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Monday, 24 June 1996
Page: 2049

Senator HERRON (Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs)(4.55 p.m.) —At the request of the Manager of Government Business in the Senate (Senator Kemp), I move:

That the order of the Senate of 29 November 1994, relating to the consideration of legislation, not apply to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1996.

These amendments are government policy and should be allowed to proceed without delay. The amendments were announced as party policy during the election campaign and so have been available for comment and debate for at least four months. All parties—the Indigenous Land Corporation, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission, the opposition, the Greens and the Democrats—were aware of our intention to introduce them. There has been extensive consultation with the Indigenous Land Corporation and ATSIC in relation to their drafting. They will have an impact on the operations of the ILC, and it is better that they apply from the beginning rather than be grafted on later.

These are not particularly contentious amendments. One of the amendments will allow individuals in particular circumstances to apply for land through the ILC. This is particularly important to Torres Strait Islanders, who tend toward individual rather than collective ownership. There has been extensive discussion with the ILC about this, as there were concerns on their part that this could lead to debate as to the relative importance of one individual as against another. But if there were provisions in the amendments, it would only be after extensive consultation and consideration and in exceptional circumstances.

I would like to ask the purpose of the opposition to the immediate progress of these amendments. If it is to allow further consideration and consultation, I believe that that is a nonsense. We have had at least four months for that. These measures have been known to all interested parties for at least that time. If there is a delay, there will be at least another four months before they can be introduced again. I urge that they be agreed to.