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Monday, 20 December 1993
Page: 5265

Senator KEMP (3.04 p.m.) —I listened very carefully to the amendment proposed by the Greens and to the answer given by Senator Evans. Again, it confirms my very real concerns that we are setting up in this nation two laws: a set of laws which apply to one group of people and another set of laws which apply to another. In relation to the proposal put by Senator Chamarette, in reality she is asking for rights to apply to native title and the owners of native title which do not apply to any other Australians in relation to minerals.

Senator Chamarette —Yes they do.

Senator KEMP —No, they do not—only in very rare, exceptional cases. The vast number of Australians are not entitled to this right and Senator Chamarette stood up in this parliament and said, `We want to apply a special series of rights to people who can claim native title'. One of the reasons why there is such widespread concern in the community about this bill and why support for this bill is eroding is that it severely compromises the great Australian value of one law for our people.

  In justification of this amendment, Senator Chamarette referred to a UN treaty. It seems to me that if we wish to advance the rights of all of our people—of course we do; we wish to advance all our people, not just special groups, in the appropriate march of democracy through the institutions of this country—we should do so by passing laws through this parliament, not by allowing Senator Evans to go off to the UN and sign treaties and provide constitutional heads of power. It is bad enough to refer to a treaty which we have already signed—not passed by this parliament—but it is now being said that we should adjust our laws to come into conformity with treaties which we have not even signed and which we do not even know the precise wording of.

  I put it to Senator Chamarette that that sort of thinking is very dangerous thinking. I ask Senator Chamarette and her colleagues to think very carefully before they start referring to UN treaties. If they want to change the rights of people in this country, they should do what democrats do—I say that in a broad sense, not a party political sense—and put a law through this parliament and convince our people of it. But do not run off to the UN and try to acquire constitutional heads of power to alter the laws of this country.

  Senator Evans opened up another great area of uncertainty when he spoke. I listened to his remarks very carefully and it seems to me that people will interpret his statement as being an invitation to Aboriginal people to go to the High Court and seek a ruling that they are entitled to the ownership of minerals and the rights which would flow from it. I was rather hoping that Senator Evans would make a clear statement, but he said in a simplistic manner that the High Court is above us all. Of course, it is not.

  The parliament has the right to change laws, to make laws which suit our people, provided that they are in conformity with our constitution. We are quite entitled on matters of law, as Senator Evans knows, to override rulings of the High Court, provided that it is within our constitution. So the statement that Senator Evans made is simply not a correct statement. I believe it was an invitation to people to apply to the High Court to obtain these rights.

  The other matter which raised very great concern—again I have to say to Senator Evans that this is why support for this bill is eroding—is that the government is setting up special rights for particular groups of people. Senator Evans said, `Well, you may not get the rights to mining profits and royalties through the normal processes of the law, but you may be able to get them through a social justice package paid for by all taxpayers'. The rest of us are not entitled to these things but, in answer to Senator Chamarette's question, Senator Evans said that it may be that if those native titleholders do not get it through a High Court decision—the way he has worded it, a lot of them may well be inclined to do so—they could perhaps get it through the government's social justice package. Of course, that would be paid for by all taxpayers.

  Not all taxpayers would have the right to make a claim. That is why I put it to Senator Evans that he has raised further great uncertainties. He has not done anything to console the view that lots of Australians are starting to feel that we are setting up two laws for particular people. Could Senator Evans stop having a good little giggle with Senator Bolkus? This is a serious matter. Could he come back to his seat and take it seriously?

Senator Gareth Evans —No, I'll do whatever I choose to do.

Senator KEMP —We are debating a very serious bill. Senator Evans walks off to the side and has a little giggle with Senator Bolkus.

Senator Bishop —Perhaps you should wait and not speak until he is ready to listen again.

Senator Gareth Evans —I'll listen as soon as you say something substantial.

Senator KEMP —Senator Evans is not listening. He is laughing and giggling with Senator Bolkus who has made not one contribution to this debate. That he is even in the chamber is beyond belief. Senator Evans may not feel this, but I feel that I am making an important point. I would prefer it if he would do the chamber the courtesy—if he is not prepared to do me the courtesy—of listening to what I say.

Senator Gareth Evans —I am all agog. It had better be good, after all that.

Senator KEMP —Senator Evans would not know whether what I said was good or indifferent because he is off having a little joke with Senator Bolkus. Could he explain to me why under the government's social justice package compensatory arrangements should be made for Aboriginal people for the share of profits on mining, or whatever, when there is no such provision for the majority of other people?