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Saturday, 18 December 1993
Page: 5191

Senator GARETH EVANS (Minister for Foreign Affairs) (9.55 p.m.) —Mr Temporary Chairman, I indicate the government's opposition to those amendments. While the first one is no doubt intended to provide protection for Aboriginal people, we do see a couple of difficulties with the proposed incorporation in the clause of a reference to negotiation in good faith. For a start, it adds another subjective element to the process and it is not—

Senator Alston —You put that stuff in your IR bill.

Senator GARETH EVANS —It is not, in this particular context—whatever might be appropriate in other contexts—something that we think helps add to the general certainty of the environment that we think it is important to create.

  Moreover, we are not at all sure that this would always work in practice to the advantage of Aboriginal people. For example, if they wanted to go ahead with a particular development which the government did not favour, the government could stall progress on that simply by refusing to negotiate or by negotiating in a way that might give rise to an allegation of acting in bad faith. That might sound like an excessively cynical response, but I think that some of us know from long experience that those sorts of responses are possible from governments on occasion.

  As to amendment No. 9, we simply do not believe that approvals for mining grants and other resource uses of the land should depend upon the arbitration of claims for profit related payments. Although it would be possible for such claims to be made in the course of negotiations, the existing subclause 2 provides that the arbitral body shall not be able to require such payments.

  Obviously, the community as a whole should benefit from the profits from mining operations. It does so through general taxation and, in some cases, through specific mining royalty schemes. How far native titleholders should in general terms benefit additionally from mining operations on their land or whether funds specifically derived from mining should play a larger part in benefiting Aboriginal people are questions which will need to be considered really as part of the next phase of this whole reconciliation exercise, which will go to questions of social justice and the land acquisition fund.

  I repeat that the government does not believe that the arbitral body should be able to impose profit related payments as a condition for approval of mining grants and, accordingly, we do not agree with this amendment.