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Monday, 20 December 1993
Page: 5288

Senator COLLINS (Minister for Transport and Communications) (4.59 p.m.) —I heard that interjection from Senator Tambling. He said this was the first time I have spoken in the debate. It is true. The reason is that I thought the need to get some simple justice at long last for Aboriginal people in this country, the need to provide the absolute certainty of title which this government has committed itself to doing and to give certainty to that title, whether it is freehold or leasehold, was so important that my major and considered contribution to this debate was to say nothing and thereby shorten the time between the start of this debate and the promulgation of this bill into law by 20 minutes. That was a significant contribution in my view to try to get this into law.

  I do not think it could be said any better than it was said today by the editorial in the Sydney Morning Herald, which stated:

But instead of a sense of historical moment, debate on the bill in the Senate has elicited mean-spirited opportunism and truculent inflexibility.

That has all been demonstrated here over the last couple of days. Senator Alston has a hide six inches thick; it is his one big asset. How could anybody with a straight face stand up and say that there has been no filibuster on this when we have been debating this bill since 10 o'clock this morning with no interposition of question time or any of the other diversions? It is now 5 o'clock in the afternoon and we have dealt with one clause of the bill. A piece of nonsense was thrown in about the problems of pastoral leases in Queensland and what happens when they expire.

Senator Campbell —Your Prime Minister couldn't answer the question.

Senator COLLINS —The question is an irrelevancy. Queensland pastoral titles do not contain reservations like the reservations in the Northern Territory or Western Australian pastoral titles. If those titles are valid, they extinguish native title. That is something that the coalition has been trying to distort ever since the start of this debate. It is an absolute nonsense. How can anyone with a straight face, when we have spent five hours dealing with government legislation—

Senator Ian Macdonald —What do your notes say?

Senator COLLINS —I will tell Senator Macdonald what my note says.

Senator Ian Macdonald —Do they say, `Didn't I gag you'?

Senator COLLINS —No. My note is a letter to the editor that was written to the Sydney Morning Herald in 1892. It just shows that some people in this chamber have not moved one inch since then. I will tell honourable senators what my note says. That is why I am angry in this debate and that is why I have finally spoken.

Senator Ian Macdonald —Please read this letter.

Senator COLLINS —I will read it; I will respond to Senator Macdonald's invitation. Many honourable senators would know and most Catholics would know about Mother Mary Mackillop, but few know that she had a brother equally distinguished. He wrote the following letter to the Sydney Morning Herald in 1892:

Australia, as such, does not recognise the right of the black man to live. She marches onward, truly, but not perhaps the fair maiden we paint her. The blackfellow sees blood on that noble forehead, callous cruelty in her heart; her heel is of iron and his helpless countrymen beneath her feet. But we are strong and the blacks are weak; we have rifles, they but spears; we love British fairplay, and having got hold of this continent we must have every square foot. Little Tasmania is our model, and I fear, will be, until the great papers of Australia will chronicle, `with regret', the death of the last blackfellow. There is a feeling abroad too, which might be worded thus—it is in God's providence that the native races here, as elsewhere, must disappear before the British people.

Senator Ian Macdonald —Mr Temporary Chairman, I raise a point of order.

Senator COLLINS —Senator Macdonald asked for this to be read out.

Senator Ian Macdonald —Mr Temporary Chairman, on a point of order. I thought we were debating a matter relating to Mr Keating's press conference. Senator Collins has been effectively gagged by the Prime Minister. Obviously someone gave him a bit of paper and said, `Please read this out so you will not put your foot in it yet again'. It really has nothing to do with the debate and, on the grounds of relevancy, I ask you, Mr Temporary Chairman, to call the minister to order. If he wants to take part in this debate, he should in fact debate the issue before the chair.

  The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN (Senator Calvert)—Senator Collins's time has expired anyway.

Senator COLLINS —That is what it was all about—just another filibuster to waste time in the chamber. (Time expired)