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Tuesday, 21 December 1993
Page: 5362

Senator COLLINS (Minister for Transport and Communications) (9.39 a.m.) —No, that is not correct. Indeed, that comment is consistent with the pervasive misinformation which the coalition is trying to insist on, and that is that this is in some way divisive legislation.

Senator Bishop —Very divisive.

Senator COLLINS —It is nothing of the sort. It is quite extraordinary to listen to these arguments about racially based legislation.

Senator Bishop —Of course it is. It is based on the race power.

Senator COLLINS —The common law rights of native title people are fundamentally based on the question of inheritance, which is substantially the same underlying principle that governs the ownership of title in land of our own society. That needs to be laid to rest immediately. If honourable senators want a succinct, clear explanation of this, I suggest they refer to Senator Baden Teague's second reading speech in the Hansard where the honourable senator specifically rejected the assertion that this was racially based or divisive legislation and clearly laid out the inheritance principles on which it is based.

Senator Bishop —What is the head of power you are using under section 51?

Senator COLLINS —As I have just said, the constitutional power of the Commonwealth to make laws in respect of Aboriginal people is clear cut. The High Court has found that native title exists as part of the common law of this country. This is not a matter of government policy. It is a matter of a legal judgment of the High Court. In conclusion, the mining wardens courts will apply rules which are largely consistent with their established precedent in terms of assessing compensation for other titleholders, but with the additional measure—which did not exist prior to the High Court's judgment—of common law in native title.