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Tuesday, 21 December 1993
Page: 5450

Senator GARETH EVANS (Minister for Foreign Affairs) (5.43 p.m.) —May I make a small supplementary contribution? In the case of bush fire control situations, there is no doubt that on a day of absolute fire ban there would be an absolute prohibition, not allowing anyone to light a fire for any purpose, whatever the quality of the track record and the traditional management of the particular area in question. That applies notwithstanding whatever permits for burning off particular classes of non-Aboriginal people might be able to obtain. If there is an absolute provision, as is the case on an absolute fire ban day, as there is for a good deal of the summer months in critical tinder areas of the country, there would be no grounds for an exemption.

  The other point to make is that the kind of burning off case that people have in mind here would have to be carried out in order to satisfy the terms of this particular clause in the exercise or enjoyment of their native title rights and interests. Not just any Aboriginal person in any context whatsoever could wander around lighting up stretches of the bush and claiming that there was some justification for that. It would have to be very carefully and clearly associated with a native title interest. If there are any geographical boundaries to that interest, as one would normally expect there to be, then one would expect the practice to be confined in that way. If it were done in a way such as to put at risk neighbouring properties or things of that kind, then again there would be ample grounds for controlling the activity and not regarding it as exempt in this way.

  I think this is one aspect of it. As with a lot of these things that are subject to exemptions from state laws, it does need further review and monitoring. We have said that from day one. But this is a complex area. The intention here was simply to map out, in a way that did seem capable of at least being crafted in the context of this legislation, one set of exemptions but to take on notice some of larger problems that are associated with this area and perhaps revisit this over the course of the next year or so. That would also involve monitoring the potential application of some of these existing provisions that are in the legislation.