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Monday, 20 December 1993
Page: 5232

Senator GARETH EVANS (Minister for Foreign Affairs) (11.34 a.m.) —Consideration of clause 11 was deferred until we reached proposed new clause 196A; that still remains the case. Proposed new clause 196A has now been moved in the form of Green amendment 33B, to which Senator Crane was just referring.

Senator Tambling —Is that on your behalf? Are you inclined to support it?

Senator GARETH EVANS —Yes, we are inclined to support that amendment. There will be no other government amendment.

  Senator Panizza interjecting

Senator GARETH EVANS —Yes, there was some consultation about its terms, as one would expect. I do not know what those opposite are chortling about because that is the way in which the legislative process is supposed to work. If those opposite would prefer us to bring in our bills and sledgehammer them through, the way they do in the House of Representatives, if they would prefer there never to be any input or any amendments moved by anyone else so that it would be just a straight numbers exercise—if that is their approach to the legislative process, that can be accommodated.

  In this instance, the Greens suggested an original amendment to clause 11 on this question of the application of state laws. However, we did not find that original amendment acceptable. There was some discussion about possible ways of limiting the scope while still opening up the issue of permissible forms of native title activity running conterminously with certain laws of state application. The government is presently disposed towards supporting the Greens amendment, subject as always to the way in which the debate goes. If, when we get to that debate, those opposite can come up with a knock-out blow and show us some fundamental flaw in the way in which that amendment is drafted, we will consider that. We are approaching this in a spirit of constructive deliberation.

  If there are any obvious problems in the operation of clauses, if those opposite can show a flaw in something to which we cannot give a sensible and considered response, we will respond accordingly. That is the spirit in which I have approached this whole debate. I have not just pushed the arguments of those opposite away. I have tried to respond meaningfully and systematically to every one of the points that they have raised—I think that they have been a bit surprised at the extent to which I have been able to do so over the last 19 hours—and that will continue to be my attitude.

  I want to be personally confident that the government can stand up and defend completely the integrity, the common sense and the consistency of every clause in this particular bill. If, when we get to it, those opposite can point to some flaw in a particular clause—of the kind that they are foreshadowing here—I will be very interested to listen to them and I will respond in a constructive and considered way. That is the approach we are adopting. I think it would be very helpful if all of us approach it in that way, and I acknowledge Senator Ellison and some of those on the other side have done so. They have been seeking to understand what is involved, asking questions and, if they get a reasonably sensible answer, they move on to the next point. That is the way we will do it.

  The short answer to Senator Bishop's question is: those matters will be discussed. There is no separate government amendment waiting in the wings to come in and catch those opposite by surprise. The amendment to which we are giving strong consideration and which we are presently inclined to support—subject to what I have just said—is Green amendment 33B. Perhaps we can now get back to the committee stage.