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Saturday, 18 December 1993
Page: 5111


Senator GARETH EVANS (Minister for Foreign Affairs) (11.32 a.m.) —That is an interesting argument coming from Senator Vanstone's side of the chamber.


Senator Vanstone —It is not an argument I am putting. The minister has said that we can use the race power yet in the next breath said, `But I can't use it to do this'. I am trying to get from the minister some understanding of where he sees the limitations of that power.


Senator GARETH EVANS —We can use the race power to protect Aboriginal people from the operation of state laws of various kinds that negatively impact upon them. We cannot use the race power in order to do basic things that are properly within state competence but which may have some implications for a subject matter that is within Commonwealth control. What we are talking about is the Commonwealth validating grants that may be invalid by virtue of the operation of native title combined with some other law.

  The classic case is a pastoral lease that might conceivably be invalid by post-1975 by virtue of the existence of native title plus the existence of the Commonwealth Racial Discrimination Act. A corrective exercise is necessary in that context. It is not a correction that the Commonwealth can make because the effect of making the correction would be, in effect, to make the original grant all over again of the mining interest or the pastoral interest. I want to make it absolutely clear that the Commonwealth has no ambitions whatsoever to get into those areas of state land management.


Senator Kemp —Yet.


Senator GARETH EVANS —I am indebted again to Senator Kemp for his confidence in the Commonwealth's integrity and good faith in these matters. He should calm down; we have a long day—perhaps a long week—ahead of us. There are limitations to what it is even sensible to contemplate the Commonwealth doing and this is way outside those limits.