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Tuesday, 21 December 1993
Page: 5360


Senator HARRADINE (9.18 a.m.) —The detailed questioning that is being undertaken now obviously, on reflection, could have been put to various persons, interested groups, public servants and legal people at a committee inquiry. It has been argued that the Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs did not meet long enough for all of these matters to be canvassed. Maybe, on reflection, that is what should have happened. It should have been given a longer time. The government is intent on getting this bill through the parliament this year. I understand that approach. What I have done is to float the idea with a number of people that, after the third reading has been adopted, as presumably it will be, the joint committee immediately go into operation. I do not mean immediately after Christmas.


Senator Campbell —On Boxing Day?


Senator HARRADINE —No. It could be done at—


Senator Bishop —It cannot meet on Boxing Day, as that is the Sabbath.


Senator HARRADINE —No, it could be done. There is a provision—I am trying to help—for a joint committee in the legislation. That joint committee is to look at the implementation and operation of the legislation. My proposal is that another paragraph be added to its functions, that it report to both houses not later than a particular day in February, probably late February, on the implications of the implementation and operation of the act, and whether in the light of such implications any amendments should be made to the act to better reflect the spirit and intention of the common law of Australia in respect of native title and to protect the rights and interests of all persons affected by it. That, of course, is based on the preamble of the legislation and does not diverge at all from the spirit of the legislation, but it would post facto, that is, after the bill has been agreed to by both houses, give this joint committee the opportunity of then calling people to give evidence, of questioning witnesses and of putting a number of these very technical questions to the people who might appear before that committee.

  Under those circumstances, if it were agreed, it would in fact expedite debate in this committee of the whole stage. I am just indicating that that is what is being floated, and the key to it would be that the sections of the bill, other than sections 1 and 2 and the section relating to the establishment of the committee, would not operate until such time as the committee reported and any amendments recommended were debated by the parliament. I do not want a debate on it here because I understand the leaders are looking at the question, and I canvass the matter with the Greens and the Democrats. When the detailed amendment is available, everybody will be able to have a look at it.