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Monday, 24 June 1996
Page: 2050

Senator CARR(4.57 p.m.) —The opposition does not support the granting of an exemption to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1996. It does so on the basis of the terms and conditions of the Hill cut-off motion. The cut-off motion does not require the Senate to grant those concessions unless it has been demonstrated by the government that in each and every case there is an urgency about this bill, which the government has yet to do. It has not been able to demonstrate that there is an urgency. Advice given to me is that there has not been adequate consultation in terms of Aboriginal communities.

The Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs (Senator Herron) would be aware of the terms of the Hill cut-off motion, which provides for the orderly debate of bills on the basis that they provide opportunities for senators to adequately research the implications of bills and to allow for there to be public debate about controversial matters. I am advised that this bill is controversial. This proposition does not require immediate attention by this chamber. Given the fact that there has been inadequate consultation, it is the opposition's view that there ought to be further discussion within the community and further public debate about these matters.

As senators would be aware, the Aboriginal community is currently addressing a number of bills, such as the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission Amendment Bill (No. 1), and the Native Title Act. There is considerable public attention on the issues relating to Aboriginal affairs and accountability. In our judgment, it is not appropriate to try to push this piece of legislation through, given the consideration that is being given to these other pieces of legislation simultaneously.

The opposition does not take a bloody-minded attitude towards the work within the Senate. If one looks at the list of bills that have been exempted from the Hill cut-off motion, one will find that there have been 33 bills exempted to date. Only six bills, not including this one, have been refused exemption. It seems to me that, in those circumstances, the Senate has behaved responsibly and allowed for the proper consideration of government legislation. At the same time, it has allowed for adequate consultation to take place within the community at large.

In terms of the statement of reasons for the introduction and the passage of this bill in these sittings, I find the statement put down by the government to be totally inadequate. It is gobbledegook. When you read it, it does not tell you very much about what is being proposed. Minister, I suggest that you ask whomever it is who puts these together to write a little bit more clearly as to what you are intending to do with such pieces of legislation and why there is such an urgency. You have clearly not demonstrated that in the material put before this Senate.