House debates

Thursday, 17 August 2006

Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Amendment Bill 2006

Consideration of Senate Message

1:42 pm

Photo of Bob McMullanBob McMullan (Fraser, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

While I do want to speak on the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Amendment Bill 2006 because I feel strongly about some of the matters that have arisen, it may also be appropriate if I speak just long enough for the Minister for Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs and the parliamentary secretary to get a few procedural matters sorted out, so let me do both things.

I was concerned when the bill first came in, and with the comments the minister made in introducing these amendments, that the criticism of what has followed on from the original land rights act is far too sweeping. There has no doubt been some disappointment, but let us not ignore the substantial economic and cultural benefits that are flowing from the recognition of entitlement to land. It was an important Whitlam government initiative that the Fraser government quite properly brought to fruition, and we ought not to underestimate that.

The minister said that there has been a very substantial degree of consultation. There has, and it led to a very broad area of agreement about amendment to the land rights act. It was very welcome; I agreed with every element of that. But the trouble is that this bill goes far beyond that. I am shocked now to find, after listening to the member for Lingiari and noting the amendments he moved, that it goes further than I was even aware.

I was not conscious in the original discussion that this significant impact on the intertidal zone and on the rights of people was to be retrospectively aggregated. I have never heard of such a thing. It must be very close to being unconstitutional in terms of these people’s claims, almost being property rights, being taken away from them. I assume that matter has been looked at by others, but I am shocked. Given what I understand to be the procedural agreement, I will give my colleague the member for Kingsford Smith a chance to speak. But I am distinctly unhappy about the broader process and shocked about this immediate matter with which we are dealing. I hope these amendments moved by the member for Lingiari can be supported.


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