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Monday, 20 December 1993
Page: 5279

Senator GARETH EVANS (Minister for Foreign Affairs) (4.19 p.m.) —While obviously it is more helpful all round if there is that kind of cooperation through state titles offices, it is not necessary for the purpose of the effective operation of the bill for that to be a part of its central administration. It is a matter of claims being made and those claims being processed and subject to determination by tribunals of the kind that will be established. If they will not be established under state law, they will be established under this legislation. I think it is really quite premature to be making judgments about lack of state cooperation.

Senator Boswell —We are not.

Senator GARETH EVANS —I am not sure on what considered reading of the various amendments that have been passed that statement is made. I can imagine there being a bit of angst about the failure to pass the amendment to clause 24 on Saturday night, because that was an issue about which the mining and pastoralist industries had made a considerable fuss—not because, I repeat, there is anything fundamentally omitted in the legislation at the moment, but it was really a belt and braces exercise. It was putting into substantive statutory provisions that which had been implicit. The failure to pass that amendment has not in any way fundamentally changed the course of the legislation or its likely impact.

  The various other amendments that we have been passing on the way through, or for which the government has shadowed or qualified support, have mostly tended to be—if any side of the argument is discernible—on the side of assisting to clarify issues from an Aboriginal perspective. Nonetheless, I do not think there is anything the states should be getting unduly fussed about. It is a matter of looking very carefully at what we have been able to accomplish. I doubt very much that the states have had an opportunity to do that so far. If they had had an opportunity, I doubt very much that they would be very strident in their anxieties.

  I do not think that we ought to get too carried away or too distracted by all of this. We have a legislative job to do here. The government is determined to get on with it. If there are any things that have upset the states in terms of the knocking back of three pro-industry amendments, then it is Senator Boswell's colleagues in the Liberal Party who have more to answer for in that respect than anybody else. I do not want to set that particular hare running again. Let us get on with the substantive debate.