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Saturday, 18 December 1993
Page: 5114


Senator O'CHEE (11.51 a.m) —I would agree that Senator Ellison has picked up a perversity in the legislation which is that if there is an invalidity in one's title then this legislation validates it. If, however, there is no invalidity in one's title, then this legislation provides absolutely no protection. It is an extraordinary situation.

  But more importantly, Senator Ellison is quite right in saying that Mr Crean gave an assurance at the ABARE conference that all currently held land-holders would be protected and that there was no chance of their losing the land. The government has already said that its view of the Mabo High Court decision was that, where there was a validly issued title, it extinguished native title. Why is it that in this legislation the government does not clearly and explicitly give effect to that proposition, if that is what it believes, in accordance with what Mr Crean said at the ABARE conference?

  What the government is in fact doing in creating this loophole is inviting further litigation in this matter; it is inviting further claims; and it is inviting more uncertainty which will erode the value of people's existing pastoral properties. That is the concern that we on this side of the chamber have with the attitude that the government has taken.

  Why does the government only say that it will protect the invalid and not look after the valid? This creates a situation where the government is seemingly holding out some hope that people will get even more by lodging more claims, when it is clearly of the view that these claims should not succeed. The government has given a commitment to industry and not just at the ABARE conference. A paper prepared by Mr Higgins on behalf of the government and presented in the June 1993 issue of Mining Review states:

That commitment stands—

that is, Mr Crean's commitment stands—

and was reiterated by the Prime Minister and the Minister for Resources, Mr Michael Lee, in the meeting with the industry representatives in April.

With due respect, minister, it does not seem that this particular legislation meets the undertakings given by the Prime Minister (Mr Keating) and by Mr Lee in their April meeting with industry leaders.