event, the amendment that is coming will make the corporate representation a matter of choice'. But I think Senator Alston is going to other points as well. The minister might be able to help us, if we are so thick as not to get the point that he is making. He is saying, `This corporate body that people might be able to choose later or have to have now, isn't there to perform the management functions that it was intended to get at in the Racial Discrimination Act'. He says that all he wants this corporate body to do is to be the repository or place for the title to be held.

  But he does not explain why, when we have a corporate body there, it does not have all the powers of a corporate body. Neither does he explain what access there is and what means there are to ensure that the wishes of the native titleholders are complied with. The minister just wipes that away and says, `Don't be silly; this is not a sort of corporate structure as any other corporate structure; this is a corporate structure that will always act in accordance with the wishes of the people on whose behalf it holds the property'. But he does not draw our attention to where in the bill we see that. He does not draw our attention to that at all. The minister just says, `What was intended to do with the RDA was this'. What the minister intended and what the plain meaning of the words are might be two quite separate things.

  In particular, I invite the minister to help us out if we cannot see the point. Where does it say in this bill that it is ensured that any corporate body that does hold title—by matter of choice or whatever, when the government gets its other amendment fixed up—will always, in every capacity, act in accordance with the wishes of the people who would otherwise be the native titleholders? Where does it say that in the bill? Help us out.

Senator Gareth Evans —The short answer is that it is in the nature of the bodies corporate that that relationship exists.