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Saturday, 18 December 1993
Page: 5170

Senator GARETH EVANS (Minister for Foreign Affairs) (6.23 p.m.) —All will be revealed when honourable senators see government amendment No. 75, which relates to the body corporate. I wish that amendment had been circulated. I thought that it had gone around an hour or two ago. I thought that it would be some time before we reached it and, therefore, there was no great urgency, but it should have been circulated. If that could be followed up, I would be very grateful.

  One of the characteristic features of native title is that there are rights held by a group. The content of the group changes over time. To provide for dealings with native titleholders—native title rights—we have always believed that there is a need for a corporate body to be the contact point for dealings with native title. For that reason, there will continue to be a requirement for a corporate body to be established to represent native titleholders. What will be optional is whether titleholders will be able to have their native title rights held on trust by that body. They can make the decision as to whether they want their rights held on trust by the body corporate or whether they just want the body corporate to be an agent in effect for their dealings.

  That is the process, that is the theory, that is the concept that will be set out in full in that series of amendments covered by government amendment 75. The provisions in subclause 7 of clause 22 about public notification or notification of a land council are more designed to deal with situations where, as 7B says, there has been as yet no approved determination of the native title. But, nonetheless, there is a reasonable belief that there are native titleholders out there.

  We have to remember that native title does not have to wait to be enjoyed for determination. It does exist right now as a matter of common law. There may be native titleholders out there in particular remote parts of the country where miners perhaps want to establish new projects and where it is necessary for them to adopt some notification process. If we have not yet got to the stage of a body corporate being established to act as the representative or the agent of the titleholders which will make notification very easy, then we will use some of these alternative mechanisms that are set out in clause 22. I hope that is sufficiently clear at least to hold the line until we later get to the discussion of bodies corporate.

  I have just been advised that, for whatever reason, the Table Office only received a few minutes ago the body corporate amendment. It will be circulated during the dinner break.

Senator Bishop —Ineptitude.

Senator GARETH EVANS —The body corporate amendment is not one that we are expected to get to—Senator Bishop is having a little frisson over there—on the present rate of progress to about next Wednesday morning. There is ample opportunity to consider it.

Senator Bishop —Good management would be to have it deferred to February and you know it.

Senator GARETH EVANS —Do not glare at me and carry on. Thank God Senator Bishop will be out of this place quite soon. It will be a great mercy to us all.

Senator Bishop —Fragile little petal, aren't you.

Senator GARETH EVANS —You come in here like a lighted match to petrol.