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Saturday, 18 December 1993
Page: 5121

Senator CHAMARETTE (12.24 p.m.) —I would like to raise the same point that Senator Crane raised. We require clarification of the intention of this bill. One of the stated aims of this legislation is to preserve native title to the maximum extent possible. Yet many provisions in this bill do the opposite and in fact restrict native title more than the High Court ruling does. I believe that this is one of those principles. There is no argument from Aboriginal people or, I believe, anybody here that legitimate acts of parliament should be validated and that people who have any query over their valid lease should have validation.

  The exception the Greens take to this bill is that it extends that legitimate premise that leases should be validated to the extent that there is any question. The next step of extinguishment of native title adds an additional factor and it also removes us from the High Court decision which left the question of coexistence of native title and valid leases together. That is the appropriate way to deal with it.

  I believe that if people who have native title rights are able by this law to have those rights extinguished, possibly before they even realise they have them, then there is something fatally flawed in the bill. If the position the minister has been placing before us is, `It is all right because they have statutory or equity rights in their present usage—they will be protected; they will not be allowed to be thrown off a pastoral lease', then that is no different from what the Premier of Western Australia, Richard Court, has just done. He has extinguished all native title with the stroke of a piece of legislation and he has protected that by stating the usage and equity rights by statutory law.

  Most of us here would agree that that is a highly questionable step to take from the High Court decision. I challenge the minister to explain why this same principle is not operating in the words he has just given in explanation of validation and extinguishment being connected.