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Monday, 24 June 1996
Page: 2050


Senator ELLISON(5.01 p.m.) —I rise to support Senator Herron on this matter. At the outset I wish to say that I see no difference between this bill and other bills which have been exempted from the standing orders by the motion moved by Senator Chamarette.

These amendments to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission Amend ment Bill (No. 2) 1996, as the Senate well knows, formed the subject of some inquiry last year. There was a select committee set up, commonly known as the land fund committee, which looked into the substantive part of these amendments. There are some other amendments included, but they are of a more technical nature.

Whilst I appreciate the concerns expressed by the opposition and, more particularly, by Senator Chamarette, about consultation, I say to the Senate that these matters were ventilated during the election campaign. They were part of our policy. They were ventilated during a comprehensive inquiry which Senator Chamarette and Senator Campbell, who is the chamber here today, took part in. It was one of the more thorough inquiries I have seen since my time in the Senate. Therefore, I would say the Aboriginal community is well aware of these proposed amendments. One amendment in particular, the question of vesting land in individuals, attracted a lot of attention.

If you do not deal with this bill now, we could face a delayed implementation in the order of four to six months. We would then have the ILC going about its business over the next financial year, starting on 1 July, and then amendments would be made to the legislation which governs its duties. The ILC would then have to change tack, as it were—not dramatically so but, nonetheless, it would have to change tack—in how it looks at certain things; for instance, in the granting of land or in the maintaining of land which has been granted to individuals. That is a departure from the current regime under which the ILC has to work.

I put to the Senate that it would be in the interests of the administration of this land fund if the ILC knew at the outset what it is going to be dealing with, rather than it being down the track in the financial year when these amendments come into play.

The question of these amendments is relevant here because I believe they enjoy widespread support. The inquiry that took place last year showed that a lot of people wanted these amendments to take place. I believe the government is acting in a respon sible manner by trying to implement these as soon as it can. I congratulate Senator Herron for trying to address these concerns with such immediacy. Any obstruction of these amendments is really putting off the day when these amendments will be made law and depriving the Aboriginal community of the enjoyment that these benefits will bring.

For those reasons I urge the Senate to consider this matter. I urge, in particular, Senator Chamarette to reconsider her decision. I have spoken to Senator Chamarette and I understand that she has a problem of conviction in relation to this matter. There is really no ostensible reason that Senator Chamarette can see for exempting this legislation. I ask Senator Chamarette to bear in mind the points made by Senator Herron, myself and other speakers for the government in relation to the merits of having these amendments passed sooner rather than later.