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Tuesday, 15 October 1996
Page: 4144

Senator BOB COLLINS —My question is addressed to the Minister for Resources and Energy. Minister, in a speech to CEDA on 3 July, did you say, `We will pursue a whole-of-government approach to land access decision-making'?

Senator Parer —Yes.

Senator BOB COLLINS —Yes, I know you did. Did you also say that your amendments to the Native Title Act—

Senator Herron —Why did you ask the question?

Senator BOB COLLINS —Just listen, Senator Herron—`aim to improve certainty of determinations on the existence of native title and to protect activities undertaken on land where native tile continues to exist'? Minister, did you also indicate that the government was considering responses to its discussion paper and that, `Senator Minchin will be consulting further with key stakeholders over the winter recess. On mining, we will be consulting on removal of the right to negotiate for the issue of exploration titles and for the renewal of pre-1994 mining leases?' Minister, will these changes improve the prospects of mining companies throughout Australia? If so, how?

Senator PARER —Yes, I did make those remarks. I think you would be as aware as anybody, Senator, that we are taking—well, I do not think you are. I do not think anyone on the opposite side has recognised yet that we do have a whole of government approach, that discussions between various ministers and the parliamentary secretary are involved in this whole process of land and the usage of land.

I notice that every now and then attempts are being made by those on the other side to drive some sort of wedge between me and Senator Hill. I have never heard such nonsense in all my life. You do not understand it because on your side you did not talk to one another. Remember Senator Faulkner and Mr Beddall? Their staff did not even talk to one another. Even yesterday when Senator Hill referred Senator Faulkner to ex-Senator Richardson during a debate, Senator Faulkner made the point over and over again that he did not want to be like Senator Richardson. Great friends, weren't they! Great government!

Senator Bob Collins —Will the changes improve the prospects for mining in Australia?

Senator PARER —The changes that are being proposed in the amendments by Senator Minchin are in the interests of all Australians, and in particular many people within the Aboriginal communities. The previous government—you people in the opposition—recognised that native title was not working.

Senator Bob Collins —Rubbish!

Senator PARER —Don't say `rubbish' to me. You were looking at amendments yourself.

Senator Bob Collins —It is working.

Senator PARER —It is working! We had something like over 400 registrations. I gave an answer in parliament last week and at that stage there weren't any in which determinations had been made. In the duration of question time one had been made and it was in relation to crown land in New South Wales. What we are looking at is the ability for this process to be made more workable.

Senator Cook —For the mining companies.

Senator PARER —Senator, there is no hope for you, I am sorry. Senator Minchin has done exactly as he said he would and as I reported at the CEDA meeting. He has consulted widely right around Australia. He has consulted with Aboriginal communities. He has consulted with people with grazing leases. He has consulted with the mining industry and he has consulted with the state governments. I know you were not big on consultation, hence you must have some concerns about this. But the proposals that Senator Minchin is bringing forward will clarify the position.

Let me give you a couple of examples. The uncertainty that exists today is with regard to when a registration is made. The first question is, `With whom are you negotiating?' No-one is too sure. In some areas, and I think I gave an example the other day, there were eight overlapping claims by eight different groups. Firstly, you would have to make that more workable by at least being able to determine whether you were dealing with the right groups.

The second question is, `What are you negotiating about? Is it the right to transgress, is it the right to have meetings or is it some sort of freehold right?' No-one is too sure about that. Senator Minchin is the one who spent all the time on this, but I am just giving you a couple of examples of the sort of direction we are taking to make it more workable yet preserve the Native Title Act.