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Tuesday, 21 August 2001
Page: 26267

Senator RIDGEWAY (Deputy Leader of the Australian Democrats) (6:46 PM) —I am also mindful of the time as I rise to speak about the Environment and Heritage Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 2) 2000 [2001], the Australian Heritage Council Bill 2000 [2001] and the Australian Heritage Council (Consequential and Transitional Provisions) Bill 2000 [2001], and in particular about the implication of the bills for the protection of indigenous heritage. To begin with I must say that I agree with and echo a lot of the sentiments expressed by Senator Cooney. I also want to take this opportunity to congratulate Senator John Cherry on the connection that was made with this in his first speech, and to acknowledge the work undertaken by former senator John Woodley in relation to heritage issues in this country. This is something that he has been involved with and has had a personal interest in for quite some time, and that has been most appreciated by indigenous people across the country. I know that he was directly involved not just with issues that arose in relation to the Native Title Act, which is impinged upon in terms of understanding the possible consequences of the amendment bill, but also issues relating to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage Protection Act and various inquiries that have gone on for quite some time to try to define and come up with answers on the appropriate balance and the appropriate context in which to acknowledge things concerning heritage and, more particularly, indigenous cultural heritage in this country.

So this is of particular importance to me and, as part of the debate on this issue, there is an amendment that I have circulated. I have tried to raise some issues that perhaps this chamber, and the government more particularly, ought to take on board as part of our considerations in arriving at a final destination that achieves some outcomes that indigenous people are seeking. This is not to the detriment of anything else. I think there is certainly worthwhile merit in what is being sought through this bill, but at the same time there is still a range of outstanding issues or unfinished business in relation to the amendment bill that we are considering.

It is most important in that context to say that we have had difficulty in coming to some common understanding about how best to deal with the protection of indigenous heritage in this country. The usual debate that accompanies this, about the responsibilities of the federal government and state and territory governments, is something that has not aided or assisted in this case.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Chapman)—Do you wish to move that amendment before we move on to the next part of Senate business, Senator Ridgeway?

Senator RIDGEWAY —I will hold off on that until we resume the second reading debate.

Debate interrupted.