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Saturday, 18 December 1993
Page: 5179


Senator GARETH EVANS (Minister for Foreign Affairs) (8.51 p.m.) —Let me inform Senator Panizza that the big problem is that now what was previously vacant ground land might conceivably turn out to be occupied by native titleholders. That is a new phenomenon which states have got to come to grips with. That is the problem. The old terra nullius thing has been swept away and we now have got the possibility, for the first time, there might just turn out to be some native titleholders hanging around. So that has got to be taken into account before any interests of this kind might be granted. If it is a very temporary pastoral lease, maybe this will be a low impact act—a bit like beekeeping or camping or an extended picnic or a car rally or one of those things. That might be a very reasonable way of interpreting something of that kind. The land in question is not being permanently dealt with, as I understand it, it is being used as a buffer zone for a particular period. That might well be an appropriate way of characterising it.

  If, as often happens, temporary things turn out to have a greater degree of permanence about them and interests of native titleholders are thereby being impaired in some really significant way, I think we would be forced into going down one or other of the routes that I mentioned before. Those routes are compulsory acquisition or testing the waters with this claimant procedure—although that obviously would not be very practical in a situation where we wanted to act quickly in a drought—or the agreement route that I set out. But I actually think there would be a very strong argument that this would count as a low impact exercise, temporary, transient, for an obviously useful purpose, and as such it would not attract any of these other problems. That is something we would be very happy to have a look at because I know it is a particular problem that arises, but I do not think the legislation needs to be changed to take that into account.