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Tuesday, 21 December 1993
Page: 5372

Senator CAMPBELL (10.17 a.m.) —Over the last two, three or four days, Senator Gareth Evans has been in the chamber responding point by point on technicalities and issues of substance. In the last half hour we have witnessed the Minister for Transport and Communications (Senator Collins) before the chair—

Senator Collins —What has this got to do with the bill?

Senator CAMPBELL —We are seeking to move through clause by clause and to make progress. We want to pick up the technical and practical aspects of this bill. In the last half hour we have witnessed an absolute waste of the committee's time. Provocative statements have come from the minister, and they have provoked me. I genuinely apologise to the chamber for getting angry, but the minister has reflected on the motives of the Western Australian government. He said that the Western Australian government's legislation wipes out all the rights of Aboriginal people. That is gross misrepresentation of the fact. In fact what the Western Australian government has tried to do is to respond to the High Court's Mabo decision in a way which maintains certainty and which maintains that all Western Australians, regardless of race, have equal rights before the law.

  The Western Australian government goes even further than that. It does what the federal government says it seeks to do, and that is to ensure that where there is disadvantage it is approached in a manner that looks after those people suffering the disadvantage and seeks to overcome that disadvantage. There is no doubt that there is a requirement in a just society for some special measures. There is absolutely no doubt that in this bill there is a whole range of special measures, but certain of these special measures we believe may be contrary to the Racial Discrimination Act.

  If we are to proceed in a sensible manner with the consideration of this bill, we should stick to the points. When Senator Bishop said that there are a number of ways of approaching this problem, I am sure she meant—I will not try to read her mind, although better people than me have tried to do so—that when we raise the question in the federal parliament about the approaches to Mabo 2, there are certainly a range of approaches the federal parliament and our federal government can take in relation to the High Court's second Mabo decision.

  As Senator Ellison said in his point of order, it does not help the debate, particularly when Senator Collins knows that it will inflame the Western Australians, to keep talking about the Western Australian traditional usage legislation. If Senator Collins wants to keep saying, `Our legislation is right and just and caring of Aborigines, and Richard Court's legislation is a nasty, horrible piece of legislation', we will spend the whole day having a fight over that. It will not get the committee very far. I suggest that if honourable senators want to have that debate, we will be here for a long time. None of us wants to be here forever. What we want is to go through this bill, and we have been trying very hard to do that.

Senator Murphy —Why don't you get on with it?

Senator CAMPBELL —Let me assure Senator Murphy that I will, but I want to make my point because the minister has spent the last half hour—

Senator Murphy —You have just spent the last seven minutes doing exactly the same.

Senator CAMPBELL —If Senator Murphy would stop interjecting, I would get on with it.

Senator Murphy —Ask the question.

Senator CAMPBELL —Why does not Senator Murphy just stick a sock in it?

Senator Collins —This guy has the shortest fuse I have ever seen.

Senator CAMPBELL —I am finished, Mr Chairman. I have tried to be helpful but I cannot be with idiots like this on the other side.